Brightening your own corner

Mahmudul Hoque Moni, a Bangladesh public service holder and Chevening scholar at University of Sussex has gone out of his way to save his university library from shutting down, resulting in a corner in the library being named after him…writes Shababa Iqbal

It is impossible to convince others to engage and follow your lead without a deep-seeded conviction for the work you do. When you love what you do, people take note and get influenced by your work. Mahmudul Hoque Moni is a man of great aspirations and strong beliefs, characteristics that have helped him to become an admired and influential man both at home and abroad.
Moni has studied International Relations and Mass Communication and Journalism at the University of Dhaka and he is a Chevening Scholar of the Institute of Development (IDS) at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom.
‘I have never paid for my education. People think that I am brilliant and I have received scholarships all through my life, but in reality, I grew up in a poor household and I was lucky to have numerous opportunities. I got free books from my school and I received money and shelter from the government, for which I am very grateful,’ 32 year-old Moni says humbly.
Moni considers himself to be someone who is always optimistic and who always thinks big. It was Moni’s dream to study in the University of Dhaka. To keep up with the fast pace of the city and to have a stable life, Moni initially worked as a tutor. He has also worked as a wedding photographer, a photojournalist in several esteemed news media organisations, as a director of an NGO that works to resolve the misery of Bangladeshi street children, and as a lecturer at ULAB. He writes opinion and creative pieces for various newspapers and websites, with a special interest in sports journalism.
‘I think what triggered my interest in mass communication and photography was that as a child, I was too poor to purchase a pen and paper. I used to practice writing the alphabet on the grounds and in the air. I believe that increased my curiosity and my capacity to see and observe deeply,’ Moni says. He further explains that he has scripted and acted in many productions in his student life, which also played a part in developing his skills. Moni’s most memorable moment as a photographer was when in 2011 on the 100th Women’s Day Celebration, the BBC had published a photograph taken by him. Evidently, Moni has accomplished many things in his home country and his accomplishments did not stop when he went to the UK.
He won prizes in numerous student competitions at his university in the UK, and his photographic skills turned worthwhile when the library in IDS, the British Library for Development Studies, was facing a problem. During Moni’s time at IDS, the UK government decided to stop funds for public libraries. As a result, the authorities planned to shut down the British Library for Development Studies and many of the employees had to leave.
‘Most people say that libraries provide communities with essential resources for literacy and education but with the development of modern technologies, the government felt that the number of people who actually took advantage of the library services were slipping,’ Moni says. What they did not see was that the library was a second home for Moni and many of his peers. It was a place that all the students held very close to their hearts.
Moni says, ‘I have met many compassionate and openhearted people at IDS and these people have helped me grow as a better human being. I felt that it was my duty to show my gratitude and support for them at a moment of crisis.’
In a video that was not an attack or protest in any form, Moni recorded the thoughts of the students about the library. Seeing how valuable the library was to all the students in the video, the authorities decided to keep the library open.
In April, Moni and his friends arranged an event, ‘150 Shades of Perspectives: A Photographic Exhibition,’ where Moni showcased his numerous captivating and beautiful pictures depicting his journey as an international student and his friends in the UK. All proceeds of this exhibition went to a Brighton-based charity that assists the Syrian migrants. The event, through which Moni and his friends raised 700 pounds, was immensely successful.
Moreover, Moni along with some of his friends at IDS established an online platform called ‘Say for Development’ (www.sayfordevelopment.net) in order to share development thoughts in the form of articles, opinions, reflections, conversations and photo stories. This platform hopes to create an online community to spread and include the message of love, relationships and empathy and also aims to promote development of literature.
‘You do not have to be academics or intellectuals to publish in Say for Development. Our platform gives a loving and open space for anyone to nourish their voice and for anyone who has innovative ideas for development’ explains Moni.
This year, the British Library for Development Studies at IDS built ‘Moni Corner’ after his name to honour Moni for his notable contribution in these three areas.
‘Moni Corner’ displays mainly two albums containing 280 photographs of Moni titled, ‘See My IDS Journey’, and a small flag of Bangladesh. The library also has some of Moni’s other photographs inside it.
Moni is a member of the Bangladesh Civil Service. He was working as an assistant commissioner (land) at Bandarban Sadar before he took his study leave to go to UK. Reflecting on his experience, Moni says to New Age Youth, ‘I was not really interested in anything to do with government or politics but it was a matter of prestige for my mother for me to join the civil service. Once I started I realised that this job allows me to help and make a difference to people’s lives and it gives me great happiness to be able to help people.’ Moni conducted numerous mobile courts in order to make public places smoke-free. Moni, who has just returned from the UK after completing his dissertation, aspires to make his knowledge useful for the people of Bangladesh.

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