Monday, February 20, 2006

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 (

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."


Anonymous pothik said...

I think you should recheck the defination of "identity crisis".

12:49 AM  
Blogger Razib Rashedin said...

I have checked and I think you are one of the victims !

10:27 AM  
Blogger Diganta said...

Well, to start with, you can add that there are more Bengali's than Hindi speaking Indians according to some statistics in Wikipedia. Why should we not stick to our language?

1:26 PM  
Blogger Salam Dhaka said...

You should check on who the people are that are controlling the Indian channels in Bangladesh?

Yes, very anti-India BNP guys.

1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

মোস্তফা জব্বর ও আগামী প্রকাশনীর ওসমান গনি গং

বাংলা আকাদেমীর আগামী প্রকাশনার স্টলে কলীগকে নিয়ে ঢু মারতে গেলাম জব্বর ডাইনোসরাসের বই দেখতে। তার বই কিনতে হলে তা কেবল তার মিথ্যাচারের রেফারেন্স হিসেবেই কেনা যায়। তার একটা বইয়ের নাম দেখে একটু উচ্চস্বরে বলে ফেল্লাম 'তিনি উপন্যাস ও লেখেন?'

তাতেই ঘটলো ঘটনাটাঃ

ওসমান গনি গং এর একজনের সাথে একটু তর্ক হল। স্বভাবত ই তিনি রেগে গেলেন। একে মোস্তফা জব্বর তার ওপর প্রকাশনী তার ওপর আগামী বলে কথা। ওসমান গনি সাহেবের ভাত রুটি বর্ধনে জব্বর সাহেবের চুরি করা বাংলা সফট ওয়্যার 'বিজয়' অনেক অবদান রেখেছে। তিনি কেন জব্বরের নামে সত্য কথায় কান দেবেন?

আমরা গনি সাহেবকে ওখানে দেখিনি, তিনি নুকিয়ে আমাদের কথা শুনেছেন এবং ক্ষেপেওছেন।

আমরা তার গং'এর একজনের সাথে ফালতু তর্ক না করেই ফিরে যাচ্ছিলাম। কিন্তু নিজেকে স্বমহিমায় হাজির করলেন গনি সাহেব। তিনি 'হ্যালো' বলে ডাকলেন। গেলাম তার কাছে। সালাম দিলাম এবং তার বইএর তালিকা চাইলাম যেটা তিনি সিডি তে আমাকে দেবেন বলে ১৬ দিন থেকে বলছেন। তিনি বল্লেন বাংলা বাজারের অফিস থেকে তার উপস্থিতিতে সিডিটা তুলে নিতে। আমরা তাকে ফোন করে সেখনে যাবো বলে চলে যাচ্ছিলাম।

পেছনে ফিরে দেখি কলীগ তাকে ইউনিকোড বোঝানোর চক্রে পড়ে গ্যাছে। প্রমাদ প্রমাদ। প্রমোদ প্রমোদ।

এক পর্যায়ে জব্বর সাহেবের সাহিত্যের ছাত্রত্ব উজাড় হলো। তিনি কেন সাহিত্য করতে পারবেন না তার জবাব পেলাম। তার ৭১'এর জন্য আমরা আজকে মুক্ত বাতাস নিতে পারছি বলে গাল দেয়া হল। কলীগটি বলে ফেল্ল তার ৭১'এর কাহিনী তো রেটরিক! ব্যাস আর যায় কই।

৭১ রেটরিক হ্যা? ৭১ রেটরিক?
না, জব্বরের ৭১ রেটরিক। এই ছিল কলীগের উত্তর।

এই পর্যায়ে গং এর মোহন রাইহান সাহেব থুতু ছিটিয়ে কাগজ কলম নিয়ে আমার ঠিকানা ও নাম লিখতে গেলে আমি ভুল ঠিকানা আর নাম দিয়ে দেই। তিনি কাপতে কাপতে তাই লিখে নেন এই বলে যে জব্বর সাহেবকে নিয়ে তিনি আমার অফিসে আসবেন এবং গনি সাহেবের কথা অনুসারে তারা প্রয়োজনে আমাকে মারবেন। কেন?

