Can we take our language and literature to other parts of the world?
I just heard that our Bangla language has made some news in London -- on a limited scale though. Bangla has also made some news on a few Bangla-language web portals across the world.
The news said Bangla was the second highest-spoken language in London after English. After Bangla, Polish and Turkish are spoken by the people of London.
The news has indeed intrigued me as a Bengali. After hearing this news, I have created a world of my own.
How nice would it be if Bangla becomes the chief language of London, and for that matter, the whole of the United Kingdom? I’m sure the Lords and Barons would want to demonize me when they read this piece. Hey, no -- I don’t really wish that.
Having said that, it must be mentioned that the UK started to become multi-cultural when it started to colonize many parts of the world. When you colonize a country and start ruling it, some people from the colonized country would certainly settle in the country of the colonizers.
It has happened across the globe. The Mongols, English, French, Belgians -- everyone had to receive a train of population from a county that they colonized.
The concept of spreading the language of the colonizers among the colonized came from the colonizers. That’s how we learned English during the colonial era. That’s how many nations of Africa learned French and English.
In my country, when the Pakistanis came, they wanted to abolish Bangla from the place where we were born, but they couldn’t -- Bangla carried on and, I believe, will survive till the next Ice Age.
To cut a long story short, after the Second World War, the global geopolitics had changed -- the Soviets, the Western world, and Arabs -- all came along to play their roles. But the appeal of language remained.
The Americans had established an American Centre, the Brits created British Council, the Russian established their cultural centres, we also had an Iranian Cultural Centre in Dhaka.
The French established L’Alliance Francaise across the globe -- trying to orient the local people [previously colonized] with their own language, culture, and heritage.
Why? Well, that’s a good question. In the modern-day global diplomacy, the nation-states not only want to teach their language to a global population, but they also want to make their presence felt in those countries.
They wanted to penetrate into those countries in terms of culture as well as trade and commerce. I have that same ambition as far as Bangla is concerned.
If Bangla is the language of the eighth-largest population in the world, and the second-highest spoken language in London, then we, Bangladesh, should start establishing Bangla Cultural Centres in some countries in which we have a great presence in terms of population.
You may ask: “What would we achieve with Bangla Cultural Centres?”
First, the Bangla Cultural Centres would spread Bangla literature across the world, in the countries that we think they should know about us, our history, our literature, and our people.
Yes, we have the Bangladeshi missions abroad, but we are way short of letting the global populations know about us and our country. The mission employees don’t have the skillset and willingness for spreading “Bangla-ness” in the countries they are serving their terms.
You may question: Why spread “Bangla-ness?” Well, my vision regarding the Bangla Cultural Centres is that they would perform corporate communication for Bangladesh. These centres would do branding for the country.
Tell me, how many people globally know Rabindranath Tagore? Or our national poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and his works? Some might know about Tagore because he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. Well, let’s not go far, but focus on West Bengal.
How many people in West Bengal know about our contribution to Bangla literature and language? Do the West Bengalis read the works of our authors? Not really; apart from Kazi Nazrul Islam and Humayun Ahmed, they absolutely don’t have any idea what the Bangladeshi poets, novelists, and playwrights have written so far.
Language and literature are the core vehicles through which one can communicate about a nation’s greatness and its visions. It’s the literature that brands a nation.
Remember how the works of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev, etc, have characterized Russia over the years?
Remember how the works of Márquez, Octavio Paz, Paulo Coelho, etc helped to spread Latin-American-ness across the world? There are many such examples for many other countries.
Why wouldn’t we want to spread the Bangla-ness to the global populations? It’s evident that Bangladesh is at a crossroads to present itself on the global stage. Let’s add Bangla Cultural Centres for expediting the process.
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.