My Dream Hometown
Today, I'm grateful that I have been able to do something for the village I was born and raised in. This is my home where I was brought up with immense love and affection. I always had a lifelong dream for it, one that I have fulfilled today. Since the morning my friends and local prominent people have come to visit and congratulate me in my village home, including the local Commissioner, City Mayor and local Journalists!
The living space was filled with echoes of laughter and joyful chatter as everyone sat in the nice seating arrangements we’d made and were being served tea or coffee with cajun cookies and different snacks, left and right. After everyone had arrived, as the Chief Guest, the City Mayor inaugurated the ‘Fatima Amin Memorial Health Service’.
Standing at the gates of the Health Service Center, the village crowd listening in, the City Mayor began his opening speech,
“The Health Service center that Mr. Zafar Ahmed, founded today, has done one of the greatest honorable and charitable services to the people of this village. From now and going forward, the people will get free treatment and any necessary medication needed on every Friday, right here. If more capable people came forward like Mr. Zafar did, then every village in our Country could have a Health Service Center just like this that facilitates and cares for its own people".
The City Mayor, friends, area commissioners and prominent people all came forward to appreciate my work. Next, the news of the inauguration of the ‘Fatima Amin Memorial Health Service’ center became the headline news of the local newspapers.
At the end of everyone’s speech, I started mine,
“This is the village where I was born and raised. When I was a child, every plant in this soil, the air, our neighbors and all my friends gave me a lot of love and support. All this time I’ve supported my family, my brothers, sisters and my children with their education and livelihood, they needed to establish themselves, I was going to do something for my hometown, my village. I started this dream the day my daughter got admitted to the Medical University and I can gratefully say I have made it a reality. Being able to completely tend to the people who took care of me when I grew up, every Friday is my way of giving back, I hope I get to do it right.”
I continued “To this day, I hold on to the inspiration and support my late father gave me, it has been the anchor that has brought me success today, so I would like to dedicate all the credit and praise you have given me in my father’s name”.
While I was speaking in front of everyone, the trees of home reminded me of times long ago in my past that felt so close, now that I was standing on the same soil again:
I don’t exactly remember how my mother was or how she used to love me. I only remember the last glimpse of my mother’s face on her deathbed in City General Hospital when I was toddler. But I held that memory of her face in my heart and it is still one of the greatest inspirations, strengths and hopes of my life. My father was a school teacher and because he became our single guardian, he was there for me both as a father and a mother. Although his job didn’t pay too well, the strength of his mind and the passion for his big dreams held us together as a family. It was my father’s dream that we all grew up to be good human beings that we completed the higher education we needed to become established in our lives and take care of the welfare of our family, society and the country.
After the speeches ended, some people still hung around and chattered away with my family in the living space. I walked through my childhood home, looked through the old rooms and traced the carving of my old reading table’s chair. I reminisced about a particularly important day in the past, I was sitting right here and reading as my father came and sat beside me,
He said “How is your studying going?”
“It's going well“, I replied.
“Listen my son, It's about time I tell you this myself, you see I wanted to get a higher education, but my father didn’t send me to pursue it, so of course all my life I regretted that.
My father used to say, “My elder son went to university and got higher education, and so now he is working abroad and doesn’t even stay or visit home. I acquired so many huge properties and land in my name but now there is no one to look after them. If you also pursue higher studies then you too will abandon me and go abroad like your eldest brother. Who will look after my property?”
He continued, “Tell me Zafar did your grandfather make the right decision denying me from acquiring a good education just so that I would take care of his lands and properties?”
Shaken by the hurt in my father's voice I replied, “No, of course not.”
My father then said, “My father can say how good or bad his actions were, but despite my desire for it, I could not go for higher education. Even if I was actually a very good student and could’ve finished my college and university easily, if I were given the opportunity. In those days, good education was very rare and valuable. If I could get a good degree, I would get a good job, and then none of you would have to face any of the struggles you are facing today”.
He paused, collected himself and continued, “Because I could not study well, it's still a great sorrow I’ve held my whole life and so I want to do right by all of you so that you can fill this sorrow of mine. So I plead, my son, please use this opportunity and study well, if it's necessary, I will sell all my properties I have, and give it to you for your studies”.
Saying this, my father held me deep in his chest and began to weep. With teary eyes, he kissed my forehead and said, “I have no demands from you, I will be more than content if you can become well-educated with a higher degree and become established in your life. I pray for all of you all the time, May God Bless You”.
Watching my father show, how much love and affection he held for me I couldn’t control myself anymore, I burst into tears and hugged my father back!
I said to him “Dad, don’t worry about us, we will work our hardest and will achieve higher degrees from the best universities and we will fulfill your dreams, just pray for us”.
My father’s words shook me to my core and from that day onwards, I started dreaming of ways to fulfill his wishes. Never again did my father have to push me to pour all my hard work into my studies or into growing as a good human being. I worked tirelessly day and night, finishing high school, college and university.
I started my first job after finishing my studies and realized that if I want to succeed, I would have to keep hustling. This encouraged me to participate in about a dozen professional trainings and seminars to constantly upgrade and hone my skill set. Ultimately those paid off and resulted in several early promotions in my job within a few years.
