Polan Sarker, revered for his life-long endeavour to educate people by walking around his locality and lending books, passed away at the age of 98 yesterday.
He breathed his last at home in Bagha upazila's Bausa village at 12:30pm. He was suffering from health complications caused by old age for the last few days, said his son Haider Ali.
Born as Harez Uddin in Natore's Bagatipara upazila on September 10, 1921, Polan Sarker was a self-made man with a passion for learning.
After his father's death, Polan and his mother moved to Rajshahi to live with her parents. He could not continue formal education after class six. But his eagerness to learn did not wane.
He became involved with theatre artistes in the area, reading scripts for folk plays and participating in them. He developed a habit of buying books from local libraries, gradually becoming a voracious reader.
Soon Polan became skilled enough in Bangla to be hired for writing legal deeds, business agreements, and keeping meeting minutes.
At one point, he was the chairperson of a local high school committee, where he used to give and lend books to students. This is when he realised his true calling -- in not just gaining knowledge, but also disseminating it.
After he was diagnosed with diabetes in his 80s, he was told to walk at least three kilometres a day. He used this as an opportunity to walk to villagers' homes and lend them his own books.
He continued to hand-deliver the books for almost three decades.
In 2008, he built a library on his own land with assistance from Rajshahi Zilla Parishad. The library now has five book distribution points at different villages.
Inspired by his initiative, some youths of his village joined him and created a movement for reading books.
Polan Sarker was awarded the prestigious Ekushey Padak in 2011 for his dedication to social welfare.
The news of his death shrouded his village in grief.