Dristy Rahman responded to the popular assumption that the young generation of Bangladesh are not patriotic enough.
March 26, 1971 — the day, we all celebrate as the Independence Day. We commemorate this day and feel a sense of pride, achievement, and accomplishment. The real question is though, how many of us would have been able to sacrifice our life for the country given the similar situation? Being patriotic towards the nation is everyone’s responsibility, for we as a society, as a group, form the nation. Youth forms a major part of it and while the youth today enjoy their freedom in heritage, they must know the amount of sacrifices the freedom fighters made without any second thought, and the amount of bloodshed that took place to ensure the freedom we enjoy today. It’s very evident that their sacrifices are often undervalued. Remember the quote, ‘We realise the importance of something when it’s taken away from us?’ Somewhere or the other, this is often said to be the case with today’s youth. Really, though? Doesn’t that statement make your blood boil with rage? If it does, then congratulations, you are patriotic and this article is for you!
I understand that some of you lack the sense of patriotism and fail to realise the value of freedom we got in heritage. So, to induce the feeling of patriotism and know the value, it has to be induced from the childhood.
For a seed to grow to be a huge tree only if it’s watered properly from the beginning. I might sound like a philosopher, but when I saw soldiers showing-off their spirit and pride, fellow countrymen cheering and sharing their joy, and neighbours smiling with tear-filled eyes, the feeling was overwhelming. If a flag and a crowd of few hundred people can make us feel like we all are one, patriotism is never dead in us. If something about our country is making you proud, you are patriotic. You don’t have to show it off by changing your profile picture on Facebook or painting your face in two colours. Just feel it deep inside, that’s enough.
Patriotism is a sense of pride of an individual for their homeland and its various aspects like culture, traditions, ethnic groups, languages. It is an emotional connection with the motherland where an individual is born and is extremely natural to be present within one. Now the question, I believe, assumes that today’s generation lacks the spirit of patriotism. Now, the strength of Bangladesh, as compared to other countries is its youth. I do not like to generalise, but most Bangladeshis who are 40 plus consider today’s youth as ‘not patriotic’. Patriotism per-se means love for the nation, and we youth have no dearth of it. As youngsters, born in independent Bangladesh, we haven’t had the opportunity to see how our people toiled over the years to attain freedom. Most of us have not witnessed the struggle and the war that were fought in 1952 or 1971. Thus, we may not always feel our eyes watering when we hear Ahmed Imtiaz Bulbul’s ‘Shob kota janala khulay dao nah’ (the song that immortalised the sacrifice of Bangladeshis in 1971) but we do feel respectful towards the martyrs when we hear it.
Our interest in reading documents about great freedom fighters and freedom struggle is also academic. That, however, does not mean that we are not mindful of the hard work of our countrymen. Their sacrifice helped us get a vibrant and growing Bangladesh, which has created a niche for itself in the world. It’s just that we do not identify with the spirit of freedom the way our elders might because our relations with that era are not even second hand but third hand. Merely because of this disconnection we should not be classified as less patriotic.
Had the youth lacked devotion for the nation, where would the Navy, Army and Air Force have gotten their new recruits from? Those who join the forces are ready to give their life and that too without asking for anything more than a remuneration to keep their family alive. While the whole country works only eight hours for that pay and gets paid overtime for every extra hour, it is they who work tirelessly 24/7 in adverse conditions so that their countrymen can have a good night’s sleep, day after day. Without the youth, the defense would have been crippled with only elders and vacancies plaguing the armed forces. Since this situation hasn’t materialised, one can safely conclude that the belief that today’s youth is ‘not patriotic’ is nothing but a perception.
Dressing in western attire, talking in English, and having Sushi don’t eat away our Bengali-ness. Even while we may be living in a foreign land, working on foreign shores and earning in foreign currency, our traditions are practiced with same fervour, if not more. Youth isn’t selfish, though it may be portrayed so. We may be more ‘me driven’ but we also invert the ‘m’ often enough to become ‘we driven.’ We youth don’t claim to be saints, but we just have modern ways of celebrating our country’s achievements. We take pride in cheering for our Tigers during cricket matches and paint our cheeks symbolising the national flag. We feel the exhilaration in watching ‘Ora egaro jon,’ and we feel the shivers running down when we hear the National Anthem.
We’ve conquered the air, water and land, but we’re yet to conquer every elderly Bangladeshi’s heart. We don’t want to be known as a bunch of selfish people who’re money-minded and are just looking for some fun, but as individuals who’re dedicated to the nation with the same affection that the generations before us were. Our methods and ways to make Bangladesh great may be different, but we share the same cherished goal and the vision for modern Bangladesh with our elders. We know we’re making progress, but sincere efforts always pay off and the speed of progress shall become a typhoon in times to come. In the end, ‘Amra korbo joy’ (we shall succeed) in this race to progress, and young Bangladeshis are here to make Bangladesh a winner as much our elders did in their time. On behalf of young Bangladesh, I’d like to end this appeal with the infamous quote by George Santayana, ‘A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.’
Dristy Rahman is a blunt rationalist who likes to drown herself in positivity and a progressive outlook on life.