Photo: Prabir Das
Like all languages, Bangla language has been through changes. The fifth spoken language in the world, we Bangalis take much pride in our mother tongue. This love for the language has been appreciated by other countries and their people. Seeing this love and affection, citizen and academician of Czech Republic Dr Martin Hribek studied and fell in love with the Bangla language. Invited by Bangla Academy to witness the 60-year-celebration of the Ekushey Boi Mela, Dr Martin Hribek witnessed the opening of this year's book fair.
Dr Martin's fondness towards Bangla grew when he was studying for a Masters degree. “My time as a student at the Charles University in Prague triggered my fondness for Ethnology,” says Martin. “While studying the Indian subcontinent, I saw how versatile and in a way idealistic Bangla language is. It was love at first read.” As Dr Martin studied further, he learned about the history of this subcontinent, especially the two Bengals (Kolkata and Bangladesh). His thesis on The Saraswati puja festival from contemporary Calcutta explained how the celebration is linked with literature, music and other cultural elements in Kolkata.
In the course of studying Bangla, Dr Martin stumbled upon a Bengali writer who later influenced his academic career. “You cannot imagine modern Bangla literature without Rabindranath Tagore,' says Martin Hribek. “He is a kind of writer who wrote about everything. While doing my research I came to realise that no Bengali event can ever be complete without considering the elements from Tagore's poetry and stories.” His publication — “Tagore the Eternal Seeker: Foot Prints of a Wall Traveller”, Dr Martin Hribek talked about Tagore's visit to Czech Republic and how his writings connected to Czech Republic's then political environment. His researches also include what he calls Dalai Lamaism which indicates towards an orientalist construction of a post socialist consciousness.
During his visit to Bangladesh Dr Martin was mesmerised by the book fair. “Bengali writers have always been a phenomenon in the west. Writers such as Humayun Ahmed, Sunil Gangapadhay are very much popular and have been widely translated,” he says.
According to Dr Martin, more Bengali writers will be able to reach the international platform, only if an authority should be created in Bangladesh to deal with copyrights and translations. “There are a lot of writers whose writings are exceptional. If there was such an office, Bangladeshi writers would thrive internationally.”
Last year's Ekushey Boi Mela surrounds the unfortunate incident of the blogger killing. This year lots of precautions have been taken but still people are quite afraid to go to the fair. “What happened was very tragic but we should always remember that freedom always comes at a price,” says Dr Martin. “In my opinion, there should always be a fine line between freedom of speech and not hurting anyone's religious or any kind of sentiments. We should always keep that in mind.”