West indian literature

Popular literature | The star of the day

Despite the absence of singers, musicians and dancers in the city, there is no shortage of these artists in the rural areas. The demands were largely met by the chirping of songbirds, the murmur of rivers, the rustle of fallen leaves and the swaying of verdant grains. Literature is scattered and found in every corner of the countryside, including fields and country roads. However, we ignore the literary materials scattered across the rustic expanses just as we ignore the sea of ​​air that surrounds us.

By compiling the Mymensingh Geetika, Dr. Dinesh Chandra has proven how a treasure trove of literature is hidden in the countryside. Romain Rolland, a fan of Far West literature, is fascinated by the beauty of Madina Bibi in Mymensingh Geetika. There are many rustic poets like Mansur Bayati, away from urban eyes. Who will introduce them into the literary world? Where are the volunteers for this work?

How wonderful were the stories we used to hear from our village grandmothers before going to sleep at night. These rural legends are no less haunting than “Aladdin’s Magic Lamp” or “Alibaba and Forty Thieves” from One Thousand and One Nights. Unfortunately, these have disappeared into the abyss of oblivion due to the influence of modern education. The legends of “Shepherd’s Cake Tree”, “Sleeping Princess of Rakshaspuri” and “Ponkhiraj horse” are no longer told to children by modern, educated mothers. Instead, they are told the tales of One Thousand and One Nights or translated versions of Shakespeare’s Tales of the Lamb. Due to the distortion and loss of these myths and the social document of our distant past, we are losing the connection to our illustrious history. If folk tales were properly collected, archaeological research would show that the stories of these grandparents traveled outside the Indian subcontinent.

These legends, perhaps with little or no change, are still told by village women to their children or grandchildren in Europe. Who will collect and preserve our tales and folklore from inevitable destruction? The task of collecting the legends is carried out by the Folklore Society, a group of eminent scholars from Europe and America. These are considered important anthropological resources in the academic community. Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar’s Thakurmar Jhuli and Thakurdar Jhuli are not enough to be described here. If all the folklores of Bangladesh were compiled together, it would require a number of volumes like the encyclopedia.

We now know that “Fi, Fie, Foh, fun” and “the smell of British blood” are the babbling of monsters equivalent to those of our “hau, mau, khau, manusher gondho pau”! Where does the similarity come from? Does this mean that the English and the Bengalis once shared a common tent? In our daily conversations, we frequently quote proverbs like “Dath thakte dater morjada nei” (we never know the value of teeth until they are gone)”, “Dhori manch na chui pani” (make sure to something without risking anything), ‘Chacha apon pran bacha’ (Every man is for himself) and so on. We also have “Khanar Bachan” – “Kala ruye na keto paat/Tate kapar, tate vaat” (Don’t cut banana leaves after planting/There is food and clothes). Dak O Khana contains moral lessons as well as the story of our nation’s secret past. For example, the proverb “Pirey bose perur khobor” (To get the news of the city while staying indoors) reminds us of the time when Pandua was the capital of Bengal.

Rhymes are another treasure of popular literature that children sang together like Roud hcche, pani hocche/ Khekshiyalir biye hocche (The vixen is getting married/In the solar shower). These nursery rhymes are largely overlooked. Kapadi players used to tell the cadences such as Ek haat bolla baro haat singh / Ure jay bolla dha ting which is also about to decline due to the influence of foreign games like football or cricket .

So let’s turn to folk songs. The unique treasury of folk songs like Jari, Bhatiali, Rakhali and Marfati are full of philosophical inclinations. These songs no longer appeal to the elite of society because they are considered the songs of illiterate peasants. Think of Monmajhi tor baitha nere/Ami are lame parlamna (O Death, I am exhausted/Take me away, I implore.) Can this song be compared to any of your modern songs?

So far, I have mentioned the old resources of our rural life which can greatly enrich the literary treasure. Nowadays, Bengali literature refers to urban literature or civic literature, chewing and munching on subjects such as kings and queens, Babu and Bibi, vehicles, electric lights, cinemas and tea cups blowers. Who cares about the stories of rural peasants, fishermen and workers? Our poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore once sang “Ebar firau more” (Take me to the root), but returned to civic literature. For the townspeople, the village is mostly rotten, disgusting and repulsive, while for a few it is a realm of exotic delights. It is high time to build a rural literary land next to the kingdom of urban literature. This proletarian literature is gradually gaining popularity in Europe and America, but where are the local poets, writers and novelists to portray the rural canvas in an engaging way?

Bengal has a rich tradition of popular literature which is on the verge of extinction. In my opinion, it is high time for the sons of the country to look back and learn to nurture the tradition. Otherwise, all our preparations will be in vain.

This essay is an edited version of a speech delivered by Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah as President of the 10th Session of “East Mymensingh Sahitya Sammilani” in 1936.

Abdullah-Al-Musayeb is an academic, researcher and translator.


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