VICTORIES, PAST & PRESENT
– Anishta Khan –
In the 42 years of having sovereignty (whatever the political situation may be), we’ve had our list of ups and downs, triumphs and downfalls. Despite natural disasters and national tragedies like the killings of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman, the 2004 grenade attack, the Pilkhana massacre, the Savar tragedy, and every other incident that ravaged us, we have had our share of victories. But which victories specifically? We asked around and got some interesting responses.
Ahmad Reaz, Ronika and Munir believe that the major international events held in Bangladesh, especially the Cricket World Cup 2011, the biennial Chobi Mela (the largest photography exhibition in Asia) and the annual Bengal Classical Music Festival that “put Bangladesh on the map for all the right reasons” were indeed one of the country’s greatest achievements. The World Cup did bring a fresh new interest in cricket into our lives, the music fest allowed a greater portion of this generation to appreciate classical music for what it is, and Chobi Mela facilitated photographers from different countries to interact with each other and inspired other Asian countries to hold festivals of this kind. Then there was the World Universities DC 2012: ESL Championship (as opinioned by Mastura), where Bangladesh “basically beat the smartest university students in the world” in debate.
Probir says, “Retrieving the remains of Bir Sreshtho Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman from Pakistan, where he was initially buried, and finally being able to unite him to the land he died fighting for” in June 2006 and reburial in the Martyred Intellectuals’ Graveyard in Mirpur was one of the country’s greatest victories. In Ushra’s opinion, it was the Shahbagh Movement: “An impulsive generation that is willing to take to the streets, once united for something good. I’m still an avid supporter of the initial concept of the movement and our ability to fight for what we really want. It took an inevitable turn for the worse but the initial fire, rage, passion and love for the motherland was what I admire.”
Maliha says, “I think Bangladesh’s greatest victory, as a collective of diverse people, has to be in its talent and ability to host and welcome. No matter what this nation has seen, no matter how hard the corrupt try and even succeed in turning this place into a hellhole, I don’t think I’ve seen or known other people so warm and welcoming despite it all. It doesn’t matter if the poorest here can’t find any way out of poverty and injustice, they have hearts of gold and smiles full of life. The people of Bangladesh are always ready to make you feel at home. In spite of the corruption, the violence and the stains that years of political instability has marked our reputation with, we are ready to believe that we can win people’s hearts. And we do too, as we reach out to the world more and more and it reaches out to us. Bangladesh’s greatest victory is in how the people of this nation, rooting from different corners, can feel as a whole, as one, taking pride in its culture, traditions and the simple joys.” Zoheb, too, thinks that despite non-stop chaos, “the thousands who say ‘no’ to violence and petty feuds and go to work every day in a country where stepping out of your home can mean dying, trapped in a burning vehicle” is indeed our finest achievement.
Or not. For Muhtasim and Sakib, the people of this country have been constantly losing since their greatest victory — independence in 1971. Is it true? The 30 lakh lives sacrificed for us to breathe in a free country — all in vain?
We are a young nation, still striving for a better future, for ourselves and the nation as a whole. In Shoib’s words, “Our greatest victory so far is an entire generation of enlightened souls — writers, artists, musicians, philosophers and thinkers — all clawing their way out of the grave that the Pakistani Army dug for us in their final death blow. They killed our best and our brightest when they saw that they would lose, and today, after 42 years of independence, we’re slowly finding our foothold in this world. That has been our greatest achievement so far in my eyes, and the most significant.
Food production has increased three and a half times. The fertility rate has been managed down to almost replaceable level. The RMG industry has flourished and made it to the top. Bangladesh contributes the highest number of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. Highways and new infrastructure are being built. The country is moving forward despite everything that holds it back, and deterrents are many. And then there are the individual victories, however small or big, of the people that reside here: of PhDs who come back from abroad to contribute to their country by teaching here, the hard working farmer who is able to open up his own business, the housewife raising a child who attains top scores in O/A Levels beating peers across the world.
Yes, Bangladesh is imperfect and the list of its flaws can go on but in spite of all that, we keep growing. One victory at a time.
December 15, 2013