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The Quranic School Society

In order to prevent moral erosion among the school children, the Quranic School Society has been established in May 1980 with a view to preaching and spreading eternal messages based on Quranic principles. The AIM and OBJECIVES • Suitable steps need to be taken to build up the moral character of children and juvenile in the light of teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. • To introduce weekly Quranic classes in primary, middle and high school. • To practice these lessons in real life such as never to lie, misappropriate, dispossess anybody illegally, to begin every action in life in the name of Allah. • To explain what is meant by “amelus-saleha” and inspire the students to do at least one good act a day. • To help children develop their in-built good qualities. • To explain what ‘zakat’ is and for whom to ‘zakat’ is compulsory and the rate at which zakat money is to be calculated. To explain where to spend to zakat money and the categories of poor people who are eligible to receive this charity. To help the students to chalk out programs using zakat money and associate them with different schemes such as “sewing class for girls” and “tree plantation for boys”. • Brief description of the program of the Society to help the students develop their moral character: The number of schools where the program is ongoing is currently 28, where 2030 students are receiving training in Quranic principles and tenet both in theory and practice with the help of a text book compiled for this purpose by the Society and published by the Islamic Foundation. These schools are located in 12 districts under the supervision of 28 teachers, one teacher each in every school except in schools where the number of students exceeds 30 or more (Table A). We have evaluated the program and come to the conclusion that a good many number of students have benefited from the program. It is our considered opinion that many of them through their participation in QSS program have been discharging their duties in their professional life with more efficiency and conviction emanating from their deep faith in the religion and would continue to do so in the future. We believe that this success has been the result of our dedication and relentless efforts. This is the all the more reason why we believe the QSS program should be further expanded for the greater interest of the community and the country. How is the program run? We select a school which has earned the reputation of being one of the best in the area. With the approval of the school managing committee, we select a teacher from among the staff members. The selected teacher is put in charge of conducting the weekly QSS class and monitor each and every student’s progress whether they practice the instructions given in the classroom or outside. Once this is done the Society’s Inspector of Schools visits said school and reports to the Executive Committee about the performance of the teacher. On his satisfaction and favorable report, the teacher is appointed on a token honorarium of Tk. 200/- p.m . In addition to the Principal/Head teacher of the School, the concerned teacher is the link between QSS and said school. The progress of each previous class is reviewed before the commencement of each weekly class how much of the instructions they have followed during the rest of the week. The discussion follows and the students take back home where they have failed and the steps to take to improve in the future. How you can help the QSS to expand its program? You can become a member of the Society on payment of a yearly subscription of Tk. 500/-. If you like the QSS program, you can introduce this program in any school of your choice. It may be in your village or/and in the town/city you live. For this purpose you need to pay to the Society, a yearly contribution of Tk. 25,000/- (Monthly salary of a teacher @ Tk. 200 for 12 months + Tk. 100/-) for the purchase of the text book followed in the Quranic classes). This donation will not be considered as your contribution to ‘zakat’. It may be mentioned that QSS has a separate ‘zakat’ fund set up for purposes as set out in the Quran and Hadith and you are welcome to contribute as much amount as your would wish to this fund earmarked for this purpose. Through donation of cash or any amount through cheque you can help the Society in expanding its humanitarian program such as ‘Sewing classes’, literacy classes for illiterate adults. Expansion of QSS program:The next year’s program includes introduction of this program in twenty more schools spread over ten districts with a special emphasis on reopening the QSS program in the schools where it was discontinued. There are more than 30 schools where for various reasons, the QSS program is no longer in operation. In some school, the teacher in charge expired as a result of which the program discontinued. Expansion of ‘zakat’ Fund: We feel that if the purpose and object of the QSS ‘zakat fund is properly explained to the rich in detail, to raise fund for this purpose will be easy. The ‘zakat’ Fund may be utilized to expand the existing orphanages in the country i.e., to strengthen their current activity including expanding charitable clinics, and sewing machine training centers. Our ultimate Objective is to build up an ideal institution where students would receive all round education including Islamic education and be able to follow the path as enjoined in the Quran and Hadith. Fortunately, a newly opened institute called Dhaka Laboratory English Medium School in Mohammadpur is an institution of this kind where students learn as much English, Bengali, Math as in a public School and at the same time they are educated in an Islamic Environment learning the essentials of the Quran and Hadith and, history and heritage of Islam including the life of all prophets and their teachings. It has been proposed to hold the next workshop in the premises of this school so that the QSS teachers participating in the workshop will learn how to teach in their respective schools. Tree plantation Program: In 1988 the Society with the financial assistance of Food and Agricultural Organization launched a big tree plantation program in selected schools affiliated to QSS. Although the 1988 flood damaged many of the nurseries in some of the schools, overall it was a huge success. Currently in some schools, such as in Chandina Pilot School, Comilla, Laksmipur High School, Pabna and Kurigram Government High Schools the students did a wonderful job by planting timber trees worth several lakhs. Currently the Society is financing from their resources tree plantation projects in schools showing interest in this scheme. Sewing Training Project: The Society has launched a ‘zakat’ fund contributed mainly by the members of the Society. The money raised in this Fund is being utilized in making the poor and the destitute self-reliant. With this object in view Sewing Training Centres have been launched in 1995 in three schools, namely, in Kalyanpur Dhaka, Rajshahi and Satkhira. Worthy of mention in this connection is that in addition to students, the destitute of the area receive training in these centres and become self-independent. Monthly Magazine “Iqra”: Since the beginning, the Society published a monthly magazine called, “Iqra” with a view to building up writing skill among QSS students apart from publishing the themes centering round the Quran and Hadith, editorial, science news, a story, it used to run a separate section called, “Sabujer Ashar.” Considering the benefits of this publication we have resumed its publication including online version. Unfortunately, due to lack of fund, this venture will again stop. It is only financial assistance from the QSS members and philanthropists that will salvage this effort much to the good name of the society. Annual Workshop: Annual workshop was a regular feature of the Society. The Diabetic Centre provided all facilities to hold the workshop. Late Dr. Ibrahim was the Chief patron of the Society and extended all facilities free of charge including the use of auditorium to hold all our functions. All QSS teachers used to enjoy which was to them a great event providing them a unique opportunity to mix with their counterparts and exchange views apart from listening lecturers from learned ‘olamas’. For new teachers it was a great experience and they applied their newly acquired skills to teach their students upon return to their school. Our fervent Appeal. QSS is a 30-year old non-political institution with a long tradition and it deserves all our moral and financial support to keep it dynamic and continue its noble mission of carrying forward its torch for building up the moral character of the children through the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah. In the days of turmoil and confusion facing the younger generation, the message the QSS is conveying, will find solace in QSS which has no political ambition and has only goal to uphold the principles of the Quran and work toward building the youth’s character. Appendix: A list of the schools where the QSS program is in operation: Chandpur: Janata High School, Panchgram Azizur Rahman High School, Bernaiya High School, Naora High School. Comilla: Chandina Pilot High School, Chandina Dr. Firoza High School. Dhaka: Kalyanpur Girls’ School and College, Dar-es-Salaam Government Elementary School, Dhaka Laboratory English Medium School, Dar-es Salam Primary School, S.S.R Institute. Tangail: Shibnath High School, Tangail Girls’ High School, Rani Bhabani High School Kurigram: Kurigram Government High School, Nilaram High School and College, Karim’s Farm High School, Kurigram High School. Kusthia: Dinamani High School, Sabuj Sathi Preparatory School, Sabuj Sathi Model High School, UdiBari High School. Gazipur: BARI High School Satkhira: Rajnagar Government Primary School. Pabna: Laksmipur High School. Gopalganj: Prativa Kindergarten School Where would you send your Donation? Principal Office: House No. 9, Road No. 33, Flat 3B, Gulshan, Dhaka 1212 Phone: 989 5831, 01711876909, 01676268397. Or you can send your donation to our online Bank, A/c No. 020112013485: Al-Arafa Islami Bank Ltd, Banani Branch. If necessary, we will send our School Inspector to your house or office to collect your cash or cheque.

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The National Professor Dr. Md. Ibrahim

As I have seen Professor M. Ibrahim – the Architect of BIRDEM – the Diabetic clinic

Since 1948 I knew Dr. Ibrahim. He came to see us at the Department of Botany Dhaka University. After pleasantries, he asked me whether I or anyone else in the department could help him in taking microphotographs of a few slides containing disease-affected human tissue. H e said he was going all the way to an International conference somewhere in South America and hence the necessity of those pictures in support of his lecture. I gladly agreed.

National Prof. Md.Ibrahim

I still distinctly remember that around that time he started a diabetic clinic in some tin sheds in Segun Bagicha – north of the Eden Buildings.  The clinic was open to public.  It was not at all difficult to discover that he was a dedicated soul always eager to serve the community particularly the poor who had no means to undergo treatment. He was a physician par excellence. His clinic was downstairs in the ground floor of his Segun Bagicha house. He established a sound system in which a junior doctor first examined a patient and created an individual file for each. The file was preserved in a permanent database and this was referred to during the subsequent visits of the same patient.  Based on the report by the junior physician, Dr. Ibrahim examined the same patient and confirmed whether his assistant had correctly diagnosed the complaint. In several instances the diagnosis had to be changed. The medicines were described by Professor himself.

Dr. Ibrahim introduced this system in the Diabetic Center stablished a few years later. In addition, each patient was supplied a documentation book. It was made mandatory for each patient to bring the documentation book for all his/her subsequent visits. The system works so efficiently that my wife whose parents were both diabetic received a letter requesting her to visit the Diabetic Center to get her blood sugar level checked. She did and to her surprise her high sugar level was detected in the test.  It was a surprise for her because she never suspected to be diabetic. It is worth mentioning here that diabetes is hereditary and offspring, unless they are extremely careful in their diets and life style they are likely to be the victim of the same malady.

