The Amar Ekushey Boi Mela 2021 will see the launch of Shirin Hussain's Tumi Kon Gogoner Tara (Golpokar Books, 2021), a story chronicling the life of one Shayesta Begum, the author's mother.
According to Hussain, the book was conceptualised after her mother's passing in 2017. After the outpouring of memories and untold stories shared at Shayesta Begum's memorial, Hussain and her family realised that her mother's eventful life was a story worth sharing. Upon her brother's suggestion, Hussain decided to write just that book.
The novel begins in the 1940s, with Shayesta Begum a young schoolgirl. Although she and her father dream of her one day becoming a doctor—a rarity for women at that time—circumstances born from the Second World War force her to become a young bride while still a student of the tenth grade. Her ultimately unrealised dreams change form and take the shape of an inspiration; an inspiration to raise and allow for her children to accomplish what she never could. Shayesta Begum raises her children, pushes for their education and success, and also looks after her grandchildren, in an unwavering effort to support her daughters in the pursuits of any and all of their dreams. It is clear in the limning of her protagonist that Hussain sought just as much in her writing to negate assumptions about housewives, stereotypically presented and thought of as no real contributors to society.
The novel later recounts the struggles and humanitarian efforts of Shayesta during the Liberation War, from supporting and feeding the homeless to lending her own jewellery to fleeing local Hindu families.
Tumi Kon Gogoner Tara is a rare story, but one we have seen and can see with our own eyes everywhere. A solemn tribute to mothers and to our nation's unrelenting humanity, Hussain's novel shows us the people and the Bangladesh we could more often be.
This book will soon be available in bookstores.
Towrin Zaman is a contributor.