Joy Hakim's third from the ten-volume USA history, From Colonies to Country (1735-1791), has been an instrumental read this year, bar none. It invokes nothing but poignancy that even after 51 years of independence, no institution either of governmental or private authority has produced such a readable history of Bangladesh (including the rest of the Greater Bengal), beginning from the ancient age to the age of occasional libellous statements on cyberspace, that is accessible to assorted readers of different age groups.
Professor AKM Shahnawaz has attempted to forge some, but that three-volume history lacks legible and authentic maps and figures. Khandker Swanan Shariar, who has written two widely applauded books on Bengal history, is disappointed to some extent that he doesn't have the time to dig deep into the records to weave one like Hakim.
Hakim has attempted to remain balanced and critical of the Framers as much as possible, considering a readership that enlists teenagers. But at one point, she opines, "..the US Constitution certainly is the best.'
Deliberation over other constitutions is needed to differ or conform to her opinion. Here is another book idea: a series of constitutions of other countries and interpretations in Bengali. The US Constitution, Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments) and the Declaration of Independence are consequential documents to be read by all since these were the first instances of true democracy, though fallible, of course.
Many rights are still infringed or disregarded in twenty-first-century Bangladesh. So, the concise constitution hasn't stopped ringing true here.
The book also made me inquisitive of Benjamin Banneker, a black American astronomer and mathematician, Ben Franklin's capacitor, Jefferson's polygraph, Paine's Common Sense, Madison's A Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, early American submarine, Spaniards, America's early feminist female thinkers and entrepreneurs, slavery and Native Americans. As Hakim has phrased nicely, '…and everyone in the Constitutional Convention, to one degree or another, was caught in the scientific web.'
A Revolutionary War hero, Baron Wilhelm von Steuben of Prussian origin, addressed his company officers:
A captain…must pay the greatest attention to the health of his men, their discipline, arms, accouterments, ammunition, clothes and necessaries. His first object should be to gain the love of his men by treating them with every possible kindness and humanity, inquiring into their complaints, and when well founded, seeing them redressed. He should know every man of his company by name and character. He should often visit those who are sick, speak tenderly to them, see that the public provision, whether of medicine or diet, is duly administered, and procure them besides such comforts and medicines as are in his power.
Our military personnel, almost three centuries later, implausibly enough, have preferred to alienate civilians from themselves, even if civilians study, quarter, and lounge around the cantonments for years.
Some days ago, at a district public library, during an altercation with a staffer over an air-conditioner, the staffer picked up his phone to capture me in a video, but no guardians to the kids who went there for a quiz checked this cyber-guerrilla.
I told them, 'Apa, please teach your kids their rights first.' I reckon they scarcely listened to me. Politicians, bureaucrats, law enforcement agencies, defence agencies, and all others who are superior to us by gender, religion or might continue to push around us if we choose to study our own constitution for the mere sake of a public service examination.