Who cares about Bangla, anyway ?
I remember during my sophomore year, I was working in an exam board during the summer time and then when it first struck me. I met a Bangladeshi guy who is educated to the masters’ level and working in the same place. He was always hanging out with his Pakistani friends and never really caring about his fellow brothers. But that was not the problem; I was stunned to see that this very Bangladeshi guy was speaking in Urdu all day, everyday just to impress his superior Pakistani friends. I remember asking him few times why he speaks in Urdu and every time he failed to come up with a reasonable answer. Well, you might be saying this might be a single case happening somewhere and you are drawing a conclusion based on that. But wait a second, I have more to say.
As I got surprised everyday of my life for the last few years I am sure you will be the same as you read through the rest of this article. Back in the University, the very next year, I met a guy studying law and his father was the then president of the Bar association in Bangladesh. I was expecting a rather polished personality in a young guy like him but guess what , this guy was surrounded by his nearest and dearest Pakistani friends like the other guy I talked about before and this guy was speaking Urdu even better than the first one. His Urdu was so fluent that many of the Pakistanis I knew used to tell me they don’t even know Urdu like this Bangladeshi guy. He even mastered Punjabi version of Urdu and was very proud of it. I know what you are thinking; this guy must be a Rajakar or a Pakistani lover. Oh no! You are absolutely and totally wrong. Just walk into his room and you will discover a large poster of Sheikh Mujib hanging in his wall. He is fluent in Urdu and a fierce supporter of Awami league at the same time. Life is strange. Isn’t it?
Bangladeshis have started migrating long time ago and they have done very good in terms of establishing themselves in foreign lands. The country I am residing now accommodates a large Sylheti population and they have done great in restaurant business. In fact, I was watching a program on Channel 4 few days ago called ‘The Great British Asian Invasion’ and the documentary showed how the people from Sylhet in Bangladesh have changed the taste of British people. But hearing that if you go out to look for a Bangladeshi or a Sylheti restaurant, you will be disheartened surely. What you will find instead is in almost every single area a restaurant having Sylheti owner but outside the restaurant it says ‘Indian cuisine’ and if you dare to go inside you will be hearing Hindi music all day , every day in every single Bangladeshi restaurants as if we don’t have our food or the music even. Strange and pathetic and God knows how many times I have been humiliated by my Indian friends pointing out to these fake Indian restaurants! Now I tried to get an answer for this Namkoron and I found various reasons ( apparently !) . The famous reasoning is most people would recognise India but not Bangladesh. Yeah but that could be a reason for excuse when Bangladeshis first came to UK in the 60's but now ? No way, simply beacuse people who are used to eating 'Indian Curry' already know that these meals are prepared by Bangladeshi people. Actually quite a few of the top Bangladeshi restaurants have managed to name themselves as Bangladshi cuisine and trust me - their business hasn't gone down since they have put the name Bangladesh on the front. So it's completety rubbish if somebody says it's for the business reason, it's probabaly beacuse they are ashamed of their identity at first place. Thanks God that number of Bangladshis having backbones are growing and they have started a campaign to put dine Bangladeshi logo in all the restaurants ( http://www.gbr.org.uk/page4.html).
I was watching channel i on internet and the show was 'Let's move' by Farzana Brownia. The show was all very good, as expected from media attention, but I suddenly stumbled when she was about to present a fake Sachin Tendulkar to a Bangladeshi fan. She presented the whole part of that show in fluent Hindi and the Bangladeshi fan was trying hard to speak in Hindi with the fake Sachin over the phone. I thought to myself this must be a generally accepted norm then otherwise how could somebody present a show in Hindi on national media and still get away with it. Is there any point complaining at all ? !
Here in UK and I guess in the rest of the world it's a default assumption among Indo/Pak people that anybody who looks brownish should be able to speak in Hindi/Urdu. So like you and me , many Bangladeshis face the same surprised remark-'Can't you speak in Hindi !!' . The difference is that there will be some Bangladeshis who will start speaking in their stylish Urdu to mingle with big brothers and there are others who will say 'NO' and stand aside.
