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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Sunday Long Reads: The birth of Bangladesh, stories from Dhaka, women in the workforce, economy, and more

Here are this week's reads dedicated to Bangladesh's 50 years as an independent nation

December 12, 2021 10:33:05 am
East Pakistan, Bangladesh freedom, Bangladesh liberation, 1971 Bangladesh war, Bangladesh liberation 1971, first person account, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express newsDaud Haider (Illustration by Suvajit Dey)

Bangladesh @ 50: ‘Will you give me a flag of Bangladesh?’

By Daud Haider

December 1, 1971. Pakistani bomber planes have been marauding in the skies of East Pakistan from morning to night. We are on the verge of deafness from their dreadful roars. Everyone everywhere is terrified. We are assuming that war between Pakistan and India is imminent, not just on land and water but also in the air. Radio bulletins on Swadhin Bangladesh Betaar and Akashvani in Kolkata are saying that Dhaka has been surrounded by the liberation army, that a terrible battle is about to begin.


Bangladesh @ 50: ‘Architects are doing stunning buildings, but the city is going to hell’

Kazi Khaleed Ashraf Kazi Khaleed Ashraf (Courtesy Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements, Dhaka)

Muzharul Islam, the first professionally trained architect in Bangladesh, set the tone for how the fluvial landscape would be measured, both in its aesthetic and urban planning ideas. His work is still a primer in understanding “modernity in Bengal”. Today, as young architects receive international acclaim, what are the challenges for a city and the practice of architecture. Architect-urbanist Kazi Khaleed Ashraf, 62, director-general, Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscapes and Settlements, Dhaka, talks about the landscape imagination, the essence of nation-building and evaluating architecture through its locational ethics.


Bangaldesh @50: How the country became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world

kamal quadir Women have entered the workforce in large numbers in Bangladesh and boosted Bangladesh’s economic performance

TIME magazine’s cover story on January 17, 1972, was on the world’s newest country — Bangladesh — born of a bloody war. When I read it years later, a figure struck me as astonishing. The story reads, “Pakistan International Airlines left exactly Rs 117 (US$ 16) in its account at the port city of Chittagong.” From such a state, Bangladesh now stands on the foundation of a foreign exchange reserve of $46.4 billion. The journey from spare change to billions in reserve may have involved a struggle of decades, but our young nation has come a long way.


Bangladesh @ 50: How food mediated the battle between the two Bengals

getty A man inspects fish kept in the sun for drying in a fishing village near the Bay of Bengal in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh (Getty Images)

Baangaal na Ghoti? (Are you a “baangaal” or a “ghoti”?) My sister’s response would vary according to the relative who had posed this query. There was always a candy or two to be had from the maternal relatives, who felt that their young niece had vindicated them by acknowledging her ghoti (Bengalis with roots in West Bengal) filiation. And there were goodies, too, from the baangaal (Bengalis with roots in what was before the Partition, East Bengal) relatives from my father’s side of the family if she played along with them.


Bangladesh @ 50: Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas and his men played a significant role in the decisive phase of the nation’s Liberation War

bangladesh agreement Lt Gen Niazi (centre) signing the Instrument of Surrender in the presence of Lt Gen Aurora (left) (Source: Express Archive)

It’s been 50 long years but the events of the 1971 war, in which the Indian Navy played a crucial role, are still fresh in the mind of 88-year-old Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas (retd).

It was in April that he got the first whiff of impending trouble when the Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral SM Nanda told the western fleet to keep its gunpowder dry. “Things were getting very bad in East Pakistan, and with 12 million Bengali refugees crossing the border, India was facing a humanitarian crisis,” says Ramdas, then the commander of INS Beas, a modern gunnery ship of its time. Western Fleet Commander Rear Admiral Kuruvilla left no doubt about the coming conflict when he declared that nothing short of war would resolve this crisis.


Bangladesh @ 50: Rabindrasangeet singer Rezwana Choudhury Bannya on Tagore’s legacy, and actor Jaya Ahsan on changing the narrative of women in Bangla films

Bangla films, women artistes, Tagore’s legacy, Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Jaya Ahsan, Bangladesh, Dhaka and Kolkata, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news (Left) Rezwana Choudhury Bannya and (right) Jaya Ahsan.

Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, 64

Rabindrasangeet exponent and winner of Independence Award, the highest civilian award of Bangladesh

If there is one concrete entity that can define a borderless Bengal, that’s Rabindranath Tagore. People on both sides need to translate his thoughts for the masses. Both Bengals need to unite in this mission. For he couldn’t be more relevant in a world driven by binaries, polarities and toxicity. We need his humanism, philosophy, compassion, values, open-heartedness and consciousness. He is our lodestar.

