Nindito Nondon: the defamed domain

Ferdousi Priyabhashini has left this world earlier this month. Her autobiographical work Nindito Nondon (2014) opens a window to a time of turmoil and turbulence. Priyabhashini’s life, her fearless but humble narrative is a source of strength for women in Bangldesh, reviews Nahid Riyasad

Cover of Nindito Nondon's latest editionShe is arguably one of the finest sculptors in Bangladesh, she is also the first women to publicly reclaim her pride as a women warrior of 1971, she proudly, fearlessly in a humble voice told that world that I too have fought sexual violence during the war and fought for the independence of the country.

What we don’t know about Ferdousi Priyabhashini is more intriguing and emancipating. Her life, as described in her autobiographical work Nindito Nondon (নিন্দিত নন্দন), is a tremendous account of a woman, who, despite all odds, fights against the social norms, in order to grant herself economic freedom as well as to construct her own identity. Her book, first published in 2014, spends a major portion describing the independence war period. To be honest, this book does not flaunt a meticulous fine writing, rather, it explores the perilous journey of a woman who did not know how to lose, how to fail in life, despite facing obstacles and oppositions from her own family and society at large.

However, this book does not deal with her life as an artist; it only focuses on her personal life and struggle during the war. The woman, Priyabhashini, worked side by side with men in the 1960s, that too in large industrial arenas, when women were not allowed to participate in economical activities as today. Her journey is an inspiration, her effort is quintessence of a self-dependent woman and her struggle is a light at the end of the tunnel, for the generations to come.

Priyabhashini was born on the tumultuous time of 1947 partition. Her father was a very popular and educated man; however, his presence in the household was not always equal. Priyabhashini’s mother was from a well-known family, despite that she was a regular victim of domestic violence. This continued throughout Priyabhashini’s childhood thus creating a lingering-lifelong impact on her. Most of her childhood was divided into both of her grandparents’ house, as her father was never a responsible earner until his late age. Since her childhood, Priyabhashini was a regular participant in different cultural functions in her school. Creativity, poetry, art and music have been a very important part of her life. Being the eldest sister of ten more siblings taught her the values of family and taking care of them.

During her early teens, she fell in love with her music teacher and they got married. That decision soon turned to be a mistake as her husband was not the person she thought he was. Right after the birth of her second son, she appeared for an interview and secured a job. From her mid-teens, she had to earn to maintain her family, her husband and his mother. In order to do so, she entered working life from a very tender age.

In the next few years, she changed a number of jobs but couldn’t find a stable one. Her domestic life had been passing without the emotional support of her husband. At one point, her husband initiated a scandal about her which cost her job. From that point, her marriage deteriorated and ended in a divorce in 1971. Even after the divorce, for the sake of her children, she took care of her former husband and his mother. During the beginning of the war, her three sons were taken away from her by their father and she met them at the end of the war.

After roaming around from shelter to shelter amid the violence and tension of war, she landed on a job in a factory. As military officials were regular at the mill, she was made to attend them at their home, on demand. During this time, she was subjected to brutal sexual violence and had to spend days in concentration camp with other women. Her narration of the liberation war days portrayed a really dark picture of violence perpetrated by the military of unarmed civilians. She also vividly described how her own people have betrayed in favour of East Pakistan.

One of the most important persons of her life would be her second husband. They got married after eight years of loving each other, though he left her on her own during war period but her love for him had overwhelmed all odds. Her second husband has been her life-long friend and a loving father to all her children, though, his family offered her turmoil and sorrow.

Her life journey, should we scrutinise it, is a courageous narration of how a woman, who wants to live freely out of social dogmas, is treated by the society. Throughout her early life, when she was a struggling woman, trying to make a place for herself in a male-dominated society, she had encountered violence and discrimination many times. She even had been the only female employee in a factory of 4000 men, such courage, such determination is nothing but extraordinary and exemplary.

Priyabhashini is famous for her sculptures and arts, for her beautiful mind and for her stance against all odds. Though, her autobiography deals little with her art works or her artistic life. She implies her simple life philosophy here — leading a domestic life with family members, protecting them during bad times and creating own identity through creative work. In all three points, she had been a phenomenal success.

Throughout the book, numerous people have been named, many of them are well known people from fields of politics, literature, art and what not. Priyabhashini has maintained a sophisticated crowd of people with artistic minds around her. From the experiences she gathered by working in an array of prominent organizations, she was a living epitome of women emancipation. During the days of war, her survival story and torture on other women shows us her strong determination to overcome obstacles and rise like a phoenix bird, from the ashes of its own ruin. Priyabhashini, over and over again, rose from heart-breaks, tortures and rapes, and stood still among oppressors, stood high among everyone.

 

Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team.

 

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