There was another reason which gave me an opportunity to know Dr. Ibrahim closely. He was a patron of the Qur’anic School Society of which I was the President. During the annual workshop of the Society, he allowed us to use the auditorium, microphone, and some rooms free of cost.  We had access to the Cafeteria which supplied the participants tea and meals at a subsidized rate. Dr. Ibrahim addressed the participants who came from all over the country about morality and ethics and appropriate lessons from the Qur’an to guide us on the right path. Dr. Ibrahim was himself a role model and he set up a glaring example of how we should run our life according to the tenets of Islam – about morality, trustworthiness, punctuality, responsibility, duties to our family and the community and discipline.

It is reported that he used to get up very early in the morning, take bath in cold water. He used to believe in the principle – early to bed and early to rise and followed this golden rule throughout his life. He took an early breakfast and started his long day after he finished his snack.

He was like a baby in his attitude towards life. Once I traveled with him by the same plane to Islamabad . He was in first- and I was in the economy class. His wife accompanied him. The food in the plane didn’t agree with him. At the Islamabad airport I found him seriously ill suffering from an acute type of diarrhea with frequent loose stools. The food served in the first class must have been the cause of his suffering. Fortunately, I carried a few packets of oral saline with me. I handed over one packet to his wife. Dr. Ibrahim apologetically requested me to prepare the saline for him because he confessed that neither his wife nor he knew how to prepare the oral saline drink.  It was a great astonishment for me that in the world such strange things happen that the architect of the world famous Diabetic Centre, BIRDEM  (the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders) who built up a unique institution from the scratch did not know how to prepare oral saline solution. It boils down to the fact that Prof. Ibrahim didn’t think about himself; he was more concerned about the well being of others.

His concern for the poor, the destitute: Professor Ibrahim used to go to his house to take luncheon around 1oclock. Some days he couldn’t leave his office in time due to pressure of work. In one such busy day, when he got downstairs, he found that some poorly dressed men were loitering in the big hall downstairs. He hated this kind of disorder. He called those men and said, “Why are you wandering here in the afternoon. There is no place here for undisciplined people here.”  One of them in a tearful voice said, “Sir, we came here early in the morning; none asked them the reason as to why they were there.” They were bewildered not knowing what to do and have been waiting since the morning for treatment without any solution. As soon as Dr. Ibrahim heard them, he lost his temper. He called the staff members downstairs immediately and addressed them in an emotionally choked voice, “Those men who have been waiting here since morning are my VIPs. In my eyes they are most venerable. Those who are rich can go to any clinic and receive treatment but the poor destitute people are helpless. They have no place to go for medical attention nor do they know the hospital rules which they are supposed to follow. It’s obvious that all of you paid no attention to them taking advantage of their ignorance and lack of knowledge of the rules of the institute. As a result they have been waiting since morning without being attended to. None of you can leave the clinic until you study each and every patient and prescribe the right medicine for them.”

In the present materialistic world, rarely a person as big-hearted as Dr. Ibrahim would be found. Due to his dogged determination and relentless effort the treatment of diabetes is no longer a problem throughout the length and breadth of Bangladesh and in big cities like Dhaka, clinics for treatment of diabetes under the aegis of Diabetic Center have been established in all important sectors of the city.

Establishment of BIRDEM: In an unpredicted way Allah rewards out of proportion those who render selfless service to the people without expecting any return. After the birth of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujib called him and said, “We all know that you are an excellent physician, a dedicated social worker and a high class researcher. How can the Government help you in disseminating medical facilities throughout the country?” He said, “Please give me a piece of land in the heart of the city such as the one situated on the east of the defunct Shahbag hotel (now Post Graduate Hospital) where I can build up a high class diabetic hospital with research facilities. I also require sufficient fund to complete the building and make it fully functional.”  Bangabandhu fulfilled his dream by acceding to his request. Forty years later the Center, now known as  Ibrahim Memorial Diabetes Centre, Bangladesh and the Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders have developed into one of the two top class diabetic institutes in the world, where treatments of all kinds of complications in diabetes including diagnostic facilities are available. Now young physicians from all over the world including the USA, the UK come to the Diabetic Center to undergo training in this highly specialized area of medicine.

An Ideal place for practical training in Management: Paying a glowing tribute to Dr. Ibrahim, an experienced teacher at the Department of Management, Dhaka University said about Dr. Ibrahim that although he didn’t formally take a management course in an institution or at the University, he was an expert in management. We take our final year students after they complete their theory to the Diabetic Centre to see for themselves what ‘management’ actually means and how an organization should be run as it should be to attain perfection.

Witty Dr. Ibrahim: Let me describe another side of his character. He was extremely witty. Hidden underneath his solemn face was his sense of humor. Late Mr. Shah Aziz, the former PM of Pakistan became sick after he lost his premiership and hospitalized in the Diabetic Clinic under the care of Dr. Ibrahim.  He was suffering mentally from an acute type of depression following his defeat in the election.  Dr. Ibrahim examined his patient thoroughly and didn’t find anything wrong. He wittingly said to Shah Aziz, “Shah Sahib, I didn’t find anything wrong with you. Everything is normal. However, I know the type of illness you have been suffering from. But unfortunately, I don’t have medicine to treat that malady. You will be completely well again if you get back your premiership but I don’t know that mechanism. I am out and out a physician and not a politician.”

There is another story centering round one of his medical college students who fell ill and hospitalized. When the news reached Dr. Ibrahim, he went to see him and prescribed medicine for his speedy recovery. After a thorough check-up, he discovered nothing wrong with his favorite student except that he was suffering from nervousness. When the student heard the doctor’s verdict, the young patient said to Dr. Ibrahim, “Sir, I feel like crying all the time.”  Dr. Ibrahim laughed and said wittingly, “Brother, I don’t have any medicine to stop you from crying. All I can say, “cry as much as you can when you feel like crying. After a while it will automatically stop without any

Professor Dr. Altaf Talukder and Dr. G.C.Dev

It was 1949. I had already begun teaching in the Botany department, Dhaka University. I was delighted to be appointed as an external examiner to conduct I. Sc. Botany practical examination in Dinajpore College. Late Dr. G.C. Dev, the Liberation war martyr was the principal of the college. He was a life long bachelor and appeared to me to be a divine figure. Not only did he come to the railway

Prof. Dr. G.C. Dev

station to receive me; but accompanied me to the College hostel where arrangement for my stay was made. He personally oversaw that my stay there was comfortable and proper meals were served to me. He again came quite late at night with a glass of hot milk in his hand. I was overwhelmed with his warm hospitality. After pleasantries he said, “It’s good for health to drink a glass of milk before going to bed.”

He was an elderly person and the principal of the College and I was then a young man of 24. He could have sent a colleague instead of taking the trouble himself to inquire about whether I was comfortable in the hostel. One might think that there was a reason for Dr. Dev to be so nice to me and to take care of me in the best possible way in order that I gave a nice report about his College. It was not so because all the students without exception did very well and I did not hesitate to give full marks – 10 out of 10 to quite a number of students. I must say that I was impressed with their performance. Their practical notebook was exceptionally good.

Let me come to the main topic of this episode. Late Professor Dr. Altaf Hossain – the well known Gynecologist and Obstetrician was one of the examinees. After the examination was over, he introduced himself and wanted my Dhaka address and said that he would meet me when he came to Dhaka next time. Then one day, indeed I saw him at my door step. I welcomed him to my house.

There was a reason why Altaf came to see me. He applied for admission in Dhaka Medical College (DMC). He was under the impression that I could help him in securing a seat in the medical college. At that time this was the only medical college in the whole country. Anyway I couldn’t think of  a way  to help him since I did neither know the Principal nor any senior member of teaching staff of DMC. Suddenly, I remembered that I knew the Health minister, Late Mr. Habibullah Bahar. He was a patron of an organization called Young People’s Association of which I was the General Secretary. In that capacity, our relationship was cordial. So I took courage in writing a letter to the Minister introducing Mr. Altaf recommending him for admission in Dhaka Medical College. I do not remember now what exactly I wrote in that letter. I asked Altaf to see the minister with that note of mine.

I was overjoyed when Altaf brought the good news of his admission in the Medical College. Admission into Dhaka Medical College was not as rigorous and difficult as it is today. An applicant would usually find a seat in the Medical College, if the results of the candidate in the I. Sc. were good, and he/she fared well in the oral examination. Altaf did well in the Medical College and got the medical degree at the first attempt thus justifying my recommendation. After his graduation, the young physician became the Registrar in the gynecology department at DMC.

A few years later, he got a chance to go to Britain for a higher degree in medicine/surgery. In this connection he came to see me again to seek my advice as to the area of medicine he should specialize to obtain a higher degree in Britain. I suggested to him to choose the area of gynecology. He liked the idea. He completed the course successfully and became a Member of the Royal College of Gynecology and Obstetrician (MRCGO). Upon his return to the country, he worked as Professor of Gynecology first in Rajshahi Medical College and then in DMC till his retirement. He soon earned fame as an efficient surgeon. Two of my near relations were delivered by him through caesarian operation.

Dr. Altaf was a man with a strong moral character and had a good personality. He would suffer mentally seeing the corruption at medical colleges in both Rajshahi and Dhaka. He saw a number of his colleagues earning a huge amount of money illegally by delivering babies born out of wedlock. He was not able to stop such illegal practices in spite of his vehement opposition. In fact, he didn’t obtain any cooperation from his colleagues because that would have meant blocking of a large source of their income. He used to discuss with me feasible plans how to eradicate the evil doings of his colleagues. At the end he would give up with a deep sigh.

Dr. Altaf was often despaired at seeing the pitiable conditions of the poor patients at the government hospitals and burst into tears. He tried his best to stop the malpractices that vitiated the hospital environment but to no purpose. He was overwhelmed with emotions when instances of immoral practices of some of his colleagues came to his notice. He didn’t open his mouth in spite of his mental anguish. However, I could visualize, that if he had power he would have stopped unprofessional conduct of his colleagues. In this battle he was all alone against his conscienceless peers who would plunder the Government money in connivance with the administration. Although he didn’t utter the names of his colleagues, it was clear to us whom he was hinting at.

Probably because of his mental stress he suffered from high blood pressure which might have been the cause of his untimely death. Because he led a simple life, he didn’t own a house in Dhaka. Such honest officers are few and far between in the present day society where amassing wealth by dubious means is no longer considered an offense but the norm of life.

My Girl Friend in England during my Study Abroad (1952-54)

There are certain questions in life for which there are no straight answers.

Soon after my return to Dhaka, I heard a strong rumor that during my stay in Manchester, I  became very friendly

with a girl student and that I was going to marry her soon. If I say that I didn’t have a friend that would be

a lie; on the other hand, if I say that I had a girl friend whom I wanted to marry, that would not be also a true

statement.

The Chief technician of the Manchester University Botanic Garden one day asked me whether I would be interested

to move to his newly bought house as a paying guest. The house was located in Urmston, a suburb of Manchester

but it was on the bus route. He said that he could spare two rooms, one for bedroom and the other for  a common

Drawing room. I immediately thought of my Indian friend who was doing his Ph.D. in chemistry in  the same

University. He gladly agreed. So we moved there soon.

 While commuting to the University, I often came across a blonde girl boarding the bus at the same bus stop. One

day, while waiting for the bus I introduced myself to her and said that I was a Ph.D. student in Manchester

University doing Ph.D. in Botany. She said that she was an undergrad student of the same University studying

French. Often we sat next to each other. She was a good conversationalist; so our journey in the bus was not at all

uninteresting. The time in the bus, which lasted an hour or so,  passed smoothly without our realization. She

wanted to know about our countries, culture and customs. I also asked her about her country and its culture.

 

One day I asked her whether she had any steady boyfriend. When she replied in the negative, I suggested whether

she would mind going out with me seeing a movie or go out for a walk in the park or play tennis with me.  She said

that she won’t mind making a remark at the same time that she feels safe to go out with me. When asked

to elaborate she said that boyfriends from her country make so many unjust demands, that she felt embarrassed

and uneasy to spend time with them.

Another day she invited me to her house to meet her mother.  I readily agreed. Her mother, a middle aged  graceful

lady welcomed me at her fairly large house. She said that her husband does not stay with them and visits them

occasionally. This way our relationship no longer remained casual. On festive occasions such as during

Christmas, she used to invite me to dinner. Often we had lunch together. She would come and pick me up from my

laboratory and we would go together to the University cafeteria. Instead of standing in a queue we would go to a

place where food was served by waitresses. This would cost us a little more but we didn’t mind to pay more because

of the extra comfort and varieties of dishes to choose from. On certain days of the week she was busy with her class;

so I used to go to cafeteria alone to eat.

 During one summer vacation, my friend Marie proposed that she would like to spend a part of the vacation at the

famous Windermere Lake District and whether I would like to accompany her.  She also disclosed that her mother

would accompany her in the trip. I welcomed the idea more so because her mother would give her company.

Marie’s mother chaperoning her daughter was an additional attraction to me. It was a safeguard that we would

behave properly during the journey and do nothing untowardthat would put blemish on our character. We booked

two rooms, one double and the a single room for me. It was a convenient arrangement. The whole day we would

travel around sight seeing or moving in an engine-propelled boat. It was a great fun to move in a boat as none of us

was experienced in the art. By the time we returned to the hotel, we were so tired that we went straight to bed after

supper.

        Looking back, I must admire Marie’s mother’s wisdom. After all, we were two young individuals and if left to

ourselves we could have taken advantage of the situation and did something for which no amount of repentance

would have compensated the wrong doing.

        My friends and near relations often asked me why I didn’t marry Marie when we became so close. There were

many considerations that dissuaded me from coming to that decision. I had to support my mother and look after

my sister and a grown up brother. So it was a question of choosing between marrying a foreigner and supporting my

mother at her old age.

    Marie also never gave an indication that she would like to choose me as her life partner nor did I hint that I would

like to marry her. In fact the tenure of my scholarship would have allowed me stay in England for three more

months after I had finished my degree. If my love for Marie was that strong, I would have prolonged my stay to give

this idea more thought.

 In fact, soon after my return home, I requested my mother to look for a suitable bride. I was then thirty, a good age

for marriage. I did receive some letters from Marie; she never blamed me that I had deserted her or left England

without marrying her.

 

Bangladesh becomes a Sovereign State

Bangladesh Becomes a Sovereign State It was 25th of March, 1971. The sun was about to set plunging us into the darkness of night but for some mysterious reason the sunset was delayed as if waiting to face some uncanny event. Suddenly there was a radio announcement. A curfew has been imposed. We were expecting something of that kind but didn’t realize that this ominous hour would come so soon. People in the streets rushed home to avoid impending danger as if in competition with the birds returning to their nests. Thus the brutal attack of Pakistan army on innocent Bengalees commenced. I was then living in the ground floor of a two storied building at Fuller Road. It was built during the regime of Lord Curzon early twentieth century. The building was demolished a few years later and in its place now there is a 5-storied building where staff members of faculties live. The old building where we lived had no boundary wall. There was an improvised bamboo fencing all around the building. That’s why we felt insecure.

On that ill-fated night a searchlight mounted on something very high was revolving over the university residential and adjacent area in quest of Bengalees opposed to Pakistan regime. In order to save ourselves from the grip of merciless Pak army, we put a big lock on the front door. We switched off all lights to give one the impression that it was a deserted residence. We kept the side door open for our entry and exit to our flat. It is hard to describe how we passed the calamitous night. At the crack of the dawn as we heard Azan from the nearby mosque, just about that time the silence was broken by a few gunshots. We all came out of our residence and found our maidservant sobbing over the dead body of her only son. Those gunshots pierced the back of the teenager who was then inside the improvised latrine and killed him instantaneously. The marksmanship of the Pak soldiers was so accurate that they could kill an enemy hidden from the eye within a bamboo fence. None against Pakistan escaped from their wrath. Pak soldiers were so much intoxicated that they indiscriminately killed Bengalees without even ascertaining who was a supporter of Pakistan and who was not. They had to pay the price for this bloodbath. Read more…

My Marriage in the 1950s

My Marriage It was 1954. I just returned from England after doing Ph.D. in genetics. Dr. D. Jenkins was then the Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University. He framed a new set of rules for promotion of a teaching staff member to a higher rank. Earlier whoever would return from abroad with a Ph.D. would be automatically elevated to the position of a reader. Plenty of vacancies for higher posts were available in the University because of the migration of Hindu teachers after partition. Before Dr. Jenkins joined the University as a VC, any teacher who returned from abroad with a Ph.D. degree was elevated to the Rank of a Reader (equivalent to the present day rank of an Associate Professor). Dr. Jenkins revoked that system and as a result those who went abroad on study leave on half-pay from the University suffered most and I was one of the victims. His argument was staff members who return from abroad with fresh Ph.D.’s should be grateful to the University for granting them study leave with half pay and should wait their turn for promotion to the next higher rank on a regular vacancy. They could not demand immediate promotion as a matter of right.

Two alternatives were left open to me either to join my previous post without asking for promotion or pay off the University loan with 8% interest and seek my fortune elsewhere where better pay and prospects were available. I decided the second alternative and joined Jute Research Institute (JRI) as a Botanist. I accepted the job on condition that JRI would pay off my loan. The JRI authority broke their promise; so I applied for a Professor’s job in Sindh University. In the meantime I got married to Ms. Humaira Islam, an arts graduate from Eden Girls’ College.

Below I am painting a graphic picture of how my marriage took place in spite of a series of obstacles which at one time appeared to me to be insurmountable. After partition of India, Dhaka became the capital of the then East Pakistan. All of a sudden, a small district University town became the capital of a sovereign state with its own secretariat, important central offices. In the new state two classes of elite developed fast – the rich business community and the service holders of different high cadres. The performance of children of middle class families was by far better in schools, colleges and the university compared to those from other strata of the society and they were the ones who were in majority in Dhaka University – then only the highest seat of learning in the country. At the Pakistan Central Superior Service Examinations they were the ones who beat their counterparts and were selected for various high ranking posts in the Civil-, Police-, Audit and Accounts-, Postal and Railway services. On the other hand, the well-off business community families were keen to get their daughters married to doctors, engineers or those who began their careers in civil-, police-, and Income Tax cadres as high officials. Most of the time, the bridegroom families were not sufficiently well-off to afford an expensive wedding ceremony. Under such circumstances, the bride’s family gladly agreed to bear a major part of the wedding expenses in order to lure the groom’s family to a successful marriage negotiation.

The scenario has now changed completely. It’s mostly left to the couple whether they like the company of each other; thereafter parents intervene and arrange the marriage when they get a hint that the two involved in such a relationship would end in a happy marriage. Anyway let me describe how did my marriage take place? My only Khalu (my mother’s sister’s husband) brought a marriage proposal for me. He said to my mother that his longtime friend Mr. Sakhawat Hosain had a daughter – an undergraduate student of Liberal Arts at Eden Girls’ College. The father of the girl and my Khalu were colleagues at the Calcutta Writers’ Buildings. After moving to Dhaka, Mr. Hosain left the Government service and started jute export business on his own at Narayanagunj. He owned a house in the Armanitola area in Dhaka and two motor cars signifying he was doing well in business. Khalu told my mother that Shamsu (my name) and his friend’s daughter would be a good match for each other. If my mother gave him a green signal he would proceed in the matter. My parents were separated. Father lived in Chittagong town with my stepmother. In other words, mother had no source of income. She met the household expenses mostly out of my salary and found it difficult to meet both ends meet. She said to my uncle, “Look, Shamsu has just returned from England and joined a new position in Jute Research Institute. Whatever he earns is not enough to run the family. Under that circumstances, it would be extremely difficult to marry Shamsu unless we save money to meet the expenses of marriage. Khalu contacted his friend and reported to him what transpired between him and mother.

