Being the worthy daughter of the celebrated leader who dared to dream the seemingly impossible dream of freedom from hundreds of years of subjugation of the people of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina has set for herself the task to fulfil the incomplete dreams that her father visualised for Bangladesh - the country that he tirelessly fought all his life to establish.
Belated birthday wishes to our dearly beloved Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as she turned 75 on 28 September, 2021. Her birthday is not a secret, but neither is her tireless ability to work for the country. Although Sheikh Hasina has reached the golden age of three quarters of a century, her amazing mental sharpness could be likened to a diamond and physical energy to someone half her age. One may ask, what keeps her going as she looks at least 10 years younger than her age, and could put to shame even those who are 20 years her junior in terms of active energy, mobility and sharpness of mind and speech. Looking at her, one can comprehend the truth of the words - “age is just a number”.
It is true that no matter what age we attain there remains a child deep within us. It is that child within us - the one of our childhood days, the adventurous child, the curious seeker - who keeps us going. The adventurous spirit of people often reduces with advancing age and responsibility. But it is not true for all. There are many who start a new career or venture at a mature age when most others of their age group are thinking of retiring. They set out to achieve whatever their hearts desire. This has nothing to do with emotional or chronological age, it has everything to do with the brain’s capacity to keep on learning and adapting to new situations. This is called the biological age of a person. Such people remain younger biologically - having both mental and physical agility beyond their chronological age. It is a good thing to retain curiosity and adventure as it keeps our mind and body more agile than our chronological age.
So, Sheikh Hasina may be chronologically 75, but it is quite obvious that biologically she is much younger than her years suggest - even to the extent of being at least two decades younger in terms of clarity of thought, sharpness of mind, readiness of speech, physical mobility, energy and joie de vivre. Her secret? It is the vision in front of her - to create the golden Bangladesh of her father’s dream - the promised land of the Bengali nation!
What keeps us young has been a subject of decades of serious research. To have something positive to look forward every day, to have a vision for tomorrow, to have new goals to achieve, to set achievable targets to fulfil, to get up every day joyously to work, to love oneself enough to exercise and have a proper diet, to have selfless love for others, to have gratitude for what we have, to take care of others, ….. in general, these are some of the things that scientists and researchers claim to have found that help us remain biologically young - in body, mind and soul. Those who have a positive mindset and are aligned for service to others at heart and mind have a longer chance of being biologically younger than their actual age.
On the other hand, being constantly bored, not having anything to do, not caring for self or others, only thinking of self and not others, being cranky, giving trouble to all and sundry, always having a complaining attitude, always finding faults with everything and everyone, being a problem to all, not seeking solutions to problems, creating problems for others, always thinking that others are better off or luckier than self, not showing gratitude for what one has, putting barriers in the path of others, jealousy, backbiting, negative thoughts and deeds, etc. are habits and acts which are said to age us faster than our chronological age.
Hearing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speak at the press conference on her return from attending the UN General Assembly - her first foreign visit since the corona pandemic, anyone could be awed by her youthful attitude towards handling the questions with her presence of mind and extensive vocabulary. The way she was describing in detail the solutions to certain problems and her clarity of vision for what she wants Bangladesh to become seems like the vision of a person who is eternally young at heart - which, no doubt, she is.
The most striking fact about Sheikh Hasina is that she delivers on what she promises and more. She literally thinks on her feet, never letting a single fault-finding by others go without a fitting rebuttal. Her press conferences are a pleasure to witness, as there is much for the young generation to learn from what she conveys both by her body language and words.
Dedicated to the betterment of the country and the people, she is held back by nothing except the corrupt officials and politicians in our decrepit system. But she has managed to bypass many age-old systemic challenges to overcome many barriers in the past to achieve the goals which she set to achieve for the country and the people. One such example is the Community Clinic through which quality healthcare has reached the rural interiors. It has succeeded in ensuring safe delivery of babies, thus reducing mother, infant and child mortality in rural Bangladesh.
Recognising that education is the backbone of a country, she has made education up to secondary level compulsory for all, free of charge in the state run educational institutions. Bangladesh has passed laws to stop child marriages, to ensure that the girl child can continue education up to secondary level. Many incentives are being provided to families to encourage them to put their children through education.
Our futuristic Prime Minister is thinking ahead not just into the next decade but also into the next century for the people and the country. She revealed some of her plans on the future of smart agricultural farming and temperature regulated storage facilities for agro-crops and food grains to enable longer shelf life. If realised, it will create opportunity for greater export earnings for farmers. It all sounds like a dream, but if it is Sheikh Hasina who is saying it, then it will soon be a reality in Bangladesh.
There will always be some discrepancies when monumental tasks are being undertaken. It is the nature of petty people to always find faults when someone is doing some work. But they will not find any fault if someone is not doing anything. So criticism notwithstanding, for the country to move ahead, hundreds of decisions must be boldly made, innumerable projects must be undertaken and completed. Through it all, effective measures must also be ensured to establish accountability, transparency and checks in the administration to curb corruption and increase credibility of the government in the eyes of the people.
Under any circumstances corruption must not be allowed to minimise the monumental gains of the government. If corruption can be curbed successfully, the era of Sheikh Hasina may be recalled by posterity as the Golden Age of Bangladesh.
The writer is a journalist