Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 8, Tuesday February 19, 2008




Through their eyes

Shongram ami dekhini
Tobu rokto keno raate
Khola akasher niche
Keno she haat paate
Lobher gondho peye
She boshe durniti korte
Omanush hoe bole amay ebhabei cholte

THE subject of the events leading to our Liberation War is a vague and uneasy one for most young people born after 1971. On one hand, there's the fact that history books keep changing their tune with every change of government. On the other is the irresistible force of cultural imperialism under the banner of globalisation; media messages loaded with images and values from Hollywood and Bollywood and beyond, constantly bombarding us from all sides. We stand in the awkward middle, cringing under the criticism by the preceding generation about our apparent identity crisis, even as we watch cynically as our own countrymen bring our nation to heel with atrocities just as heinous as those committed by foreign enemies.

As harsh as it may sound, our history isn't amongst the top concerns for our youth. This is not to say that the sacrifices made by the heroes of those times have gone unnoticed by the present generation; many have family members personally affected by the War, and other injustice meted out to them even before them. However, what concerns them more is where the country has gone since then, and this frequently comes across in the songs we write, perform, and listen to today.

"Being born in the 80's, we've had the freedom of calling ourselves Bangladeshis but apparently we've missed the 'Golden days' of this place that we live in, as we're told by our previous generations. So growing up from a young boy to a teenager and finally to an adult, a lot of people would agree that we haven't seen a lot of good happening to our country. Not a single leader to lead us or to inspire us, people frustrated and ignorantly numb to everything that's going on around them. Political turmoil, corruption, and poverty haven't inspired me but have alarmed me and have forced me to write what I've written," says Zohad.

Caught between cultures, young people today struggle to make sense of a world that sends them so many mixed messages. You have those 'posh' young parents who refuse to speak to their children in any other language than English, hoping the kids will become fluent in the global language. Then you have those grim and forbidding Bangla teachers who keep lecturing their students on their poor command of their mother tongue.

"I mean, who are we really? What is our culture? If culture can change, then why is there so much fuss about us losing our culture? There is just so much hypocrisy," grumbles Dio. Indeed, many feel that they are being condemned for not knowing what they have not even been taught in the first place.

Bolo keno
Tomari kotha shune aaj amra choli
Deyal bhenge
Tukro kore aaj cholo amra chhuti

The fact remains that the youth packs an enormous potential, and in spite of all the criticism and scepticism they face from their elders. With a world of influences from the world at large, they are striving to re-interpret their patriotism, and their love for their own language in their own way. Their songs, their poetry, and their work speak for themselves. Social ills, corruption, environmental disasters and the like form their subject matter and they are not afraid to speak out, in ways they are comfortable with. Furthermore, they are not afraid to point out what they think is wrong.

"I am more comfortable speaking and writing English, but that doesn't mean I give Bangla any less importance. When in anger or jest, I find myself best able to express myself in my mother tongue. I was reading "Of Blood and Fire" a translation of Jahanara Imam's 'Ekatturer Dinguli", a novel about the Liberation War, and it got me thinking about all that our predecessors suffered. Then, while listening to Cryptic Fate's 'Cholo Bangladesh', I found myself writing Bangla poetry, trying to express how I felt about the War, and Bangladesh since then" says Farshid. He adds "Instead of criticising us about our weak Bangla, or our lack of knowledge about history, the educational system should be repaired. They should change the way these subjects are taught in the classrooms, so that students can appreciate their importance. I never enjoyed the way all my Bangla teachers had this mindset that we were 'Westernised' and therefore hopeless. I also think there should be more access to books suitable for people our age."

Anika, a young fan of Zafar Iqbal, disagrees. "It's not that we have a dearth of good writers. People like Zafar Iqbal and Anisul Huq are very prolific, and the Ekushey Book Fair always manages to bring forth promising new reads, even by other authors. We just need to make the effort to go look for them, although, I think this has already started to happen."

Kibhabe amake bodle debe
Kibhabe amake noshto korbe
Kibhabe amake dhongsho korbe
Parbe na, parbe na kichhui korte

The "Benglish" that is so frowned upon by parents and teachers of a previous generation is just a way of expressing their bilingual identity, showing the world they are comfortable with both their mother tongue and the global tongue.

Yet, the 'Djuice Dictionary' was met with criticism not only by the language purists of the previous generation, but also by angry teens. "I'm sorry, but 'ajaira pechal' and 'pura tashki' isn't how we speak. There are people out there who use that kind of language, but they form a very small part of the population, and I speak for both English and Bangla medium students. To say that this represents us is a distortion of who we are” says Faria.

So there we have it. Whether they prefer to wear jeans or watch Bollywood movies, today's young are aware of the culture they come from, and have their own ways of showing it.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
Lyrics from 'Joyoddhoni' by Nemesis
Photo: Aarong



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