Friday, 22 February 2013

Seamon’s passionate journey to make a difference!

-Shafiul Islam ♪ শফিউল ইসলাম

[Dedicated to visionary Drs. Ahmed Sharif, Humayun Azad; S M Sultan and Nirmol Sen] 

Naznin Seamon (নাজনীন সীমন) is a Bengali-American talented teacher, passionate poet, writer and social activist. She was born in beautiful Bangladesh. Seamon works for the NYC Education Department as a High School English teacher, and lives with her family in New York since 1997. With a deep driving desire to learning, Seamon drives her dreams to make a difference.

Naznin Seamon has already published several books with a lengthy list of publications and interviews. Through her writings, she paints the vivid pictures of exploitations and crisis of our civilization. Seamon is the editor,, assistant editor, Shabdaguchha (; and founder & administrator, facebook NY Nirmul Committee forum.

Naznin Seamon :: নাজনীন সীমন

Enjoy the excerpts from our interactions:

1. Shafiul Islam SI: Greetings Naznin Seamon! We appreciate your contributions to ‘Vision Creates Value’. Tell us about your birthplace and most memorable childhood memoirs.

Naznin Seamon NS: Greetings! Thanks for allowing me to share my ideas.
I was born in my maternal grandparents’ home in Lohagora, Narail. It’s hard for me to choose the most memorable childhood memory. Overall, it was wonderful yet challenging to some extent. One memory from that vastness is:
I was 6/7 years old then. We, the children built a temporary Shaheed Minar with bricks and clay in the evening in front of our apartment building in a Govt. colony under the supervision of my uncle. We came inside to get the flower adornments ready. As we went down right before midnight, to honor the martyrs of the Language Movement, with astonishment, we discovered that it was destroyed. Of course, we right away ran for bricks and made another one to meet the 12:01 deadline, but we were heart-broken and our disappointment was limitless. Many called us Hindus and said that we would be punished by Allah for worshipping statues as we kept celebrating Mother Language Day, Victory Day. Not to mention, we had to walk against the wind to remember and pay our tribute to 7th March and Bangobondhu.
I mentioned this incident because it made me think and helped me to shape my future act regarding our national identity and the negative elements against our flag and freedom.

2. SI: Looking back to your childhood memories, what do you miss most in your child’s childhood today?

NS: I would definitely say, the open space and time to play, greens to sooth our eyes, and fresh food are the top ones. There was a balance in everything we did or had to do. Even though I spent my childhood in the Port City, we were closer to nature. We made paper boats and floated them in the rain water. We played different types of sports, got soaked in the heavy rain, and ate all kinds of street food. We ran our cultural group under the open sky where we learned music, dance, and poetry recital. We lay down on the grass under the full moon and sky filled with stars. At times, we tried to stop the moon from stalking us by running fast, but its shadow still lingered upon us. I miss all the memories.

3. SI: Who has inspired/influenced you most to unleashing your visionary journey? How?

NS: It will be unfair if I single out anyone. I believe that we learn everyday from anyone and everyone if we want to or open our doors to embrace newness. I don’t know if I started walking on the visionary pathway; if I did, it’s the contribution of many people. For example, reading Beauvoir, Rokeya, Azad, Nasrin helped me to see how deprived women are. When I read Nazrul, Sukanto, M.N. Ray, ShibNarayan Ray etc., I was able to look at life through a different lens. I saw Shamsur Rahman getting up from his seat for everyone out of respect even when he was not physically ill. Humayun Azad, Shahriar Kabir, and Shaheed Kaderi’s depth of knowledge, delivering the speech, sense of humor amused me while I was astounded to see Dr. Azad and Mr. Kabir’s boldness talking about the most conflicted, sensitive, and stern issues. Knowing Dr. Mizan Rahman, I realized despite of a glorious life and vast experience how humble someone can be. I also have met people who were enlightened in different ways. For instance, my maternal grandfather used to walk around the village to check people as he was a Homeopathic doctor. By doing so, he came across people not having food for their lunch or dinner. Coming home, he would take everything from the kitchen to give to those families. Many times he gave his own portion of food as a beggar stood on the door. I saw my mom spreading her hand to everyone regardless of their demand, social class, religion, or nature. Many nights we saw her going out to attend our neighbors’ calls for help, but she was not a highly educated person. From one of my teachers I have learned how someone can devote entire life for the sake of others. One of uncles never counted money when giving to a beggar or a rickshaw puller, but just dig his pocket and whatever came, he gave to them which was more than mysterious and interesting to me. To feel the pain of a rickshaw puller and give him the feelings of a passenger, he let him sit on the seat would pull the rickshaw himself.
The list is very long. There are numbers of people who inspired me in different ways and the process hasn’t stopped. However, whatever I am today is the direct influence of my best role model, my mother.

