As a boy, Polan borrowed books from wherever he could, and voraciously read them
Ekushey Padak winner Polan Sarkar, best known as a kind soul who distributed books for free among people, died on Friday, but left a legacy that will be remembered for years to come.
The 98-year-old had been suffering from old-age complications. He passed away surrounded by his loved ones at his home of Bausha village in Bagha upazila of Rajshahi.
His son Haider Ali told the Dhaka Tribune: “My father was surrounded by his family at the time of his death. His namaz-e-janaza will be held at 10am on Saturday on the Harun-ar-Rashid High School premises.”
Born in August 1, 1921, Polan Sarkar’s real name is Harez Uddin. He was born in Bagatipara, Natore.
His father died when he was only five years old. Polan moved to Bausha village with his mother and grandfather when he was a young boy. He was admitted to a local school, but had to quit due to his family’s financial troubles.
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However, that did not dampen his passion for reading and learning. He loved books. As a boy, Polan borrowed books from wherever he could, and voraciously read them.
Polan grew up in his grandfather’s household. He used to work for his grandfather, who owned some land in the area and needed help managing it. He was also part of a theatre group in his youth. He used to love making people laugh through his acting.
Polan Sarkar started a social movement of reading books. He was affectionately called “Alor Ferrywala,” the distributor of light.
He established the Harun-ar-Rashid High School in his village in 1965 after receiving some inheritance from his grandfather. In 1990, he decided a yearly award for students of the school who make it on the merit list. The prize was, of course, books.
Other students expressed their desire to read as well. He complied, but gave them the condition that the students must return the books to him upon finishing, so he could lend the books to other students as well. Eventually, local adults started borrowing books from his collection as well.
When he was diagnosed with diabetes in 1992, he decided he would distribute books during his daily walks. He would go around on his own two feet, sharing his love for books.
He has been admired in Rajshahi for a long time, but gained nationwide recognition after being featured in Bangladesh Television’s popular show “Ittadi,” in December 29, 2006.
In 2009, recognizing his contribution to his community, the Rajshahi zila parishad established a library on his yard.
By the time of death, Polan had been distributing books to students and villagers free of charge for 30 years. He also frequently gifted books to meritorious students. He encouraged house wives to read books, and made a point to get them access to books.
His library houses rows upon rows of books. An entire wall is decorated with his accomplishments over the years. He won the Ekushey Padak in 2011, Bangladesh’s second-highest civilian award, for his contribution to society.
Polan Sarkar left behind six sons, three daughters and numerous people who received the gift of knowledge through his efforts.
In an interview with the press in 2016, he said: “My work will continue for as long as I can walk, and when I cannot walk anymore, my library will carry on my mission.”