Thursday, 9 December, 2021

Little Sheikh Russel Was a Big-hearted Boy

Ranjit Podder

Sheikh Russel was born on October 18 in 1964 at  Bangabandhu House in Dhanmondi, Dhaka. His birth was a matter of joy to the family and the nation as he was none, but the youngest child of the popular leader of the people of Bangladesh. During the birth of the boy, the country was going through a huge turmoil, agitation for freedom from the deprivation and oppression of the Pakistanis. Birth of any child is a matter of happiness and hope, but the birth of Sheikh Russel was much more to the Sheikh family and to the nation. From the very inception of the fetus, he (Sheikh Russel) had to endure the trouble of the struggle to be free from the cruel and unjust Pakistanis. Even after birth, he had to sacrifice for the nation as he did not find his father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman available in the family. His father was in Chittagong (now Chattogram) during his birth and was put in the jail. Along with others in the family and the nation, he was also feeling the heat of the flame of the upcoming war of freedom. The little boy was spreading fragrance from the childhood through the act of kindness, making friendship, protesting against injustice, sharing foods with friends and giving gifts, respecting and obeying teachers. It is a matter of great regret that the little boy was killed on August 15 in 1975 along with his family members by some derailed and greedy hyenas at the age of 11 before the bud was fully bloomed.

Sheikh Russel was a student of class four at the University Laboratory School in 1975. We can learn about his act of kindness much from the interview of Geetali Chakravarty, who taught Sheikh Russel as a house tutor from August, 1972 to August 14, 1975; from the speech and writing of Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh; and from the speech of the current VC of the University of Dhaka. So far as is known, Geetali Chakravarty is now living in Sydney with her family. It is known from Geetali’s telephonic interview with the Dhaka Tribune that inspite of his being a little school boy, he exhibited a good sense of love and justice for the common people. Russel used to play with another Rasel, his friend and playmate, living in the neighbouring house. One old female beggar did a household chore at his friend’s house for one taka, but she was given 25 paisa for the work. When Sheikh Russel came to know about the injustice done to the old woman, little Sheikh Russel brought her to his house and asked her to wait until his father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, comes home from the office because he wanted justice for the woman. Bangamata tried to convince her boy by telling that she (Bangamata) would give her food for lunch and some money to the woman. It was winter and the old woman was feeling much cold. Then the boy agreed to let her go on condition that she would be given lunch and some money. Little Russel was pacified after the old woman was given lunch and some money.

Sheikh Russel was a great lover of human beings and animals. It is known from a speech of the current VC of Dhaka University that little Russel used to share eggs and other foods with his classmates. Russel was so polite and simple that he used to enter the school ground on foot keeping the car away on the street like other students. He never tried to enjoy special privilege as the son of the Prime Minister of the country. Russel used to obey his teachers. It is also known from the same speech that he could make friendship with others very easily. It is possible only when one has much love and respect for others and when one considers himself as one of the mass people. It is known that there were some pigeons in Russel’s house. He loved the birds so much and when pigeon meat was cooked at home, he did never eat that although those cooked pigeons were brought from the market. This incident indicates his love for the birds especially for pigeons was so deep.

Little Russel loved to ride bicycle. He wanted to be an army officer when he would be grown up. When in Tungipara village, Russel used to lead a group of little children like a commander as if he was the captain of the team. That was a kind of rehearsal of march past that he would have to do in future as an army officer. It is known from our Prime Minister’s speech and from other sources that Sheikh Russel used to give pieces of candy and dresses to his playmates and followers. Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa used to happily provide what Russel demanded for his friends. This indicates that little Russel had the similar spirit towards the people of the country as the Father of the Nation possessed.

Sheikh Russel used to address her house tutor as ‘apa’, ‘apu’, and later on ‘apumoni’ which indicates that his relationship with the tutor and respect for her deepened in course of time. On the very first day, Bangamata asked Russel to give ‘salam’ to the teacher and he used to give it regularly. Little Russel was a lover of coca cola, but his tutor did not like her beloved pupil to drink much of coca cola. He used to take permission from his teacher to drink  coca cola. Geetali did not allow him to drink coca cola on August 14 and she told him that she would allow him another day. It was so sad that another day did never come in the lives of many of the Mujib family including little Sheikh Russel.

Sheikh Russel did not get his father close to him as the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was busy with liberating the nation and then after independence with the formation of the war-ravaged country. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was not at home when Russel was born. Then after a year and a half, Sheikh Mujib was arrested mainly because of the six-point demand and was sent to jail in May, 1966 and he had to stay in captivity for nearly three years. Russel used to weep silently for his father and he wanted to hide his sorrows. When someone in the family noticed him crying, he used to say that he had stomach ache or something was dropped into his eyes. Russel's love for friends (people) and animals; a deep sense of justice for the deprived; culture of giving gifts to the friends and followers; no exercise of power; and sacrifice of father’s love can be a good lesson for our children and these virtues should be practised in schools. Practice of these virtues will broaden the hearts of the children and these children will be able to make us a noble nation. If the school children can be engaged in the practice of the aforementioned virtues of Sheikh Russel, our country will be turned into Sonar Bangla in near future.


The writer is an Associate Professor, Government

Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka