I am neither a good story teller nor I can write a constructive one. Yet, when one becomes a part of a good story it becomes easier for him to reflect his thoughts on a blank sheet of paper; which has happened to me while writing this story.
The story begins in a noisy, crowded and over populated-polluted city called Dhaka. I, being only a tiny part of this megalopolis was still occupied with my engineering studies, projects and assignments; the regular monotonous activities. I consider myself trapped in a system with an infinite loop, where even if one wishes to break out he cannot. In my eye, everyone only exists or striving to exist but no one strives to live. You know what Oscar Wilde said? He said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Then I got this opportunity to work with the Singapore Management University students on a humanitarian project called “Project Sheba”. I became very glad when I first found out that I was picked to represent the CommunityAction. I thought to myself, “This is your opportunity Ben, make the most of it. Life’s core essences are waiting to be learned. ”
On 26th April, 2011, we, the SMU team & CA team stepped outside of our usual life and made way to the project site which is located Khaduli, Bogra. As soon as we had entered the village territories, people from everywhere came rushing in just to see us. I think, they were not sure how to react after seeing a huge bus entering their roads, blocking everything in its path. While I was taking photos, I saw the curiosity and the excitement in their eyes as if it was a momentous occasion to them. I on the other hand, in my 23 year old life was seeing the village for the first time.
The trees, the paddy fields, the little homes and the people all looked so artistic & poetic to me that I could not contain myself. After reaching the site, I saw that a school has been set-up. Later I found out that more than 150 children come there regularly whereas near about 30 children stay there for the night and do their studies.
I have seen superheroes and super-heroines like Batman, Superman and Wonder-woman on the television roaming around the dark cities to fight crime and saving the day. But in the end, the fact that hurts me the most is that they are not real. We all believe in the act of heroism but how many among us act as one? It is not easy in a country like this where one has to face so many hurdles. Yet, there are those who can rise above all the adversities even though they are so formidable. While working on this project, I heard the history behind the founding of that school from the founder himself, Mr. Ibrahim Khalilullah. For a long time, I wanted to meet someone with an indomitable will power and whom I can respect and here he was standing in front of me, talking to us. To me, he is a hero; I think I shall call him “The Enlightening Man”. Fighting illiteracy and providing the light of knowledge of these children simultaneously are not small tasks, yet he is doing it. The most striking thing is he is real and he does not have to hide behind any masks.
The eyes of the little children really amaze me and I do not know why. They are so fascinating, so full of hopes-dreams that if you do not get close to them and do not look at them straight in the eye, you will never realize it. Each time when I took a picture of them the expressions that they gave with their eyes were millions times better than what I see every day. I saw purity and I saw truth in their eyes. Since I was assigned to grade-1, I had the opportunity to be their teacher. I was really amazed by the level of their creativity, shear brilliance and imagination. Such creativity derives from inspiration and the will power to go forward. They drew, they painted, they made, they acted, they played, they laughed and they did whatever they can to make the teaching sessions lively. While I smiled, they laughed; while I shook their hands, they hugged me back; while I talked to them, they sang to me; while I liked them, they loved me back. The concept of pure happiness becomes true only and if only it is shared.
Among many things, I had got a little bit of happiness and it was the little children who were there for me. For a city dweller like me, happiness is a vague concept that once in a while springs back up or comes out of the blue. But there, in that village, for four consecutive days happiness lingered around like it was in the skies, in the clouds, in the paddy fields, on the faces of villagers, on the faces of the children. I felt light. I felt really lucky for being there.
In between 26th April and 1st May, I had got to work with some of most wonderful persons, who I believe were really good at heart. Such things are only possible when people have good intensions. I believe, in every moment of my staying in Khaduli, whether it was the teaching session, the construction works, the interaction with the SMU team & the CA team as well as with the villagers, the village journeys, the walk in the paddy fields, the kite flying, watching the majestic sunrise and sunset, the wide undisturbed horizons in all directions, the starry skies; really rocked me to my core. Even when I am writing these sentences, my mind is roaming somewhere there. Why is that I wonder? Is it because, I truly wish to go there once again or I really miss them?
The events of those 6 six days are embedded in my mind and they will be a part of those memories which I will remember for a long time. I am so glad at heart that a unique experience like this was there to grab and I grabbed it.