The nation observes the anniversary of death of the country's national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam today (Saturday). Apparently there is nothing wrong with this statement. But does the nation do so? Are there the arrangements at the grassroots level and the wide mass participation such an occasion demands? When anniversary of birth or death of poets of Rabindranth's and Nazrul's statures is concerned, it is celebration all the way. Why? Just one argument should suffice to prove this and the argument is that in paying tribute to them we have to borrow all that they have left for us. It is what in Bangla is called "Ganger jole Ganga puja" (worshiping the goddess Ganga with her water).
The diversity and prolificacy of their creativity leave hardly any human experience untouched. So we are allowed little room to move away from the spell they have on us. But is it equally true for the young generation which has other attractions alien to the traditional? Access to electronic devices such as computer and more particularly smartphone has opened the wide world before today's youths.
But before blaming them, it would be reasonable to look for where things have gone awry. Aren't we elders to blame for not introducing our children to the treasure trove of Bangla fairy tales, rhymes, particularly the nonsense rhymes of Sukumar Roy and the finest story books with a moral lesson that never appears to be forced down on the young ones?
It is a tradition, a current of culture that require regular practice, care and love for the flow to remain vibrant. It is time people in positions became wary of the gradual dissociation from the country's original tradition and culture. Even during the time of Pakistan, almost every high school, in some cases some primary schools too, observed the anniversary of birth and death of Rabindranath and Nazrul. Poetry recitation, delivery of speech, rendering songs and dance by students created a highly enthusiastic ambience.
Do schools follow this rich tradition any longer? If they do, the number should not be more than a handful. Against this, there is a consistent campaign by religious clerics who regularly sermonise to the effect that music and dance are anti-religion. The clash and contradiction remain unresolved and susceptible minds get confused. Lalon, Shah Abdul Karim could defy the sanctions because they were gifted people with souls of pure gold.
Today celebrations of birth or death anniversaries and other such occasions are limited to the TV channels and a few cultural organisations like Chhayanaut and Nazrul Academy or Kabi Nazrul Institute. But the space for celebration at the grassroots level is shrinking. The Chhayanaut has been trying to promote these leading poets and composers along with other composers and musicians. But it surely misses Waheedul Huq, a roving proponent of songs, music and recitation of poems and all that constitutes the quintessence of Bangaleeness. Evidently, such organisations are pitted against formidable anti-cultural forces.
If further proof is needed for the country's slow but sure journey on the road to cultural retrogression, Thursday's press conference arranged by the drama and cinema artistes at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity to protest what they called "attacks on art" should be enough. Films in this country had long been on a low ebb and the little is said about their quality the better. But a few highly talented young filmmakers have of late come up with 'alternative cinemas' on shoe-string budgets not only to the surprise of local film connoisseurs but also appreciative global film lovers and critics.
Two films in particular have recently managed to draw huge audiences to cinema halls indicating a revival of a dying industry. In one such film, a caged martin (shalik) has been shown to present the story line authentic. Now the Wildlife Crime Control Unit of the Bangladesh Forest Department filed a case against the director for violation of the Wildlife (Preservation and Security) Act. It is this Forest Department that, according to a research carried out by the Transparency International, Bangladesh, has been found to have misappropriated 61 per cent of the allocated funds for forest projects. The TIB further observes that the Forest Department is causing permanent damage to forests by allotting forest lands for various development projects.
One of the department's chief conservators, Osman Gani amassed fabulous wealth and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment. There is no reason to think corruption has come to an end in the department with his punishment. When there is corruption, flora and fauna are not safe at their hands. Accepted that a martin's life is also precious. But when poachers kill deer, tigers and other animals and birds, what role do the foresters play? Conservation and protection leave much to be desired.
Evidently, forces are active to frustrate all good attempts by the Bangalees to be what they are. Gopal Krishna Gokhle once famously said, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow". Time the Bangalees rediscovered their worth and preeminent position.