আমাদের ঘরবাড়ি (Our Homesteads)

Amitabha Dev Choudhury (Translation by Arjun Chaudhuri)

Amitabha Dev Choudhury was born in Silchar. His primary education happened both at Silchar and in Shillong. He completed his BA English and MA English degrees from Jadavpur University. He teaches English in a higher secondary school in Silchar now.

1961, January-May – The then State Government of Assam led by Bimalaprasad Chaliha issues the Language Bill. Almost the entire non-Assamese speaking population of the state reacts against this infamous legislation virulently, through active criticism, through writing, speeches, and through Satyagraha. 1961, 19th May, in the afternoon – A Satyagraha meeting is being held at the railway station in Silchar. A group of Satyagrahi activists have participated in it. Their demand – repeal the Language Bill. The day’s activities have begun with a railway blockade which they have done by squatting on the railway tracks. Under the auspices of the nearly setting sun and the raw heat of the month of Jyaishthha, the hands of the clock tick on for the just-out-of-school activists. No one then knew that this passage through time would never end for these people. The thunderous report of the police guns rang out then. Those who had come forth to peacefully oppose and to demand the striking down of the law were struck down themselves, eleven bodies lain out on the earth of Barak Valley, bathed in the fire of the Jyaishthha sunshine. These eleven people were thus immortalised forever as the Language Martyrs. This instance of linguistic aggression has remained fresh in the cultural memory of Barak Valley ever since then. Barak Valley lives in this playroom of otherness all alone, but this incident is not really where the history of this region begins – from long before this, located mid-river, Barak Valley has been ravaged by arrivals and departures, hoping and desperation, farewells and thraldom. The Bengali language here is a language for others, the Bengali-ness one finds here is something that is met with derision and ridicule, at least for the world outside. Did I say `the world outside’? Yes, the ‘outside world’ indeed. Every year, during the rains, all the rivers of the outside world pour their waters into this wretched Barak, floods happen, they come and go. But the waters of this river merge into the sea under a different name, not the name ‘Barak’. All that belongs here stays here itself. All that leaves here never comes back. In this poem, Amitabha Dev Choudhury traces a daily living of sorts for this valley; he writes a history of this valley, one that no one from the outside world will ever be bound to accept as history as such.

নদীমাতৃক শিলচর, অসম

* * *

কবির কি দেশ আছে? কবির কি দেশ হয় কোনো?’

`মানুষের দেশ নেই? কবিরা মানুষ তবে নয়?’

`কবিরা আসলে পাখি। পাখির দেশ কী তুমি জানো?’

`সুরেরও তো দেশ আছে। কবি করে সুরকেও জয়?’

এই প্রশ্ন এলোমেলো হয়ে পড়ে দুর্জয় বৈশাখে।

বাঙালি কবির দেশ হয় কোনো? নাকি তার প্রাণ সাতচল্লিশের আগে সমুদ্র বাজাতো যেই শাঁখে সে শাঁখ ধূলোয় আজ? নেই তার কোনো খতিয়ান?

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