The light-green three-storied building named ‘Baishakhi’ with a pond to its right and a Shaheed Minar in the spacious ground, in front, might look like a wealthy person’s dwelling.
It is, in fact, a community hub built by 72-year-old Moazzem Hossain on 140 decimals of land to serve the people of Kadim Hamjani village, located 20 kilometre off the district headquarter.
After his retirement in 2009 as an assistant engineer from the Roads and Highways Department, Moazzem returned and settled in his ancestral homestead in Durgapur union of Tangail’s Kalihati upazila.
When he realised that his village lacks community space for people to sit, relax and spend their leisure, he developed a resting area with benches on a piece of land, which he partly inherited from his father and partly bought with his savings.
“Then I dug a pond where people can bathe and swim and set up a slipper slide and an iron swing for the children to play,” said Moazzem, who lives with his wife in a two-storied building across the road from the community space.
The former civil engineer, then, built a Shaheed Minar, seeing that children of the village were placing wreathes in front of a monument, they had built out of banana tree trunks, during one International Mother Language Day celebration.
He also erected a wide dais in front of the Shaheed Minar. Every year since 2010, cultural programmes on occasion of the Bangla New Year have been staged there and a fair in Baishakhi’s premises.
He expanded his benevolent ventures in 2014 by selling his other inherited and self-purchased land and constructing a community centre.
“The thought of constructing a free community centre for the villagers came to me after attending several wedding parties and other family functions at the different village dwellings,” replied Moazzem, when asked why he went for such an unusual philanthropic establishment.
His idea proved useful when Kartik Paul, a village peddler, arranged his daughter’s wedding but could not provide sitting arrangement to the 50 guests of the bridal party at his small cottage.
“At that time, in 2017, I had just completed construction of the community centre. I asked Kartik to bring his guests to the centre and hold the wedding ceremony there. They came and the party went on for two days,” said Moazzem, recounting how he loved seeing everyone happy when onlookers from the village gathered outside to watch the party and enjoy the music played there.
The community centre is situated on the ground floor of Baishakhi. It has a stage, a hall room, an extra room, two washrooms with toilets and a kitchen area, which villagers can use for free for various family functions.
Equipped with light, fan and running water, the centre has the capacity to hold 200-guests, Moazzem informed, adding that villagers do not have to pay the utility bills but need to arrange for party items such as chairs, tables and tableware from decorators.
The building’s first and second floors, 3,300 square feet with five large rooms each, have been built for a hospital that Moazzem wishes to establish someday to provide free treatment to the villagers.
“My elder son, who is a doctor and currently working in Dhaka Medical College Hospital, told me that at least Tk 2 to Tk 3 crores will be required to buy necessary equipment, fixtures and furniture to start a full-fledged hospital,” he said.
The septuagenarian has already spent Tk 70 lakh in the construction of the centre by selling all his property expect for the homestead, using up his savings and taking some help from his son.
Currently living an austere life on his pension money, he cannot afford to start a hospital, but hopes that his elder son will accomplish his dream in future.
“If he does not do so, any kind-hearted person can come forward to establish a hospital here,” he said.
Nevertheless, his elder son comes to the village every Friday and sees village patients in the community centre for a negligible amount to keep the crowd manageable.
“I advised him to charge Tk 100 as fees so that only real patients would come. I also told him to ensure that patients do not have to spend additional money for any unnecessary tests,” said the prudent father.
Locals are happy getting free doctor’s advice without having to travel to the district town.
“It would be very helpful if Mr Moazzem can start his hospital,” said villager Parvez Mia, 32.
Aslam Ali, 50, a distant relative of Moazzem, is grateful to him because he helped Aslam earn a living by opening a tea-stall at one corner of the community hub.
Joyful Begum, 25 and Rahat, 14, are thankful to the philanthropist for the pond, where they can swim and bathe year-round, since the river near the village remains dry six months of the year.
“All the villagers are getting benefitted from every single of Moazzem Hossain’s philanthropic ventures,” said villager Abdur Razzak Sheikh, 40.
“He lived a simple and honest life all through and in his old age returned to his village instead of building a house and living in Dhaka,” he observed.
Sitting on a tiled shed in front of Baishakhi, Moazzem said, he has no need for wealth now that all three of his children, two sons and a daughter, are educated and self-reliant.
The Lalon Fakir fan prefers a plain living and gets joy doing small things for the people of his village.
Moazzem wishes to continue his benevolent work till he is laid to rest in the shed, he lovingly calls ‘Hawakhana’.