It was a nice evening with a touch of cold, a Saturday, possibly the best day of the week for an office worker. It had snowed the day before; the first good snow in GTA this winter, a thin sheet of white crystals covered the ground. The temperature had risen earlier the day and the rain in the morning partially melted the snow. This was a double jeopardy. We loved snow, especially the kids, but then who could pass on the warmer weather?
The party, more accurately a get-together, was scheduled at 6 PM. Had it been between the years 1978 and 1984, during my pathetic stint as a cadet in one of those prestigious and somewhat privileged institutions in Bangladesh, I would have gotten ready by 4 PM, had the family marched into the family van by 4:30 PM and made the hour long trip to be at the venue at 5:30 PM with 30 minutes to settle down. This was however 2012, January the 21st, 28 years had passed by since I graduated from Cadet College and all my training about discipline and punctuality had long evaporated. It was now out of my grasp to figure out how a 6 PM party can start before 8 PM? There’s something called rationality, right?
The gods of traffic looked upon me mercifully and the roads seemed devoid of any usual troubles – rather amazingly, forcing me to cover the distance in little over half an hour. The kids, two of mine and one of my friend, 11, 10 and 6 respectively, had been upset about the weird party where they learned all the grouchy old people from schools called cadet colleges located in Bangladesh were supposed to show up.
The venue seemed to impress the trio, one good thing. As a parent it is a continuous struggle for me to ensure that they are happy and content and in return provide me the peace of mind I so cherish. I had never been to this place before. The Ellas Banquet Hall located on 35 Danforth Road looked quite elegant, neatly organized, bright and specious and most of all relieving with ample parking spot.
Greeted cordially by a few of the organizers, inevitably other fellow ex-cadets, most of who I had never met but knew by name from my earlier correspondence through the group email that the young and enthusiastic group of organizers had set up. A small contribution made and a name tag with details of my cadet persona imprinted I followed the family into the hall room – a high ceiling and specious place with rows of round tables running across the length, each arranged to host about a dozen guests. Following the email chains earlier I had learned that the response to the call for the get-together had been overwhelming and the organizers expected the number of guests to be no less than hundred and fifty – a considerable number remembering the fact that this was the first ever gathering of ex-cadets from all cadet colleges in this city, perhaps in the country, some may even go as far as to say in the world outside of Bangladesh. While ex-cadets from the same cadet colleges met sometimes, there hasn’t been any known occasion where attempts were taken to arrange a grand reunion with all cadet collages, away from home. It was a night to cherish, a night to remember – just for the mere reason for making it happen - setting apart all the great things that followed in the next several hours as the evening danced into the night.
We picked a table in the rear, one still not taken, took off our coats and jackets and settled into the sturdy chairs as the kids quickly joined dozens of other kids in the specious lobby, some even starting a game of hide and seek. FInding them happy I relaxed into a chair thanking the volunteers who had worked diligently to bring all of us together there, under the roof of that beautifully bright place with a podium and professionally dressed stuff offering appetizers to the guests. The list with all of their names can be found at the end of this article.
As the evening progressed the size of the conglomeration grew at a rate surpassing expectation. A final count gave away amazing numbers – in total 82 ex-cadets and their families had convened, a few from as far as Montreal, some approaching their golden years while many others are still pursuing their higher studies in universities located in Windsor, Kitchener, London areas. The grand total turned out to be 212 – two thirds of that was adults with the rest kids. Several ex-cadets who had immigrated to Canada in recent years and are yet to bring their spouses showed up alone.
Can’t be sure when the scheduled programs actually began but the place looked so bustling with well dressed, cheerful and energetic crowd that there seemed to be very little need of anything else to happen. While the ex-cadets chatted, laughed and seek out other cadets who they might have not seen for a while, their spouses were equally eager to gather with friends and acquaintances and the kids merrily ran back and forth the long corridors and the hall room when they weren’t busy playing Gameboys or complaining about boredom. The warmth of the crowd was touching, the gentle demeanors pleasing and the healthy murmur that resonated was heartwarming. At some point the scheduled programs did start under the efficient guidance of the three delightful conductors – Farid(JCC,74), Rimon (SCC,88) and Iftikhar (FCC,89) followed by an excited Hassan Mahmood (FCC 84) , my good old friend of 27 years from Dhaka University, paving the path to others by introducing ex-cadets of FCC who were present in the audience. (For the full list please refer to the end of this document).