আমি বলেছিলাম জব্বর সাহেব লাইসেন্স ছাড়া কিছু নিরীহ বিজয় ব্যবহারকারীকে লোক পাঠিয়ে পিটিয়েছিলেন। এবং তর্কের খেই রাখতে যেয়ে গনি সাহেব স্বীকার করে নিয়েছিলেন যে তার বইও যদি কেউ নকল করে তবে তিনিও লোক পাঠিয়ে তাকে মারবেন। আর আমি কেবল
বলেছিলাম তিনি তা করতে পারেন না। কারন সেটা সন্ত্রাসী কাজ। কি পরিমানে ক্ষেপতে পারেন তিনি এতে তা আমি কল্পনা করতে পারি। তিনি আমাকে রাবিশ বলে আখ্যাইত করলেন।

আমি না ক্ষেপে তাকে শুধু বল্লাম 'আপনি তো জব্বরের বন্ধু'।

তারপর আমি রেগে গেলাম যখন কলীগটিকে চাপানো হচ্ছিল। ফিরে যাওয়ার সময় আরেকজনের থেকে শেখা মোক্ষম কথাটা তার বিপরীতে ছুড়ে দিলাম, হ্যা ছুড়লাম এবং লাগলোও। তিনি চিতকার করে বলতে গলেন 'আমি ছাগল? ঐ ধর ধর।'

হাহ! তিনি বা তার গং আমাদের ধরতে আসেননি।

তাদের সেই নীতিগত ভিত্তি ছিল না। আর আমরাও ছুটে পালাতে চেষ্টা করিনি। কারন আমরা কোনো অন্যায় করিনি। বাইরে এসে আমাদের গংকে যখন সব বল্লাম তখন সবাই খুবই আফসোস করলো ঘটনাটা দ্রুত ঘটে যাবার জন্য।

আমার কলীগের মূল বক্তব্য ছিল জব্বর সাহেব বাংলা কম্পিউটিংয়ের উত্তরনের পক্ষে বাধার মত। গনি সাহেব বলছিলেন আমরা কেনো জব্বর সাহেবকে ছাড়িয়ে নতুন কোনো কিছু করছি না। আমার কথা ছিল জব্বর সাহেব এত মিডিয়া পেলে আর এত মিথ্যা ভাবে নিজের কথা
বল্লে নতুন যারা আসছে তারা ভুল সিদ্ধান্তে ঘুরপাক খাবে। যেমন তিনি দেড় বছর আগে ইউনিকোডের বিরুদ্ধে কথা বল্লেও এই ২১শে ফেব্রুয়ারী বিটিভি'র এক সাক্ষাতকারে তিনি বল্লেন যে তিনি অনেক যুদ্ধ করে ইউনিকোডে 'ক্ষন্ড ত, দাড়ী, ও দুই দাড়ী' জয় করে এনেছেন। আরেকটা ৭১'এর অর্জনের মতই তা তার কাছে গৌরবকর। আমি মাথা চুলকালাম।

তিনি আরো বল্লেন যে এখনো 'অন্তস্থঃ ব' নিয়ে তিনি যুদ্ধ করে যাচ্ছেন।

আমরা ঐ অক্ষরটা আর ব্যভার কি করি?

আরেকটা ব্যাপার তিনি বোঝেননি যে এখন বই কেবল কাগজেই ছাপা হয় না। তার ওপর মোস্তফা জব্বর সাহেবের চাইতে ভাল কিছু দিয়ে তার ব্যবসার ভাগ চাইতে আমার নোলা সক সক করে না। তবে কাজটা অসম্ভবও না।

তারপর তিনি যা বল্লেন তা হল যেহেতু ইউনিকোডে এখন অনেক বেশী অক্ষর রাখা যায় তাই তিনি সবগুলো যূক্তাক্ষরকে একটা করে স্বতন্ত্র অক্ষরের মানে উত্তরন ঘটাবেন। আমি আলপনার কথা ভেবে হাসলাম এবং কাদলাম। না ফাজলামী না। আলপনার ইউনিকোড কী বোর্ড লে আউটের পিডিএফ কারো দরকার লাগলে বলতে পারেন। আর এই পাতায় বিজয়ের নাম দেখতে পেলে জানাবেন নিশ্চই নিশ্চুপে।

তার হাত ব্যাথার হাত, তার হাত লাঠির হাত।

**চন্দ্রবিন্দু বাংলাদেশীরা অত ব্যবহার করে না, তাই...

8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most Bangladeshis are obsessed with watching Indian movies and dislike Indians at the same time. The same can be said for Pakistanis. But it is my belief that most Pakistanis take their religious roots more seriously compared to Bangladeshis thus they can put up a fight with Indians. Nevertheless, in a violent manner.

Bangladeshis are completely lost. They do not take pride in their religion or heritage. Some Bangladeshis are simply satisfied with the fact that they weren't born into another religion. What makes you any better than the followers of other religions when you don't even practice your own religion. Moreover, you imitate other cultures! I once met a Bangladeshi girl, who had been living in the United States for over 16 years and does not have any command over the English language. However, she is fluent in Bangla and Hindi.

