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VOA'S Sportscaster In A Sari - 2002-04-02


Bangla airshow/Olympic report

The Bangla Service's sports reporter is a petite woman with expressive eyes and flowing black hair, who always wears a colorful sari. Roquia Haider says that her native dress is, in fact, an advantage to her in her work.

"It's very impressive, you know. And I believe that, you know. I feel great about it, because wherever I go that gives me an advantage. Where the others might not be able to just push through, I can get in very easily."

When Roquia Haider joined VOA's Bangla service in 1981, she talked the chief of the service into letting her try her hand at sports reporting.

"In sports when I started not many women, not even European or American women were there. But I always loved challenge. By nature I'm very aggressive, I have not learned to sit back and watch."

This was certainly true of Roquia Haider's early life. She grew up in Calcutta, India, where her father was a businessman. The family moved to East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, when Roquia was in high school. Still in high school, she married and had the first of four children. Nevertheless, at the insistence of her father and with both families helping to take care of the children, she attended college and graduated with a degree in political science. Meanwhile, the political crisis between East and West Pakistan was building to a climax.

"It was the worst part of my life. To tell you the truth, I really don't want to remember 1971. If I could, I would just wipe it out of my life. Because in 71 March, that's when Haider went out and never came back."

Roquia Haider's husband, who worked in a shipping company, was one of thousands of Bengalis and Hindus killed by West Pakistani troops in a military action begun on March 25, 1971 to quell a secessionist movement in East Pakistan. Roquia was 24.

"I was totally lost, because I didn't know what to do. No one was around. We didn't have food, we didn't have electricity, we didn't have water, and my youngest being only 10 months old, you can imagine. They were all clinging to me, and I couldn't even cry, I couldn't even sigh, because I didn't know what to do. I had good neighbors, who helped me from time to time."

The Pakistanis were determined that what came to be called the war for liberation would not succeed.

"They killed people on the streets. They went into the university dorms to kill the students, because the students took a very active role in that. And they killed all the intellectuals, teachers, doctors, - Bengalis. That's how they thought they would crush this."

Roquia and her children survived the turmoil for 20 days, until her father, who was at the time in West Pakistan, found a way to have them join him. Two years after Bangladesh was proclaimed an independent nation in December, 1971, Roquia and her family were able to return to Dhaka. In college she had emceed student radio programs and participated in radio dramas, and that experience led to her choice of career.

"I don't have time. I need to earn. So I went back to radio, and established myself as a newscaster. Then I had the opportunity to go for television news presentation workshop in Malaysia and Australia for my training."

She was a well-known personality in Bangladeshi radio and television when she came to the Voice of America. In addition to being the Bangla service's sportscaster, Mrs. Haider is a newscaster and reporter, and recently was promoted to managing editor. In her years with VOA she has interviewed many prominent people, including the world-renowned humanitarian, Mother Theresa - whom she had known back in Calcutta and Dhaka. Roquia Haider says she is amazed at the impact the Voice of America has in Bangladesh.

"Voice of America. Oh, it's something. Hundreds and thousands, I would say, young people, college teachers, even elderly people, housewives - wherever you go, they respect you, they love you. The popularity of the Voice of America is just beyond your imagination."

Despite what happened to her in 1971, Roquia Haider says she feels she has a lot to be thankful for.

"I'm really grateful to God that here I am today, I can talk to the whole world through the microphone, and my children grew up as good human beings, what I wanted."

Living and working in America, Roquia Haidar continues to cherish her native culture, and has passed on a love of it to her children.

English Feature #7-36082 Broadcast March 25, 2002