4. SI: What do you teach? If education is for building a promising generation to building a better tomorrow, are we achieving that goal? If not, do you suggest any change?

NS: I teach ESL and Foreign Language (Bengali) in a Public High School. Through education, we are preparing the new generation for the future which can contribute to not only a part of the world, but the world as a whole. Unfortunately, we don’t see the role of family in a child’s life as strongly as it was portrayed before. Love and education begins at home and that is what many children lack in their lives. As a result, educators have to wear many hats to provide all those roles simultaneously to a student.
Another aspect is that right now we are directing towards a test driven culture. Everything we do is to make students ready to pass/do well in test. True learning or learning for fun is gradually fading away; therefore, it feels detached or missing the link.
Learning as stated above has to be directly tied to self-interest as well as ability; otherwise, it will turn out to be meaningless. At the same time, we need to make children responsible for their own learning, which again must start from home. It’s like the proverb: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” The subsequent part is the key here. Students have to come with motivation and interest for learning; otherwise, despite of all tools and strategies, learning will go down the drain.

5. SI: Is empathy missing in our education system to uplifting human harmony and sharing peace and prosperity together?

NS: It is so. The answer is partially given in my prior comment. Education has to reside in our heart. When it comes from our heart it involves the humanitarian point of view that in other words prepares a concerned citizen who can look outside of the box. As a result, we will have citizens of the world, not a country. My observation is this young generation turned to be too self-centered and self-locked in a box. They laugh their lungs out seeing others suffer. Incidents distanced from their eyes leave no mark in their thought process; forget about heart. Once again, primary education has to come from a family, while many children do not even have a stable family or are raised in violence being abused. There are many youngsters who become parents before they finish high school. How can someone teach his/her little one when he/she is lacking that skill/knowledge? So, here begins a huge gap. I feel where we stand today is the ripple effect of all the missing links.
The education system is not only an institution, but I see it holistically where our family, environment, neighbors, friends, media, and so on are parts of it too. Right now, everything is business oriented where we calculate gain or loss, but nothing else. Somehow we need to fit this quote in our lives: “Always put yourself in other people’s shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts that person too” and give it life by exercising it in our lives.

6. SI: We see extreme economic inequality in our global village. Many people live on less than a dollar a day. Poverty paints a bleak picture of our humanity. Less than 5% of the people control 95% of the world’s wealth today. Mahatma Gandhi said, 'Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed.' What challenges do we face today as we weave our future together in our integrated economy? How can we overcome them?

NS: Other than a very small segment of our human civilization when people hunted together, inequality has been persistent to spread its’ tenacious hand on us and we learned to endure it. There are social and economic classes within society, then country, nation, and the world. Multiple geo-political factors contribute to such contrast. Mahatma Gandhi had correctly signified the problem; it’s none other than our greed. If we look at nature, animals do preserve food to survive during the off season or terrible weather conditions. However, they never cross the boundary like humans do. We need to concentrate on the differences between necessity and greed; in other words what I need vs. what I want. Unfortunately, the more civilization is progressing, the more self-centered we are turning and becoming a materialistic society overall where material goals and pursuing for wealth to meet those goals defeat all other qualities and purposes.
Policy makers, economists, researchers can answer the question better. My belief is that raising a generation with the true essence of education can provide the world a new journey by redefining life. If we can reinstall empathy within us, everything else will fall back to fit in that mold of ideal. And, in this process we have many dreamers to guide us, inspire us to the right path.

7. SI: Bangladesh was founded on four principles: democracy, socialism, nationalism and secularism. What do you think about the inclusion of Islamic religious element in our constitution that undermines our common human harmony?

