My visit to Sreekail College was not a planned trip. I was preparing to visit one of my closest friends at Muradnagar, Comilla who used to study with me at Department of English, Chittagong University (CU). We both used to live in the university's dormitories and even passed a few years in the same residential hall. During that time, Shafique, the friend I am writing about, became very intimate with me. I liked his company as we were admitted in the same department of the university. We studied in CU for long 6 years.
Our academic tenure was in fact elongated than normal because of session jams often generated by campus violence between different political factions. However, we had a very nice time together on CU campus. We almost everyday used to meet not just in the classroom, the varsity central library was another hub for our chitchats. Those who have been to CU campus have seen how large the campus is and there are plenty of places on the campus for students to sit together and talk about academic matters as well as other things.
When our academic years in CU came to an end, we moved away from each other looking for jobs. Soon we all became employed. Gradually, our contacts between each other became less frequent and we started to get more and more absorbed in our respective careers. But thanks to cell phones, after a few years of interval we found back some of our friends. It was so pleasant and exciting to hear the familiar voices of intimate friends over cell phone after a long break and it was all the more delightful when some of us could manage time to arrange appointments with one another. It was like restoring the hilarious campus days with gossips, laughter, recalling funny memories and so on. Recently, we have traced out a lot of other classmates on facebook.
I got back in touch with Shafique in the same way. I came to learn from him that he joined Sreekail College at his hometown and still he is involved there as a Lecturer of English language and literature. As the winter approached a few years back, I started to think about a convenient time to visit Shafique. He was very glad to hear that I was interested to see him. He gave me detailed instructions on how to reach his town, which bus to avail, where to get down etc. Finally, one foggy winter morning, my plans came true. I got on a bus that Shafique had advised me to ride and it took a little more than 3 hours to reach Companygonj bus stand where I found Shafique waiting for me. It was an amazing experience to hold Shafique in a warm, friendly embrace once again after a long decade. He was extremely happy too.
Besides meeting Shafique and his family, I had another intention. That was to take a look at the college where he has been teaching. In the evening we moved out to visit the Muradnagar town. A special desire impelled me to go there and that was to see a school where my beloved mom was a student over 40 years ago. She was at that time a student of class nine.
Before visiting Shafique, I had shared with my mom that I was planning to visit an old friend in Comilla. When she heard of Muradnagar, she recalled that during 1966 to 1968 she had been a student of Durga Ram High School located in front of Muradnagar police station. It was a big pleasure when we reached the premises of Durga Ram High School. As I rang up my mom from there, she was equally glad to hear that the school is now more renowned than it was during her time.
The most striking experience on my trip to Muradnagar was a visit to Sreekail College, named after the village where it is situated. It was far beyond my imagination that a college located in the rural area could be so much equipped with all academic facilities. The college occupies a large campus including several academic buildings, sufficient number of classrooms, separate hostels for boys and girls, a couple of big ponds, a rich library, a mosque, a guesthouse and a laboratory for science students. Since establishment the college has educated innumerable students and has been still doing the same for its current learners including a good number of female pupils. Moreover, I was further astonished to see living quarters sponsored by the college for teachers and their families. My friend Shafique and his family also live in a spacious house provided by the college where I stayed with him during my visit.
A glance around the college library also pleased me because on the book shelves I was impressed to see lots of masterpieces by celebrated authors of English literature. Besides literature, the library contains a great deal of books on biology, physics, chemistry, math, philosophy, psychology, economics, journalism, law etc. 28 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica stored on one shelf of the library in that place far away from the metropolitan areas was just another extraordinary surprise for me. An institution so rich with study materials, books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, journals, dedicated teachers and a beautiful architecture founded by Captain Narendra Nath Dutta back in 1941 is in my view a rare example of academic heritage. I am sure if all the villages of Bangladesh had education-lovers like Captain Narendra Nath Dutta, our literacy rate by now would have been far higher and every year so many students would not have to throng in the capital for admissions.
Sreekail College conveys another message--it's not essential to rush to big cities for enrolments in reputed schools, colleges or universities. I have been to a number of well-known private universities in Dhaka but they don't offer the privileges and a large campus which I saw in Sreekail College with wonder. While talking to the teachers of that college, it was an admirable thing to note how much they love their work.
True professionalism comes out of one's love to his job. Teaching is a noble profession and when teachers retain this nobility through their dutifulness and devoted spirit, their students turn out to be most benefited ones at the end of the day. Sreekail College is an institution with these qualities, tested by the previous decades. Really, at times we should leave the mechanical boundaries of urban lifestyle and go for a walk down the countryside. Perhaps what we are trying to find in the cities, are actually lying undiscovered in the villages.
The writer is a columnist of The Asian Age
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