Prof. Dwijen Sarma | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 05, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 05, 2016

Botany

Prof. Dwijen Sarma

It's hard to fathom the beauty Dwijen Sarma moves through, a beauty that resides only in nature. And he has devoted his life to protecting it with everything he has. Bipradash Barua once called him 'well respected by trees'. Hayat Mamud refers to him as 'a great humanitarian of our time'. 

Dwijen Sarma, botanist, naturalist and writer 'discovered' nature in his early childhood near Madhabkundu in Moulavibazar, spending time amidst the flora and fauna, the birds and the animals of the mountains. This inquisitiveness and love for nature took Dwijen Sarma, born on May 29, 1929 in Sylhet, to many countries in the world.  

At home his father had built a large library that helped shape his enlightened worldview. After getting his MSc in Botany from Dhaka University in 1958, he joined the B M College in Barisal and taught there till 1962.  He participated in the education movement of 1962 and got arrested and sent to prison for three months. His dream of undertaking PhD in a well-reputed foreign university was thus shattered as he could not get a passport due to the 'prison record'.  

Refusing to give up, he started doing research at the University of Dhaka. Two more years and he would have obtained the PhD. Then he got an offer to work as a translator for Progress Publishers in the then Soviet Union. He left for Russia in 1974 with another dream—to learn from Russia's experience of socialism and come back to rebuild the newly independent country. 

At Notre Dame College, where Sarma taught till 1974, he designed a landscape garden that still beautifies its campus. That's one thing about him—wherever he worked, he built gardens, which he believes are part of our being, something we need to keep us sane in the midst of bricks and concrete. 

While in Russia he translated several books on political science, economics, sociology and science from English to Bangla. From Moscow he would visit Europe to see the birth place of Darwin and the Kew garden, the holy grail of botanists all over the world. He would walk around in the Regents Park and St. James Park and make plans about designing our botanical garden in the same fashion. He would carry a lunchbox and spend the whole day in bookstores.  

Dwijen Sarma has been relentlessly writing and working for more than 40 years to make people understand the importance of preserving the environment. Over the years he has sat on many high powered committees for the preservation of nature. “I cannot say even one of my suggestions has been implemented,” he once bemoaned. 

After coming back home in 2000, the ardent environmentalist was invited by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh to join them as an editor and translator. He served as vice president of Asiatic Society for three years. An encyclopedia of the flora and fauna of Bangladesh in 56 volumes was published by the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh while he was the president of the publishing committee. 

A recipient of numerous awards including the Kudrat-i-Khuda gold medal, Bangla Academy Award, Ekushey Padak, M Nurul Qader Children's Literature Award, and Nature Preservation Award by Channel i, he has more than 30 books to his credit. His Shamoli Nishorgo, Shomajtontre Boshobash, Jiboner Shesh Nei, Phoolgulo Jeno Kotha, Biggan Shikkha O Daiboddhotar Nirikh and Nishorgo Nirman O Nandonik Bhabna are considered classics by critics and readers alike.

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