Disaster had struck, I thought. It was the middle of the night. Sanjoy on the phone had just let me know that 8000tk of our donations collected for Action: Piyaju-Beguni had been hijacked from two of our Actioneers as they were returning home. Only the night before, Sanjoy had a hard time convincing Mithu bhai that we could do 750 packs of iftaar for street children. However, as area leader I knew that at least I had to be strong. “The money belongs to Allah,” I said, “If He has taken what belongs to Him, He is surely going to give it back to us in some other way.”
Lo and behold, in a complete twist of fate the very next morning an Actioneer, Rubana apu, called me up to confirm that she had collected 7000tk already. In fact, since the day disaster struck, donations were flowing like water, and we had more than we actually needed, Alhamdulillah. However, the hijack had turned everything into jeopardy. The two Actioneers who were hijacked (names not disclosed to protect privacy) were integral members of the organizing group. Yet, now they were without cell phones and contacting them was next to impossible. So, to find out one of them and their store Actioneer Tahsin and me had to walk while fasting for two hours around a part of Chittagong city which neither of us had ever gone to in our search for “Maa Trading Ltd.” Finally at the end of two hours search we located the store and finally could order some of the food items we had aimed to be distributed during our Action.
This was nearly 4 days before we set off for our action. One of the negatives after the hijacking disaster was that the ones working became a tight-knit group who were only working among themselves and many other Actioneers remained in the dark over what we were planning and what work we were doing. However, the work went on, and as we were going over for 750 packs, we knew that we needed close to a half a century of Actioneers to do the work. Everyday was planning, fundraising, new work to be done, and more Actioneers confirmed. Raton bhai, Aamir, Tahsin, Sanjoy, Sahad bhai worked round the clock to ensure that everything was in order, every order made perfectly, every little tit-bit done to the brim.
Amazing it was that people in Chittagong were really enthusiastic about it. Goes much to show that many people want to do good but do not find the right avenues to. My facebook inbox was flooded; calls came in every hour, totally unknown people confirming themselves as Actioneers on the day. I truly was stunned, but it was indeed a pleasant surprise.
On the day before the action, Sahad Bhai and I took a stroll around the whole Nasirabad area on a rickshaw identifying various routes Actioneers could take, and potential hotspots where a lot could be distributed. After careful observation we decided to head home, feeling more confident now about the action.
22nd August, Action: Piyaju-Beguni enters its second and last phase in Chittagong. Having been sad as my best friend was to move to Hong Kong on the day of the Action and I was not going to be able to meet up with him, I went to sleep the night before. Actioneers were asked to come to my place at 12 noon. I could hardly sleep after sehri. Actioneer Jareer Zafree showed great commitment to our cause as he came all the way from Dhaka to Chittagong for this action. I picked him up off the bus terminal in the early hours, and we headed off to our home where all work was to be done. Nearly everything passed smoothly until the clock struck 12. While Lily Apu could come to our action all the way from outside the city, many other Actioneers were sleeping, some busy here and there, and traffic that day in Chittagong was horrible.
“You’re a very bad leader”- Allah alone knows how many times Lily Apu was screaming this into my ears. Things had gone terribly wrong. As the clock struck 1, there were still only about a dozen Actioneers at my place. In fact, fellow area leader Sanjoy was still not there!! Even all the food items were not brought yet. Blood pressure rising, lots of shouting, skeptical looks and personally I felt as if I was looking down the barrel of a gun. For once, I thought that our Action was heading for doom. Alhamdulillah though that soon as the clock struck 2, Actioneers flowed in to my place pretty quickly, and work began. 750 packs, and it was 2pm, skeptical looks were coming from all over the place as to whether we would be able to get the work done. Jareer had actually made a calculation that we had only 15 seconds for each packet. As the action started with me putting my trust in Allah that He would solve our financial issues, I again put my trust in Allah that He would solve our time issues and I, ordered that work be started. Lots of Actioneers and work was progressing fast, more and more people were coming in, and by 3, and miraculously work was done!! 750 packs, packed up and ready to be distributed in barely an hour. Actioneers of Chittagong seriously rock, I must admit.
As the number of packets and the area to be covered was huge, we decided to further divide our area into 5 zones and assign five area leaders. Raton bhai, Sanjoy, Sahad bhai, Aamir and I took a group of 8 to 10 Actioneers and prepared to set out. As we were setting out, more and more Actioneers were coming, and the number nearly reached to around 65, Subhan Allah. For once, I was happy I knew a lot of people.
By 4 p.m. Actioneers were raring to go. One by one, every team set out on their own respective mission. My mother asked the girls to come back for iftaar, something which raised a few eyebrows among the guys as to why favor for the girls! :P :P
Team 1 of Sahad bhai went about their duty well, and with no real trouble. Problem-free they reported soon after that they were done.
Team 2 of Ratan bhai faced a bit of trouble as they found out way too many people to distribute food to than the number of packs they had taken. However, they were able to settle it out and come back by iftaar time.
Team 3 of Aamir was the most successful, clearing out their packs in less than half an hour.
Team 4 of Sanjoy found it a bit haphazard. Actioneers joined in midway through distribution and they had to search out a lot to find street children to share iftaar. They returned last having spent the maximum time out.
Team 5 was my team, and once out of the house I was actually in a total loss as to how to share the iftaar and where to go, as time was very short. We shared a lot of packs with street children, and then decided to go visit the Pediatric ward in Chittagong Medical College. Nafisa, one of the Actioneers even went ahead and chatted with the parents of blood cancer children. She came back nearly crying. As we at CA always say “Actioneers are bigger than the actions”. We may not have done much with this small action, but Actioneers were dearly affected in their hearts and moved, as Nafisa was.
For most Actioneers that was the end of the job, and hopefully most went home happy. But not for 4 of us. Lily Apu lived outside Chittagong city, so Sahad bhai and I decided to drop her off at her place. Jareer having come from Dhaka didn’t feel too good about being alone and hence he decided to join in with us as well. Rain pouring down we dropped off Lily Apu at CUET, and made our long journey back. That night Jareer was supposed to go back to Dhaka. Due to his miscalculation, he missed his bus, and that was another disaster at hand! Sahad bhai and I rushed with him to Green Line bus terminal hoping we could make some amends for it. Alhamdulillah we could clear it out, and he got on to another bus which happened to have a vacant seat.
Disorganized to some extent, but unbelievable fun it was. We hope it was the biggest and best of Action: Piyaju Beguni 2011. One hell of a rollercoaster it was, and action rollercoaster ended a rollercoaster as well!