I am a Muslim from Bangladesh and I am disgusted by our lack of thinking and actions. From an objective point of view, many Bangladeshis, like other people, can be very extremist and violent in their behaviors. Esp. when it comes to political parties. Being violent and unIslamic seems to be a popular trend amongst Muslim countries all over the globe. There are too kinds of extremist in Muslim countries. Those who think they are following Islam (this a result of lack of education and trust in non-Muslims. (They will deceive you to go against your own country men and then they will come to the rescue of the victims. In the end, they are the good guys. You resort to violence like animals. Very sad state to live in when you have to turn to violence to solve your problems.) The other extremist is the one trying to be American/Indian. Your true identity lies in your religion not your country. All countries are tied to each other one way or another, they all share similar non-Islamic cultural backgrounds. Our ancestors shared similar cultures so it becomes hard to distinguish between what makes for an Indian and what is Bangladeshi. Its easy to say this in the comfort of my home, here in the safe and secure land of the United States. Don't get me wrong. We face plenty of indirect and direct biasness and discrimination. Esp. if you are South East Asian but you are not into cultural things. e.g. singing and dancing to Indian songs. etc. etc.

As someone who was brought up in a non-cultural (Bangladeshi, Indian, or American) environment I can say that I absorbed a little bit of the good in all cultures. The good in all cultures can be found in Islam. I believe that our problems are due to our lack of understanding of Islam and obsession towards the Indian and American culture.

Muslims all over the world are too busy trying to please Americans and Indians by eating their McDonald's burgers, Pepsi/Coca Cola, and religiously watching Indian movies and imitating Indian outfits. Often times they are distracted from realizing their own problems. Correcting their problem comes after realizing them. Often times one will be praised for being culturally rooted and being Bangladeshi even. But being a Muslim is more challenging than both because Islam's beliefs are contradictory to all cultural beliefs.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Sunny said...

I think you need to realize that change is happening in Bangladesh and you can't do nothign about it. It's part of life. Bangladeshis want to be with the crowd and they don't want to be left aside. Majority of the South Asians are Hindi/Urdu (Hindustani) speakers and you could say that language is the umbrella language of South Asia.

Don't get upset about this, Hindi/Urdu would be my third language which I know after bangla and English. Hindustani is spreading like wildfire in South Asia. Instead of looking at the negative aspects, look at the positive things such as the beautiful songs and poetry in Urdu. We are Bengalis and Bangla will always be our mother toungue and we will always speak that among ourselves but you can reach out more Desis with Hindustani.

We watch Hindi films and songs because they are in superior quality. The Indians spend so much money in creating incredible sets for their movies and Bangladeshis want to see that. Most bangladeshi movies are crappy and the directors still use 1980s cameras and they use just parks and lakes as their sets.

Not only that, Bangladesh is sorrounded by India in 3 sides so obviously the country will absorb India's influence.

As for "identy crisis" I think we need to dump the corrupt Bangla nationalism and encourage Islam. Islam is a path contrary to the Bengali culture, to be a pure Bengali is to be Hindu since Bengalis were origionally Hindu and the Bengali culture revolved around Hinduism. If you were a Muslim Bengali, you wouldn't use Bagwan for Allah would you?

My advice to you is intermigle with other desis and understand them and look at the entire picture of South Asia. Instead of being disgusted of Bengalis adopting Urdu and Hindi songs, learn why it's happening.

9:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hindi/ Urdu (Hindustani) is said to be the linga farca for some North Indian states (UP, Bihar,Haryana Madhya Pradesh). However, Bangla is the linga farca of West Bengal and Bangladesh. I dont know why you are so overwhelmed with Bollywood movies- They are not only popular in Bangladesh and Pakistan but also in Afghanistan, Tamil Nadu (which by the way is fiercely Dravidian), Sri Lanka, Nepal and also some Middle-Eastern States.

Another thing you said in your article is that Urdu is the mother tongue of Pakistanis- This is also not true. Only 7% of Pakistanis have Urdu as their mother tongue- They are the immigrants (muhajirs) or decendent of immigrants from India. Actually, the mother toungue of most Pakistanis is Punjabi followed by Pashto and Sindhi. Its true, that some people whose parents were native speakers of different languages have adopted Urdu which is the official language but it is in no way the mother tongue of most Pakistanis.

We take pride in Bengali but we should also not forget the importance of learning other languages and cultures. Bangla is the official language of Bangladesh and of West Bengal. Why do you think it will ever loose its significance? As a South Asian language, it is only second to Hindustani in terms of the number of speakers. I think at this point, we should be more focused on promoting English as a second language which will help increase Bangladesh's literacy rate which is just 43%. Tamils of Tamil Nadu had understood the importance of learning English in our modern world, and they saw a marked difference in their standard of education.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think u are taking to much offence in any other people matter.
You should focus on popularising Bangla rather than having offence in other people speaking their tongue.
My mother tontue is not bangla but I speak it very fluently and so does my family. I know 8 languages. We must promote all language because language is not matter of dispute but a way to express oneself.
May allah give you good judgement.

7:45 AM  

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