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Saturday October 23, 2021

A Love so Strong

21 February International Mother Language Day

21 is a magical number. In a lot of places in this world, you are considered an adult at this age. 21 is also a magical number associated with another beautiful element in human civilization. That is, language.

The ultimate tool we humans have been using/misusing to communicate from our rawest emotions to art/ literature and even spirituality among many other spheres is language. Mother tongue presides over other languages we may gradually learn well later in life.

International Mother Language Day procession

21st February is celebrated as International Mother language day all over the world. For the love of mother language, for the love of Bangla, Bengalis rebelled against their unjust government and started a revolution to establish Bangla as their main language and not Urdu.

The language movement on 21st February 1952 is a landmark date for our beautiful mother tongue. The present Bangladesh (then called East Pakistan) is the birthplace that sparked this revolution. The history has a lot of blood and betrayals in it. We can easily learn about this form of adoration towards one’s own language which later, after nearly two decades, formulated into a different country named after the language itself; “Bangladesh” in another discussion or any book on the history of Bangladesh.

I am not going to dwell in that area tonight. I want to convey what it means to me as a Bangladeshi to have and cherish my mother tongue as my birth right in a free nation. Our parents were not that lucky, my generation and generations after that, own this as our right, we take it for granted. We are an arrogant bunch, we surely are. I did too take all these for granted, unknowingly, and later found out what it means to really have this simple pleasure of talking, singing, crying, fighting in my most cozy form of communication, my Bangla.

I am not going to dwell in that area tonight. I want to convey what it means to me as a Bangladeshi to have and cherish my mother tongue as my birth right in a free nation.

I have lived without my parents in a far away western country for nearly two decades now. Whenever I go back home to them, I keep on calling ammu/maa even if I do not really need my mother to respond to me. Its just that I miss calling out to my mother in Bangla. The connection between a mother and child is the simplest yet the deepest connection, be it in humans or other sentient beings. I miss that when I am away from them. I could not go back to Bangladesh for nearly eight years in between and as soon as I visited my parent’s in Dhaka, I knew what I pined for so long. The revelation took me by surprise.

A country which talks, thinks, laughs, cries, fights, and rebels in one language as our own, Bangla. And to call out to your mother in your own way, own words after nearly a decade meant the world to me. It felt so good calling out to her, and I surely went overboard thus at one point, my ammu got irritated with me. Even that irritation I took as warmth and a form of love from my own. My mother. To me, my country and my Bangla in many ways is like my mother. I may have a love and hate relationship with them just like I have in some forms with my own mother, but no one can hold a candle to her in front of me. To me, she is the most beautiful and best mother in this world, just like Bangla is the sweetest and most passionate language to me, it feels like home. Bangla is home. Maybe I am biased. Which love is not?

Motif (alpana in Bengali) painted on the road on 21st February

I come from a family of rebels and freedom fighters. My father, uncles and aunts not only fought in our freedom war of 1971 for the birth of Bangladesh, some also were actively involved in the language movement during 1952 and afterwards. Maybe that passion somehow got carried on to me through blood, DNA or just love. The first song I learnt from my father, surprisingly is the famous song always sung on 21st February all over Bangladesh.

“আমার ভাইয়ের রক্তে রাঙানো একুশে ফেব্রুয়ারি,
আমি কি ভুলিতে পারি?”

I was incredibly young when I first learnt it and my father did not teach me the history behind this song then. He just made me sit with him and sing the song couple of times until I started singing by my own. The words made me sad though. I have an elder brother and my young heart wept out secretly thinking what if my brother got hurt, what if blood came out from him?

Slowly, I learnt about the history of our language movement as Bangalis during 1952 and then our liberation war of 1971 for formation of Bangladesh from various sources. Schools taught us the usual textbook stuff. Textbooks cannot create love inside of you just by documenting history. We surely could not live through those times. I was lucky enough to get glimpses of our forefather’s stories as a freedom fighter, rebels through different periods of my life. Be it a shot of their memory lane or a book they wrote based on their experience or through other literature, music, movies, and documentaries. Think about it, these all require language in any kind of form, doesn’t it? Language is that important and we Bangladeshis proved it to our oppressors on this day in the year 1952. We shed blood, we stood eye to eye in front of raging bullets and crushed the fear of death with love of Bangla in our lion hearts.

We human beings believe we are the smartest species in this world because we have higher intelligence and the first proof of that is language itself. Though, I like to believe other living beings do have secret languages of their own. we are just not there yet to comprehend them. Science is getting there. Isn’t that exciting? Learning always is, to me.

So why the love for language will not be celebrated, rejoined and fought for with grandeur?

To me, my country and my Bangla in many ways is like my mother. I may have a love and hate relationship with them just like I have in some forms with my own mother, but no one can hold a candle to her in front of me.

I know it is a global world now and some may think love for a specific language or land is kind of excessive. I do not think so. Some loves are needed. Languages all over the world are turning extinct every year now just like many other living species.

My Bangla language is always flourishing in numbers of people who speak it, if not love it with their whole. But rest be assured, just because one language is a part of me, does not give me the right or inclination to put other languages down. I wish I knew all the languages in this world. I could know so many human stories, literature, lyrics, and folklores told in their own manner and not a translated one. Some things do get lost in translation, moods to be specific.

In this new world full of sickness, greed, death, and injustice; lets rejoice and celebrate the love that is already in us, a part of us. Bangla is a part of me. Even now, when I am typing in English, a language I love and use very frequently; I am saying all these in my brain in Bangla.

Simultaneously.

If that is not love, without trying then what is? Just like my name, my mother tongue is also a part of my identity.

Let us share our love, our Bangla with love. Through our music, words, even thoughts. Not all love can be shared but this one love surely can. Let us try to preserve this sweet tongue of ours with honest history preservation and due respect. Our ancestors sacrificed their lives willingly to give us courage. That courage gave us hope, hope for a sovereign nation afterwards.

International Mother Language Day
Shaheed Minar decorated by students on 21st February

Bangladesh remembers this day with music, theater, literature in Bangla with book fairs and fairs representing the spirit of Bangla. The early morning rally towards the “Shohid Minar” starts this day by paying homage to our language fighters. As far as I know, till now 25 other countries in this world also has “Shohid Minar” erected on their land.  

 The whole world has been celebrating all mother languages on this special day. A love for one volumed up to love and adoration for all others. UNESCO announced 21st February as International mother language day on 17th November of 1999 and since year 2000 it has been celebrated officially all over the world.

That is how strong and pure this love is.

And this love is what I love. The love we put into preservation of linguistic diversity in our communities, home and all around this world. The urge to communicate and the tools to make it happen are always to be treasured. And we treasure Bangla. Just like our mother land. Just like our Maa. Just as sweet, oh so divine!

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