The opening ceremony of the T-20 Cricket World Cup has triggered a lot of debate and criticism recently. Some are labelling this event as a cultural hijack, while others are trying to establish it as a big step towards global image-making. The most talked-about article on this issue was probably written by Matthew Islam (Not a cultural hijack) in the Dhaka Tribune.
I have nothing against Hindi, Urdu, English, Persian, or Arabic. All these languages have enriched our culture. Nazrul was heavily influenced by Urdu and Persian literature and music. His stay in Karachi during the First World War influenced him immensely. We fought for Bangla in 1952, but not against Urdu, English, or Hindi.
So, AR Rahman performing in Dhaka will definitely not make “chomchom less sweet.” In fact, most of our people are relatively open-minded about it. Classical music concerts arranged by the Bengal Foundation are best examples of our level of acceptance towards Indian artists.
Then why are people so angry now? It is because we had a big opportunity to showcase our rich culture, which could’ve helped us in branding Bangladesh positively.
We could boost our morale, spirit, as well as our economy. Considering the present context, can we blame people for showing some resistance against “Hindi” culture?
Think about India banning our TV channels, while all of their channels are open to us. Recently, India has taken initiative to patent our nakshi kantha, fazli mango, and Jamdani sari as its own. There is a growing sense against India about their actions, and a fear against its intention. As a result, the emotional resistance against Indian culture is growing day by day. Matthew Islam was for free markets and capitalism, but who will preach free markets and capitalism to India? Why doesn’t it open our TV channels up to its own people? What are they afraid of?
I don’t agree with him that anybody is protecting the interest of LRB or Miles. I guess very few among us are against AR Rahman as well. However, we can at least expect that the authorities of our country will treat our local artists with the same amount of respect that they gave the Indian ones. The disparity Shafin Ahmed expressed online should be addressed and answered by the concerned authorities. People also want to know why Runa Laila and Sabina Yasmin were treated in that manner.
Maybe Bangladesh has a very small number of international level artists, but are we properly presenting the few that we have? Have we asked Akram Khan, Bangladeshi born British choreographer, to perform and choreograph for any of our big events? I think Monica Yunus, who is gracing all the major opera houses globally, will never be invited to any of our national level concerts. Maybe I sound very nationalistic, but I’m not.
What I’m concerned about, is expressing our identity and existence in more gracious ways. On the other hand, we have to be cautious of the great harm ultra-nationalism can cause us.
Many great maestros of India were born in Bangladesh, but we don’t claim and promote them as sons of our own soil. Ustaad Alauddin Khan’s birth place was Brahmanbaria. Sachin Dev Burman was born in Comilla. Why can’t we let the world know of these facts?
Have we ever thought of showing their birth places in any of our international events? Some members of Alauddin Khan’s family are still living and practicing classical music in Dhaka, how much does the world know about them? Let the global audience know how much our land contributed to the vast culture of India, and how much sharing there is in the domain of history and heritage. So don’t reject Hindi. Rather, think of claiming parts of it as our own. That would be the proper move to brand our culture and country.
Satyajit Ray and Rabindranath Tagore are Indians by birth, but aren’t they ours as well? Nazrul is Bangladeshi, but are not India and Pakistan claiming him as their hero as well?
Let us think of portraying, through coming events, the commonalities of this region as well. Let people of this region come closer and build trust among themselves. Let’s try to make Bangladesh the cultural melting pot. “Our culture is the best in the world” may not the best slogan to scream out, but “we want to embrace all the best cultures” should be our motto. We have to do it carefully, so that we don’t hurt our own interests.