A program itinerary had been prepared and brochures were printed. Though rarely the audience calmed down enough to give full attention to anybody whatsoever, amid this pleasant chaos things did move on – from singing the national anthem of both Bangladesh and Canada, introduction of ex-cadets and sponsors to video presentation of all Cadet Colleges reminiscing old and present days skillfully put together by Rimon and his wife, an elaborate look at the web site under development (a list of the ex-cadets volunteering that effort is included at the end of this essay), a cultural program that accommodated several of the kids belonging to the ex-cadets who danced, sung, recited, played instruments to much amusement of the full house (a list of the participants are included at the end of this writing) followed by kids favorite cake cutting lead by Brigadier (Retd.) Kalam Shahed, an ex-cadet from the first batch of JCC , group pictures of all ex-cadets followed by their spouses and children.
The Indian themed dinner stood in between healthy and delicious with plenty to go around.
Later reputed singer Chondan took over the stage and entertained the cheerful audience through the night to early morning when the enchanted guests had to finally call it a night and bid a gleeful bye to this amazing event.
There may be mixed feelings about cadet colleges in Bangladesh, considering the high cost that is inevitably attached to them, an obvious outcome in the process to filter out the best young minds and to train and educate them in the best possible way, in an elite private school type settings, to create an especial group of people who would lead the nation as members of not only defense forces but also as civilians. Their numbers are miniscule in comparison to the total number of students coming out of higher secondary education system but their attitude and enthusiasm toward life is undoubtedly discernable. While there is no accurate data or elaborate study to determine the actual benefit of the cadet colleges, looking at that gathering of bright, educated, conscious men and women accompanied by their equally bright spouses and tech savvy ultra smart kids, one might dare to suggest that the sacrifices of the dotting mother has been rewarded. Regardless of age and success measured in materialistic scale, the love, dedication and promise that were so prominent in that crowd that it took no difficulties to figure out that the avalanche of goodwill and conscience would inevitably ripple across the continents to the little piece of land with wiggly borders, the land we call Bangladesh. Just the thought of all the impossible-s that will one day be accomplished by the men, women and the kids I stood among was simply overwhelming.
This was an event that will be remembered for many months to come and hopefully will return in the coming years with enhanced vigor and enthusiasm.
A special mention:
Md. Ataullah, one of the visionaries of this get-together had to travel to Bangladesh on a short notice to see his ailing grandmother who eventually passed away. May she rest in peace.
Nazmul Hasan FCC; Hasan FCC; Hainf FCC ; Iftikhar Uddin FCC ; Anis FCC; Hasib FCC; Mahfil MCC ; Tareq Saifur Rahman MCC ; Shamsul Muktadir RCC ; Hanif Suhrawardi RCC ; Sadique Syed JCC ; Rimon Mahmud SCC ; Md. Ataullah SCC ; Sohel Islam SCC ; Arshadul Islam PCC ; Anwar Kabeer PCC ; Golam Hyder BCC ; Shoeb Ahmed BCC ; Asif Ahmed BCC ; Mobinul Islam CCC ; Nahid CCR ; Farzana Naheed MGCC ;
Brochure designer: Mahfil - MCC 87
The ex-cadets who introduced the members of their respective cadet colleges:
FCC - Hasan (84); JCC - Sadique (90) ; MCC - Saif ; RCC - Hanif (96) ; SCC - Rimon (88); CCR - Nahid (95) ; BCC - Shoeb (90) ; PCC - Anwar (90) ; CCC - Mobin (90); MGCC – Nipa (86)
Web-site preparation: Ex-Cadets Anwar (PCC, 90), Mobin (CCC, 90), Shoeb (BCC, 90) and Hanif (RCC, 96). Ex-Cadet Kishore (RCC,79).
The performers: A. Rahman (FCC, 90), Jolly (wife of Shahidul, FCC 86), Ivana (daughter of Rimon, SCC 88), Tushmit (Daughter of Iftikhar, FCC 89), Jasia (daughter of Shahidul, FCC 86), Preetul (daughter of Badrul Rashid, RCC ), Preetul (daughter of Pasha, PCC 88), Obilia (daughter of Hasan, FCC 84), Tapti (daughter of Hasan, FCC 84), Rodella (daughter of Hanif, RCC 96), Hanif (RCC, 96), Umree (wife of Nahid, CCR 95), Rayan (son of Arifa, MGCC 90) and Farid (JCC, 74).
The ameteaur singing trio A. Rahman (FCC, 90), Sadique (JCC, 90) and Anis (FCC, 96) deserve an especial mention for their immensely entertaining chorus of popular Bangladeshi songs.
Anwar Kamal (RCC, 85) (Real State – Home Life)
Shafik (JCC, 86) (Business person – Rose Brand)
List of participating Cadet Colleges:
FCC – Faujdarhat Cadet College
JCC – Jhenaidah Cadet College
MCC – Mirzapur Cadet College
RCC – Rajshahi Cadet College
SCC – Sylhet Cadet College
PCC – Pabna Cadet College
CCR – Rangpur Cadet College
BCC – Barisal Cadet College
CCC – Comilla Cadet College