Vol. 4 Num 218 Mon. January 05, 2004  

Bangla, not Bengali, please

I am an expatriate Bangladeshi on vacation here now. Ever since my arrival from Australia here a few days ago I had been a regular and keen reader of The Daily Star. It has given me immense pleasure in reading your newspaper as it covers a wide range of news and current affairs. The post-editorial opinion page includes articles of high standard and quality which are no less prestigious than the foreign political opinion coverage, if not better.

The reading of one such opinion article of 29 December 2003 had obliged me to write this. The article I am referring to was written by Hafeezul Alam entitled "Civil society needs to be perked up right away". The article refers to the names of two distinguished sons of Bangladesh Dr B.Chowdhury and Dr Kamal Hossain. Their continued contribution to the social life of Bangladesh had enlightened me. However enlightenment I may have gained I was equally disheartened to notice that the word 'Bengali' had been used to depict our beloved language Bangla that we speak. Bengali is a word probably was used as a translation of Bangla by our past colonial rulers to suit their convenience. It should be about time we realise the fact that there cannot be a translation of the name of a language. We must without any further delay universally adopt the name Bangla for our language and abolish altogether the translated word 'Bengali' from the vocabulary sooner the better.

As expats we had been working extremely hard to keep Bangla and our culture alive among our next generation. For last few continuous years I had been an integral part of a working group who were actively pursuing to include Bangla in our state schools whereby our sons and daughters could take up Bangla as a second language in their school-leaving exams. We are not successful yet but a lot of progress had been made and now the early-education school children are getting scope to learn Bangla at primary level. Hopefully it will be promoted to high school and university levels one day soon.

We are promoting the name of our language as Bangla at every opportunity that comes to our hand. To universally achieve that goal we need the assistance from home as well. It gave me much-needed comfort when you used the word Bangla in your editorial covering the tragic loss of 15 members of our elite armed forces in the air crash in Benin. We need this kind of educative publicity among our citizenry. Bangla Academy or similar organisational forums could be used as means of more publicity.

It does not bode well to use a translated name for the language for which blood had been shed for the right to speak and hence that day was marked as an international day and event of the last millennium. We must not make ourselves less admired in the eyes of our international well-wishers and admirers.

I want to take this opportunity to highlight one other issue which requires attention. To us the expats, the change of spelling of our capital Dhaka in line with the pronunciation was a most pleasing news of the eighties of last millennium. Such reform should apply to other spheres such as adopting 'Chattagram' for Chittagong that comes to mind. One does not have to go further than neighbouring India to notice that Mumbai has been adopted for Bombay, Chenai for Madras, Kolkata for Calcutta and so on. That will help us shake off the legacies of our colonial past and the universal use of Bangla would reflect the nation we live in and represent abroad.