Having heard about the outcome of the meeting between my Khalu and mother, the bride’s party said, “The groom’s family will not have to worry about marriage expenses. They will bear it.” This condition of the marriage that the major expenses of the ceremony would be borne by the bride’s father was kept a secret from my wife. The latter was terribly hurt and upset when she learned about the circumstances under which the marriage proposal was finalized. Looking back, I would most certainly say that my wife should have been informed that the burden of celebrating the wedding would fall on the shoulder of her parents. The people of older generation do not approve of the freedom enjoyed by boys and girls of the present generation of free mixing before their marriage. The freedom of the present day girls to have a major say in the choosing of their life partner has come as a blessing of the modern age.

Besides her photo, I caught a glimpse of my wife in the New Market. When my daughter and sons got married, not only did they meet their consort face to face but they talked to each other. Now in the mobile phone- and the Internet age they can easily communicate to each other and decide whether they are meant for each other, whether their likes and dislikes were similar or poles apart. The young women of say 40-50 years ago did not enjoy even a fraction of freedom enjoyed by today’s young women. In our days the decision of parents in the choice of bride/bridegroom was final. Except the photo, there was no way to meet the life partner – a person with whom one was to spend the rest of one’s life. To speak to the life partner and share the views of each other on important matters of life was out of question. Now with the availability of mobile phone there is no longer any barrier before the couple after the engagement to communicate with each other regardless whether their parents like it or not. If the present day mobile phone were available to old couples before their marriage, they would have used this facility to know more about each other without the knowledge of their parents. Alas, the couples of olden days had no such luck. I know a few couples who have spent their life living under the same roof without liking each other, just for the sake of raising their children in the best possible way.

Generally it meant a lot of sacrifice on the part of the mother. Mostly the wife acquiesced in to avoid unpleasantness in the family which adversely affected the morality of the children. I knew my mother was never happy with her marriage but she never quarreled with her husband. One day I asked her, “How come, I never saw you arguing with my father on any issue.” She replied that when she was young she saw her parents constantly quarreling with each other creating a vitiating environment. This prompted her to take a vow that she would never quarrel with her husband even under provocation. She kept her words all her life and raised all her six children giving them love and affection and best of education even under such  strenuous circumstances.

English version of my autobiography

Purchase of land in Gulshan and construction of a house

Every one of us has a dream in his life – a happy family and along with it a nice house and a smart car. I was no exception to it but I never realized that such an opportunity would come to me so soon.

It was 1959. I was then working in Sindh University. An advertisement appeared in the Daily newspaper, “Dawn” that the Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) (currently Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, RAJUK ivRavbx Dbœqb KË…©cÿ) launched a new project of building a township in Gulshan and Banani area.  And that it invited applications from among the citizens of the country for allotment of plots of two different sizes – 10 and 20 katha (কাঠা). My neighbor in the adjacent house – an Associate Professor in the Department of Education conveyed me this news and suggested that I should immediately send an application. I replied, “I don’t have enough money to purchase a  piece of land.” He retorted saying, “A post card costs only 12 paisa and a stamped envelope double that amount. So why not apply for a plot of land now and if it is allotted in your name, then we shall see how you can get the fund to purchase it .”

Allotment of a Ten-Katha Plot in Gulshan: I could hardly believe when the DIT responded to my application communicating to me that a plot of land measuring approximately 10 কাঠা had been allotted to me. The cost of the land, if paid in one installment was Rs. 11,000/- and a little more than 12,000/- rupees if paid in three installments.   I went to my neighbor to thank him and convey to him the good news and sought his advice where to get the loan from. He took pity on my lack of my practical wisdom and said, “Don’t you know that you can take loan from your Provident Fund money?”  It was a piece of sound advice.  I took loan from this source and paid the first installment.

Handing over of the piece of land by DIT: Some authorized officer from the DIT Estate Office showed me the particular plot which measured a little more than 10 and a half কাঠা and demarcated the area by fixing a small wooden peg one each at four corners. In late 1950’s this area was a small village with the usual landscape. In my plot as everywhere in that area there were a number of jackfruit trees. The people in the neighborhood laughed at me saying I was foolish to have invested that amount of money to buy a piece of land   frequented by jackals and wild animals. What an incredible difference in the price of the same piece of land in Gulshan area now! Ten কাঠা currently costs more than Taka 20 million or more.

Meeting Mr. Khuda Buksh, a Pioneer in the Field of Insurance: Anyway, several years went by. In 1968 DIT sent a letter to each of the plot owner to build a house with immediate effect or else the defaulter allottee would be dispossessed of the land. One day my father-in-law introduced me to Mr. Khuda Buksh, an icon of Life Insurance in the subcontinent. I sought his advice in the construction of the proposed house in Gulshan land. He said, “Son, Go ahead, if necessary by borrowing money. It took me 40 years to make up my mind and now I am constructing the house paying many times more than what I would have spent if I had the wisdom to take up the project then.”

I took the above gentleman’s advice seriously. So, I took a loan of Tk. 40,000/- from the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) without any hassle. My relations and close friends came to my rescue; they gave me a loan of another Tk. 20,000/- , when I desperately needed the money to finish the one-storied house.

During the summer vacation of four months from March 20 to 20th July, the foundation of the house was laid along with the roof over a three-roomed brick structure.  My father-in-law was a great help to me. In addition to buying material, he supervised the construction of the house from the time I had left for Hyderabad. Not only that. He moved into the house as soon as it was ready and gave us the rent for the period he stayed there.

The house was rented to several tenants one of whom was a Canadian expatriate, Mr. Kiss. He used to pay us rent in due time. However, at the end of the contract period, he vacated the house without paying the bill for water, electricity and gas.  An enquiry revealed that Mr. Kiss had already left Dhaka for Canada. I wrote to him. Instead of feeling sorry for nonpayment of the bills, Mrs. Kiss sent a nasty reply to me on behalf of her husband. The only course that was left open to me was to complain against him to the Canadian High Commission at Dhaka. This worked like a magic. I got a letter from Mr. Kiss and a cheque of the amount equivalent to that of unpaid bills along with a letter enclosed with it. There is a saying in Bengali, “One cannot lift ‘ghee’ without bending one’s finger.”“সোজা আঙ্গুলে ঘি ওঠে না।”

Chinese Restaurant in the Gulshan House: Another tenant was a Chinese.  He opened a Chinese restaurant there.  We never realized that the house would be so badly damaged by the heat generated in the kitchen from the ovens and burners and the vapors of the oil used for cooking. The kitchen area was so dirty and damp that it needed a thorough scrubbing before the job of painting was undertaken. It cost us a good deal amount of money to make the house suitable for living before the next tenant moved in.

Withdrawal of the Provident fund and Rupali Bank Loan: By 1985 I retired from the University and got Tk. 5 lakhs from the provident fund.  We decided to build the second storey of the house with the Provident fund money and taking a loan of another Tk. 5 lakhs from the Rupali Bank. First time, I took loan from HBFC to construct the ground floor, I got it merely for the asking but it was difficult to get the second loan from the Rupali Bank.  My younger brother, Hamed Shafiul Islam, a member of the Board of Directors of that Bank helped me secure the loan.

Renting of the newly built upper storey:  We rented the second story. I moved to the ground floor with my family. My tenant was an income tax lawyer. He was solvent and he spent money lavishly. Several Air condition units were run all the time during the summer.  He had two sons living with him. Both of them were high officials each working in a commercial bank.  The concerned banks provided each one of them an official car. All the three cars were parked downstairs in the driveway.

Deceit is Human Nature, not always related to financial constraint: In 2004 we decided to hand over the plot to a developer, and requested our tenant to move elsewhere. He was not at all willing to leave the house and offered a number of lame excuses to prolong his stay. At last willy-nilly he left the house without clearing outstanding electric bills amounting to Tk. 150,000. We let him leave the house believing that he would pay off the electric bill without getting us on our nerves. We could not imagine that the gentleman who lived with his well-off two sons would be so mean as not to pay off the bills. One day my eldest son went to his new residence in Gulshan to remind him of his liability to pay off the debt on account of unpaid electric bills.

The tenant passed away without settlement of the utility bills: The gentleman was then very sick and assured my son that as soon as he would get well, he would pay off the outstanding debt. Unfortunately, the gentleman never got well and breathed his last a few days after my son had visited him. We contacted his youngest son after the death of his father to pay off the electric bills. He abused my son right and left. The matter ended there. We didn’t approach them anymore. Imagine the morale of the two high ranking bank officials.

Construction of six-storied building in Gulshan: Sheltech is one of the topmost Builders in Dhaka. The contract between the Company and my wife was signed for construction of a six storied building with the condition that the owner of the plot i.e., my wife would be allocated six flats and the remaining nine would be owned by the builder.   It was planned to construct parking space in the ground floor to accommodate 15 cars and two rooms for the use of all flat owners or their tenants as needed by them e.g. for holding meetings of the flat owners and as an office room. The building was given a nice name, ‘Symphony’.

My wife, who owned the six flats, sold five of them keeping one for us to live. A part of the money was used to build a house in the United States in the Pflugerville area, Texas. Unfortunately, she passed away on the 4th of June 2008 and buried in Banani graveyard. The American property was sold after her death.  All my life we lived under stress because of fund constraint but not anymore. My wife left enough money for me to live a decent life not feeling the pinch of hardship. I owe to her immensely for the current comfortable life of mine. So she sacrificed her life to let everybody live in comfort.