One day, while working as a Marketing and Sales Manager in an International Telecommunication Company, my colleague and friend Akram came to my house.
He told me, “Zafar, our friends Monir, Rahim, and Tarek are applying for immigration visas to Canada, they told me to talk to you and ask whether you are interested to apply too?”
I replied, “Why would I go to Canada, I am not doing bad in my country? I'm in a good position with a good International Company, I am fine”
Akram replied, “That might be true but Canada can’t just be compared to our country just like that. First of all, Canada is a developed and peaceful country with an excellent education system for our children, just like the US, UK, and Australia, it’ll be a Paradise for our children. Even if we spent double the money, we could never educate our children with the same opportunities here. Moreover, the quality of living and the peaceful environment is just better. So, if there is an opportunity to get all that, why won’t we take it?”.
Convinced, I agreed and we five friends applied for the Canadian immigration Visa together. Within 6 months, the Canadian Embassy called me for an interview and after it was done the immigration officer told me,
“Welcome to Canada, Mr. Zafar, and within a few days you will get your immigration visa papers to fly to Canada”.
All of us five friends got to move to Canada’s most attractive and economic city, Toronto. We all settled in Toronto’s Bengali populated town, Crescent Town at Victoria Park Avenue. It’s main attraction being Danforth Avenue, where most of the shopping malls, hotels and restaurants were owned by Bangladeshi Canadians. Some of the Bengali restaurants even had Bengali signboards beside the regular English ones, where they offered Bengali dishes starting from Pulao and Biryani to Daal Puri and Shingaras. This Danforth Avenue was the heart of all Bengali culture in Canada, where Eid Bazaar Fairs, held on the moonlit night Event, Mehndi evenings, as well as Pohela Boishakh Fairs, held on the 14th of April, annually.
After coming to Canada, I took a few professional diploma courses in the first 6 months, and then got a job in an International Law Firm. Next, I completed my Post Graduation MSC and landed a great management level job in a good company.
Many years passed within this time and all my children graduated from high school, went onto college then university. After completing their higher degrees, they all got settled into handsome jobs themselves. At that point, I felt like I had completed a great responsibility in my life and started thinking back to all my friends, neighbors, relatives and my hometown. I realized that I had done so many things for my family, my brothers and sisters as well as for my children, and now it was time for me to do something for my society and for my hometown.
I realized,I was still sitting in my old reading table’s chair while I was lost reminiscing how it came to this. But, the Health Service center has been a working project for a while before it became a reality.
Two years ago when I came to my country for vacation, I stayed in my hometown and invited some prominent people and my all friends from the village during Eid Holiday. After having lunch together we ended up having a meeting with them, they started saying, “You should come back to the country and to your hometown and do something for the people here, we’ll be here with you and we’ll help you through the work”.
I enjoyed listening to everyone’s thoughts and ideas, and I finally made the decision to spend my retired life in my hometown.
Finally, I came to my hometown, my village, my motherland, where I was born. Before coming I made a concrete plan to develop my hometown by working in certain areas which were: Development of (1) health (2) education and (3) village environment.
After having several meetings with my friends and some local prominent people in my village, I lined up even more specific projects which are:
1. Health Service Centre: ‘Fatima Amin Memorial Health Service Center’: Where every Friday the village people would get free treatment and medication.
2. Education Development: ‘Positive parenting and Student counseling’: The parents of the village would be trained by experienced teachers/professors to develop themselves as sincere parents who were invested in their children’s education. Furthermore, career counseling training would be provided for students for exploring their future goals. Lastly, a fund would be set up to provide scholarships for 5-10 financially struggling students in the village, annually.
3. Environment Development: ‘Flower Garden and Cleanliness Training’: Every house in the village would have a flower garden and flowers plants would be provided free of charge, for any necessary training needed to create them. At the same time, awareness training would be given to the people to keep their village clean.
4. Community Relationship Development: ‘Organization of Fairs’: Events or fairs like Cricket Tournament, Pitha Mela and Boishakhi Mela would be organized every year to improve the relationship amongst the people of the village.
Next, I formed a committee with my friends and some prominent people of the village and started carrying out our plans. Although in the initial stages we faced some resistance from the local people, after realizing our core objectives were non-profit projects made to serve people and not to establish any political ideology, no one opposed us and extended their hand in support instead.
Today, the auspicious opening of ‘Fatima Amin Memorial Health Service Center’ is the fulfillment of a big dream of my life, the dream I saw the day my daughter got admitted to Medical University, a dream I feel like my entire life led to. And I know you need a lot of luck to be able to get this far and for that I am forever grateful to the Almighty God. I have been able to come full circle and do something back for my hometown, the place where I was born and brought up. That gives me an immense sense of happiness today and places a token of eternal peace in my heart!
“Zafar, the City Mayor wants to talk to you!” I hear my wife call from the doorway of my old room as I snap out of my train of thought.
“I'm coming.” I respond as I straighten up and then walk into the living space.