We should embark on a translation project that captures his essence. Shuttling between Dhaka and Kolkata and having performed across India, I will say this, we haven’t been able to percolate his message to other states here. And that’s because there aren’t enough quality translations in regional languages. Even Bengalis residing across other parts of the globe have confined Tagore to conversations and soirees and aren’t doing enough to disseminate his work. Tagore was an internationalist and should not be cocooned, or else we will lose out on his ideals which hold the solutions for our future.


Bangladesh@50: A timeline of the 1971 Liberation War, as it unfolded

Bangladesh 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War (Express Archive)

December 3: Pakistan Air Force launches air strikes against Indian airfields in the Western Sector, including Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipura, Ambala, Sirsa, Halwara, Agra

December 3 to 6: Indian Air Force retaliates by attacking Pakistan air bases in Western and Eastern sectors. Pakistan attacks Indian ground positions in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir


Bangladesh@50: How love blossomed across borders and is witness to a couple’s fears about NRC

Love knows no boundaries. (Credit: Partha Paul)

I will only marry him, Afsana Bibi* said. She was only 14 then. Today, with Sheikh Rafiqul*, she completes 26 years of married life. In the border village of Lalgola, Murshidabad district, West Bengal, she recalls, “Both our parents were against our marriage as we belonged to two different countries.”


Bangladesh@50: From a ‘basket case’ to a case study, how the country put itself on the fast track

Dhaka city (Credits: Wikimedia Commons)

History has proven the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s famous description of the infant state of Bangladesh in 1972 as an “international basket case” wrong. Bangladesh has twice declared Independence — once as part of Pakistan in 1947 and then again as the current nation in 1971. On both occasions, it was considerably worse off in economic terms. Yet, it is to its credit that as things stand today — the past 15 odd years being the key — an average Bangladeshi’s income is more than that of an average Pakistani or even an average Indian.


Bangladesh@50: The nation’s success story relies on its focus on the twin pillars of secularism and economic stability

dhaka, bangladesh A new day is born: Dhaka at present (Getty Images)

When Bangladesh became independent in 1971, it was a devastated country. Pakistani military force massacred more than three million people and raped more than five lakh women. Besides genocidal violence, there was massive destruction of infrastructure, food shortage, and collective depression. When Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father) took over the reins of the country, he even declared that he would not be able to provide anything within three years. The international forces at that time widely regarded Bangladesh as an “empty basket”.


‘My generation gets to paint the picture of a Bangladesh where women scientists have the agency to design their own futures’: Senjuti Saha

Bangladesh, microbiologist senjuti saha Microbiologist Senjuti Saha

At 4 pm on a Wednesday, Leena pressed the “start” button on our brand-new sequencing machine loaded with a hundred clinical samples and took a nervous step back as the machine started its required system checks. Within minutes, the screen alerted of a hardware error, something she had not seen before. After five long hours of back and forth with tech experts, Leena was back at the machine, ready to press “start” one more time. The machine started! Leena’s eyes lit up with joy and pride — she was looking forward to analysing results of months of work using a technology that she had not even read of in textbooks. But then, as she looked at her watch, Leena transformed from a confident scientist to a young woman who now had to figure out how to get home safely and quickly enough to serve dinner to the family, and prepare everyone’s lunch for the next day. I walked with her to the elevator to see her off and requested one of our male colleagues to drop her off in a taxi. She also shared her live location so I could track her and ensure she reaches home safely.


Bangladesh @ 50: My Teacher, Marina Ahmad

50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s nationhood, Bangladesh war, Bangladesh liberation, Bangladesh East Pakistan, birth of Bangladesh, eye 2021, sunday eye, indian express news As Bangladesh makes its own mark in geopolitics, vocal artiste Marina Ahmad performs globally at venues big and small. (Credit: Suvir Saran)

My music teacher, Marina Ahmad, who was a part-time resident musician and performer in Mumbai and lives in New York City, was born in Bangladesh to Faqueer Shahabuddin Ahmad and Ayesha Akhtar of Dhaka. Faqueer Shahabuddin Ahmad was the first attorney general of Bangladesh and an author of its constitution. Ayesha was his wife and mother of their seven children. Music resided in their blood, and they had Marina taking lessons in classical music from a very young age and studying under Pt Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya in Delhi in her early teens. A chance meeting in an elevator with Pandit Jasraj took her to Mumbai at 22 and from there she arrived in New York City in 1991.


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