Here is brilliant piece on 'Bangla' by a fellow Bangladeshi living in Canada:
"what is the seond language that the people of Bangladesh have fluency in? Well, probably there is no survey or statistics on this issue. But what do you think? Most probably hindi. From a rickshawala on the raods of dhaka to the highest educated bangladeshi guy or girl - Hindi is know to this range of the social class. Frowning? Take a look at this very site, the movies those are reviewed are 99% hindi! That means, the Bangladeshi communitiy those are living abroad are also hindi experts - as if the second language of our country! I have seen plenty of guys and girls who stammers a thousands times to express something simple in english, but very fluent in hindi! As far as I know, in most scools and colleges, mostly 2 languages are taught, Bangla and English. Arabic sometimes. But where did these hindi experts come from? Anyway, Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah expertised in 16 (or more) languages and he was given the title 'cholishnu bidda kolpodroom'. Which means the living moving dictionary. What have we become?
I am not discouraging anyone from learning hindi or any other language. But I am starting this thread from an agony. I live abroad and like most of the places in the world, in my city we've got a Bangladesh association. They regularly arrange programs for Bangladeshi people living in here. The responses are not bad. So, this time, I decided to give it a shot. And what I have experienced was really excruciating. Most of the songs those were sung were hindi, one couple perticipated in a dance show and probably taken from a hindi movie aswell. That was not all, there were some indian artists invited to entertain the audience with hindi music. I don't know what portion of the audience enjoyed the show, I didn't, couldn't. We swear at bangladeshi pop stars, band musicians. Accuse them of spoiling our cultural heritage by invoking western culture in. Renowned singers, writes are amongst these defamers. But they don't find guilt in practicing their talent in hindi! If you take a look at the favorite singers or songs or actors or actresses of bangladeshi artists, the chance of finding hindi superstars is fairly high. Well, I am not talking about those artists those are common faces in FDC. Take a look at the educated ones - those perticipate in baily road stages, intellectual movies, tv drama shows etc.
One guy couldnt find a better job because his english is so poor. But his indian friends were astonished when I told them, I can't speak hindi. They said, c'mon, we know Bangladeshis are not that good in english, but atleast they know hindi! Poor you!"
Here is a response to my article in BangladesherDak by Shaila Alam:
"There are actually more and more people in Dhaka who speak in Urdu. A year ago I went to visit an ex-colleague of mine. In the middle of our adda a Pakistani colleague of his for some input on some issue called him. I was appalled to see my ex-colleague reply to his queries in Urdu!! Of course thePakistani chap was also directing his questions in Urdu. As soon as he left I asked my ex-colleague why he had replied in Urdu and why couldn’t theother guy converse in English at least if he couldn’t speak Bengali. I got quite upset and told him that it was because of people like him that EkusheyFebruary was losing its purpose and significance. I couldn’t believe what he said next. He said Ekushey February is International Mother Language day and that Urdu was a mother language to Pakistanis and be given due respect. Iwas too disgusted and stunned to reply to that. A couple of years ago I went on a training workshop in Kuala Lumpur. There was a large contingent of Pakistanis there, around 30 of them and there were just 4 of us from Bangladesh. Every single one of them asked me if I could speak in Urdu. When I said I couldn’t there surprise and amazement knew no bounds. One guy evenwent to say, “I’m sure your parents know Urdu. Why don’t you?” I calmly informed him that my parents didn’t know Urdu either. If looks could kill Iwouldn’t be writing this e-mail to you. But it wouldn’t be fair to say all Pakistanis are like that. My favorite teacher from school days is a Pakistani and so is one of my ex-colleagues who is a good friend. They have never presumed to say I know Urdu or even spoken to me in it.
There is a massive identity crisis. Here in Bangladesh as well as in Dhaka.I almost hate watching Hindi channels on cable TV but I see my extended family conversing about which serial they watched and what happened to the characters and what not. Don’t know if you came across the latest craze i.e.Indian Idol (off shoot of American Idol). People went ballistic over here.The super rich here went as far as to go to India to cast their votes. It is pathetic how we have lost our morals and principles. And it is even sadder that history has not been documented because the Indians made sure all our buddhijibees were killed before they ‘created us’. I think our parent generation has lost the drive and motivation to teach their children about what is true and what really happened. Nobody talks about it. If you do youare ‘politically’ motivated. This is way too alarming. I don’t know what to tell my kids."