Five to six years back, farmer Rahimullah came all the way from Cox’s Bazar to meet me at my Channel i office. We spoke over lunch that day. After being asked about the purpose of his visit, he told me his life story.
During the 80s, an episode of Mati O Manush, hosted by me, about papaya farming was aired on Bangladesh Television. Watching that, Rahimullah pressed his father to bring papaya seeds. Later on, Rahimullah went to the Middle East for work. Channel i’s Hridoye Mati O Manush was a Bangladeshi show he could watch there. Despite all the hard work there, this agricultural show was Rahimullah’s only source of entertainment.
Rahimullah decided to return to Bangladesh after watching different episodes of the programme on success stories of farmers who grew baukul (Bau plum).
He came back with his hard-earned money and had been trying to cultivate baukul for the past two years. He said he spent all his money that he had saved up abroad, but was not getting much success.
Before we finished our lunch, Rahimullah requested me to visit his newly built farm with a strong belief that his orchard will flourish further if I paid a visit there.
A couple of months after our meeting, I went to visit his orchard in Eidgah area of Cox’s Bazar. The orchard was already huge. I told Rahimullah that he came this far with great efforts and he certainly can go even further.
When I was leaving, Rahimullah approached me again and showed me two papers -- a work permit (known as Akama in Saudi Arabia) and an air ticket to Saudi Arabia. He asked me whether he should go to Saudi Arabia again or stay in Bangladesh to pursue his farming dream.
I told him that the answer has to come only from himself. He then tore up both the Akama and the air ticket. I left a revolutionary farmer back in Eidgarh and became a witness to a glorious history, proving that passion of a farmer can take him far. Later on, I loaned him some money, which he returned successfully.
Today, Rahimullah is a financially stable farmer. He is not only cultivating baukul, but also papaya and banana. He also has a large fish farm. In addition, he started a seed and fertilizer business.
At the end of the year 2018, Rahimullah told me that he wanted to send baukul, grown in his farm, to His Excellency Honourable President Md Abdul Hamid and Her Excellency Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. He asked me if I could arrange it. I told him that I would try my best.
Few days ago, Rahimullah sent me fresh baukuls from his farm for the honourable president and honourable prime minister. Attaching a letter, I sent the packaged baukul to the honourable president and honourable prime minister.
In February 2019, I had the privilege to meet the honourable president. He said to me, “Seraj, I have something for you.” He then handed me a letter that was addressed to farmer Rahimullah. It is astounding that the president wrote a letter to a common farmer after receiving the fresh baukuls. It is not only inspirational for only Rahimullah, but also for all farmers in Bangladesh. I did not deliver the letter to Rahimullah right way. I kept it as a surprise gift, hoping to hand it over to him in a special manner.
Like every year, I have started the pre-budget discussion ‘Krishi Budget Krishoker Budget’. At its Cox’s Bazar session, I listened to problems and prospects of farmers. Around four thousand farmers were present there. Zunaid Ahmed Palak, state minister for information and communication technology (ICT) division, was present there as a member of the cabinet.
Many other government officials along with key policy makers of the community also attended the event.
At one stage during the programme, I asked if Rahimullah was present in the crowd. Amid thousands of farmers, a man stood up. The letter written by the honourable president addressed to Rahimullah was displayed on the big LED screen. At my request, ICT State Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak read out the letter for the audience in the most heartfelt manner. The translation of the letter is given below:
“Dear Rahimullah, Assalamu Alaikum. I thank you for sending me your farm’s baukul as a gift. You are a hardworking man. I am delighted to know that Shykh Seraj’s show on Channel i ‘Hridoye Mati O Manush’ has inspired you to cultivate baukul. You started from the roots and now you have become the owner of a huge baukul orchard. You have become financially self-reliant. I believe your success will encourage other farmers and general people of this country to cultivate agricultural products, fruits and crops and hence you all will be able to contribute a significant amount to the nation’s GDP along with achieving personal goals. Mr. Shykh Seraj’s agricultural programme already created a great stir among the farmers and mass people while leaving a positive impact on agricultural production. I hope he will continue his innovative initiative for the development of Bangladesh’s farmers and the farming sector. I myself am a son of a farmer. Thus, I understand the agonies, pains, tears and smiles of the farmer folk. The present government has taken an initiative of ‘turning every village to a city’. I believe you will start getting the benefits of this enterprise very soon. This project will develop the rural socio-economy as well as add a new dimension to the overall livelihood of ours. I pray for your family’s and your good health, long life and continued success. May Almighty Allah grace us. Goodbye, Long live Bangladesh. Md Abdul Hamid.”
This letter inspired thousands of farmers and created such an environment, which I personally cannot explain. Tears of joy rolled down Rahimullah’s cheeks. Farmers present there also felt extremely proud of his accolade and their eyes also filled with tears. Rahimullah was asked to get on the stage so the letter written by the honourable president could be delivered to him.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak embraced Rahimullah, who still had tears in his eyes. I asked Rahimullah if he wished to say for the audience. A common rural farmer Rahimullah, handling such an emotional and proud moment, said in a quavering voice, “First, I wholeheartedly thank the honourable president and convey my salam to him. From the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the Cox’s Bazar district residents and my struggling farmer brothers, I would like to send him lots of greetings...”
Rahimullah finished his speech sobbing, “I thank you, honourable president.”