Re-readings: Three Reviews from Ishrat Binte Aftab
"Hands up!" shouted a voice from the back. All members of the Sharma family were suddenly turned into a statue, of liberty or not is beyond discussion. Standing there, Nirmal Chandra Sharma had an ice-cold feeling journeying towards the throat, even in the first hour of Baishakh. Without any delay there was a gunfire shot, as if the first drop of northwester rain had hit the ground! All those living statues dropped to the ground, liberty suffusing their hopes. The uninvited crows left the roofs and branches, singing their protests loudly. Nature pays back, and incidentally Nirmal Chandra had fallen just before getting shot; hence became the sixth witness in the case of war criminal Saka Chowdhury. However, this is just a brief-portion from the long list of Saka Chowdhury's deeds, on which the book Judhaparadhi Saka Chowdhury'r Bichar: Rayer Purna Bibaron stands. This long list is described elaborately in the book, published by Palolik Shaurabh and edited by Farid Ahmed.
To me, digging up that history is similar to going through a black hole. Nothing remains the same as before. The history of our Liberation War is such a truth that the sweet frosting of different political parties could not cover the modifications. The American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X once said, "Sometimes you have to pick the gun up to put the gun down." That is what our heroes did in 1971. A matter of regret is they had to fight against two enemies simultaneously. They had to pick their guns up against West Pakistan and against the razakars. Maybe we are the only country that is punishing its war criminals 45 years after achieving freedom. Yet, in the race of the rabbit and the tortoise, the tortoise eventually came out the winner, though it was slow in the beginning.
Among all the verdicts, Saka Chowdhury's verdict has been translated by twelve people (including the translator and editor) who are devoted to the responsibility of disseminating the information to the younger generation. Fiction writer John Michael Crichton has claimed, "If you don't know history, then you don't know anything. You are a leaf that doesn't know its part of a tree. " Just for letting the young leaves know about their origins, Palolik Shourav has taken the initiative to publish this book, the fruit of many history-farmers who have been trying to remove the rust of ignorance from the minds of the younger generation. The Bangladesh Liberation War Library and Research Center has taken the initiative to translate the verdict.
The term "lost in translation" could have consumed this book easily. Fortunately, the translators have converted the ice of perplexing legalese into a pellucid mass of water. As a representative of the younger generation, I would compare this book to a novel than look at it as just a translation. It is no less than any thriller book or I would say -- Sherlock himself would be locked up after reading this. Naturally, history can be boring if narrated in a descriptive way. But the famous novelist and critic George Orwell penned the importance of history by saying that "The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history." In light of his statement it is pretty obvious that history is our nation's antibiotic or vaccine. No matter how bad it tastes, you have to swallow the history-biotic to strengthen and affirm your own existence. In this book the translators have tried their best to make the taste of history better for the young, in a quite successful way.
Touching the water with the feet and swimming in it are not similar. This book makes me swim in the knowledge of the Liberation War. I have felt the intensity. A total of 9 complaints (1st-8th and 17th) have been documented in the book with details. Every chapter has constructed the idea of Saka Chowdhury's cruelty in my brain. It has made me acquainted with the earthly hell called "Good's Hill" where he used to slaughter the soul of mankind. Every international conspiracy, background and statements of witnesses and their description are translated with the tag of "intact". It is said that the wearer knows best where the shoe pinches. Neither did we feel any pinch nor did we wear any shoes; we are left on the shore of ignorance where we may know of but not feel our Liberation War. That is the basic idea behind the translation of this book, as the Bangladesh Liberation War Library and Research Center puts it. This initiative is to wash out the teeny-weeny amount of sympathy-germ in our minds for the war criminals. Another reason that fuelled the protesting pens of the translators is a reference for war crimes in Bengali. After reading the book I would say it will provide a vast amount of information as a reference for further writing and research on this topic.
Another fact that puts extra weight on this book and makes its more attractive is the background and international conspiracy for and against this war criminal's punishment. To draw attention to a discussion on the background of the war criminals issue, a soldier as well as mother's name must be taken. "Go ahead! I have dedicated you for my country!" Jahanara Imam squeezed her heart out to say these words. When her son Rumi's mind was beating with the rhythm of George Harrison's "Bangladesh", she couldn't help but permit him to go to war. Her debater son won the debate for participating in the war and for the first time Jahanara Imam felt there was pride in losing too! This lady lost both her husband and her son during the war. However, after so many years she managed to gather up her ancient energy and established a public court like the way Bertrand Russell did in 1966 for Vietnam.
