Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, February 03, 2011

Formality

By Nayeem Islam

By the time you are reading this article, the buzz surrounding the use of distorted Bangla language will have already begun. Each year in February, a group of writers, critics and language experts raise their voices against what they believe is the distorted pronunciation of our mother tongue by the current generation of Bangalis. The media is flooded with reports, criticisms and articles about this issue and some people even go to the extent of suggesting that laws should be enacted which will force authors, directors and the media in general to incorporate the use of a standardised Bangla language in their creations. The young generation is also routinely castigated for mixing English and Bangla languages in their conversations, which is taken as an insult to the mother tongue. And the criticisms are not surprising considering they are coming from an infuriated generation of Bangalis who had secured our right to speak in the mother tongue through blood and sweat.

But it is also surprising that the calls for standardised pronunciation of Bangla language in our daily lives vanish as soon as the month of February ends. All reports, criticisms and articles are stored in the cupboard for another year until February arrives again. The above phenomenon only serves to exemplify how critical issues in our life have become centred on mere 'moments' only. Unfortunately the buzz surrounding Bangla language is only a part of a long list of our 'moment' centric lives:

Culture: The start of the Bangla New Year might mean nothing to the urban populace heavily reliant on the Gregorian calendar, but it still retains its importance for the people living in rural areas -especially the farmers because the crop seasons are still associated with the Bangla calendar. Eating traditional breakfast of panta bhaat (cooked rice soaked with water), green chillies, onion, and fried hilsa fish on the first day of the Bangla New Year has become a part and parcel of the vibrant celebrations of the occasion throughout the nation. And while throngs of people pay large chunks of their money to enjoy this delicacy on the 14th of April every year, for a lot of people it is the only day of the year that they have an opportunity to eat panta bhaat and fried hilsa. That is strange considering the fact that panta bhaat and fried hilsa fish is much cheaper than the fast food we eat throughout the year.

Once a teacher of an English medium school asked his students, dressed in yellow saris and white panjabis on Pahela Falgun, the names of the 12 months of the Bangla calendar in the correct order. And the result was academic with majority of students failing to name the 12 months properly even in incorrect order because in reality observance of such occasions remains rooted to the realms of our clothing only. In other words, like mere dumb, driven cattle, we are celebrating occasions that to us are at best irrelevant and at worst alien.

Patriotism: The month of March and December are special to us as Bangladeshi citizens because the 26th of March and 16th December represent critical junctures in the history of our nation. Imbued with the spirit of patriotism on these two days, we hoist our national flags on our buildings and even in our cars. While the display of patriotic feelings on national holidays must be praised, the lack of it on the other days of the year must be condemned. At each football World Cup, we incredulously observe that flags of other nations have been given a place on our rooftops at the expense of our national flag. And to describe this phenomenon as the love for football speaks volumes about the perfunctory nature of our patriotism, only limited to three or four days of the year.

Relationships: Do you love your mother only on Mother's day? Is love for your father only restricted inside Father's day? If your answer is a resounding 'NO', its better you don't celebrate these days at all. These days are only important to the Western world because it is the only time of the year they might be able to say hello to their mother and father incarcerated within old homes. Valentine's Day, Father's Day, and Mother's Day to name a few only make an occasion of celebration out of nothing. With your participation, you become the bait of businessmen who are ready to turn every day of the year into a money-spinning 'special' day.

By leading a life where our patriotism, culture or relationships are confined within the domain of days only, we run the risk of reducing our life to a mere formality. And formality is one stubborn stain our life can live without.

 

 
 

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