Losing my religion

Inevitably, Lingua Franca, or a shared tongue, is used to make bridges among people from a diversified cultural as well as lingual background, in this globalised world. However, tolls might hit high for these kinds of practices, which, often feed on original identities. Istiaque Ahmed Nahian observes this complex situation in the context of Bangladesh.


The basic definition of ‘Lingua Franca’ is common language. It is also known as vehicular language — a medium of communication for people having different native languages. We all share the common wisdom by now that, for keeping up with the modern world, we must imbibe the commonest lingua franca by heart. The conscious readers should know by now which lingua franca I am talking about.
Yes, English language has changed our lives. It has united various parts of the world. Whatever the reasons of the dominance of this language over the others are, we cannot deny that it has done us good. The awkward new kid in the classroom can easily find his way in the social gatherings by bringing up unnecessary catchphrases from western movies or TV series. It is creating job opportunities for a lot of people around the country. People are getting connected with each other every other day because of English. But the question is — what good is a bridge if it is built in the heavens? Before communicating with the outside world, people need to communicate with the people of their own country; they need to know about themselves, they need to know how they are as a nation. Without the practice of originality, what is the need of a diverse world? We might as well spare the trouble and break all the borders of the countries!
The price would be too much to pay if the toll of learning another language erases one’s identity. The efforts to train the students as an Englishman in our country is really cringe worthy. The ability to speak a certain language does not evaluate one’s knowledge or overall understanding. It is sad enough that children are discouraged to practice the dialects in the urban areas. Necessity must never come in the way of aesthetics. The defect is in the teaching system as well. Other than introducing the students to the respective culture related to a language, they are forced to memorise grammar rules. As a result, a student struggles to read and write formally, even after his or her graduation.
The key lies in the development of our own culture. We, Bangladeshis, widely known as Bangalis, have a rich history of cultural resurgence. During the difficult times of the great liberation war, it was the musicians and the writers who gave fuel to keep the mindset of the freedom fighters  intact. Even in the ‘50s songs like ‘Ora amar mukher bhasha kaira nite chay’, ‘Dhaka shohor rokte bhashaili’ worked as major influences for the people of our country. Artists used culture as a medium to rejuvenate the people of our country in those horrific times. People needed to hear an inner voice, they needed to listen to their own voice. They needed to hear from themselves that they should go and fight for their own rights.
But the thing is that, any kind of creation should not wait for a crisis to happen. Because, everyday, we are fighting our own battles which should be good enough for inspiration. Today, if you ask someone to name some of the great poets in Bengali literature, clichéd answers will be received. Judging by the answers of the common folk, Bangla literature emerged through Tagore, reached its peak with Nazrul, and died with the elegies of Jibananada. Which is not entirely the case at all, rather, this is a mere superficial understanding of Bangla literature. Many talented artists worked after the ‘70s who are not celebrated as much. It was, possibly, because they were not born in the time of a certain crisis.  Khondokar Ashraf Hossain, Rezauddin Stalin, Farid Kabir, Abdul Hye Sikder, Kamrul Hasan, Moyeen Chowdhury, Maruf Raihan, Ferdous Nahar, Suhita Sultana are some of the contemporary writers who are not getting the recognition they deserve. Poets, patronising certain religious ideology, are surprisingly lacking in number today but the scenario was different previously. Farrukh Ahmad, Shahadat Hossain, Golam Mostafa were some of the famous names back in the days.
After the death of Humayun Ahmed, the readers of our country are in disarray. It is solely because of the lack of the reviewers. Reviewers are the lingua franca between the writers and the readers. And without a just review, readers will get lost in the huge sea of promises and disgraces in case of reading. The textbooks should promote the contemporary writers to an extent; otherwise further creation would not be encouraged.

Bangladeshis are in the brink of an identity crisis. It is the gap in our own culture which is deviating the youth towards the foreign ones. Learning about different cultures is great but becoming a new person, leaving own identity, completely is pitiable. I am tired of seeing bicultural weirdoes who can speak neither English nor Bangla. The weirder are the parents who take pride in their children’s inability to speak fluent Bangla.  People should realise that life is too short for transforming into someone else. Common languages will only take us so far. Yes, it is true that communicating with a foreign mind will help you grow as a person. But if you are unaware of your origin, if you do not know where your soul belongs, what is the point of communication? Of course, taking some time off and talking to oneself is contrary to the madness we are about to face if we do not act soon!

Istiaque Ahmed Nahian is a student of University of Dhaka.

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