For this, she had to bear the burden of her opponents' misbehaviour. This lady alone crayoned the background of the war criminals' punishment process; nonetheless she died wearing the shame-crown of rebel in her country. These words of coordinators trigger the bullet of stupidity and shame on us by putting this word in the introduction. They exclaim with wonder how absurdly a nation can pay off its valiant citizens. Moreover, this book lets us unveil the hypocrisy beneath the decorative scarf of human rights. Punishing war criminals is nothing new in world history but when Bangladesh is clearing its debt, it becomes the headache of headless. Human rights institutions all over the world started questioning about the transparency of our legal system and all. Even the defendant lawyer Toby Cadman has criticized our legal system un-supposedly in every media regarding war criminal issue. As an expert of international crime, extradition, judicial review, prison law and human rights, it is pretty obvious to have faith in his statements. But "Being worthy and trustworthy is not the same thing", translators stated from an article of a British barrister Shah Ali Farhad, titled "Toby Cadman: A crusader for rights or devil's advocate". No matter how badly a defendant lawyer has belittled the level of transparency and accuracy of our system, truth has traversed its barriers. These are information that will be hard to get but this book has revealed it in the blink of an eye.
Each of the verdicts of the war criminals is the written document of history. This initiative is taken not for business purposes but for having the younger generation get acquainted with the idea of freedom. It should be set in their mind-web that just to gift them a free country, once many Rumi(s) abandoned their engineering degrees, many Azad(s) left their stable futures.
"Still I smell the flavour of dead bodies in the air!" Rudra Muhammad Shahidullah's pen shouted. Wait Rudra! This generation will wipe off the last drop of smell from this land. After that, when we get the wishful-scribble-pad of Shamsur Rahman, we will write --- Victory!
Did Jibanananda's 'Banalata Sen' ever get a letter from him? May be no. Or maybe he tried to hit Banalata's mind-mailbox but could not, as a poet's pen is more independent than the poet himself. Irony isn't it? Apangshu Debnath neither controls his pen nor did he let the pen control him. What he did is --- travelling with his pen. Hence, he became able to paint his Meghmita's story with an essence of poetry. Mrittikahrin Meghmitake is a letter-tale poesy addressed to Meghmita. This book is published by Parijat Publishers from Kolkata.
There's a sudden knock on my criticism-door. I saw the age-old Persian poet Rumi whispering, "Poetry can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it." A while ago I was trying to jot down ideas for a constructive criticism but then I realized ideas can evanesce faster than water! I wasn't getting the exact word that fits to describe it. Now I got it! This poetry book is actually dangerous! I felt Apangshu's corsair words captivated me with the possible warmest welcome and took me with them everywhere. Meghmita, with all her belongings, started dwelling in my mind. Whoa! What a solicited meddler she is!
I mesmerize the golden days of our love when I used to joke about your short army-cut hairs. Ah! That imaginary domestic life of ours! Your wailing for an unseen stove where we needed to cook our purchased happiness. Regretfully, nothing but only emptiness was there. Oh! I see your hobnobbing with nature. What a bold approach to connect with spirituality! Our own existence on earth is constant and crumbly at the same time. What a spine-chilling idea it is! I wonder how facilely you give a bear-hug to this truth of absurdity. You know, my veins show the parameter of anger when you mock about my religious belief. But then again, when you adulate me like a Sunday prayer with your entranced hymn, my body fades like the smoke of incense. You are so absurd! Ops! Sorry that was Meghmita talking to Apangshu inside me! Pardon my astounding imagination.
Let the Cinderella-shoe of literature walk to the step-mother of criticism. In this book, the poet tried to blend his story of ideology, experience and emotions in a poetic form wearing the overcoat of a letter. As a poet this could be really challenging but from my point of view, Apangshu passed with flying colours! I would say this is the kind of self-head drama book. In this letter-poise, you can be the character of "to" or "from" whatever you wish and can experience the poetry from both sides. I think that's the alluring aspect of this book.
