Showkat Hossain Antu has made quite a name for himself. In fact, in his Rajshahi locality, he is known as Adenium Antu.
To understand the name, all one has to do is go to Antu's rooftop in the Kajla area of Rajshahi city. Antu's passion, from which his moniker derives, is the Adenium, a flower of African origin, also known as the desert rose.
Ten thousand of these flowering plants, of 500 varieties, cover the bulk of one side of his rooftop.
Armed with a PhD in microbiology, after completing his honours and master's degrees from the Rajshahi University's botany department, Antu has not looked back.
His envious collection of the Adenium, which he has been cultivating commercially since 2015, is worth more than Tk15 lakh, according to the man himself.
"I have the largest collection of Adenium in the country right now," he brags without the slightest hint of hubris.
Antu's love for gardening grew at a very early age. Even as a kid, he would spend most of his days tending to different kinds of flowers in the verandah of his home.
The love never faded, with Antu eventually choosing botany as his academic subject. He owes his current success to the knowledge that he gleaned over the years in this field.
Antu has also managed to make his passion pay his bills. The flowers he cultivates often find their way into different parts of the country.
"At first, I used to collect Adenium from horticulture centres or from different individuals. Now, I import the flowers from different countries and sell them online. Around 2,000 to 5,000 plants worth around Tk10 lakh can be imported in a consignment," he said.
Antu said that the shipment cost is almost the same as the prices of the Adenium imported.
Each plant can be sold between Tk100 and Tk1 lakh, depending on the shape and variety. In his estimation, he sells plants worth around Tk2-3 lakh a month.
He mainly focuses on bulk sales, acting as a wholesaler, but often also retails small quantities.
Pointing to his envious collection of plants, including hundreds of varieties of orchids and cacti, he said each of these can be sold. Orchid plants sell for Tk500-Tk5,000, while a cactus can be sold from anywhere between Tk200 and Tk30,000.
The value of the collection on his roof – which offers a bird's eye view of the entire city – is around Tk50 lakh, he says.
The surrounding is quite surreal – an expansive city beneath, slowly being chased by the mighty Padma River, which can also be seen, while one laps up the cool breeze in a modern-day reimagination of the hanging gardens of Babylon.
Antu's flowers don't bloom in winter, when the roof wears a gloomy look dotted with skeletal plants.
He explains that the Adenium, which belongs to the Apocynaceae family, flowers only from February till October.
When it blooms, the roof is an explosion of pink, red and white.
"The demand for this plant is very high in Bangladesh because of its flowers. These plants are prized for their flowers, which have two to three petals and layers just like a rose," he said, adding that because of its Bonsai-like shape, the plant had yet another reason to be so coveted.
Despite being in the business, Antu stresses that he has not let that forget his real reason for cultivating the plants. While he sells the plants, whether it has flowered or not, he does not sell flowers individually.
"The original homeland of the Adenium extends to the deserts of south east Africa, Sudan, Kenya, the western part of Senegal and Yemen. Apart from this, the plant also occurs naturally in Sri Lanka.
"Currently, the most commercial cultivation is done in Thailand, followed by India, Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Japan and various countries of the Middle East."
Antu mainly imports the Adenium plants from Thailand, China and India.
He said in the beginning he would procure two or three plants from different places in the country, before turning directly to imports.
He imports 2,000 to 5,000 plants per shipment. Social media is his main market place.
But the picture is not as rosy as it seems.
Antu said his imports arrive by air and he buys plants worth Tk8-Tk10 lakh per shipment. The cost of bringing plants worth Tk10lakh was Tk8lakh on its own. Thus, the more plants he can import, the more he can spread his costs. Moreover, the bulkier the purchase, the lesser the price.
In the beginning of last June, he imported plants worth Tk4 lakh, which cost another Tk4 lakh to be transported, including airfare, customs and clearing and forwarding fees.
Antu imports the plants four to five times a year. While he mainly sells the plants, he has now started propagating his plants by grafting - joining tissues of plants so that those can grow together.
He said he plans to do this on a large scale in the future, adding that the method brings more colour to the flowers.
Another positive aspect of the Adenium plant was that it was drought-tolerant, he said. It can store large amounts of water and survive through times of little to no rainfall.
Its Bonsai-like features and nature also made it suitable for potting. The tub needs little maintenance, apart from some water.
The plant can live for 50-100 years. Its adaptability also means that the cost of care is little.
Antu said he did not look after all the plants on his own, but had now hired a helper for Tk10,000 a month. For buying fertiliser, tubs, soil, etc he spends another Tk10,000-15,000.
In total, he spends around Tk25,000 per month on his plants. "Rooftops are a better option, because if I planted them on the ground floor, then more people would be needed for maintenance."
Asked where he received the training for taking care of his plants, Antu said he did not have any formal training for these plants in particular.
"I am a student of botany so I have a pretty good idea about the nature of trees. I have also done some reading to learn more," he said.
Although Auntu is happy with his endeavour, in the future he wants to return to Rajshahi University, this time as a professor.
"If I don't get that, I won't look for a job elsewhere. I want to live with my flowers and plants forever," he said, adding that he was looking for land so he could start his own farm.
It seems neither Antu nor his plants would ever be too far apart from each other. Adenium Antu will always pursue his dreams of rain and a garden, even in the desert sand.