A love letter to letters | The Daily Star
03:24 PM, February 21, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:33 PM, February 21, 2021

International Mother Language Day Special

A love letter to letters

As we pay tributes to martyrs of the historic 1952 Language Movement today, I am filled with respect for the young minds who made sure that their voices were heard and their claims were enunciated during the days of revolution. Their fight was for their mother tongue Bangla, its literature, and to put it simply, their lives. We were the first nation to fight for our mother language.

Celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity, we should remember to continue making good use of language not just in literature but also in our day-to-day lives. One way to celebrate the beauty of language is to reclaim the art of writing letters.

Like artists play with diverse media and dance around with different forms, language and words too, seem to be bound to the page by certain symphonic notes—a break in the line is a sigh in disguise, whereas all you have sometimes are inverted "i"s to pass something off as humorous. The synchronicity of lexicons is rather amusing and keeps us immersed in these plays for hours. Perhaps the most apt and least appreciated semblance of words is the ones which we used to pass on to our loved ones, often paired with a red stained kiss, whiff of some perfume or a short love poem or two.

I think of the timeless melody by Jaganmoy Mitra's Bolechile tai chithi likhe jaai ,kotha aar shurey shurey, mon bole tumi royecho je kaache, aakhi bole dure dure. n a digital world, where it can take five seconds to send an email or message, there is something incredibly humane and personal about a handwritten letter. Our instant messages, snaps and plagiarised Instagram captions may be up for rosy eyed speculation for future generations after a few decades, but as for now, let us bask in the nostalgia of writing letters.

During a jolly Christmas Eve years ago, I got a gift-wrapped book of Letters from a Father to his Daughter, (a collection of letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi) from my father, along with a note of love and blessing. Fast forward to a monsoon afternoon, I remember reading Tagore's Chinnyapatra and Russiar Chithi while my cat lay purring on my lap; and sometime around some summer golden hour, I was weeping while going through Rumi's letter to his uncle Pasha in Ekatturer Chithi. Just last month, a slim volume of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet made me sing songs of delight and now I deem it as my guide, being an aspiring poet.

Apart from these, there were the other classic lovers professing their adoration and longing to each other through written words— Labonno to Amit, Vita to Virginia, Nazrul to Foyzunessa. After cherry picking images from extracts of classic literature—I think of letters and I think of wax dripped on yellow parchments, a faint typing noise, an oddly thumping heart and a fresh smell of ink. I also happen to have quite a few personal memories regarding letters, like the time I wrote a foot length message to a friend and rambled about the pangs of teenage angst, love letters sewed with borrowed verses or how all my diary entries from Europe were half finished notes to my dear teacher, which went missing along the course of life.

In his poem, Maa Go Ora Bole by Abu Zafar Obaidullah, the poet writes about the blood smeared letter in the pocket of a language martyr and further dissects the incredulity of not being able to talk in our mother tongue through drawing the title, Maa go ora bole shobar kotha kere nebe. One cannot help but feel a sense of inspiration upon thinking about the young minds roaring in light of their tongues getting annihilated. Let us be sure to appreciate their courage, and cherish the beauty of language.

The author is a postgrad student of English Literature. 





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