Spirit of Ekushey February

Khaleda Mariam Sajjad

Every year Ekushey February comes to us showering over us that sense of ' reliving' in an era when you think, write, dress and behave like a Bangali. For a month we are engaged in certain activities that take place only this month. Boi Mela and other cultural activities, workshops, award giving ceremonies, celebrating Ekushey February in schools, colleges, universities etc is practised by the young and old to pay respect to the sacrifice made by the sons of this country who did not hesitate to lay down their lives for the love of their language and motherland under hostile circumstances.

The Boi Mela, from the first day of February, is not only a fair for highlighting new publications, awarding writers or measuring the popularity of a writer, young or old, bold or timid, experienced or naive. It is a celebration of the identity of a nation. A nation that can hold on to so much of love and respect for its language, its culture and tradition, its music and literature, its art and lifestyle, its love for its people , for a month has the potential to take it to a level unimaginable by many. It is possible to have the model Bangladesh we have dreamed of for years on. A Bangladesh where no one will go hungry, where there will be no injustice , no class discrimination, where there will be plenty in the fields ,a Bangladesh where everyone will help everyone. We dream of a Bangladesh where honesty, integrity, honour and self dignity and dedication will be the soul of the nation.

As February sets in we get busy with superficial activities that is confined only to this month. We fail to take these practices and preachings beyond the activities of this month, as a nation as we haven't ever stopped and searched for our soul. It is retained and to some extent revived in March, and again in December, but by only those related to the Liberation War. Where and in who do we search for, in identifying the soul of our nation when our political leaders seem to be devoid of a soul. If SQC is considered by a political party to be so important for inclusion as a member for the party's participation in the parliament, if Ershad can still ramble as he has shown with audacity recently, as when certain reports in the newspaper shocks us and makes us wonder why it has happened, we certainly must look into our selves and into the soul of our nation on which our identity exists.

A nation that has been born out of so much of bloodshed, rape, looting, burning down of village after village, insurmountable sufferings experienced by old and young alike, indiscriminate killings of the innocent and the intellectuals, humiliation met at the hands of Pakistani soldiers in every possible place ;could not have emerged without a soul. So much of blood could not have just gone in vain.

The nation has been experiencing the acts of the 'evil genii' since the repatriation took place. The father of the nation with his family members and many others just perished in a series of events that followed over a long period. The machinations are still active. Through some of their speech and action they remind us of their role in the past and gives a warning for the future. This nation that celebrates Ekushey February with such pomp and fervour needs to be more vigilant, needs to retain and regain its identity..

The soul of a nation lies in the quality of the people. The quality of the people decides the quality of the leaders. When the people are given incorrect lessons through wrong practices by powerful quarters , the very ordinary and innocent begin to have wrong values, becomes unethical morally and culturally. Since this practice has been going on by majority of the powerful quarters for decades, we have a sorry plight ahead.

There are citizens who are working unselfishly to bring back that sense of dignity and honour to the people in the nation. The younger generation has taken the lead role to correct our unfulfilled task and hopefully more will join hands. Our responsibility right now is to have role models for these dedicated enthusiasts. Let us not push them to frustration and force them to compromise.

The basic requirement in the character of an individual right now is respect and honour, humility, honesty and integrity. These qualities are inherent and needs to be nurtured. In no way can we make the mistake of putting in front of our youngsters: liars and imposters as leaders of tomorrow.

A nation that had a high illiteracy rate, problem with population and poverty, could yet boast of strong moral principles. Its older generation had wisdom and helped the youngsters learn about religious teachings, ethics and morals. But that was yesterday. In today's Bangladesh we have to sit down and do some soul searching to get back our true 'self'. For this we must instill in the minds of our citizens the traits of a true Bangali, not only in February or in Pohela Baishakh but through practising good moral character as a Bangali throughout the year. Let us all work with honesty and dedication, let us truly love this land ,its people and language and be proud Bangladeshis.

In an age when transparency is the prerequisite for survival, when a word, an action or a wrong decision is recorded for future analysis, when nations are taking decisions through technology, let all Bangalis separate themselves from greed, arrogance and pride. On Ekushey February let our leaders show us what the force of unity in a nation can help attain for its people. Let the spirit of Ekushey February be alive throught the year.

Khaleda Mariam Sajjad is a teacher and critic

Photo: Palash Khan