Sindh University Campus revisited

It was 1966.  In accordance with the decision of the Government of Pakistan, Sindh University was shifted from the Hyderabad city to a sparsely populated village called Jamshoro, 11 miles from the city center. The academic atmosphere in the heart of the big cities was vitiated by frequent political disturbances; so, the Government of Pakistan thought that shifting of universities into adjoining areas all over country would improve the academic atmosphere considerably. So the SU campus shifted to the new campus at Jamshoro. It was an isolated desolate place with hardly any vegetation. There were a few shrubs scattered in the rocky terrain. Since I was in charge of the campus and also a botanist, the responsibility of beautifying the campus with trees and floral plants devolved on my shoulder. We realized that to grow plants in this desert-like terrain was not only difficult but expensive too. Casual laborers were engaged on contract basis to dig out a number of pits in the rocks throughout the campus and fill the pits with garden soil and fertilizers. Neem saplings and other hardy plants such as Mahogany, adapted to desert conditions were planted there. Due to erratic and scanty rainfall, we had to make a provision for watering the plants regularly. A truck fitted with water tanks and long hose pipes became handy to water the plants regularly. The advantage of planting hardy plants like Neem and Mahogany was that once they were established with their roots buried in the solid rocks, they wouldn’t require any watering. They would get their water requirements from the ground.

Fifteen years of service at Sindh University: I left Sindh University in 1970 after working there for about 15 years to join my new post of professor of Botany at Dhaka University. Twenty-five years passed by and I didn’t have an opportunity to visit the SU Campus within this long period. Then suddenly I got an invitation to go to Nathia Gali as an instructor to conduct a workshop on plant tissue culture. Nathia Gali, of Hazara District is a health resort and served as the summer Headquarters of the Chief Commissioner’s office of NWFP.  At the end of the workshop, I headed for Karachi airport by train en route to Dhaka.

It was a long wait approximately of 5-6 hours at Karachi airport before Dhaka bound flight. I felt bored just at the thought of sitting at the airport lounge for such a long period doing nothing.

Suddenly my eyes fell on a familiar face but I could not place him as to where I had seen him before.  Still I felt good at the thought of talking to him and pass the time. I tried to attract his attention but the gentleman pretended as if he had not noticed me. He appeared to me to be a conceited person without having any intention to talk to ordinary people like me.

Instead of waiting further, I briefly introduced me saying, “Excuse me, Sir, being curious. I am Dr. Islam who served in Sindh University for over 15 years. I came to say ‘hello’ to you thinking that you might know me. ” I was about to leave when the gentleman called me, “Are you that Dr. Islam who was a Professor of Botany at Sindh University for a long time. Sir, I am really sorry that I had not recognized you at first sight. I am now the Vice Chancellor of that University. You have come to Pakistan after such a long time. How can you leave Pakistan without seeing your old University and the Department you built? Sir, we won’t let you leave Pakistan unless you take the trouble of visiting Sindh University of which you were a part once.”

Indeed I was amused. A person who took no notice of me a while ago was now keen to extend warm hospitality to me. I thanked him for his cordiality and said, “I would have been glad to accept your invitation but my plane leaves in a matter of a few hours. How can I go to Hyderabad within such a short time and be on time to catch my flight?” The VC said, “Don’t worry. It’s not a big deal. I have my own people in the airline office. They will change your ticket for your return flight at no extra cost.”  I eventually agreed to his proposal. Since he was busy elsewhere, he excused himself and instructed his driver to take me to the campus – a distance about 100 miles and bring me back in time to catch the Dhaka bound flight the next day.

My ride to SU campus by the VC’s official car: It was a comfortable journey from Karachi airport to the SU campus – a stretch of 100 miles of highway. I was enthralled to see the campus grow so huge during the period of my absence. The ‘neem’ and other hardy plants such as Mahogany which I planted 25 years back have grown into tall shady trees beautifying the campus and providing shade to the passerby. The desert-like look of the campus changed into a greenery of vegetation. It was a dreamy feeling and I felt proud as a Bangladeshi to have contributed substantially to the growth and development of a growing campus. It was like a video tape. It played back to me all the pleasant memories.

The memory of Allama I. I. Kazi, the founder Vice Chancellor flashed back to me again and again in awe. Allama built up the campus with his missionary zeal and visionary imagination.  To my pleasant surprise, I saw a magnificent Mausoleum built by his admirers to commemorate Allama’s matchless contribution to build Sindh in general and the university in particular on a sound footing. The Sindh Government initially allocated only Rs. one lakh to start the University.

Recently I looked at the Sindh University Website. The website gives a birds eye view of the spectacular development of the campus. It can stand comparison to any University in the world in its architectural beauty. Besides an imposing Central Library, it has a number of institutes, each having its own separate impressive building. Among them, the following deserve special mention: M.A. Kazi Institute of Chemistry, Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Institute of Criminology, Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science,  Institute of Plant Science, National Center of Excellence in Analytical Chemistry,  Institute of Geology, highly impressive  Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto Chair and Convention Centre,  Hitech Research lab, Institute of Sindhology, Far East Study Centre, Institute of Information and Communication of Technology.  If Allama II Kazi were alive today, he would have derived immense satisfaction from the growth and development which he initiated in a High School Building in Hyderabad town early 1950’s with an outlay of Rs. 1,00,000. The campus has a look of any world class university from the standpoint of structural beauty, accommodation and facilities.

Reunion with a few old colleagues. In the campus I met a few old colleagues of the Science faculty. Most of them were at the verge of their retirement. They were all very pleased to see me after a long time. When I mentioned to them about the cordial welcome I received from their Vice Chancellor, one of them remarked. “Sir you didn’t recognize the VC.  He is the one who could not get admitted in M.Sc. course in Zoology. Then upon your recommendation as a Dean of the Science faculty, he was admitted in Zoology. He remembered your act of kindness and tried to reciprocate it that you did not back up the wrong horse.”

Expansion of the Engineering Faculty: I went round the campus. A large number of new buildings particularly of the Engineering Faculty were added to the sprawling campus. Entry into the Botany department which I built and nurtured for over 15 years filled my heart with an extraordinary feeling of nostalgia. The staff members who had just joined the Department during my tenure of office were now full Professors and their predecessors had gone on retirement. The V-shaped two storied Botany building was still there written on it its past history. The built-in concrete stage constructed between the two wings of the V-shaped building didn’t show any sign of ageing. It was used to hold important cultural functions including those such as, “নবীন বরণ” for welcoming the new students and “বিদায় সম্বর্ধনা” for bidding farewell to outgoing students. Since I had not enough time at my disposal I couldn’t meet the graduate students to discuss with them their research projects.

Rare jute and cotton species were lost: I didn’t see the garden where I grew the wild species of jute and cotton representing the world wide collections of the two important genera of cash crops. For want of care and maintenance, those rare plants did no longer survive much to my disappointment. It took me years to build up the garden with exotic jute and cotton species but they were neglected and as a result the garden with rare collections was gone.

 

Traveling: Experiences and Realizations

Life’s First Long Trip: North India

Elsewhere in the book I have mentioned that I was awarded the first prize on an essay competition entitled “Paharpur Excursion” (পাহাড়পুর ভ্রমণ). The School authority invited essays on this trip from the participants. The opening sentence of my essay was, “To travel is my passion” (ভ্রমণ আমার নেশা).  This sentence won the hearts of the judges and they adjudged my essay the best. Truly, traveling to different places was my obsession. Right from my childhood I loved traveling.

It was 1939. I was then a student of 9th class. My father called me one day and said that the East Indian Railway had offered a 15-day travel package to tour North India and that within this stipulated period a passenger could break his journey and visit as many places as he could manage. The interclass ticket per adult was only Rs 40/- and half that amount for children up to 12 years of age. Would I be willing to accompany him in this trip to different renowned places in India? I was overjoyed at his proposal and thanked him for giving me this unique opportunity.  At that time instead of two, there were four classes in the train: 1st, 2nd, Inter- and 3rd class. The trains were not crowded then and one could travel comfortably in the three upper classes. I was counting the days excitedly.

Our first destination was Lucknow in U. P. We took advantage of the Muslim League Convention which was to be addressed by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. As delegates to the convention we stayed at the guesthouse of Raja Mahdoodabad. Lavish foods such as biriani, various meat preparations and varieties of sweet dishes were served free to the delegates both at lunch and dinner time. We listened to the fiery speech of Mr. M.A. Jinnah. He was an orator, captivated the audience; Mr. Jinnah demanded separate homeland for Indian Muslims.

From Lucknow we went to visit the relics of  bvj›`v wek¦we`¨vjq (Nalanda Bishwabidyalaya (University) believed to be one of first universities in ancient India founded in 500-600 BC. It has been known as “one of the first great universities in recorded history”.

From there we headed toward Delhi. In the train we met a well-dressed gentleman sitting next to me. He wore a nicely tailored ‘sherwani’ with am elegant cap on his head. My father was impressed with his dress and remarked that Muslims in this part of India value Islamic dress whereas Muslims in Bengal wear shirts, pants, dhoti, Punjabi. I nodded my head supporting my dad. The gentleman perhaps understood what we were talking about in Bengali. Addressing us he said, “Your impression that I am a Muslim is not correct. I am a Hindu. In our part of India Hindus also dress like Muslims, put on ‘sherwani’, use caps. A Muslim is distinguished from a Hindu is the way the ‘sherwani’ is tailored. The side button in the ‘sherwani’ in our case is sewn on the left whereas the side button is stitched on the right in case of a Muslim. We comforted ourselves, “How would we know the difference when we hardly wear ‘sherwani’ except on ceremonial occasions.

The trip to India would remain incomplete without visiting Tajmahal which is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I requested my dad to stop at Agra at the next leg of our journey. He agreed but we were destined to go to Banaras first before visiting Tajmahal.

