It’s an idyllic scene. Little children are playing in a garden by the river Gorai. Some are reading books under a tree and others are looking at the plants. This is Nasir Uddin’s garden. Nasir Uddin, known as “Nasir Sir” by the locals, is a quiet man, but the people of the area revere him for his vision and works.
This is the village Koya in Kumarkhali upazila, about 15 km distant from Kushtia town. The revolutionary Bagha Jatin spent much of his childhood here. This is where Nasir Uddin’s home is, on the banks of the river Gorai.
Nasir Uddin has built a park for children by his house. It is replete with flowers, all sorts of fruit trees, plants and herbs. He even has books there for the little ones to read, a perfect recreational spot.
Nasir Uddin’s life: He was born in 1946 in the village Koya of Kumarkhali, Kushtia. When he was just in the tenth grade, he became acutely aware of his village’s lack of education.
In 1966, along with his friends Sushanta Sikdar and Dulal Chakraborty, he established a night school. They would teach people of all ages how to read and write. He ran this school for 10 years.
Nasir Uddin loved sports. In 1972 the Soviet team came to play volleyball at the Kushtia stadium. He was inspired and formed a volleyball team for his village.
In 1969 he began his career as a teacher at the local government primary school and continued till his retirement in 2007.
He has two sons and a daughter. His daughter is married, one son has a job and the other runs a business. His wife looks after the household.
A day in the park: A visit to Nasir Uddin’s park one Friday finds it filled with over a hundred children. Some are reading, some are on the swings, little girls are jumping the rope and others are poking around the plants inquisitively. Some of the children are drawing pictures.
There is a pile of files with newspaper clippings. Most of the articles are about various discoveries. The children can learn about the world from these articles.
The children can also pick up good handwriting skills here, proficiency in spelling and correct enunciation.
Nasir Uddin said, he set up the recreation spot for children on a bigha of land by his house in 2005. Children from his village and the neighbouring villages come here to play and read. It is open for all.
Nasir Uddin visits the primary schools of the surrounding unions and invites children to come to the park. He encourages them to read and lends them books. He encourages the educated people in the various localities op set up libraries in their respective areas.
Green thumb: Nasir Uddin loves greenery and over the past 40 years he has been trying his best to protect and preserve near-extinct plants and trees. His beautiful garden has about 170 varieties of plants and trees. He has labeled them all so the children can look and learn. The garden has 22 varieties of fruit trees and 110 types of medicinal plants and trees. These include bon kathal (wild jackfruit), phalshahi, sweet amloki, sweet kamranga, sweet karamcha, rare jamrul, hargauri, dudhraj, bonshon, hasnahena, jaggyadumur, etc. He distributes saplings and seedlings for free.
Kusum Nessa library: He has converted a room in his house into a library, naming it after his mother. There are not too many books there, but it is well designed. The walls have pictures of Rabindranath Tagore, Che Guevara, Begum Rokeya, Zainul Abedin and other famous people from around the world. He has words inscribed above the door, which translated means, ‘Books bring light and dispel darkness’ and ‘Read more, learn more’, etc. He takes his books from here and visits schools in the surrounding areas.
Fruit festivals and more: When the fruits ripen on the trees, he has a fruit festival with the children in his park. The children devour the delicious fruit in delight. They leave some fruit for the birds.
A local young man Milan Hasan said, “On Pahela Baisakh [the Bangla New Year], Nasir shaheb takes out a rally with hundreds of children and goes around all the villages of the area. They have started a two-day celebration since last year. Local games are organized for the children on the school grounds. Nasir shaheb also organizes programmes for Language Day, Victory Day, various national days, Eid, puja, etc.
Words of wisdom: There are wise words put up in different places all over the garden. These are tied onto the trees, not nailed, so the plants are not harmed. The messages are many and varied: “Build a non-communal community”; “Success doesn’t come easy, it needs thoughtful planning”; “Memorising without understanding ruins creativity”; “Guide books are never an alternative for the original”; “Say no to child marriage”; “Say no to drugs”; “Plant tree and save the environment”; “Set up libraries in every village”; etc. He reads and explains the messages to the children.
A student Tanveer Ahmed said he has been coming to this garden for the past two years. He loves reading and drawing. Other children, Chandni Akhter, Qayyum and Sadia said the same. Moutushi Yasmin of the fourth grade said she has been coming here to read books and play for one year now. “Nasir Sir teaches us so much!” she said.
Kasempur Government Primary School teacher Haidar Ali Molla said, “Nasir Sir comes to the school and explains to the children the evils of child marriage and drugs. He distributes books among them.”
Belgachhi Government Primary School teacher Amirul Islam said, “He often comes to our school and talks to the students. He gives them books. He encourages them to go to the park in their free time.”
Southeast University’s Bangla department chairman Rakibul Islam said he really admires Nasir Sir’s social work. He tries to contribute as much as he can to Nasir Uddin’s cause by providing books and in other ways.