Honestly, I’m ashamed of writing this blog post. No blog post should’ve ever been posted about this topic. But unfortunately, the situation demands for it. It’s hungry for this blog post. It’s starving, and I have to feed it.
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome back to my blog. Ahana Chakrabarti here: writer, reader, dreamer and middle-schooler. If you’ve known me long enough, you’ll probably know that this is not my niche. This subject is something I’m extremely uncomfortable with, but I have no choice but to obey the commands of the society.
Bengali was once a universal language. Remember Mr Satyajit Ray, Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore, Shukumar Ray and Michael Madhusudhan Dutt? All of them are literary artists, and had popularized the language of Bengali through their unique personalities and authentic missions.
Now let’s come back to the present. Think of your Bengali friends, if you have any — and if you’re a foreigner, think of the times people spoke in perfect Bengali and not “Benglish” or “Hindali”. And if you’re from outside of Asia, do people over there even speak Bengali? Do they even KNOW that language? Heck, do they even remember Rabindranath Tagore or the other legends mentioned above?
One-word answer: NO.
No, they don’t. At least, the majority of people don’t. And why should they? Shukumar Ray, Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore and Mr Satyajit Ray have passed away long ago. After all, it’s folly to keep thinking about the past, isn’t it? We have to move on with the times.
Sometimes, we “authentic” Bengalis might blame them for this mindset. Actually, we do it very often.
But do we ever reflect on OURSELVES, the people who had taken the responsibility of simply keeping our mother tongue alive — and then, “co-incidentally”, forgotten it?
We are the ones who have made other languages our first priority, and completely forgotten our mother tongue — the root of everything. We are the ones who have loosened our OWN roots and are now scurrying to and fro to borrow others’ roots.
For most, Bengali is just a choice. An option. A 3rd language. And that’s not your fault if you’re not a Bengali… the fault is ours. If we had still continued to create worthwhile things and things that will add value to people’s lives in Bengali, this wouldn’t have happened.
Let the person be from Punjab, Haryana, USA, China, Kerala, Dubai, Mumbai, Africa… that person would want to learn that language if that meant it’d add value to their lives.
So the first thing we can do to save Bengali is:
Create something worthwhile for people in that language.
Let’s understand this with a simple example.
“Say you are a Non-Bengali. You have a full-time job, three children, and absolutely no time. Then suddenly, you get a holiday of two weeks from your job! And your kids are at summer camp with their father. Now, all you need is a warm mug of hot chocolate, a good book and a cushioned chair.
The problem? You don’t know which book to choose.
Your niche is clear. You want something that’s fiction, cozy, and entertaining. In other words, something that will create an escape from reality for you.
You take your phone, click on the Amazon app, and search: 🌐 entertaining, unpredictable mystery.
#1 in results: Feluda Shomogro by Satyajit Ray.
You click on it and read the summary. Your eyes go wide. Your mouth opens and opens ’til it’s the size of a crocodile’s open jaws. Your heart starts to race. You think: ‘OMG, OMG, I’ve got to read this!’
The next problem? It’s in Bengali. A language you’ve never seen or heard before, though you do vaguely remember your grandmother telling you something about a famous Bengali writer with a serious face and an everlasting cigarette in his mouth.
Your eyes start to glaze over. A new language? Oh no, you can’t do this! your brain argues.
But you can’t forget that hook. That summary. You’ve fallen in love with a foreign book even before you’ve read it.
So you learn Bengali. Then you learn about its history, and finally remember about that Bengali writer with a serious face. And now you’re ready to read that book.”
Can you guess what happened? Of course you can, you’re clever enough. The Non-Bengali lady added something of value to her life. Sure, a lot of hard work went into learning Bengali well enough to read a full-length novel.
But it was worth it.
And you know why? That’s because our ancestors knew how to create something worthwhile — in their own language, and popularize it.
And we, the new generation? What are we doing? Sure, there’s a few famous Bengali singers and actors out there. But are they really popularizing the near-extinct language?
Are the scripts or lyrics IMPACTING the Non-Bengalis’ lives, making it harder for them to forget the film/song — and thus forcing them to learn Bengali?
The only thing keeping this language alive is the awesome Bengali literature. The cultured ones can NEVER forget the amazing works of Satyajit Ray, Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudhan Dutt and Upendrakishore Raychoudhury, can they?
That’s a question for you to answer in the comments below.
The next thing we can do is:
Not judge people because of their education in Bengali Medium Schools.
Let’s read the following passage to understand this:
Woman (Shreya Roy): Good morning, ma’am.
School director: Good morning, Ms Roy. I have gone through your resume and I must say that I’m very impressed!
Shreya: T-Thank you, ma’am.
School director: But there’s something missing.
Shreya *shivering*: Yes ma’am?
School director: You haven’t exactly specified what medium your school was. Like, was it English Medium or Hindi Medium?
Shreya: Um, m-ma’am… a-actually, it was a B-Bengali Medium School.
School director: Thank you for your time, Ms Roy.
Shreya: But, ma’am —
School director: NEXT!
Seems pretty harsh, right? Unfortunately, this is what happens in most offices when people apply for a job — and I’m not only talking about schools, although that’s where most of discrimination like this happens.
My question is: Why should this happen? WHY can’t somebody embrace his/her mother tongue and study about it too?
Heck, Mr Soumitra Chatterjee studied Bengali while everyone else chose the “traditional” path — and he shone brighter than the “traditional” people!
Why should English be mandatory and Bengali only optional — and in some places, not even allowed? Why, what wrong has it done? It’s neither a dead language nor a complicated one!
I want people to answer this. I want a debate. I want a reasonable, logical answer.
Until then, let’s move on to the penultimate step to saving Bengali:
Stop using “Benglish” or “Hindali”. If you don’t know Bengali, don’t twist it.
When I studied in class five, there was this friend of mine who used to always use “Benglish”. Even her accent wasn’t Bengali, even though she was born one!
Here is what she used to sound like:
“আমার দিদি’s name is কোয়েল। সে আমাকে খুব cuddle করে।”
Meaning: My sister’s name is Koyel. She cuddles me a lot.
She was actually embarrassing herself by showing how little knowledge she had about her own mother tongue.
If you don’t want to be embarrassed while saying this language (especially if you’re a Bengali), LEARN it first. Then apply it.
Don’t translate from Hindi to Bengali. It sounds awful.
One way to avoid this is by not using Google Translate. It’s not always right, and can often confuse you.
I am not mentioning the name of this advertisement, but it’s tagline is: স্মাইল করুন, আর শুরু হয়ে যান! Which means:
Well, it means nothing.
It makes no sense.
Bengalis, attention! You’ve heard this tagline a hundred times a day on the TV. But can you really interpret its meaning?
I thought so.
What does this MEAN, স্মাইল করুন, আর শুরু হয়ে যান?
I’ll smile, and I’ll — start? What in the world does that mean?
Basically, it means nothing. It’s an AWFUL translation of either Hindi to Bengali or English to Bengali.
Now, as you can see the harm in doing all these things I’ve told you not to, hopefully you’ll take my advice and stop doing them. And the things you can do… well, I hope I see them out in the world soon!
I was originally inspired by Mirchi Agni’s live show on Facebook at 8pm on Friday, 09/04/21. Mr Anindya, Mr Chandranil Bhattacharya and Mr Srijato — I salute to you for giving me a new perspective on Bengali and it’s pitious state.
And this is for you, Mirchi Agni — rock on, and keep bringing new perspectives to things never thought much of!