Tribute to a former Editor: Anwar Chowdhury

Deeply, deeply saddened today on hearing the news of the passing of a friend, mentor and former editor, whom I greatly respected and admired, and had a lot of affection for. The time spent working with him is a much cherished period in my memories and I will miss him greatly.

Anwar Chowdhury was a brilliant and diligent old-school editor, a proponent of proper Queen’s English, a stickler for grammatical perfection, a practitioner of eloquent dialogue, a stern taskmaster and emphatic wielder of the red pen – I often felt he was overly generous with the crimson ink on my copy!

Even now I’m very anxious that he is tut-tutting as he reads this from his heavenly abode and picks out the grammatical errors. Though truth be told, I could never fault his subbing and corrections, and the reality is that I learned a lot from him. He took no prisoners, but working with him proved formative in my understanding of editorial skills, and the attention to detail that should be essential – but sadly no longer is these days.

But as exacting as he was an Editor, he was also an incredibly soft and sensitive human being. That is why whilst we all feared his red pen, he was still always a confidante, a guru, a counsellor to the team. We called him not ‘Sir’ or ‘Mister’ but Anwar ‘Bhai’ (big brother). It was a genuine term of endearment, affection and respect.

I remember one incident when a colleague received some particularly tragic news on a long-distance call and utterly freaked out in the office, we thought he was going to rip the place apart. Anwar Bhai was the only one who knew what to do. He immediately grabbed the chap and hugged him tightly and consoled him till he calmed down. His capacity for empathy and understanding was as magnificent as his ability to spot a split infinitive from across the room. By Jove, (one of his favoured phrases) what a top fellow he was.

I like to think that even upstairs he will have taken up a position in the divine record-keeping department, and already the angelic clerks are cowering behind their desks as he puts a newfound celestial red pen to work correcting their ancient tomes, whilst gently admonishing them in a most jocular fashion.

Quiet, thoughtful, shy-even, he was an amazing personality who inspired just by being a noble and good soul in the largely cynical world of media. He is gone, but he will not be forgotten, his influence amongst the people he worked with was far too enduring. May he rest in peace.

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