With all its flaws, Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja (1993) diagnosed the crisis at the heart of Bangladeshi identity. On the last page, after a week of violent communal riots, the Bengali Hindu family is finally defeated…“Shudhamoy was walking while leaning on Kiranmayee’s shoulder. Gradually the strength was coming back to his body. Kiranmayee held on to Shudhamoy with both hands.
Father? Shuranjan says that one word and then no more. A silent question perched on his lips. It was already dawn. A few holes in the window were letting in slivers of light.
Shudhamoy said, come Shuranjan, let us leave.
Shuranjan said, astonished, Where are we going to go father?
Shudhamoy said… India.
Shudhamoy is ashamed to say this, His voice shakes. But still he talks of leaving. Because after all this time, the strong mountain built up inside him has collapsed to the ground.”
[Taslima Nasreen, Lajja/Shame, translated from Bengali]
Tonight. My heart is bleeding. The chess game will end, perhaps now, or later with an election, with a banning, with a fight, with a third force. Who knows what? Rajae Rajae juddho. When the rubble clears, when the puppetmasters are satisfied, pound of flesh obtained, they will go back to their rooms. Meanwhile, Bengali Hindus will have been the collateral damage, a reality that will not be unraveled or reversed by whoever “wins” this round. They are always the losers of our history.
From 1999 “fiction” to 2013 “reality.” This evening, I received a note from an uncle in Bangladesh:
“I have struggled long and hard with this, watching my brothers, cousins, sister, nephew all leave one by one.I knew they all would, i just always prayed they would go to those places everyone else is desperate to go to: Australia, Canada, USA, Dubai. With those destinations, maybe, perhaps, that would salvage something of trust and respect from our neighbors always gossiping about when we may cross the border with our non-existent wealth. But of course it is easiest to go to India – how can people like us dream of visa to USA if we have to leave at a moments notice? And what would we do if we went there without money or support? But if I go to India I am apparently a traitor.
But now I realise, at this stage in my life, I have nothing left to prove, the battle is lost, and I would rather be a “traitor.” I cannot live through this constant insecurity any more. Forty two years of independent Bangladesh, and I, a Bengali Hindu, still do not feel safe. My nephew has offered to facilitate my trip to India, and once I am there, he knows people, I will be able to stay on. So this is what it comes to. I am the last from my generation still left here. Everyone else is either passed away or is somewhere else. My son now abroad does not want to come back and is at last stage of Canada immigration. My daughter as you know was married overseas, and she won’t be coming back.
So it’s finished.
Our family, after so many generations of history, will disappear from the trace of this land, and know one will miss us or care. You may think me too naive and idealistic, but more than the memories, the unfairness of having to make this decision against my will, my biggest pain is that somewhere in the fields of this land lies my brother’s remains from 1971 and I will have to leave that behind. but even that now seems like having no value to anyone but my little secret.