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|Volume 11 |Issue 41| October 19, 2012 ||
Of the Womb, the Winner and the Win
Adult human womb: approximately 6x3 cm.
I hesitate to write because what I have to say will sound like bragging, something I abhor, and most importantly there is nothing about me that lends itself to compliments and boasting. But as Providence would have it, the subject became a dilemma and put me into a "to write or not to write" situation. I, a mere mortal, succumbed to the latter because it was a catharsis which came my way most unexpectedly and after a long time.
In the year 2004 an organisation came forward to honour the human womb (I do not mention the name of the august body, following the Bangladeshi style where the big bosses spill out earthshaking information "on promise of anonymity.") Nevertheless, the readers may enjoy the content. Those of you who jump to the conclusion that "honouring the human womb is a fetish of some sort" are terribly misled. In fact it is a very Bengali concept existing in West Bengal and Bangladesh, and the origin of which I am unable to supply. I also have no idea of its existence in other parts of the subcontinent. It is just a word to elate the ego of a woman who has given birth to excellent and high achieving children. Such a mother is called a Ratnagorbha or possessor of a bejewelled womb.
To the servile, obedient and oppressed woman of yore, forever subdued and cowed down, its implication must have had the effect of balm or nectar; for once she became a personality to reckon with. These days the modern woman too basks in its glory. Functions are organised, crests are given and there is much merry-making with photo taking. The West celebrates Mother's Day which is not exactly the same. To many, a bejewelled womb may be a tenuous idea but to a mother it amounts to a culmination of dreams and the ultimate life-time achievement.
All said and done, the aforesaid organisation decided to bestow the Ratnagarbha title to deserving mothers. Contrary to my discreet and reserved nature, my children's resumes were sent to them. I must admit that both filial and self-love were involved. To be ethical to the utmost, the names of my step-children who excel in the fields of fine arts and music were not included since my womb was not hallowed by their short sojourn. This was done for the sake of honesty. It was a top-secret. Being sure of winning I wanted to surprise my children. The result surfaced, but my name was not there. How depressing!
Barring a few mothers of exceptional children, the award went to mothers of large families whose achievement was limited to completing the tertiary level of education. What were the benefactors measuring – quality or quantity? Mothers of adopted children also became Ratnagorbhas. The list of winners did come up with a few very worthy names. Because of a time lapse, today I remember just two outstanding mothers. They happened to be the mothers of Begum Khaleda Zia, now the leader of the Opposition and Mohiuddin Ahmed, ex-diplomat and well-known columnist. Perfect choices. Justice is a fundamental component of democracy. Do we use it daily in our major and minor decision-makings? Though the incident quoted is of microscopic importance, one shudders to think of its absence in the vital spheres of life. The prologue was necessary for the purpose of clarity. It so happened that one of my daughters received the Christophe Meriux Grand Prize 2012. As is wont, friends congratulated me and some called me a Ratnagorbha. This word brought back unpleasant memories of 2004. In the last eight years the problems of Bangladesh have multiplied and its visage disfigured. Existence of shenanigans, adulterated justice, lack of probity, masterminded sycophancy, rampant impunity to name only a few, are the hurdles which make the attainment of democracy a hollow talk.
The Bangladeshi mindset is not yet ready to recognise merit in its own citizens. It usually has to be the West, with powerful binoculars to identify the trait. I am impressed at the fairness and impartiality it metes out. Will credibility ever become the norm? Or, incredibility be our hall-mark?
The writer is a former Professor of IER (Institute of Education and Research) Dhaka University
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