Apangshu Debnath believes he is indebted to the divine knowledge that let him to keep his soul immortal forever. He started writing about that debt which turns out to be a marvellous poetry. Though it is a poetic-tale camouflaged as a letter, it represents the actual meaning of poetry. Every word of this poetry manifests the idea that poetry is life and literature is a lifestyle. May be magic beans do not exist, but Apangshu's magic-word does. His poetry flowers the fact how wrong the idea of ultimate happiness is. The poet stairs his words upon the basement of post-modernism. Sharp gladiolus of the poet cuts traditional belief of God in Meghmita's mind. She shouts on her face, "There's your mighty-Al, see! Only a maimed-life to me!"
If every word a writer uses could be replaced by currency, I would be a millionaire by writing Apangshu Debnath's book review. After reuniting my mind with his word-soldiers, I think it would be perfect to entitle him as the pirate of poetry!
"Finished, yet unfinished", Rabindranath Tagore uttered with sheer amusement about short stories. Why so? May be he realized the shortest content can withhold the longest context. What a spaced-out concept! Talking about context, while reading the book Rongila Ebong Onnanno Golpo, published by Srot publishers, with the turning of every page, the book (apparently) puts on some weight. The author Padmasree Majumdar surprises me not only with the simplicity of her words but also with the keen hawk-eyed observance she retains.
"A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage," says Loorie Moore. If that so, then this book is a love-marriage. It is claimed to be a short story collection, yet it holds more depth and detailing like a novel. As literature-designer, the author dressed her mini-novels with the charming gown of short story.
To become someone else's perspective is not a easy nut to crack. Padmasree did it well. The prime story of the book is "Rangila" which is written from the perspective of a tigress. Writer presents the tigress as the symbol of our conscience. (Hope the word 'conscience' won't get extinct and fit in museum, next to dinosaur.)
Rangila was wandering in a jungle after escaping from the zoo. "If people are allowed to kill animal why aren't I? I am killing no human being. What's wrong with them?" Does a tiger have eyebrows? If it has, it must be wrinkled now due to this sort of thinking. Padmasree wittily blended the social contradiction with the complaint of Rangila. It's like whenever she asks something, it strikes the readers. During Rangila's short unwanted visit in the jungle she met a child. That child didn't get frightened at all. It was looking at her with world's all amusement. But when her mother found out she screamed her heart out as if her child was attacked by the king-kong!
Rangila would rescue the world with the philosophy of her thinking session in one sitting but she wasn't given any chance. Soon zoo authority took her back in the cage. There was a seminar going on about how to improve the living condition of tigers. "Level of sarcasm!" Rangila thought. Sarcasm met its sister irony when during the seminar Rangila was almost got caught by the poachers. Her leg was stuck in the trap and her paw has to be cut in order for recovery. Rangila used to dream about the world outside zoo now she has to live her whole life here.
Certainly readers, for the time being, would feel like standing in front of Rangila's cage. Heart aching was never felt so intense! The way writer drew the doddle of the blue-devils inside readers head, is really magnificent! For a fraction of a moment I forgot heart is the illusion of nerdy-nervous system!
Unlike other Bengali writers Padmasree didn't use any cardboardy word. That's a very unusual pawn she took in today's literature board. I would say she is a perspective-hacker of every mind! That's the right word to describe a writer like her. Yet her simplicity didn't mess with her use of allusions and metaphors. She penned satire as a daily life accessory which made it more eloquent.
[Listen! Do you hear? Sreebash is playing his dhol and dancing around Durga-ma. Smoke has surrounded him like a guard of honor. Huh! I should Stop meddling in someone's dream. Let's go before his wife awakes him. Knock knock!, here's people from newspaper for Dhushar Mitra. Once he resigned his job for upholding the truth. Now truth is brought to book. Blah! Dhushar changes his side of the bed. He is damn tired, tired of waiting for this knock-knock. What's that? Someone is shouting! Oh! Shoumen is requesting Mohua to leave her job. "First I am Mohua Sannal, then wife of Shoumen Dutta."] Done! Eavesdropping was never so thrilling. That's Padmasree acting in her 71-paged theatre box.
However, the writer tried to hit our social system with her mockery. Her pen poked in the stomach of society's orthodox mentality. It is pretty much evident that she took her pen for the keepsake of conscience. Her every short story is like small pieces of canto. Once again she proved "size doesn't matter!" Her tiny book can give a head-full wisdom if reader walks through her words.
After finishing the book I would agree that Padmasree Majumdar knows her bat very well, a long innings in the literature field wouldn't be surprising, like Haribhushan Pal wrote in her book's introduction. Way to go Padmasree!
Ishrat Binte Aftab is a journalist and schooling with BRAC University