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A few days ago, I was surfing the Bangla TV channels when I came across a moving and beautiful advertisement. I was hooked, and instantly. It showed a few young Bangladeshis reading out excerpts from letters to a crowd. The advertisement ended with the young readers closing the book and echoing, one by one, 'tomar shontan'.

This advertisement announced the publication of 'Ekattorer Chithi', a book of compiled letters from, and, in some cases, to the muktijoddhas during the liberation war of 1971. The book, a joint effort by Grammenphone and Prothom Alo, is being distributed in bookstores now, starting from March 28.

Portions of the original letters written appear in the upper corners of the books so that you can clearly see the handwriting of the writers and printed Bangla versions follow below. The letters are followed by short descriptions- of the liberation war fighters who wrote the letters (and the operations in which they died, or their addresses if they are alive), of the receivers of the letters and of the identity of the people who sent the letters.

All the letters of 'Ekattorer Chithi' have one thing in common. The will to bring about Bangladesh, whatever the consequences- patriotism in the face of danger and love. Love for one's own family, love for one's fellow soldiers, and love for the country, because really, how can you fight a just war without love and the belief that things will change for the better? A son writes to his mother, “Shohid hoye omor hobo, gazi hoye tomari kole phire ashbo ma; mago, joyi amra hoboi; doa rekho; Joy Bangla!” This letter, the footnote explains, was found in the pocket of the muktijoddha when he was injured in the war. He died of the injuries shortly afterwards. Writes another son, “Tumi bolechile, khoka more deshta shadhin aina de, tai ami pichupa hoini, hobo na, deshtake shadhin korboi'.

The letters often describe details of the operations that the war heroes carried out and pieces of their lives from the warfront. At the same time, the letters also contain the hovering presence and undeniable threat of death. Another fighter writes, 'Moron ke boron kore amar jatra shuru korlam. Amar jonno dukkho korben na. Mone korben, ami more gechi'.

This book intertwines tragic stories of death and the war with the overwhelming hope and inspiration that created our country. These stories are as personal as they are universal. Please go ahead and read it- because this is not one of those 21st February, 26th March or

December 16 fashion fads- it is a tale spanning our invincibly courageous liberation war and the unsung tales of the people who have made our freedom possible.

By Anika Tabassum


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