Shirin Banu Mitil is my mother. This is the most beautiful truth of my life and the part of my identity that fills me with the most pride. In reality, it took me years to truly comprehend what made her special. There are two types of people in the world or, rather, there are two sides to every person. One type of person believes whatever is their own is the best. The other type believes whatever is theirs is ordinary and not in any way better than what anyone else possesses. Those who knew our family, particularly my maternal grandparents and my mother, recognised that these people belonged to the latter category. Our family was very down-to-earth. They believed that, even if they had something to be proud of, it was always better to be humble. They lived by the philosophy that humility paved the way for real self-esteem. This is the reason why it took me so long to truly get to know and be proud of my mother, as I had to wait till I reached an age where I could think freely for myself.
My mother was highly regarded by the general public for having taken part in the Liberation War of Bangladesh as a female freedom fighter. However, my mother never thought of this as something extraordinary. She did not take part in the war to prove herself to be amazing or awe-inspiring to the people of her country. She was just a responsible person and was free of the unnecessary norms that society pushes on us in every aspect of life. For my mother, taking part in the war was her way of taking control of her own identity and performing her duties as a citizen. She was able to instinctively overcome all the obstacles and societal barriers she had to face as a woman. After all these years, this is how I have come to understand it. My mother wanted to share her stories in order to inspire many more women. She tried to use opportunities for sharing her own stories to shed light on stories of other women. She used to believe her story was as ordinary as everyone else's, which is why she never tried to sell her story or her identity. She never tried to seem like she was bigger or better than the next person. After her passing, many asked why they didn't know much about her, why she didn't receive any national awards or why she wasn't that famous. The answer to these questions should be clear now.
We live in a time when it is normal for individuals to act as if they are better than the rest. Nowadays, it has become essential to exaggerate one's achievements to stay relevant. Thus, it is quite normal for people to have never understood my mother's simplicity and down-to-earth nature. This is why I am clarifying certain details. After my mother passed away, many seemed to point out melodramatically that my mother used to be silent out of indignation since she had not received enough recognition. They felt she had left us while carrying great sorrow.
No, I disagree with that, because she was not a person who chased recognition. There was no pride lost. But, she was dejected about how war criminals emerged onto the political scene of Bangladesh, even though they were against the idea of the country's independence in the first place. She was unhappy about how the female war heroes were unfairly treated after the war had ended. She was constantly fighting with the pain these issues caused her. She had been a member of the Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee(Committee for Eliminating Killers and Collaborators of '71). She spent her life working on the women's rights movement in Bangladesh. Shirin Banu Mitil was not the type to remain silent because of pride, suffering or lack of recognition. She was truly a fighter -- one who fought for what she believed in right till the very end.
And yes, she had a heart of gold. The sheer amount of love she held for her people was remarkable. The people who had received her unconditional love would be able to comprehend this better. We live in a day and age where someone like my mother can be likened to the protagonist of a fairy tale. Today, on the occasion of her death anniversary, I want to remind all of whom who were loved by her, who loved her, and who were close to her, of this person from a fairytale, while remembering the best memories with her and awakening the desire in everyone to at least attempt to become a person of her calibre.
Tonny Nowshin is a daughter of Shirin Banu Mitil.