There were some heroic teachers in the “village” that raised me. I was the product of the era of the most prestigious girls’ school of Bangladesh when making great “humans” was the primary motto of the school. The formative first five years of my elementary school life were shaped by each of these fabulous teachers who left an indelible mark in my psyche. One of them was my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Alia Amin. This particular teacher gave me unforgettable lovely memories in a culture where teachers are feared and somewhat abusive. The eight-year-old me was quite a handful and taming me was not a small feat. In a culture where beatings, verbal abuse, humiliating punishments, etc. were considered normal disciplining process, Mrs. Amin stayed away from those.
She tried to tame me in many other ways. The sitting situation – front of the class, back, by myself – nothing really worked. And when I was really bad, she used to detain me after school. And those were the best. What detention? It was an extension of her love and extra care. I would help her with paperwork and listen to the stories of her amazing life, which should be thoughtfully documented. In one of the detentions, she handed me a book called the Little House on the Prairie. She told me about Laura Ingalls and said we were alike in many ways, and I should use my imaginations to be a reader and a writer like her. I didn’t turn out to be either. But that small gesture was one of the kindest in my little life. I went to the Prairies with Laura and never looked back 😊.
I still remember the unconventional beauty in her sharp determined face and the hazel eyes. In the tastefully chosen simple sharis, she exuded the kind of strength we don’t quite see in a typical Bangladeshi woman. She had a presence, an executive one. But not intimidating.
I could literally write a novel on her. But wanted to take a moment to give her a small tribute on her 88th birthday. I am ever so grateful to still have her in the periphery of my life. Thousands of girls have had the privilege to be under her tutelage. Many of them turned out to be globally successful in their careers. On behalf of all the Viqui girls, I wanted to thank our Alia Amin Apa for molding us, scolding us, inspiring us, and being a part of what we are today. It must be beyond fascinating to be loved and revered by so many people from all corners of the world. As modest and behind-the-scenes as she always wanted to be, she couldn’t help become a star as she shines from within.
Best wishes on your birthday, my beloved Apa. May you keep bestowing your blessings and wisdom on us. I couldn’t become Laura Ingalls, but surely became someone who never stopped dreaming.