Half life

For a long time, I used to sit by the windows with a warm cup of tea while thinking about what this all meant, the grander picture of what it meant to be human, or in retrospect, what it meant to be a Bengali. In my tiny room, which in another life used to belong to my older sister, there was this big bookshelf that almost touched the ceiling with thickly bound paperbacks! My sister had this fixation of ripping out the original covers of a book that she had purchased and replacing it with a white binding! White covers made out of old calendar pages, which usually are completely blank on one side! She did it so that the books do not have any identification markers on any of the surfaces! She used to believe that the idioms and phrases born out of stereotypes usually strengthen it more! And so, if a book didn't have covers, how else can it be judged except reading it? And that's how, within her short life span, she had successfully erased the idiom never judge a book by its cover at least in her own reality.

The books I used to read in that self-made solitude of mine were nothing special! The usual teen thrillers. Books of Rick Riordan, Haggard, tin goyenda, and what not! But my eyes, even when it was heavily enticed and lost in the fantasy lands of Egypt or Amazonia seeking Aztecs lost city of gold, unbeknownst to me, would wander off to this particular rack of that shelf which was usually locked! Because, in this singular rack, every single book had its covers intact! They always looked so pristine! So what I used to do was tippy-toe up to the shelves, shove my face on the glass panes and take deep breaths! It always smelt like a book printing press, thick aroma of ink and offset papers! And when she had given me a key and access to that rack, what I had picked up from there was Marcel Prousts In search of lost time and Shirshendus' Parthib! Books that talk of culture out of my own borders while explicitly painting the basest of human emotions!

It had taken me a while to understand the lesson in all this! When I started taking longer than usual to turn the pages, I had realized that the care I was and still am bestowing to these books is because its prerogative was not handed down to me! I had to earn it!

A few hours ago, I was making the usual silly jokes with dada, expressing how I would always have a few spare bedrooms and royal bengal hospitality waiting if he ever chose to visit Bangladesh! And then the conversation had taken a turn towards a course which I do not like! Because it attests to my flaws, our flaws as a nation that has neglected to be welcoming. Failed to make our land welcoming towards its misplaced children! Children who have in a way furnished us with peace while still not residing inside our own borders, yet we have never ever recognized their unconditional love.

In 'Joddopi Amar Guru', when Ahmed Sofa meets his scrupulous mentor, Professor Razzak, he had narrated to him this one metaphoric remark about how you could recognize the psyche of a nation. To understand them, one has to visit their book shops and their farmers' markets! To see what they read, and what they eat! By visiting the bookshops, one would perceive their psychology, and by visiting the markets, one should know how happy they are! In my opinion, this might be the only way a nation might be able to communicate the extent of how welcoming they are! Unfortunately in which, are stuck at sub-par!

But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?


If I have begun to sound like a nihilistic cynic who knows only how to blame but not to give any solution, you might be right! But I do have answers, which are much more complicated yet answers nonetheless! And to find that, we have to take a journey in the past, approximately 69 years ago! There is no single nation in the world's history that has managed to set a precedent like us. After seven years of discrimination, on the 21st of February of 1952, we had bled, died, and earned the right to our freedom of speech! In today's world, that is a very vague and politically incorrect term, yet a demographic of 250 million can freely talk in Bangla because we have earned it! We had successfully revolutionized how we humans care for our mother tongue. And how did we do that, you might ask? With Nothing but sheer determination!

But there is a massive flaw in the above-stated argument! Whenever we get patriotic, we metamorph and start throwing around the revolutions our ancestors had shared with us to win discourses! What this does is speak out loud about our chauvinism but massively fail to show it! Because rebellion is built on hope. It is an experience which to understand, one has to live it! And so, for once, if we break away from our usual perspective, decide to put on their shoes and imagine the blood, sweats dripping from our forehead and the bullet holes in our chests, only then will we be able to understand what true patriotism is. For once, instead of thinking about what our nation has failed to give us if we look at what we as its subjects have been unable to give back, only then would we see what it truly means to be a bangli. As because, to be bangal, it must be earned! And to earn it, we must change.


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