Shaheen Apa passed away on 17 April this year. I can't claim that I know her very intimately. I came to meet her not that long ago through my dear friend and her cousin Nasima, who also has a house in Sharavo. It was when Nasima invited me to spend an evening watching the sun setting there, that I bid adieu to Dhaka for a night so that I could spend it with her in this idyllic retreat.
I was completely charmed by the place and in particular, Shaheen Apa's house. She was so charming as well. She came all the way from Dhaka to meet us and join us for lunch.
In the morning, Nasima took me to see the sunrise from another spot. I was overwhelmed by the sight of the rising sun from that spot. I was also delighted with the beautiful surprises waiting for me, like the pink shaplas and the ducks next to them in water — the whole scene reminding me of Monet's painting "Water Lily Pond." Then there was the pond reserved for fish culture where you could feel the breeze flowing.
Shaheen Apa joined us for lunch in a dining room from which, you could see another water body. When Nasima introduced me to Shaheen Apa, she greeted me as if she had known me for ages. I was overwhelmed by her nice, warm smile. We talked for a while and then she took us to the dining room for lunch. The menu was tilapia fish from the pond, eggs from the poultry farm, and fresh vegetables from the garden.
I realised soon that I would never meet someone like Shaheen Apa again. She took us to her library, where you can read in an ambiance so still that you can hear the leaves rustling and birds cooing. This was paradise on earth and an experience that made me feel I needed to go Sharavo whenever I could. When I told Shaheen Apa so, she said I could come whenever I wanted to. I was, of course, totally charmed by her hospitality and lovely presence at the end of it all.
There were other things about Shaheen Apa and Sharavo that I found out later. For instance, I learnt how kind a person she was and generous and giving. She did a lot for the laborers and members of the minority community and disadvantaged people living nearby. She ran a school for the children with whom, her own grandchildren would play.
Sharavo is not going to be the same without Shaheen Apa. Everyone else I know who has gone to the place shares the same feeling. She was such a gentle soul—a person with no airs—and warm and welcoming to all the people she knew or met. I wish I had met her a long time before!
There is a family graveyard in Sharavo where loved ones can be buried. Nasima's mother is buried here, along with my friend's pet dog Libby who died almost a year ago. Rest in peace in your dear Sharavo, Shaheen Apa—this paradise on earth—and also in Jannat eternally!