In the train we met one gentleman from Banaras. We never met before and yet we became so friendly that he insisted on our stopping overnight at Banaras and be his guests.  We accepted his hospitality. The next morning he took us round the city and showed important places such as a famous burning ghat where dead bodies of the Hindus are burnt round the clock. The Hindus believe that this place is so sacred and holy that the person whose dead body is burnt there goes straight to heaven.

From Banaras we went to Brindaban – a holy place for the Hindu devotees.  My father’s Hindu friend lived there in an Asram. One day being carried away by the thought of the supreme being, he told his class mates that if he had spent the same study time in meditation he would have elevated himself to the proximity of God. He started sleeping on the floor instead of a regular bed.  One day, then a student of class VIII,  he left his house without telling anybody and went to Brindaban. He wrote to his parents and my father from Brindaban that he had decided to discontinue his studies and spend the rest of his life in meditation in search of God.

I experienced an awe-inspiring feeling when I sighted my father’s friend in the Asram. He had an enlightening face and he impressed me almost instantaneously as soon as I came in contact with him. We heard a number of stories about Gurudev. One story narrated by one of his disciples was that they saw him in mediation, and saw him above the ground by several inches. The calm, serene and enchanting environment impressed us all beyond description.

In our itinerary Tajmahal was the next place to visit.  The magnificent and majestic Mausoleum carved out of white marble stones filled our hearts with awe and admiration.  We were reminded of unparalleled love and affection the emperor Shah Jahan had for his wife Momtaj Mahal. To commemorate his wife’s death the emperor built such an edifice of beauty and grandeur that for the past few centuries thousands and thousands of tourists from all over the world come to see this wonderful piece of architecture representing love and emotional feelings of a husband for his life partner. I had the opportunity to go to Tajmahal again with my wife. It was a full moon night and the mausoleum presented a spectacular view to us. The sight was unbelievable!

Our guide showed us the entire Memorial explaining everything in detail. Pointing out a small part of a wall which looked different from the rest, he remarked, “What you are seeing now is a damaged portion wall which was repaired by the British at a considerable cost. The repaired portion is nowhere near the original structure and you can see the difference yourself.”

It was a big surprise. The technology was so advanced during the Mughal period that even now there is no comparison between the two.

Trip to Australia

It was 1976. I was then employed in Nairobi University teaching genetics to undergraduate students. I received an invitation from SABRO (Society Advanced Breeding Research for Asia and Oceania) where I was a member that the Society’s third international congress would be held in Canberra. I sent them an abstract and informed them that I didn’t have personal fund to travel to Australia to present my paper at the conference.

I got the reply in time. They said that they didn’t have enough fund to support my travel. However, they pointed out that sometimes at the eleventh hour there might be some cancellation and they would try to allocate that grant to me. I didn’t expect any positive reply from them.
In the meantime I applied to Nairobi University for a partial grant just in case the Association at the last moment found some unspent money towards financing my travel. Fortunately, the University grant was available as well as I got a positive reply from SABRAO.

I thanked the Most Merciful for fulfilling my desire to make a trip to Australia for attending the third SABRAO Conference.

My first stop from Nairobi was Mombasa the only seaport of Tanzania. The next one was Mauritius islands in the Indian Ocean. The runway was surrounded on all side by extensive sugarcane fields. The islands became famous because of Dodo birds which have become extinct now. Dodo birds had wings but could not fly because of their heavy body weight. They did not fly because they found small animals in the neighborhood to catch and lived on those prey. On the other hand, dodo was an easy prey and the islanders killed these birds to eat their meat. As a result their population dwindled fast that led ultimately to the extinction of the species.

We flew to Seychelles islands. The word pronounces sea-shells, differently from what is indicated by the spelling. Many wrongly pronounce it as say-che-les.  We were in the air continuously for 17 hours before we landed at the Sydney airport.  I was completely exhausted by then and was left with no energy to change plane for Canberra. The airhostess helped me disembark the plane and board a smaller plane to fly to Canberra.

The seasons in the two hemispheres are completely different: Since Australia is in Southern hemisphere, seasons there are completely opposite of what characterize the countries in the Northern hemisphere. In other words the Christmas in Australia falls on the longest day of the year unlike in the North.  So when I arrived there it was hot summer. The delegates were accommodated in a students’ dormitory.  Neither the hot water pipes circulating the building was shut off nor the air conditioning units were switched on.  Consequently it was terribly hot inside the rooms. We were all forced to go out in the open to get some relief. The delegates from the USA and Europe found some relief in sipping bear but being a Muslim I could not drink. The whole night we were all awake.  In this respect the people in the East are much better organized. We take care of our guests much seriously so that their stay in our country is more comfortable.

The next day the conference began. We got over our exhaustion because of the excitement of meeting scientists from all over the world and listening to their interesting presentations.  Unlike the subcontinent, the inaugural ceremony was short where the Dean of the Faculty was the Chief Guest.

On my way back, I stayed in Sydney for a couple of days in a friend’s house. It’s indeed a beautiful town with attractive buildings and wide streets. I enjoyed the cinema programs particularly the three films in a row: evening-, night- and late night show. I enjoyed some films which I wanted to see but never had a chance. I met a number of Bangladeshis who were computer specialists. During those days it was extremely difficult to get Australian visa but for these young men rules were relaxed; they were given visa because of their expertise in this modern technology.

I went to the Sydney opera House. The visitors were warned that the gates  closed exactly on time and anyone turning late after the gate was closed would be denied  entry into the hall until the next interval.  I was in time. However, I didn’t particularly like the show but I was impressed with the hall and how it was tastefully decorated.

The present population in Australia is the descendants of convicts who were deported to this remote country for their involvement in gruesome acts but now their offspring are the ones who have built up modern Australia by their sweat.  In every branch, whether in science and arts they can compete with their counterparts of the rest of the world.

Sydney Opera House

Another memorable visit was to the zoo in Sydney. I liked the way the animals are kept there. Each animal is given fairly a long territory to roam about and to breed. I saw kangaroos in many zoos round the world including in my own country. But here in Sydney zoo they seemed to enjoy more freedom to wander around within the space allocated within the zoo. One more animal which I did not see previously was koala.  I liked the animal so much I bought a stuffed miniature of the animal. Like Kangaroo it is also an herbivore animal.

 

Purchase of land in Gulshan and construction of a house

Every one of us has a dream in his life – a happy family and along with it a nice house and a smart car. I was no exception to it but I never realized that such an opportunity would come to me so soon.

It was 1959. I was then working in Sindh University. An advertisement appeared in the Daily newspaper, “Dawn” that the Dhaka Improvement Trust (DIT) (currently Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha, RAJUK ivRavbx Dbœqb KË…©cÿ) launched a new project of building a township in Gulshan and Banani area.  And that it invited applications from among the citizens of the country for allotment of plots of two different sizes – 10 and 20 katha (কাঠা). My neighbor in the adjacent house – an Associate Professor in the Department of Education conveyed me this news and suggested that I should immediately send an application. I replied, “I don’t have enough money to purchase a  piece of land.” He retorted saying, “A post card costs only 12 paisa and a stamped envelope double that amount. So why not apply for a plot of land now and if it is allotted in your name, then we shall see how you can get the fund to purchase it .”

Allotment of a Ten-Katha Plot in Gulshan: I could hardly believe when the DIT responded to my application communicating to me that a plot of land measuring approximately 10 কাঠা had been allotted to me. The cost of the land, if paid in one installment was Rs. 11,000/- and a little more than 12,000/- rupees if paid in three installments.   I went to my neighbor to thank him and convey to him the good news and sought his advice where to get the loan from. He took pity on my lack of my practical wisdom and said, “Don’t you know that you can take loan from your Provident Fund money?”  It was a piece of sound advice.  I took loan from this source and paid the first installment.

Handing over of the piece of land by DIT: Some authorized officer from the DIT Estate Office showed me the particular plot which measured a little more than 10 and a half কাঠা and demarcated the area by fixing a small wooden peg one each at four corners. In late 1950’s this area was a small village with the usual landscape. In my plot as everywhere in that area there were a number of jackfruit trees. The people in the neighborhood laughed at me saying I was foolish to have invested that amount of money to buy a piece of land   frequented by jackals and wild animals. What an incredible difference in the price of the same piece of land in Gulshan area now! Ten কাঠা currently costs more than Taka 20 million or more.

Meeting Mr. Khuda Buksh, a Pioneer in the Field of Insurance: Anyway, several years went by. In 1968 DIT sent a letter to each of the plot owner to build a house with immediate effect or else the defaulter allottee would be dispossessed of the land. One day my father-in-law introduced me to Mr. Khuda Buksh, an icon of Life Insurance in the subcontinent. I sought his advice in the construction of the proposed house in Gulshan land. He said, “Son, Go ahead, if necessary by borrowing money. It took me 40 years to make up my mind and now I am constructing the house paying many times more than what I would have spent if I had the wisdom to take up the project then.”

I took the above gentleman’s advice seriously. So, I took a loan of Tk. 40,000/- from the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) without any hassle. My relations and close friends came to my rescue; they gave me a loan of another Tk. 20,000/- , when I desperately needed the money to finish the one-storied house.

During the summer vacation of four months from March 20 to 20th July, the foundation of the house was laid along with the roof over a three-roomed brick structure.  My father-in-law was a great help to me. In addition to buying material, he supervised the construction of the house from the time I had left for Hyderabad. Not only that. He moved into the house as soon as it was ready and gave us the rent for the period he stayed there.

