Manjur Ahmed, born to shoot wild life

Nurul Islam Laskar

Profile photo by Samarjyoti Boro

When he was born at Katigorah in Cachar District of Assam on March 16, 1981, his father Tahir Uddin Laskar was posted as the Circle Officer there. Subsequent transfers took the family to places like Dhubri, Silchar, and Barpeta until they came to Guwahati in 1995. In Guwahati, 14-year-old Manjur Ahmed was admitted into Gopal Boro School from where he passed his HSLC Examination in 1997. In 1999, he passed his Higher Secondary Examination from Swadeshi Academy, Guwahati.

Thereafter, Manjur went to Shillong, lived in a hostel at Nongthymmai, and completed his Bachelor of Computer Application course from North Eastern Hill University in 2002. He wanted to do his MCA from Bangalore but for that he would have to wait for one extra year and this was not desirable. Only one seat was available for migrated students in the MCA course at Gauhati University and Manjur was able to grab it for himself. 2002-2004 was the second batch of MCA students at GU and Manjur passed securing the seventh position among the 25 students in the course.

All of Manjur’s friends either left for abroad or metro cities in India. His father insisted that he should stay back and he obliged, may be destiny wanted it this way, for better things were in store for him within Assam. First, he started his computer firm, a tax consultancy firm a little later, and even became a stock broker at National Stock Exchange soon thereafter. He had almost everything that a young man of his age could aspire for.

Imtiaz Ali, who hailed from Tinsukia, was a computer dealer in Guwahati and he had helped and guided Manjur in his professional work in the initial days. In 2008, he persuaded Manjur to accompany him to Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in what was purely a pleasure trip. By this time, Manjur had developed a lot of interest in photography even though he had not done any professional course in it. With his strong IT background and interest in photography, an urge came in him to visualise and work out a web portal for KNP. He met some forest officials and dropped the idea to them. Some of them evinced interest in the subject and asked him to submit a proposal and budget. He prepared a modest budget, shared it with them, but they said it was high because none of them realised the intricacies of setting up a portal, ten years ago, when IT access was not as easy and inexpensive as it is today.

One particular officer in the forest department, who saw a lot of promise in Manjur and his plans, however met him in Guwahati the following year and asked him to break his plans into phases and submit a budget for the first phase only for the time being.

This truncated budget was accepted and Manjur started his work of designing and developing the portal for KNP. There were many sleepless nights and many bickering with a few officials who had important data and information with them but would not share with Manjur for they considered him to be a stark outsider for he was not an employee of the Department as per their payrolls. After countless days and nights of photo shooting, braving the rains and mosquito bites, risking the attacks from poachers and smugglers, the job got done. In 2011, the project was completed. Success has many takers, and failures none. Manjur, by nature is a low profile and shy person, and thus he never told people about his role in the building of the web portal for KNP. Others were credited and lauded for the same!

But good work gets noticed. In 2012, the Forest Department of Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council invited Manjur to Diphu and requested him to create a portal for them. Intensive photo shoots in Marat Longri Sanctuary and Nambor Reserve Forest further honed his photographic skills and the portal was ready by 2014.

A 15-day trip to Ladakh happened in 2015 that took Manjur to a number of wild life sanctuaries there and he was fascinated by the richness of the Himalayan wild life in the area. He was satisfied clicking memorable shots of the wild ass, jackals, and rodents abundant in the ranges but one regret he rues is that he could not harness his skills to shoot the ever-elusive snow leopard that inhabits the area. So, another trip to Ladakh remains due on this account.

A few other wild life sanctuaries in the region have contacted Manjur in recent times for creating their portals too. It’s a tough and time taking job and extremely difficult for him to accomplish as he has also to look after his professional work which is ever expanding. But as it is his passion, he just can’t say no to them.

According to Manjur, “North East should be the first choice of any wild life photographer anywhere, for the variety of subject is wide here, you can work at low cost, and the scope for photo shoot is just unlimited.” Manjur has a dream and is preparing himself to cover all other North Eastern States one by one in order to portray and showcase the region to the rest of the world in a more comprehensive way that has not been ever attempted earlier.

Nurul Laskar

Nurul Laskar

Nurul Islam Laskar was born in Shillong on June 18, 1950. A University topper and gold medallist, he joined the State Bank of India as a Probationary Officer in 1972. In 1976, Laskar was awarded the Rotary International Group Study Exchange Scholarship to visit on home stay in the state of Oklahoma USA. He was conferred Honorary Citizenship of Oklahoma during this visit. Laskar served as the Chief Manager (Public Relations & Community Services Banking) at SBI Local Head Office (North Eastern Circle), Guwahati during 1994-2002. He was recipient of Loyola College Chennai’s Mother Teresa Award for outstanding Community Service in 2001. In 2002, he took voluntary retirement from SBI and served as Consulting Editor, The Sentinel (English Daily) from 2002 to 2004 and as Executive Editor, Eastern Chronicle (National English Daily) from 2009 to 2014. Around this time, Laskar set up CABSFORD PR, the first public relations agency of North East India. Laskar is the first PR practitioner of North East to get a post graduate degree in Public Relations. He teaches PR at BCMJ, Cotton University, Guwahati and conducts PR workshops at various universities and institutes as a visiting lecturer. Presently, Laskar is the Chief Adviser, Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) Guwahati Chapter and Founder Director of ‘Learning & Promoting Public Relations’ (LAP-PR), an organisation to promote the practice of PR among the youngsters of North East. Besides, he is also the Director (Corporate Communication) at University of Science & Technology Meghalaya (USTM) and Honorary Director at Tangent Public Relations Guwahati.