The Diversity of Village Life
Village life in Bangladesh is full of life, full of diversity. Lives of those in rural Bangladesh, those who are educated and those that are not, is rife with crafts and talents. Unfortunately, very few amongst the more educated urban population of Bangladesh know this to be true. Even more so, urbanites even consider villagers to be less diverse and less creative, which, a deeper look with reveal is untrue. Children, women and men living in villages of Bangladesh are effortlessly inventive in their everyday lives.
Children of rural Bangladesh spend a lot of time playing in fields. If someone takes a close look at the intricate nature of the games they often create, and their associated rhymes, game rules, structure, body language, etc, then it will become clear how creative they are. Many of these games are modifications of existing ones, but village children tend to make these modifications on the fly as they go along! What drives them in the process is the community around them, the current social trends, culture, nature and above all, their strong sense of right and wrong.
Compared to these children, rural mothers are even more creative. In midst of their hectic routine of cooking, cleaning and maintaining the family, village women have displayed their creativity and skills through time. Creativity is embedded in the folds of the multi-tasking village women who simultaneously cook for the family and look after children, sew clothes and clean the house, etc. The famous Nakshi Kantha (decorative blanket) is one of the rural woman's major contributions to the culture of Bangladesh. Although Naskhi Kantha has a practical use as well, wall-hangings of the same pattern are purely decorative, which are also quite common in village households. Women who display the most beautiful creative handiwork on their walls often establish a position of respect amongst neighbours and contemporaries, perhaps this is one reason why wall hangings inspired by Nakshi Kantha is so commonly seen. Women are seen practicing this skill both before and after marriage. When age takes over and they can no longer sew at the same rate, village women are often seen sharing their experience and wisdom with younger generations, inspiring them to keep the tradition alive. The most important factor to be considered about such handicrafts is not that they help display women's skills and act as decorative elements, but that they are primarily used as gifts. When a marriage takes place, the mothers of the bride and groom often exchange decorative work that they have each stitched. Such tradition is still alive in rural Bangladesh.
Song and music is an integral part of rural Bangladesh. Women often sing songs that have been sung for generations, but they also modify songs in ways that bring them closer to their hearts. For example, when singing in a crowd sitting in the front yard of a house, they often change the names in a song to the names of the people present there. They add lines to existing songs to make them more relevant. Sometimes, such performances are elevated to a higher level when those involved dress up and put flashy makeup on to add flavor to the show. This makes for a spectacular event, because the woman who everyone knew, everyone's neighbour, has just been transformed to this new entity, singing and dancing everyone. Such performances are often seen to celebrate marriages, circumcisions, and at other rural household events which fascinate neighbours, relatives and friends, but such instances of creativity are not experienced by urban Bangladeshis. Often, village folk talk in riddles, adages, aphorisms and rhyme, which they connect to situations at hand, such as a prevailing weather phenomenon or disaster. Women also commonly express their emotions, happiness and sadness in the same way, underscoring their creativity.
The diversity of creativity is the highest in the village man. At the heart of it, a village man's creativity arises from his multiple tasks and occupations. From farmers to fishermen, potters, carpenters, musicians, and even businessmen have connected their work and skill to expressions of creativity. At village stage shows and plays, it's not uncommon to see almost every member of the audience participating in one way or the other, either in direction, singing or dancing. Without any formal training or practice, village folk are able to sing keeping tune with the main performer and they are often seen singing along, clapping with the beat of the musicians. The main performers are never seen to ask them to stop. In every aspect of village life, there is an inseparable facet ruled by creativity one thing that the Bangladeshi culture is rich in. I hope that those living far from their roots in tall concrete structure will not always be oblivious to the boundless creativity that is ubiquitous in rural Bangladesh.
Translated by Zahidul Naim Zakaria
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