May 22, 2013 | 07:01 PM (BD Time)
22 May, 2013 Wednesday
Shades of mysticism
by Rummana Chowdhury:
Poet and author Rummana Chowdhury has been residing in Toronto for the past 31 years and this past February 2012, her 15th book, entitled Shades of Mysticism, was launched at the Amar Ekushe Boi Mela at the Bangla Academy Nazrul Mancha in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The book was formally inaugurated by eminent Bangladeshi poet and author Syed Shamsul Haque.
Shades of Mysticism is a collection of English articles published by Saifullah Mahmood Dulal, printed and distributed by Swarabynjon of Aziz Super Market, Dhaka. It has been sold at the Boi Mela for 100 taka, and has been distributed for sale to Canada, the USA and England for $10 or 5 pounds, respectively.
The cover design is beautifully done by artist Pijush Dastidar, depicting the white snowy alps of Canada and the ever-green trees overlade with frosty icicles and snow. The back cover depicts the world famous CN Tower, Skydome, and the Rogers Centre, situated alongside Lake Ontario.
The book comprises of 19 articles (64 pages), ISBN: 978-984-8829-17-2, covering a variety of subject matter, from the cultural, to the socio-political, to the every day perspectives this author has on the changing times of living in the east and the west. It is clear that this diasphoric author regularly reflects on her contrasting perspectives between the east and the west, having lived in both Bangladesh and Canada for an almost equal number of years.
A notable and reoccurring theme in her chapters is that of change and progression. She documents the ways in which Bangladesh and Dhaka have developed from their origin somewhat 40 years and 400 years ago, respectively. It was refreshing to read these reflective pieces which allow the reader to landscape the ups and downs that cities and nations go through as they heal, develop, recover and progress, finding their identities in the world. In particular, I enjoyed "Bangladesh at 40: Beyond the Horizon of Freedom" and "Dacca Then and Dhaka Now: My Country My Pride" because it is rather uncommon for a Bangladeshi author to actually help us appreciate all the advances and progressions we have made as a people amidst the turmoil of everyday life. I applaud the book for applying an optimistic, rather than the usual pessimistic lens when evaluating Bangladesh's development. It was a refreshing reminder that people are resilient, even when life throws an overwhelming amount of curve balls our way.
While many of her observations bring to light the many progressive, intellectual and socio-cultural progressions Bangladesh has made in the short time that is has existed, the author is neither blind nor unforgiving of the nation's faults. In her pieces "Imagining Bangladesh's Tahrir Square" and Aparajeyo Bangla," the author honestly discusses the shortcomings, struggles and failures that Bangladeshi's encounter as they grow into a more mature people and nation.
In her piece "Little Bird," the author speaks to the universal human conscious by sharing her distresses with serious global issues such as war, occupation, climate change, world hunger, genocide and poverty, to name just some of the issues she brings to light from the perspective of an innocent and naive peace-loving bird, meant to perhaps symbolise the often naive nature of people.
Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of this book is the sheer variety of perspectives this worldly author brings to the table. With articles about the progression of Bangladesh and Dhaka, alongside articles about its lack of accountability when it comes to human rights, alongside articles about Canadian multiculturalism and its shortcomings, alongside articles about the indigenous peoples of Bangladesh or articles about global despair, this book allows a reader to travel from the third world, to the first world, and back again, only to land somewhere inbetween all the chaos and find a sense of universal commonhood and belonging.
Perhaps one shortcoming of the book is that the tone and narrative is quite inconsistent. While some of her articles are incredibly poetic, others seem more like essays, or informative articles, while some have a balanced mixture of both poetry, prose, reflection and fact, though some may argue that it is exactly this versatility which allows the book to appeal to a much larger variety of readers, a potentially useful tool for an author who aims to educate in a light and entertaining way.
As a diasphoric writer from Bangladesh, and residing in Canada for over 31 years now, Rummana Chowdhury wants to familiarise the Canadian audience, or rather, the global audience with Bangladesh's rich history, traditions, culture and literature, both in a historical and contemporary way. In a way, the book brings people upto speed about where things started and how far along things have come.
Like good universal music, a good piece of writing can cross the boundaries of language, culture, religion and nations, and can touch any reader's heart, anywhere in the world. This book certainly accomplishes this fine task. With its sophisticated but easy-flowing use of language and terminology, coupled with some pretty deep analysis, though presented in a light-hearted and often poetic way, this book is a pleasurable and enchanting journey.
Reviewed by Dr. Saeedah Ahmad.PhD
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