NS: I personally have been a strong critic about it. Ours is one of the best Constitutions in the world that preserves the right of every human being. Unfortunately, after the death of our Father of the Nation, Bangobondhu, our Constitution was polluted in the hands of some corrupted army people who came to power through the backdoor. Adding Islamic elements to it creates religious bias and takes away the essence of secularism from our Constitution. Religion and State must be separated for a country to progress and have a humanitarian society. Besides, in Bangladesh different religious groups have been living next to each other with harmony except for the tension ignited by some political forces that use religion as a vehicle to get vote. Conscious and progressive citizens of Bangladesh have been demanding to go back to ‘72’s Constitution to restore the four principles. In a nutshell, without the restoration of those 4 principles, Bangladesh cannot establish common harmony as the violation of that element allows one group’s religious supremacy over others along with giving the right to Islamic groups in politics. As a matter of fact, right now in Shahbag, Dhaka people have united in a protest to ban Jamat-E-Islam which is against secularism.

8. SI: We appreciate your leadership with the Forum for Secular Bangladesh (Ghatok-Dalal Nirmul Committee), NY Chapter. How do you see the ongoing war crime trials in Bangladesh? Why this is important for furthering our creative vision, peace and prosperity as we weave our future together in a multicultural society?

NS: The War Criminals are brought before justice after 42 years for their heinous act in ’71. They savagely killed 3, 000, 000 people, raped or helped raping 2 million women, burnt down houses, and looted. Even just 2 days prior to the end of this blood shaded liberation war, on Dec. 14th 1971, they followed their blue print to arrest and kill the intellectuals of the about to be free country. Not only that they have not been punished for their atrocities, they were rather given leverage and power by President Major Zia, President Gen. Ershad, and later on intensively by Begum Zia, the PM of Bangladesh. They committed crime against humanity and still are slaughtering people in the name of religion. They don’t believe in the sovereignty of Bangladesh; rather they want to turn Bangladesh to Pakistan or Afghanistan. On top of that they are a fundamental and terrorist organization. They have zero tolerance for other religious groups and progressive people; therefore, the non Muslim world. Interestingly enough, Islamic rules are not reflected in their practice of violence and terrorism. Instead, they practice deceptiveness and attempt to sway the young generation with great success by creating a religious illusion.
If we can’t punish the War Criminals (Capital Punishment) and ban Jamat E Islam, we can’t stand up as human beings. We have a debt to our martyrs, heroes of our nation. Since the War Criminals are anti-humanity and anti-peace, it is not possible to progress further with a creative vision, dreams of peace and prosperity in a multicultural society without making sure that they are punished accordingly.

9. SI: Tell us about your passion that drives you to make a difference. Any advice to the young generation who dares to dream to change the world?

NS: I am not sure if I am even close to make a difference. However, there are some principles I try to maintain in my life. First and foremost, we have to love and respect ourselves; then we can spread it as these are contagious fundamentals of life. Next come dedication, commitment, and dignity. However, passion is the golden key for everything. Whatever we do, it has to relate to our hearts and we must practice altruism.
Neither everyone is capable of going to Harvard or Oxford, nor is it needed. The key is to be happy with whatever we have and spread that happiness amongst others.

10. SI: Thank you Seamon for valuable time today. We wish the very best of your visionary journey.
             NS: Thank you! I wish ‘Vision Creates Value’ gets success by taking a role to move us forward. It already has set a tone of empathy, passion, and vision. It’s always a pleasure to look at the contribution of others. It’s an honor to be a part of this community.

Selected Books:
  • Adigonto Bistirnoter Dhaley (আদিগন্ত বিস্তীর্ণতার ঢালে), Shabdaguchha Press, Dhaka-New York, 2000; 2nd edition: 2004.
  •  Ekti Biral O Amar Dhukho (একটি বিড়াল আমার দুঃখ), Shabdaguchha Press, Dhaka-New York, 2011.

Short Story:
  • Prototo Roktakto Chitker (প্রতত রক্তাক্ত চিৎকার), Ananya Prokashoni, Dhaka, 2007.

  • Shabdaguchha Award in Postmodern Poetry, 2007.
  • Secretary, the Forum for Secular Bangladesh, NY Chapter, 2010-Present.
  • Founder & Administrator, Facebook NY Nirmul Committee Forum.

Selected Featured Insights:

Naznin Seamon :: নাজনীন সীমন

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