The house was rented to several tenants one of whom was a Canadian expatriate, Mr. Kiss. He used to pay us rent in due time. However, at the end of the contract period, he vacated the house without paying the bill for water, electricity and gas.  An enquiry revealed that Mr. Kiss had already left Dhaka for Canada. I wrote to him. Instead of feeling sorry for nonpayment of the bills, Mrs. Kiss sent a nasty reply to me on behalf of her husband. The only course that was left open to me was to complain against him to the Canadian High Commission at Dhaka. This worked like a magic. I got a letter from Mr. Kiss and a cheque of the amount equivalent to that of unpaid bills along with a letter enclosed with it. There is a saying in Bengali, “One cannot lift ‘ghee’ without bending one’s finger.”“সোজা আঙ্গুলে ঘি ওঠে না।”

Chinese Restaurant in the Gulshan House: Another tenant was a Chinese.  He opened a Chinese restaurant there.  We never realized that the house would be so badly damaged by the heat generated in the kitchen from the ovens and burners and the vapors of the oil used for cooking. The kitchen area was so dirty and damp that it needed a thorough scrubbing before the job of painting was undertaken. It cost us a good deal amount of money to make the house suitable for living before the next tenant moved in.

Withdrawal of the Provident fund and Rupali Bank Loan: By 1985 I retired from the University and got Tk. 5 lakhs from the provident fund.  We decided to build the second storey of the house with the Provident fund money and taking a loan of another Tk. 5 lakhs from the Rupali Bank. First time, I took loan from HBFC to construct the ground floor, I got it merely for the asking but it was difficult to get the second loan from the Rupali Bank.  My younger brother, Hamed Shafiul Islam, a member of the Board of Directors of that Bank helped me secure the loan.

Renting of the newly built upper storey:  We rented the second story. I moved to the ground floor with my family. My tenant was an income tax lawyer. He was solvent and he spent money lavishly. Several Air condition units were run all the time during the summer.  He had two sons living with him. Both of them were high officials each working in a commercial bank.  The concerned banks provided each one of them an official car. All the three cars were parked downstairs in the driveway.

Deceit is Human Nature, not always related to financial constraint: In 2004 we decided to hand over the plot to a developer, and requested our tenant to move elsewhere. He was not at all willing to leave the house and offered a number of lame excuses to prolong his stay. At last willy-nilly he left the house without clearing outstanding electric bills amounting to Tk. 150,000. We let him leave the house believing that he would pay off the electric bill without getting us on our nerves. We could not imagine that the gentleman who lived with his well-off two sons would be so mean as not to pay off the bills. One day my eldest son went to his new residence in Gulshan to remind him of his liability to pay off the debt on account of unpaid electric bills.

The tenant passed away without settlement of the utility bills: The gentleman was then very sick and assured my son that as soon as he would get well, he would pay off the outstanding debt. Unfortunately, the gentleman never got well and breathed his last a few days after my son had visited him. We contacted his youngest son after the death of his father to pay off the electric bills. He abused my son right and left. The matter ended there. We didn’t approach them anymore. Imagine the morale of the two high ranking bank officials.

Construction of six-storied building in Gulshan: Sheltech is one of the topmost Builders in Dhaka. The contract between the Company and my wife was signed for construction of a six storied building with the condition that the owner of the plot i.e., my wife would be allocated six flats and the remaining nine would be owned by the builder.   It was planned to construct parking space in the ground floor to accommodate 15 cars and two rooms for the use of all flat owners or their tenants as needed by them e.g. for holding meetings of the flat owners and as an office room. The building was given a nice name, ‘Symphony’.

My wife, who owned the six flats, sold five of them keeping one for us to live. A part of the money was used to build a house in the United States in the Pflugerville area, Texas. Unfortunately, she passed away on the 4th of June 2008 and buried in Banani graveyard. The American property was sold after her death.  All my life we lived under stress because of fund constraint but not anymore. My wife left enough money for me to live a decent life not feeling the pinch of hardship. I owe to her immensely for the current comfortable life of mine. So she sacrificed her life to let everybody live in comfort.

Sindh University Campus revisited

It was 1966.  In accordance with the decision of the Government of Pakistan, Sindh University was shifted from the Hyderabad city to a sparsely populated village called Jamshoro, 11 miles from the city center. The academic atmosphere in the heart of the big cities was vitiated by frequent political disturbances; so, the Government of Pakistan thought that shifting of universities into adjoining areas all over country would improve the academic atmosphere considerably. So the SU campus shifted to the new campus at Jamshoro. It was an isolated desolate place with hardly any vegetation. There were a few shrubs scattered in the rocky terrain. Since I was in charge of the campus and also a botanist, the responsibility of beautifying the campus with trees and floral plants devolved on my shoulder. We realized that to grow plants in this desert-like terrain was not only difficult but expensive too. Casual laborers were engaged on contract basis to dig out a number of pits in the rocks throughout the campus and fill the pits with garden soil and fertilizers. Neem saplings and other hardy plants such as Mahogany, adapted to desert conditions were planted there. Due to erratic and scanty rainfall, we had to make a provision for watering the plants regularly. A truck fitted with water tanks and long hose pipes became handy to water the plants regularly. The advantage of planting hardy plants like Neem and Mahogany was that once they were established with their roots buried in the solid rocks, they wouldn’t require any watering. They would get their water requirements from the ground.

Fifteen years of service at Sindh University: I left Sindh University in 1970 after working there for about 15 years to join my new post of professor of Botany at Dhaka University. Twenty-five years passed by and I didn’t have an opportunity to visit the SU Campus within this long period. Then suddenly I got an invitation to go to Nathia Gali as an instructor to conduct a workshop on plant tissue culture. Nathia Gali, of Hazara District is a health resort and served as the summer Headquarters of the Chief Commissioner’s office of NWFP.  At the end of the workshop, I headed for Karachi airport by train en route to Dhaka.

It was a long wait approximately of 5-6 hours at Karachi airport before Dhaka bound flight. I felt bored just at the thought of sitting at the airport lounge for such a long period doing nothing.

Suddenly my eyes fell on a familiar face but I could not place him as to where I had seen him before.  Still I felt good at the thought of talking to him and pass the time. I tried to attract his attention but the gentleman pretended as if he had not noticed me. He appeared to me to be a conceited person without having any intention to talk to ordinary people like me.

Instead of waiting further, I briefly introduced me saying, “Excuse me, Sir, being curious. I am Dr. Islam who served in Sindh University for over 15 years. I came to say ‘hello’ to you thinking that you might know me. ” I was about to leave when the gentleman called me, “Are you that Dr. Islam who was a Professor of Botany at Sindh University for a long time. Sir, I am really sorry that I had not recognized you at first sight. I am now the Vice Chancellor of that University. You have come to Pakistan after such a long time. How can you leave Pakistan without seeing your old University and the Department you built? Sir, we won’t let you leave Pakistan unless you take the trouble of visiting Sindh University of which you were a part once.”

Indeed I was amused. A person who took no notice of me a while ago was now keen to extend warm hospitality to me. I thanked him for his cordiality and said, “I would have been glad to accept your invitation but my plane leaves in a matter of a few hours. How can I go to Hyderabad within such a short time and be on time to catch my flight?” The VC said, “Don’t worry. It’s not a big deal. I have my own people in the airline office. They will change your ticket for your return flight at no extra cost.”  I eventually agreed to his proposal. Since he was busy elsewhere, he excused himself and instructed his driver to take me to the campus – a distance about 100 miles and bring me back in time to catch the Dhaka bound flight the next day.

My ride to SU campus by the VC’s official car: It was a comfortable journey from Karachi airport to the SU campus – a stretch of 100 miles of highway. I was enthralled to see the campus grow so huge during the period of my absence. The ‘neem’ and other hardy plants such as Mahogany which I planted 25 years back have grown into tall shady trees beautifying the campus and providing shade to the passerby. The desert-like look of the campus changed into a greenery of vegetation. It was a dreamy feeling and I felt proud as a Bangladeshi to have contributed substantially to the growth and development of a growing campus. It was like a video tape. It played back to me all the pleasant memories.

The memory of Allama I. I. Kazi, the founder Vice Chancellor flashed back to me again and again in awe. Allama built up the campus with his missionary zeal and visionary imagination.  To my pleasant surprise, I saw a magnificent Mausoleum built by his admirers to commemorate Allama’s matchless contribution to build Sindh in general and the university in particular on a sound footing. The Sindh Government initially allocated only Rs. one lakh to start the University.

Recently I looked at the Sindh University Website. The website gives a birds eye view of the spectacular development of the campus. It can stand comparison to any University in the world in its architectural beauty. Besides an imposing Central Library, it has a number of institutes, each having its own separate impressive building. Among them, the following deserve special mention: M.A. Kazi Institute of Chemistry, Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Institute of Criminology, Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science,  Institute of Plant Science, National Center of Excellence in Analytical Chemistry,  Institute of Geology, highly impressive  Shaheed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto Chair and Convention Centre,  Hitech Research lab, Institute of Sindhology, Far East Study Centre, Institute of Information and Communication of Technology.  If Allama II Kazi were alive today, he would have derived immense satisfaction from the growth and development which he initiated in a High School Building in Hyderabad town early 1950’s with an outlay of Rs. 1,00,000. The campus has a look of any world class university from the standpoint of structural beauty, accommodation and facilities.

Reunion with a few old colleagues. In the campus I met a few old colleagues of the Science faculty. Most of them were at the verge of their retirement. They were all very pleased to see me after a long time. When I mentioned to them about the cordial welcome I received from their Vice Chancellor, one of them remarked. “Sir you didn’t recognize the VC.  He is the one who could not get admitted in M.Sc. course in Zoology. Then upon your recommendation as a Dean of the Science faculty, he was admitted in Zoology. He remembered your act of kindness and tried to reciprocate it that you did not back up the wrong horse.”

