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21 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Amar Ekushey : International Mother Language Day

M N Kundu
Amar Ekushey : International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day is being celebrated since 2000 as per UN resolution taken in 1999 carries special weight and significance for Bangladesh as Shaheed Dibas as well as it commemorates the supreme sacrifice of language martyrs - Rafiq, Jabbar, Salam and Barkat who were brutally killed by Pakistani force  in Dhaka on 21st February in 1952 for pioneering language movement against unilateral imposition of Urdu as official language. The day is duly celebrated in Bangladesh by laying flowers at the Shaheed Minar and replications of that monument along with various solemn and sombre celebrations. February 21 symbolizes culture, inspiration, dedication and spirit of revolt against suppression and oppression.

It is also the day to renew our pledge for more  use and enrichment of our mother language Bengali, a prominent international language with sonorous sweetness, spontaneous cadence, subtle suggestiveness and mellow music to ears which has also become a powerful medium in the hands of worthy writers of international repute who have made us feel reasonably proud. Our language and literature bears testimony to the fact that pen can be mightier than sword, solidarity can be created with linguistic commonness and sovereignty can be attained through language movement at genesis.

Never before in the history of human race had mother language given so much solidarity to a nation in utter oblivion of diversity of caste, creed or religion. Never before intense love for mother language led to liberation war for having right to self-determination and eventual attainment of the same with supreme sacrifice of innumerable people involving glorious bloodshed for linguistic cause. Never before we have seen a nation ecstatic with love for language and culture. And all these led to acceptance of 21st February as 'International Mother Language Day' by the UN to give recognition to the language movement in erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

Language as means of communication and self-expression is like a living organism constantly changing and having its growth, development and decay. On the other hand, it provides sustenance to the spirit of nationalism and nourishment of culture much more than anything else. Naturally mother language is much more than a mere language having the status of mother which indeed is unique and incomparable as there is no substitute for mother. Other languages can be fair medium of communication but mother language is our élan vital, identity and an essence of existence.

Ideally, mother language should be the medium of education provided sufficient reading material is available there. It should also be used for all official purpose to the extent possible. Workmanlike, prosaic use of language is possible in any known language. But real creative work needs mother language for invocation of intuition and emotion through neuro-linguistic programmes. Our thinking, feeling and willing are rooted in neuro-linguistic programmes preoccupied with ideas.  Mother language is not a mere alphabet, vocabulary or grammar or mere means of communication. It is an essential part of our culture, heritage, identity and integral part of existence.  So it must be remembered that mother language is not just like any other language but distinctly different and much more.

Since nowadays we are living in a global village and horizon of our existence has been highly circumscribed by economic concerns we are paying much less heed to such emotional issues and affording to ignore its faster development and fast decay while it should be developed by the entire community.

But the silver lining is that there still are considerable souls dedicated to development of our mother language and literature. Anybody visiting Ekushey Boi Mela or Kolkata Book Fair will be surprised to see the plenty, variety and magnitude of creations in Bengali.

We have a wonderful legacy of Bengali literature developed over a period of past thousand years or so. Contributions from various religious communities have enriched its rich storehouse. So a secular approach to literature with a sense of openness and all-embracing largeness does justice to Bengali literature for proper nourishment and assimilation of diversity. In this matter we must take inspiration from Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national poet of Bangladesh who was an ideal secularist in life and literature.

It would be grossly incorrect to assume that our mother language provides only a spectrum of emotions. Our mother language Bengali is undoubtedly a haven for emotion and intellect for expression of human excellence and suitable for prosaic, scientific as well as poetic expression.

Rabindranath Tagore in his Banglabhasa Parichay has amply elaborated the nuances in Bengali grammar and expression having several subtleties. Multiple meaning of words and grammatical variations defeat our dictionary understanding of vocabulary. For instance a foreigner learnt little Bengali and read Tagore's Puratan Bhritta but could not understand the meaning of buddhir dhenki. He asked the poet who explained that it was used in appreciation of the servant's intelligence. That foreigner tried to use it on other scholars and quite naturally all of them took exception.  Tagore himself was amazed to read Sukumar Ray's Khai  Khai in which the poet showed the use of  the word khai with innumerable significance which no dictionary can teach. Those who have read the poem will instantly agree that language is to be understood in the context of culture as well for which mother language has no comparison.

Tagore himself held that Bankimchandra placed Bengali on granite foundation. But Bengali literature acquired international prominence in 1913 when Tagore got prestigious Nobel Prize as not only the first Asian but also the first non-European recipient of Nobel in literature. He shaped our language and literature in a splendid manner and took it to the Himalayan heights which is never understood by those who have not read him in original or his prose compositions. Subsequent contributions by others have kept it at par with international best. In 1952 the language movement brought Bengali again into international attention.

When in 1971 independent Bangladesh emerged,  Bengali was declared as the  state language. But still we have a long way to go to instil Bengali in each and every sphere of activity. It is laudable to learn English, French, Urdu or any other language, but their egoistic use with snobbery and vainglory in lieu of mother language is despicable.

Main purpose of language is communication, self-expression and social integration building sustainable relation.

Commonness of mother language undoubtedly binds people with a bond of fraternity together with a sense of self-extension. Everybody should learn, enrich and use mother language more in every possible way. That will be the true tribute to language martyrs and our mother language which embodies culture, integration and inspiration.


    The writer is a freelancer



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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