Within class and beyond
Beyond symbols and sentiments
Adages and bachans in Bangla
Globalization, language and Ekushey
Ekushey - towards secular democracy
Making Ekushey meaningful to the young
Intimations of Ekushey
Our pride, our sorrow, our joy
The elitist Ekushey
Rediscovering Ekushey February
Bangabandhu and Language Movement
Incipient nationalism and freedom
My first Ekushey
Bangla and Muslim era in India
Dhirendranath Datta: Glimpses of a life
A generation united and untied
The unforgettable
A privilege and a responsibility
Remembering Ekushey
It's a different February
Reflections on 21st February
When memory sweeps across history


It's a different February

Tanveerul Haque

So, it's February again. A month that's special for Bengalis, more so for Bangladeshis - the entire diaspora that reads, writes, speaks, breathes, lives and dreams in Bangla. The language that has brought mother tongues in the limelight in a world where English is becoming more and more the lingua franca, displacing all other languages on the global stage. The voice of globalization is English and we all vie to be not only fluent but gain a modicum of expertise in it. English creates the level playing field on the international forum. Our mother tongue enjoys a privileged position amongst all the languages in the world and has been recognized as such by the United Nations. Not only that, the 21st of February is now International Mother Language Day! The world recognizes the supreme sacrifices of the Bengali nation for their mother tongue. We all bask in the reflected glory of this rare honour.

But this February is different, dear reader don't you feel it? The nation seems to be reawakening from a stupor. Suddenly seeming to be finding its bearings after being tossed about in a prolonged violent storm! The sun threatens to break through from inside dark, ugly, menacing clouds. A pristine dawn beckons.

We have been through many Ekushey Februaries singing patriotic songs, holding candlelit vigils, participating in probhat feries, jostling for the right position in pictures published in the national dailies, walking barefoot through the city streets in homage to the language martyrs. But somehow, come March the spirit of February just plain vanishes to make its reappearance only a year later. The Shaheed Minar loses its coat of paint in the ensuing monsoon and we conveniently have collective amnesia of the events of 1952. More than the events itself, it is important to remember the spirit of the times. A newly born nation, tottering on unstable feet, even so, realizing and recognizing the fact of its distinct identity.

Over the years, the memories dimmed but the spirit lived on. When the spirit was brutally trampled upon in 1971 Bengali sentiments were inflamed and then exploded, leading to a violent, bloody war of independence. Bangladesh was born. High hopes were raised. Ekushey February returned with a vengeance. The collective memory was jolted. The spirit soared high. Then again it flagged and somewhere down the road, over the last 35 years it got lost.

Yes, all it takes is a few good men. Be assured that there are plenty of good men in this good country. They have become invisible. They have been banished to gulags of desolation. Just like bad money drives out good money bad people drive out good people. We hope and expect that there will be a real change of the guard. The proverbial Aladdin's Lamp, purloined by the opportunistic few belongs rightfully to the masses. Take government interference and meddling out of the public domain, let free enterprise bloom and you will see countless Aladdin's Lamps light up in the most unlikely of places. Let there be light.

Have you paid heed to the statistics emanating from the central bank? The rate of growth of the economy, the readymade garments sector, the foreign exchange reserves, the inward remittances from wage earners abroad are all going up and that too at a very encouraging rate.

It is February again. Is it a different February? The heart soars. Have we indeed left the cold, wintry, desolate days behind and are we looking towards a new spring? The cuckoos are already singing in the early morn are they singing a new tune?

The irrepressible optimist in me dreams of happier times but the caged hyenas of pessimism gnash their teeth and growl for the next opportunity to blow out the timorous flame of revival. Let's not be demoralized by the myriad problems that plague the nation. Let us make a beginning take one small step at a time. Let's heed the old Chinese proverb "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Tanveerul Haque reads, loves travel and is in business.

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