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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 11, New Delhi February 29, 2020


Sunday 1 March 2020

February 21 is the International Mother Tongue Day as declared by the United Nations in recognition of the martyrs of the language movement who fell to the Pakistani Police’s bullets on that day in 1952 in Dhaka while demanding that their mother tongue, Bangla, be made the official language of East Pakistan. Remembering the February 21 martyrs on the sixtyeighth anniversary of the language movement, we are carrying the following poem by a distinguished Bangladeshi intellectual. This was translated by Pritish Nandy and included in a booklet, Poems from Bangladesh (published by Perspective Publications, New Delhi in June 1971).

In falgun they always return.

Not there:
amidst the flowers and the foliage,
in the splendour of many colours.
where hearts mingle
at the source of the river of life.
They return again and again.
With the arrogance of youth
and the passion for work, they loved life
and embraced the silence of death.
They sacrificed their lives:
and with each death
they freed countless lives.

They are always with us.
They are always with him:
that child whose small feet trample the dew
on soft green grass,
who holds high the blood rose in his hand
like a banner.
They are also with that blind old man
who finds the shadows of his ribs
on the iron railings near the monument.
And with that silent girl
who suddenly becomes a wave in this sea
of countless people.

Every falgun they return.
Awake, they wake us to join them.
They give us words while they seek a language.


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