Remembering Mamunul

The man wore blue hospital cloths and appeared very weak, frail, disoriented and looked very different from the person I had known. This is the last mental image I have of Mamunul Hoque Khan who succumbed to months of struggle with Deep Vein Thrombosis last week. The image was from a Skype call we had on advancing some work I had done in Afghanistan while he was still at a hospital in Singapore. I requested Mamunul repeatedly to take care of his health during this and other Skype exchanges we had subsequently as he seemed impatient to get back to Kabul and resume work.

I first met Mamunul on a bright and sunny Kabul morning at Green Village. We immediately got into the business I was in Kabul for – to develop a rural energy project for UNDP Afghanistan. For the next 5 months we met each other almost on a daily basis as I went about the project development. He was very involved with the work, had a good advice on navigating problem issues and wanted to think big. We would have meetings late in the evenings and on holidays about the project, there will be e-mails from airports and from his home in Dhaka when he was on holidays, which made me often wonder whether he ever did anything other than work.

He was also a valued for the way he related and engaged with his colleagues. He treated them as extended family and I was often part of gatherings where people shared food and conversations in his office. He was very fond of watches and gadgets and would often encourage me to follow his example! I recall that during the periods I struggled to find decent vegetarian food at Green Village, Mamunul asked one of his friends to make Indian vegetarian food and took me over. We often had discussions about aspects other than work at Green Village or during several long trips we took to meetings in Kabul. It was clear in this conversations that he really liked the work he was doing and he had a particular liking for Afghanistan and its people.

I had been in touch with Mamunul and his colleagues regularly over the last few months to advance the implementation of the Afghanistan Sustainable Energy for Rural Development project that I had developed. We were hopeful that the implementation efforts could start this year on a much needed large scale rural energy effort in Afghanistan which would also address thermal energy needs and that Mamunul would also be back in Kabul soon. Against this background, I was shocked to hear last week that Mamunul did not win his battle with his medical condition and passed away in Dhaka. This indeed is a tragic end to someone who held a lot of promise and could have contributed immensely to environmental protection and climate change. It is indeed a major loss to his family and his employer – UNDP. His colleagues feel they have lost a family member and I have lost a good friend and a valued partner.

So rest in peace Mamunul, I hope your contributions to environmental protection and climate change in Afghanistan are not forgotten but intensified. An appropriate tribute to Mamunul would be to build on the contributions he had made to Afghanistan and to take forward the work he has initiated.

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Remembering Teresa Marston, May Her Tribe Increase

I first met Teresa probably in 1995 and she had a big smile on her face. That Smile is something I have associated with Teresa for the next 10 years until 2004, during the period when I had the privilege of working with her. I learned yesterday from her family that Therese had passed away peacefully on the 22nd of January and that she was suffering from a neuro-degenerative disease called ALS for the last 3 years. She had faced the disease with an incredible optimism and courage and  passed away gracefully two weeks ago.

I remember Therese as always very kind and would often go out of her way to help people in need. I recall the three dogs  she adopted while living in India and she would always take in the weakest of the dogs. She felt very strongly for the street children begging for money at traffic intersections in Delhi and taught me not to give them money but chocolates, toys old cloths etc. While in Pondicherry, Therese was always at the forefront of any socially oriented initiative that the company IT Power organised. I recall that once, she got a professional troupe from Mumbai to Pondicherry to go around performing at schools in Pondicherry to create awareness on environmental protection.

An incident which I recall during our time at IT Power being is something which defines Therese. We were both interviewing several candidates for an open position. One particular interview wasn’t going well and when we were about to complete the interview the candidate broke down. He said he had appeared for a large number of interviews and has now lost hope of ever finding a job. My instinct was to console and thank him but select another candidate who was the best recruit. Therese however impressed on me that as a company active in sustainable development, we had a responsibility to select and mentor such professionals as well. I reluctantly agreed and for the next several months I thought we had made a mistake. But over a period of time, the employee shed his inhibitions and bloomed. Now he is employed in another reputed company, has started a family and remains a friend. It’s possible that the story might have been different, if not for the role Therese played.

I was in touch with Therese over the past year about a get-together and treatment in India but did not realise that she was unwell. I had suggested few months ago that we meet the next time she would be in India but I now realise with great sadness that there won’t be a next time…

Let’s celebrate the life of Teresa Marston for the kindness and support she has shown to everyone she came across. I’m sure that she has influenced several people like me to be more accommodating and kind. So thank you for the privilege of knowing and working with you Teresa.

Rest In Peace.