In a lovely morning of spring 2005, physical fitness test and viva was being conducted for 48 seats in IFESCU (Institute of Forestry and Environmental Science, Chittagong University). That year, environmental science was being offered for the first time. When the interview board asked me why I wanted environmental science, I told them a story.
There is a novel written by Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay, named Parthib. Krishnajiban, a character in that novel was telling his son that trees are the beard on earth’s face and explaining why we shouldn’t shave it. The author made me feel that I was that little child who promised to his dad that he will never shave earth’s face and will do everything in his capacity to protect the earth. Krishnajiban, is one of my favorite characters in Bangla literature. I was 16 when I read that book for the first time, and I couldn’t help but notice that he and I share several characteristics. He too, is the eldest son of the family, somewhat philosophical; we both are famous (!) for our disinclination for social interaction. But at that time, I never thought that I would end up in the same profession. When I came to know that IFESCU is offering environmental science, when I realized that I could be an environmental scientist, I never applied for anything else. I never even took the admission test in Dhaka University, “The Oxford of The East”.
Most of the students in my batch (actually, in all of the batches) joined IFESCU only for an Honors Certificate. I’m quite sure that things haven’t changed yet. Even today, most of the students are studying Forestry or Environmental Science- not out of the love of forest or environment, but mostly to get a job in commercial banks. So, the knowledge may enter the brain, but doesn’t get the rights to enter the heart. Of course, IFESCU makes us smarter, which helps us achieve or adapt in a diverse range of jobs. But the knowledge about forest or environment is irrelevant in those jobs. I should tell you, undergraduate study in IFESCU is not an easy one. You have to attend theory and practical classes all day long, have to submit a well-cooked project paper or thesis (which is not that hard work in many other courses). Why do you need these 4-years full of hard work if you want to end up working in a bank? I used to say these things since 2005. In 2009, an excellent Bollywood movie “3 Idiots” showed something very similar.
Now you may think what else we can do; given the context of Bangladesh, how many forestry or environmental jobs are there in Bangladesh? The reality is, if you are true to your heart, there are many options available. You will find something that you like if you are devoted to your academic study. We can make our move not only in environmental counseling in the industries, environmental research based NGOs, but everywhere the timber and other non-timber forest product goes (like saw mills, paper mills, tea or rubber gardens etc). And we all know about the scope of higher study in these subjects and what we can do after that worldwide; but the pathetic truth is not much people are inclined to do anything in this regard.
If you don’t see any field, make one. You could form an organization based on your skills, arrange research funds if you have a good idea, and not only get a job, but also offer others. If you love something, you have to show it and do something for it.
When a student makes an achievement, it sure makes the teachers proud. So, they should share a bit of responsibility about what their students do after they go out in the world. Their job doesn’t end right after the students get the certificate; same goes for the alumni students who found the right way. Current students should prove their worth as well. If the teachers and alumni show them the way, current students have to make sure that they follow the shown path. Before getting the torch, they should show that they are determined to carry the torch.
There is a famous story named Gooseberries, by Anton Chekhov. He said, “It is a common saying that a man needs only six feet of land. But surely a corpse wants that, not a man. And I hear that our intellectuals have a longing for the land and want to acquire farms. But it all comes down to the six feet of land. To leave town, and the struggle and the swim of life, and go and hide yourself in a farmhouse is not life — it is egoism, laziness; it is a kind of monasticism, but monasticism without action. A man needs, not six feet of land, not a farm, but the whole earth, all Nature, where in full liberty he can display all the properties and qualities of the free spirit”.
If you are determined to keep yourself in the track, then you must shred off the idea of having just any job. You must explore all nature, you must travel the whole earth to fulfill your dream and display all the properties of your free spirit.