A tribute to a scout leader | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 02, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:28 AM, January 02, 2017

A tribute to a scout leader

The earth is not blessed every other day by a teacher as principled in his thought, word and deed, by a trainer as versatile in every aspect of training, by a person equally amicable to the young and the old as Monir Sarker Sir. These are not mere words to console the bereaved mind after the passing away of a near, dear and respected one, but an accolade to a Scout Leader who has dedicated his life to building the character of young people so that they may play a constructive role in society as worthy citizens of their motherland and planet Earth.

Scouter Monir Uddin Sarker, Leader Trainer, was distinguishable from afar, not only because he carried a lean and handsome stature that was over six feet tall, but because of his khaki hat. He could be mistaken for a hunter emerging from a forest in one of Rudyard Kipling's pages. In fact, he was lovingly called Baden-Powell of Bangladesh by people who adored and respected him for his uncanny resemblance to the founder of the worldwide scouting movement.

At closer encounter, one would be drawn as much to his sharp facial features as to his bass voice that delivered lessons in both Bangla and fluent English with equal dexterity. One was always intrigued by his command over a foreign language, and more so on learning that he was born and brought up in the remote village of Jaria Jhanjail in Jaria Union, Purbadhala Upazilla of Netrokona District, where three-fourth of the population is illiterate.

Hailing not far from the border of Meghalaya (India), the environs of rivers Someshwari and Kangsa, and hillocks must have swayed the little Monir Sarker to appreciate the beauty, might and potentiality of nature, his lifelong teacher. He was an ardent farmer, proud to be a son of the soil, and harvested from his own sowing, taking great delight in reaping fruits from the trees that he nurtured. In the non-Google days, he was the search engine for information sought by scouts and scout leaders.

A schoolteacher in a laid back village Monir Sarker emerged as one of the most versatile Leader Trainers (internationally recognised highest rank in scouting training) of Bangladesh Scouts. He was most passionate about the correctness of scouting education, and continued to render his valuable services, enriched with experience, long after his retirement.

At training courses, where he was a member of the training staff, he barely slept. He used to prepare lessons and charts, and organise course equipment deep into the night so that there was no flaw the following morning. He took it upon himself to uphold the standard of training, endearing hundreds of trainees for life.

He possessed a shrewd sense of humour, living by Baden-Powell's dictum that a scout is “cheerful under all circumstances”. He would narrate how his leader, Moulana Abdur Rouf, after repeatedly telling his charges while travelling by ship to Karachi in 1967 for the 4th Pakistan National Jamboree to report of any difficulty, began to vomit all over the deck when the sea took to rolling. That, and an invitational trip to Japan were perhaps his only overseas voyages.

There was a child in Monir Sarker. Among his hobbies was collection of coin and scouting mementoes, and he had a passion for socks of other countries, humbly accepting them as gift from other scouters who could afford international travel. Despite his limitations, Monir Sarker's lasting lesson for our society is that smart global knowledge can still be acquired through books and other reading materials. 

Apart from rendering invaluable service as a trainer on scouting, in which he possessed multifaceted knowledge, Monir Sarker was a deft performer at campfires. He would enthrall participants of all ages with his song, dance and poetry glowing in the aura of burning firewood in the depth of a forest. His dance rendition of the scout chorus, “Make a melody in my heart” as an octogenarian shall continue to epitomise the adage, “A scout is cheerful under all circumstances”.

Decorated with the highest Silver Tiger award of Bangladesh Scouts, an honour bestowed by the country's Chief Scout, the president of the People's Republic, Monir Sarker was most passionate about the scouting movement and continued to render his valuable services, enriched with experience, long after his retirement. He had achieved many other laurels including the Silver Hilsa, the second highest award, a mark of distinction conferred also by the president of the country, our Chief Scout.

Such was his devotion to and enthusiasm for the movement that in the third week of October this year at the ripe age of 86 the schoolmaster was imparting lessons at a scout training course at the Regional Scout Training Camp, Muktagacha, not far from his village. He fell sick and was literally persuaded to receive medical attention at Mymensingh Sadar Hospital. Three days later, on 23 October, Sir breathed his last.

His invitation to scout leaders to visit his village was open. Good humouredly Monir Sir would often say, “In the mornings a barber will shave your chin, a cobbler would be ready to shine your shoes, I will offer you fishes shing, koi, magur and boal from the haor.” Almost no one was enticed till a representation from Bangladesh Scouts went to attend his funeral prayers and burial. His coffin was draped in the Scouts flag, in solemn silence stood thousands, the void ringing many miles around his ancestral home.

Not without his human faults, he rests in what we pray is eternal peace at his village. I regret not keeping in touch with him over the past year. We are so busy that we often overlook the fragrance in our own garden. I wanted to give you Sir some coins to add to your collection; I told you so, and you were so interested to get them. I still have them, lying in my drawer.

A great leader, always cheerful, he is comparable to only himself. Salute, leader, salute. You have been my inspiration, and that of thousands. It will be difficult to find a trainer of your calibre, although you have been most generous to share your wisdom. May Allah (swt) grant him sterling abode in Jannah, that which is reserved for the angels among us mortals.

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