In one of the stars, I shall be living.
In one of them, I shall be laughing.
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing
When you look at the sky at night.
-The Little Prince, Antoine
The daughter of the late Mrs Manzur, whom I call Muna apa, has always spoken of me as a student of her mother, a teacher, and a parent at Sunbeams.
She states "'Naheed knew my mother for almost her whole life and she lost her father when she was five years old. Mummy became her guardian angel. Naheed has been next to us ever since Mummy was sick, up until the very end, her burial".
I can vividly recall my very first days at Sunbeams.
Having had a torrid and turbulent childhood I was a quiet traumatized child who found it hard to entrust others. Through love, patience, kindness of soul and motherly affection, Mrs Manzur was able to pull me out of my cocoon of darkness after having lost my father to a violent death. She transformed her education to be my path towards the light and towards growth and healing.
Twenty years down the road, she again opened up her world to me, allowing me to be a part of her dream in educating our young students at her esteemed institution Sunbeams. She often referred to the children at Sunbeams fondly, calling them 'her children'.
Even though my mission in life has changed course of late, it is her vision that continues to influence me every day in the pursuit of making a positive difference in our society.
The last day she visited my house at the NAM flat, she told me "Naheed you have fulfilled all my dreams now it is time to fulfil your fathers. Do it with dignity and honesty and I have full trust in you". So you see, it is important for me as an individual, to live up to the words of the lady I admired the most in life.
The most amazing thing about Mrs Manzur was that she instantly recognized each child by name whether they were current, ex or freshly enrolled into playgroup. She empowered others by not just remembering their names but showing them how much value she placed in each individual. She also remembered the names of everyone in the school, including teachers and support staff. That is what made her so special.
An educator and human being with a caring and rare giving heart. She set an example by her own deep humility and fierce dedication to excellence in all manner of things. There will never be another like her and no one can fill her shoes.
Mrs. Manzur had an immense amount of love to give to everyone around her. To me she was a pillar of support, strength, inspiration and love for the past 43 years. Also to me, she was both a teacher and a maternal-figure who has touched my life in more ways than I could ever express in words.
Mrs Manzur's heart was full of love for everyone: her students, her teachers and her support staff. To her the children by which I refer to the students, she was "their mother". They were her children.
Anyone who has attended Sunbeams can attest to the fact that Sunbeams was more like a family unit rather than a big commercial school and this was all her doing. She would never give up on anybody. If a child was struggling in school she immediately questioned the teachers to find out why, what's wrong or she simply called the child to her room to probe further and get to the cause.
Had a child lost a parent or undergone some trauma, she would immediately send the child to my classroom having full faith and with knowledge that I would treat the child with gentle compassion and affection to ease them in. She trusted me completely.
Every year, the day before the O'Level Examinations, she would arrange a special prayer where she and her colleagues sat down to recite Surah Yaseen for the children. At night she would motivate more by calling each student individually to wish them good luck. But she did not stop there. She would proceed to surprise the parents and students when she made her appearance at the examination hall where she rounded all the students to her making them recite "Ayaat Ul Kursi "with her.
She continued to pray for them until the last one entered the examination hall. When the grades came out she would congratulate each of them and motivate those who were unhappy with their outcome by saying 'It is not the end of the world, keep trying harder next time'.
I always cherished her speeches at orientation and graduation. Her gentle yet powerful and caring speeches at orientation remain with me. She would ask the parents to entrust her and her colleagues with the small child in their laps to Sunbeams. After fourteen years of education the children, parents and grandparents could not hold back their tears when she finally said on Graduation Day 'I have kept my promise and today I present you the best of children and now they are ready to face the world.' Her speech ended with verses from Rabindranath Tagore's "Purano Shei Diner Kotha."
Her children would step off the stage with beli phool garlands to give to their parents as a gesture of love, respect and gratitude for the sacrifices they made for them.
How can you forgo events of the good old days, dear.
The glimpse of each other, spirited chatting, are unforgettable.
Come once more, my friend, come into my heart.
We'll talk about the joy and sorrows to soothe heart.
We've collected flowers at dawn, played and swung a lot -
Sang and fluted under the bokul tree.
Then happened the separation, alas, we got diverged -
When we've got a chance to unite once more, come into my heart.
I would like to conclude my remembrance and respect with a few words on Mrs. Manzur and the special relationship we had:
Raising three boys was not an easy task for me.
Mrs Manzur took more than half the struggle away.
My eldest son struggled during the first year but she always assured me that he would make us proud. Mrs Manzur was the first to inform me that my son had made us and Sunbeams proud.
For my second son I had to visit Mrs Manzur's room countless times. Her kind, caring and forgiving nature was what helped my son manage to graduate from Sunbeams. The day following Graduation she hugged me because my son was the only one to give her a salaam out of sixty six students while receiving the certificate.
I will be ever grateful to Mrs Manzur for my third boy for whom she reserved a soft corner. It is hard to believe that after school even she had a few hours to spare to personally speak to the Headmaster of Gordonstoun on his behalf.
Mrs Manzur was happiest when my third son went to Gordonstoun he was the first to carry the Bangladeshi flag to the Royal School.
The Creator has taken this gentle, generous, wise and majestic lady into his care and we cannot deny that she is in a much better place. She will be missed every day and remember through all the good deeds she carried out while she was with us and in the hearts and minds of the many students she helped educate. May she rest in the highest Jannah.
The writer is Member of Parliament, reserved
women seat 5
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