Bangladesh loses a piece of celebrity history. Hundreds of village children were in mourning this week when a tree was uprooted and sold.
This one was particularly special to the children and residents of Haydarabad, in Gazipur.
For 15-years it was the rendezvous and focal point at which children in their hundreds would gather every Friday after Mosque prayers to participate in the Ali Akbar’s Fun‘n’Games – the free weekly festival of fun activities.
It was under this tree sat American and European Union ambassadors, British High Commission officials, mountaineer legends Musa Ibrahim and Niaz Patwary, where Biman CEO Kevin Steele sang for the children, local MPs Meher Afroz Chumki (Minister for Women and Children Affairs), and Jahid Hasan Rasel MP gave motivational talks to them; where internationally-acclaimed author and historian Muhammad Musa enthralled the young audience with tales of the 1971 War of Independence; where former captain of the Bangladesh cricket team, Khalid Masud Sujon gave inspiring cricketing tips, and where many more celebrities, took Heavenly shade from the scorching sun as they participated in the festival of fun as guest VIP judges.
And perched high above them on the historic tree in all its glory, flew a one-of-a-kind, the largest Bangladesh flag in the region which had been commissioned by the games sponsor, Sir Frank Peters.
Every Friday morning like precision-made Swiss clockwork (most times) Ali would hoist the flag to signal to the village children the games were on.
“One Friday Ali was late putting up the flag and my friends and I were so disappointed, we thought the games, had been cancelled. It was as if we had lost an arm or a leg, we had looking forward to them so much all week,” said Soriful Islam.
During national holidays, like Independence Day and Bangabandu’s birthday the flag was flow atop the tree and people could see it from great distances all around.
“Seeing the flag it gave everyone a sense of camaraderie, patriotism, and pride and some would pass it respectfully with their hand on their heart. It’s sad that’ it will be no more,” said Rajowl’s Café owner Rajowl Karim.
Ali, who organized the weekly games, said: “It was one of those trees that everyone loved, that children loved to climb, adults loved to hug, and we had added a swing for all the younger kids to enjoy.
“I used to feel very proud to see the Bangladesh flag fluttering in the breeze above the village landscape. On windy days the sight was even more beautiful and more memorable. Until the tree was removed, we didn’t realize how much it really meant to us. Sadly, it’s the end of an era,” he said.