Amar Ekushey arrives every year everywhere in the world with its glory in spirit just as much as it comes to the realm of Bangladesh where this momentous event gave us our beloved mother – our sovereign country, as long as there are some Bangladeshis. This is not just because UNESCO declared in 1999 that 21st February to be the International Mother Language Day (IMLD) which has always been our own and from then on this elevated day would be observed world wide. Every true Bangladeshi feel at the core of their heart that their primary identity belongs to predominantly a few days of the year and the most significant is the language movement day which hit the roads of Dhaka in 1952 with Salam, Barkat, Rafiq, Jabbar and many others’ sacrifice of lives and lively hoods. They carry this identity in every walk of life wherever they go in the world and celebrate Amar Ekushey any possible way they can for the content of their soul.
IMLD has given our nation a true pride that is discernible in many programs, seminars, news papers and other media streams around the world. In Australia, especially from Melbourne and Sydney this new-fangled convention of Ekush celebration touches our heart and makes us proud Bangladeshis. Australia as a nation values the utter importance of multilingualism to promote cultural diversity which enhances respect and tolerance between international communities. Its Multicultural Commission is always on the move to accomplish the mission of acquiring harmony in Australia’s vastly diverse multicultural community where one in every four Australian is born overseas. There are special schools just for languages where as many as fifty different languages are taught and Bengali is one of them. Students up to grade ten are required to learn at least one extra language other than English and encouraged to take a language in grade eleven and twelve for the school final exam which gives them an advantage to score higher for easier entrance into university. It is very well acknowledged here that language is the main conduit to carry cultural diversity. A celebration of Ekushey would be supported (financially) by the Commission if it can gather many people to enjoy their cultural identity as they recognise that living abroad with original identity gives people a sense of pride and hence efficiency, happiness in life.
But Bangladeshis would move ahead to celebrate Ekushey February with or without that support with the spirit that was instigated many decades ago. My years of Melbourne experience never missed a single time without observing this day. Local Bangladeshi organisation will uphold the endurance of Amar Ekushey by setting up fair, cultural program, discussion forum, children’s drawing competition, other get togethers. Men, women and children dress up in black and white traditional outfit as much as they can, not for grief but to commemorate and honour those language martyrs, lay flowers on temporarily made monuments with due sombre gesture and prominence. Unfortunately this has to happen on a weekend as we don’t get a holiday for Ekushey, Bangladeshi Melbournians will celebrate this year on the 26th February. Preparation is going on for stalls, and rehearsals for cultural programs, we are awaiting to mingle with other hundreds to feel the same belongingness no matter what we do or where we live rest of the year.
Last year I had a visitor from Bangladesh, happened to be on the Ekushey celebration day, so we couldn’t go to the actual program but made sure to put on Ekushey colours, cooked pure Bangladeshi cuisine, and in the evening drove around the city singing together beloved country songs along with ‘amar bhaiyer rakte rangano ekushey february’ a few times, which truly amused our visitor finding the same spirit, seeing people may have left motherland but lived through their mother tongue. These may seem special arrangements just for a day but it has its own charisma to spill over other days of the year spiritually. Just about anything we could we would do to mark this day because ‘ami ki bhulitey pari?’ the day that gave me an identity to be myself no matter where in the world I live for living.
Nahid Khan writes from Melbourne, Australia