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|Volume 11 |Issue 07| February 17, 2012 ||
Of Pahela Falgun
Syed Badrul Ahsan
There is something fragrant about 13 February. Ah, you might be tempted to draw the conclusion that it comes before Valentine's Day and of course you would be right. For the day after 13 February happens to be a moment for those who have loved and will love again, for those who are in love and mean to be in love for as long as their hearts and souls do not lose the wildness that passion is capable of giving rise to.
Again, 13 February for Bengalis is the inauguration of spring in their lives. On this first day of Falgun, it is a whole cultural tradition which is revisited by them, the better for them to remember the roots they spring from, to pass on the torch to the future. For nothing becomes heritage better than when it is carried forward by the young, who will one day grow into middle age and will hand over charge of the future to those who come after them.
The first day of Falgun brings, therefore, a spring in your steps. The bird sings, the breeze blows across the village pond. A softness, a tenderness as it were, plays through the palm fronds on the fringes of the pastoral landscape. It is a harking back to nature, indeed to the joys which accompanied Creation in those early moments of time. The advent of Falgun is, in that poetic sense of the meaning, a reassurance of the timelessness of the universe, of the place life holds in its contemplation of the stars before it reaches a climactic end at a point, again, in time. And yet time goes on. The universe keeps expanding. Falgun keeps coming back.
And because it does, we remember those who once came to life on Pahela Falgun, on 13 February, and enriched life for those they touched — before passing on. Nilufar Yasmin left us a legacy of songs, sadness in the full measure of poignance dripping from them. She was a Falgun child in whom melody meshed most charmingly with the bashful, to create songs which reached for the heavens. All these years after her passing, it is her moonlight-draped shadow, drenched in ethereal sadness, you run into. It is her songs which you hear through the woods of an era which does not let go of the era you inhabit.
On Pahela Falgun, it is time to remember the scholar Ahmed Sharif. There was a living emblem of courage resting on the foundations of truth in him. He was an iconoclast, a 'sin' for which the less courageous and therefore the less liberal were never able to forgive him. Sharif's relevance in our lives stems from his considered, as opposed to arrogant, refusal to submit to lesser men. Never intimidated by power, not ever subdued by ignorance, he kept society informed of all the nonsense it would need to jettison before it could begin to call itself modern. He did the job with finesse. And moved on.
Another who moved on, years after he came to life on 13 February, was Gaziul Haq. His place in Bangladesh's history was assured when he, as a young student, linked up with other politically conscious young men to create an impenetrable wall of defence for the Bengali language in 1952. History, while it can be studied or read about by millions, has only a few, cherished places for those who would transform it. One of those places belonged to Gaziul Haq in February 1952. In subsequent years, he would expand himself — in ideas, in personality — through holding fast to progressive politics, through absolute loyalty to the principled dreams forged by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A liberal to the core, Haq was nevertheless unforgiving when it came to a question of Bangladesh's history being commandeered by the peddlers of untruth. He gave them short shrift.
On 13 February, it is time to go back to the poetry of Sarojini Naidu, she who once saw in Mohammad Ali Jinnah an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity in the subcontinent. Her niche in history sparkles, through the profundity of her poetry of course. And, again, it glows in the passion of her politics, a calling that saw her serve as president of the Indian National Congress. Post-1947, she brought poetry into brilliant union with power when she took charge of Uttar Pradesh as its governor. There was, if one may so use the term, an activist soul in her which related rather well with the romantic heart beating inside her. Poetry was all; and politics was its vibrant partner. It is thus that Sarojini Naidu remains alive for us.
Pahela Falgun, then, gives us unceasing cause for wonder. As dawn breaks on 13 February, it is these emblems of life, now gone the way of all flesh, we eulogise in the music carried by the clouds in the rising glow of a gently waking sun. That is our celebration. That is when we remember the old, unvarnished truth: life happens, before it becomes the tragic inevitability of death.
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star.
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