Remembering a public spirited lady | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 24, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 24, 2012

Remembering a public spirited lady

Dr. Maliha Khatun

Ten years ago on this day an unusually public-spirited lady passed away. She was Dr. Maliha Khatun. It would be pertinent to remind that very few Bengali Muslim women were active on the social scene of erstwhile East Pakistan. It was a time when even educated women did not really venture out of the confines of their homes. In such a scenario Dr. Maliha made her mark as a distinguished educationist, writher and social worker.
Dr. Maliha's talents were multi-dimensionalshe was an educationist of repute in addition to being a playwright, poet, short-story writer and a dedicated social worker of the country. She did her BA Honours from Bethune College, Calcutta after securing a first division in matriculation from Sakhawat Memorial School, Calcutta. She did her MA in Bengali and Philosophy. While in service she did her diploma and post-graduation in Education and Psychology respectively from Edinburgh University in 1957. During the fag end of her service career she obtained her Doctorate degree in Educational Psychology from Dhaka University.
The responsibility of public office, tireless social work and even the untimely death of her young daughter could not put a brake on her quest for knowledge and drive for public service. Even amongst her heavy work schedule she had enquired about the welfare of friends and relations and rendered moral and material assistance. The “Rokeya Sakhawat Samity” started functioning from her own residence in Dhanmondi where she arranged educational facilities for unlettered young children. “Kabya Kunja”a writers' salonhad received literary and financial support from her and is now an active place for budding and established writers and poets.
Dr. Maliha's philanthropy was exemplary as this virtue was nearly unknown to Bengali Muslims. She had single-handedly rendered financial assistance to individuals and groups in distress and had even donated Tk.1 lac for the treatment of an ailing colleague. And all this happened without the slightest glare of publicity. Her lifelong savings has helped establish a charitable body styled as “Shamsul Huq-Nargis-Maliha Khatun Trust.” This trust is rendering financial assistance and according reception to distinguished citizens and meeting educational expenses of the needy and meritorious.
There is a Trust fund of Tk.8 lac in her name in Dhaka University for catering to the educational requirements of poor and needy students pursuing science studies.
Dr. Maliha felt very passionately for the welfare of greater society beyond the requirements of the individual and group. She was active as an important office-bearer in bodies like Pabna Samity, Rajshahi-Khulna Divisional Development Society and Dhaka Divisional women's sports body. She was an active participant and speaker in seminars and symposiums organised by these bodies.
In recognition of her social service she was awarded the state-level Rokeya Padak in 2001. She was the first woman principal of Dhaka Teachers' Training College.
Dr. Maliha also penned seven books for children. In addition, she was regular contributor to several Bengali dailies. Her known publications run beyond thirty. She was awarded the Dewan Abdul Hamid Literary Award, the Nazrul National Award and the Sher-e-Bangla National Award in recognition of her literary accomplishments. She was member of Jatiya Mahila Sangstha, Lions Club, writers forum and Ahsania Mission amongst several others.
May the soul of Dr. Maliha Khatun rest in eternal peace.

The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.

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