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    Volume 9 Issue 14| April 2, 2010|

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Extraordinary Lives

Dr Shaikh Abdul Hamid

On November 11, 2009 The Daily Star printed my article “An Extraordinary Life” on my late father Abdul Hannan. I received a number of e-mails in response. Three stand out because the writers recounted the lives of their fathers. In an age where exemplary role models are hard to come by I felt it would be beneficial to project the extraordinary lives of these gentlemen before the readers. I think one of the greatest crises of our age is the dearth of noble examples around us.

Ferdousi Akhter, a lawyer by training and an NGO employee, was moved to write about her father Khondaker Abdur Rahman who retired as a Regional Director in Agricultural Extension Department. He is well known for his honesty, dignity, punctuality, and frugality. He would say, “An extravagant person is a friend of Shaitan”. The only house he built was in his village after retirement with his pension money and some contribution from his grown-up children. He always believed that educated children are the most valuable wealth a person can leave behind. Years back when somebody heard that Rahman had seven daughters they would express concern as to how he would give away so many daughters in marriage. His reply was “I am giving them education. If anybody values this education, he can come and marry my daughter otherwise not”. That is what really happened in subsequent years. When his daughters got married he would say: "I am giving away my most valuable wealth. Please take care, and you will not lose in your life." Six of his seven daughters are Master's degree holders in different disciplines. The success of Khondokar Abdur Rahman is to be measured not in terms of money or power but in terms of the legacy he leaves behind through honesty, sincerity, and dedication. When somebody asks him what motivated him to be honest, he answered: 'your prayer will not be fulfilled unless your income is honest. I learnt that from my parents'. He believed that it is better to make the children a wealth for family, society, and state rather than accumulate any other wealth. He believed that an honest person never has to keep his head down. He says “Though you have to struggle a lot you can get positive results during life and after death. It will give you peace when you go to bed at night. Honesty always receives Allah's blessings. You will never lose. Be happy with what you have. Cut according to your cloth”. His inspiration is his parents who struggled--throughout their lives to raise him and give proper education.

Ishrat Ameen, settled in Toronto, Canada, recounted the life of her father Ekramul Ameen who passed away on June 24, 1993. He hails from Dhaka. He was recognised as one of the valuable football players at Calcutta Mohammedan Sporting Club, secured 1st Class in Masters, Biochemistry from University of Dhaka, taught Biochemistry there, and played a vital role in the Language Movement. (In 1994 he was posthumously recognised as Bhasha Shainik for his contribution to the movement.) In 1953 he joined the Karnaphulli Paper Mills Ltd. In 1957 he went to Canada on scholarship for a degree in paper technology. On his return he rejoined KPM as Manager, Administration. In 1966 he joined the Khulna Newsprint Mills Ltd and eventually became the General Manager where he served with extreme dedication until February 1972. In due course, the paper man landed up in the jute arena as the Executive Director of the Adamjee Jute Mills Ltd in 1979 because of his masterful administrative abilities. At his death he was the Treasurer of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

Honesty, integrity, humility, compassion, and untiring hard work were the cornerstones of Ameen's character. He was a great listener, a strong disciplinarian, a wonderful husband, a caring father, a fun loving grandfather, and a friend to everyone who would cross his path. He loved his work and cared for all his colleagues and employees like his own family. He touched the hearts and earned the respect of everybody he came across. A born leader, he had the personality and traits that attracted respect. He never had to raise his voice to be heard. He taught his children to work hard and live a simple but disciplined life. He taught them if they have nothing good to say about someone, then it is best not to say anything, to treat others like they would want themselves to be treated, and be as selfless as possible. He showed them the true meaning of love by the way he loved and respected their mother. His character and teachings left a lasting imprint on his near and dear ones.

Omar Khasru, an administrator at North South University wrote about his late father M.A. Karim who hailed from a remote corner of rural Bangladesh. Coming from a devoutly religious family he was put into a madrassah. He wanted to study English. In face of stiff resistance from his family he quit madrassah education, went to regular school and excelled in his studies. Later on he went to Barisal B.M. College, and was accepted to the highly prestigious Presidency College in Calcutta in the early 1940s. Then he successfully appeared in the Civil Service exams, and joined the Police Service in 1943. Scrupulously honest and efficient, Karim served with the highest degree of integrity and objectivity. His forte was art and literature generally considered an improbable passion for a police officer. Every day he devoted 4 to 5 hours for reading literary books. Dr. Mahmudul Anam, Professor of Economics at York University, Canada wrote: "(Mr. Karim) was a remarkable man from a glorious and, alas, now extinct generation… A fiercely independent and intellectually self sufficient man, he lived life on his own uncompromising and principled terms and, in the process, left a priceless legacy."

The great premium that Karim put on the education of his children has paid rich dividends. He lives through his highly accomplished children four daughters and three sons and a host of grandchildren who along with their spouses teach all over the world. His collection of English books, fiction and nonfiction, may be unparalleled in Bangladesh. In the middle of his illness, with all his senses intact, he asked Khasru to take him on wheel chair to his library. Five books, four in English and one in Bangla that he was reading simultaneously had bookmarkers on them. He asked Khasru to read a page from a book by his friend Poet Ahsan Habib. He listened intently, then carefully and slowly put the books back and left the room. That was the last time he would venture into his beloved library. That, in a nutshell, is the life story of a simple, unassuming, modest, honest, and unobtrusive man:

From the highlights of the three illustrious lives, and that of my father, the role of parents in the moulding of children is striking. It is highly improbable that children will inculcate human values if they do not see such values in parents. It is highly unlikely that children will be educated when parents do not put the highest premium on education more unlikely at a time when so many distractions are competing for the attention of young minds, some of which are the results of indulgence of parents. It is highly implausible that when the older generation is looking for the easy way out, the future generation will be blessed with the ethical compass to steer through life's murky waters. It is too much to expect that children growing up in moral bankruptcy will be morally accomplished.

Each of them could have amassed ill-gotten wealth and surround themselves and their families with transitory pleasures. They refrained from that every day of their lives whereas most around them succumbed. I hope their lives will inspire, motivate, and enthuse formative minds to be noble, upright, honest, and austere so that they can in turn become role models for others. These extraordinary lives reflected these qualities. They all valued their roles as husbands, fathers, and guardians. They all valued education. They all are examples for us. Quite possibly they are getting extinct.

The author is professor of finance/economics, and lives in Boston, USA. sahamid@gmail.com.



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