Expansion of the Engineering Faculty: I went round the campus. A large number of new buildings particularly of the Engineering Faculty were added to the sprawling campus. Entry into the Botany department which I built and nurtured for over 15 years filled my heart with an extraordinary feeling of nostalgia. The staff members who had just joined the Department during my tenure of office were now full Professors and their predecessors had gone on retirement. The V-shaped two storied Botany building was still there written on it its past history. The built-in concrete stage constructed between the two wings of the V-shaped building didn’t show any sign of ageing. It was used to hold important cultural functions including those such as, “নবীন বরণ” for welcoming the new students and “বিদায় সম্বর্ধনা” for bidding farewell to outgoing students. Since I had not enough time at my disposal I couldn’t meet the graduate students to discuss with them their research projects.

Rare jute and cotton species were lost: I didn’t see the garden where I grew the wild species of jute and cotton representing the world wide collections of the two important genera of cash crops. For want of care and maintenance, those rare plants did no longer survive much to my disappointment. It took me years to build up the garden with exotic jute and cotton species but they were neglected and as a result the garden with rare collections was gone.

Traveling: Experiences and Realizations

Life’s First Long Trip: North India

Elsewhere in the book I have mentioned that I was awarded the first prize on an essay competition entitled “Paharpur Excursion” (পাহাড়পুর ভ্রমণ). The School authority invited essays on this trip from the participants. The opening sentence of my essay was, “To travel is my passion” (ভ্রমণ আমার নেশা).  This sentence won the hearts of the judges and they adjudged my essay the best. Truly, traveling to different places was my obsession. Right from my childhood I loved traveling.

It was 1939. I was then a student of 9th class. My father called me one day and said that the East Indian Railway had offered a 15-day travel package to tour North India and that within this stipulated period a passenger could break his journey and visit as many places as he could manage. The interclass ticket per adult was only Rs 40/- and half that amount for children up to 12 years of age. Would I be willing to accompany him in this trip to different renowned places in India? I was overjoyed at his proposal and thanked him for giving me this unique opportunity.  At that time instead of two, there were four classes in the train: 1st, 2nd, Inter- and 3rd class. The trains were not crowded then and one could travel comfortably in the three upper classes. I was counting the days excitedly.

Our first destination was Lucknow in U. P. We took advantage of the Muslim League Convention which was to be addressed by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. As delegates to the convention we stayed at the guesthouse of Raja Mahdoodabad. Lavish foods such as biriani, various meat preparations and varieties of sweet dishes were served free to the delegates both at lunch and dinner time. We listened to the fiery speech of Mr. M.A. Jinnah. He was an orator, captivated the audience; Mr. Jinnah demanded separate homeland for Indian Muslims.

From Lucknow we went to visit the relics of  bvj›`v wek¦we`¨vjq (Nalanda Bishwabidyalaya (University) believed to be one of first universities in ancient India founded in 500-600 BC. It has been known as “one of the first great universities in recorded history”.

From there we headed toward Delhi. In the train we met a well-dressed gentleman sitting next to me. He wore a nicely tailored ‘sherwani’ with am elegant cap on his head. My father was impressed with his dress and remarked that Muslims in this part of India value Islamic dress whereas Muslims in Bengal wear shirts, pants, dhoti, Punjabi. I nodded my head supporting my dad. The gentleman perhaps understood what we were talking about in Bengali. Addressing us he said, “Your impression that I am a Muslim is not correct. I am a Hindu. In our part of India Hindus also dress like Muslims, put on ‘sherwani’, use caps. A Muslim is distinguished from a Hindu is the way the ‘sherwani’ is tailored. The side button in the ‘sherwani’ in our case is sewn on the left whereas the side button is stitched on the right in case of a Muslim. We comforted ourselves, “How would we know the difference when we hardly wear ‘sherwani’ except on ceremonial occasions.

The trip to India would remain incomplete without visiting Tajmahal which is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I requested my dad to stop at Agra at the next leg of our journey. He agreed but we were destined to go to Banaras first before visiting Tajmahal.

In the train we met one gentleman from Banaras. We never met before and yet we became so friendly that he insisted on our stopping overnight at Banaras and be his guests.  We accepted his hospitality. The next morning he took us round the city and showed important places such as a famous burning ghat where dead bodies of the Hindus are burnt round the clock. The Hindus believe that this place is so sacred and holy that the person whose dead body is burnt there goes straight to heaven.

From Banaras we went to Brindaban – a holy place for the Hindu devotees.  My father’s Hindu friend lived there in an Asram. One day being carried away by the thought of the supreme being, he told his class mates that if he had spent the same study time in meditation he would have elevated himself to the proximity of God. He started sleeping on the floor instead of a regular bed.  One day, then a student of class VIII,  he left his house without telling anybody and went to Brindaban. He wrote to his parents and my father from Brindaban that he had decided to discontinue his studies and spend the rest of his life in meditation in search of God.

I experienced an awe-inspiring feeling when I sighted my father’s friend in the Asram. He had an enlightening face and he impressed me almost instantaneously as soon as I came in contact with him. We heard a number of stories about Gurudev. One story narrated by one of his disciples was that they saw him in mediation, and saw him above the ground by several inches. The calm, serene and enchanting environment impressed us all beyond description.

In our itinerary Tajmahal was the next place to visit.  The magnificent and majestic Mausoleum carved out of white marble stones filled our hearts with awe and admiration.  We were reminded of unparalleled love and affection the emperor Shah Jahan had for his wife Momtaj Mahal. To commemorate his wife’s death the emperor built such an edifice of beauty and grandeur that for the past few centuries thousands and thousands of tourists from all over the world come to see this wonderful piece of architecture representing love and emotional feelings of a husband for his life partner. I had the opportunity to go to Tajmahal again with my wife. It was a full moon night and the mausoleum presented a spectacular view to us. The sight was unbelievable!

Our guide showed us the entire Memorial explaining everything in detail. Pointing out a small part of a wall which looked different from the rest, he remarked, “What you are seeing now is a damaged portion wall which was repaired by the British at a considerable cost. The repaired portion is nowhere near the original structure and you can see the difference yourself.”

It was a big surprise. The technology was so advanced during the Mughal period that even now there is no comparison between the two.

Trip to Australia

It was 1976. I was then employed in Nairobi University teaching genetics to undergraduate students. I received an invitation from SABRO (Society Advanced Breeding Research for Asia and Oceania) where I was a member that the Society’s third international congress would be held in Canberra. I sent them an abstract and informed them that I didn’t have personal fund to travel to Australia to present my paper at the conference.

I got the reply in time. They said that they didn’t have enough fund to support my travel. However, they pointed out that sometimes at the eleventh hour there might be some cancellation and they would try to allocate that grant to me. I didn’t expect any positive reply from them.
In the meantime I applied to Nairobi University for a partial grant just in case the Association at the last moment found some unspent money towards financing my travel. Fortunately, the University grant was available as well as I got a positive reply from SABRAO.

I thanked the Most Merciful for fulfilling my desire to make a trip to Australia for attending the third SABRAO Conference.

My first stop from Nairobi was Mombasa the only seaport of Tanzania. The next one was Mauritius islands in the Indian Ocean. The runway was surrounded on all side by extensive sugarcane fields. The islands became famous because of Dodo birds which have become extinct now. Dodo birds had wings but could not fly because of their heavy body weight. They did not fly because they found small animals in the neighborhood to catch and lived on those prey. On the other hand, dodo was an easy prey and the islanders killed these birds to eat their meat. As a result their population dwindled fast that led ultimately to the extinction of the species.

We flew to Seychelles islands. The word pronounces sea-shells, differently from what is indicated by the spelling. Many wrongly pronounce it as say-che-les.  We were in the air continuously for 17 hours before we landed at the Sydney airport.  I was completely exhausted by then and was left with no energy to change plane for Canberra. The airhostess helped me disembark the plane and board a smaller plane to fly to Canberra.

The seasons in the two hemispheres are completely different: Since Australia is in Southern hemisphere, seasons there are completely opposite of what characterize the countries in the Northern hemisphere. In other words the Christmas in Australia falls on the longest day of the year unlike in the North.  So when I arrived there it was hot summer. The delegates were accommodated in a students’ dormitory.  Neither the hot water pipes circulating the building was shut off nor the air conditioning units were switched on.  Consequently it was terribly hot inside the rooms. We were all forced to go out in the open to get some relief. The delegates from the USA and Europe found some relief in sipping bear but being a Muslim I could not drink. The whole night we were all awake.  In this respect the people in the East are much better organized. We take care of our guests much seriously so that their stay in our country is more comfortable.

The next day the conference began. We got over our exhaustion because of the excitement of meeting scientists from all over the world and listening to their interesting presentations.  Unlike the subcontinent, the inaugural ceremony was short where the Dean of the Faculty was the Chief Guest.

On my way back, I stayed in Sydney for a couple of days in a friend’s house. It’s indeed a beautiful town with attractive buildings and wide streets. I enjoyed the cinema programs particularly the three films in a row: evening-, night- and late night show. I enjoyed some films which I wanted to see but never had a chance. I met a number of Bangladeshis who were computer specialists. During those days it was extremely difficult to get Australian visa but for these young men rules were relaxed; they were given visa because of their expertise in this modern technology.

I went to the Sydney opera House. The visitors were warned that the gates  closed exactly on time and anyone turning late after the gate was closed would be denied  entry into the hall until the next interval.  I was in time. However, I didn’t particularly like the show but I was impressed with the hall and how it was tastefully decorated.

The present population in Australia is the descendants of convicts who were deported to this remote country for their involvement in gruesome acts but now their offspring are the ones who have built up modern Australia by their sweat.  In every branch, whether in science and arts they can compete with their counterparts of the rest of the world.

Sydney Opera House

Another memorable visit was to the zoo in Sydney. I liked the way the animals are kept there. Each animal is given fairly a long territory to roam about and to breed. I saw kangaroos in many zoos round the world including in my own country. But here in Sydney zoo they seemed to enjoy more freedom to wander around within the space allocated within the zoo. One more animal which I did not see previously was koala.  I liked the animal so much I bought a stuffed miniature of the animal. Like Kangaroo it is also an herbivore animal.