Learning through the Familiar

Author, poet, and academician Premananda Roy has for a long time, been part of Siliguri literary circle. His new book is titled “Okkhor Chiner Pohila Pauthi” (First step to learn alphabet). For an unthinking eye, it is nothing more than an addition to workbooks written for young Rajbangshi students; but for observers, it is a master to young “igniting minds”.

In an interview with  Premananda Roy, he highlights his chief interests in writing this book, what inspired him and the multifarious dimensions the text imbibes.

Being asked what inspired him to write this text, he answered that it was to “fill the gulf between present syllabi” written in Bengali and expressed from different cultural perspective.It aims at reducing the “communication” gulf between the teachers and students, to create a productive environment for learning.

The alphabet remains in Bengali, but its’ identification is in reference to different anthropological, social, cultural, aspects of Koch Rajbangshi lifestyle- an easy way to capture imaginations to help children learn and remember better, for example, he writes:

“Eshti kutum aishe barit

Eesh nindai ghorer ttharit”

He says, “Society is a large text” and each individual, community, has their own perspectives to grasp this text hence his book contains, those unspoken pictures of the Koch- Rajbangshi community, intrinsic to them in identifying the familiar world. In one of his rhymes, he writes:

“Aabor guya bhukai aaju

Guyar boro dok

Thot gobiya abota hoil

Teestaboorir dhok”

The short rhyme consists of an old grandmother’s vision, whose lips are red with the extract of unripe betel nut and betel leaf, at the same time comparing her to the image of Teestaboori, a local deity. And the picture of the grandfather, who prepares it with love and devotion. The rhyme presents a familiar picture of Koch Rajbangshi household.

The text also incorporates the onomatopoeic words like “tong tong”, “basher ting ting”, “bong bong kana”, “khong khong”, “urang farang”, “ding ding” ,particularly to suggest the “power of imagination” of the rural Rajbangshi folks in word construction in relation to nature or sounds present in nature. It surely speaks as he argues “our closeness, dependency to Nature.” He also refers to the naming systems of Rajbanshis based on days of the week like “Manglu” or “Budharu” or “Shukaru”, as an “exclusive” practice amongst us.

For him, the book will act as a reservoir to preserve the “linguistic human rights” of Rajbangshi children, who are unable to comprehend and fail to grasp the present linguistic analytics of Bengali language. Consequent to which they become the victims of “inferiority complex”, “depravity”, many times they are “forced to abandon” education- and slowly fade out of classrooms.

The work will certainly “reiterate the history”. It will allow the children from a young age to “document” the past and acknowledge ones’ cultural heritage, and identify them as their own. He thinks that “bold hearts”, “un disobliged” men will act as catalysts in the process of regeneration and to intimidate the minds in slumber, continuous camps, interactive sessions are the prerequisites.

But according to him, one should first be “convinced” that they represent a “valuable heritage”. Intimidated he asks, “When students in Jadavpur University, are performing Bishohora songs, why are our unnerved?” he said, “they are murdering their selves, their identities.” He states the examples of Vaishnava children in Manipur, who walk to their schools with sandalwood “tilak” on their forehead, “kanthi” around their neck, bearing their religious traditions. But a similar venture also persists among us- young girls, women in Assam, Nepal, have sparked anew the culture of wearing Patani, or that Bhawaiya artists being born in every household more than ever.

When asked about the role of dominating political power and how they govern the power semantics, he answered most determinately –“to break the obstacles of the political barrier, to wash them away, disciplined hard work and disciplined fighters are necessary”. In this context, he referred to the 2 million native Tulu speakers of south India, and many academicians who notwithstanding its’ unofficial status, write and speak in this language. He refers to a coast guard who on a daily basis, reads aloud the Bible translated in Tulu, to the Christian Tulu community in  Marina Beach, Chennai. He also refers to a similar initiative by Indramohan Barman, who reads the Bhagavad Gita translated in Rajbangshi by Nagendranath Roy. Thereby stressing the importance of grass root level workers, who are working in and around, small villages of North Bengal, Assam, Nepal, Bangladesh to facilitate the transmission of our culture, within and beyond the country.

To some extent, the plight of Rajbangshi speakers may lessen, with the cumulative efforts of many “bold hearts” which resulted in the recent announcement of the West Bengal Government to grant Rajbangshi/ Kamatapuri official status, along with Kurukh- a progressive step for the native speakers.

A headmaster by profession, academician by choice, Premananda Roy’s book is a promising venture to capture the migrating minds of Koch Rajbangshi minds and particularly the young “igniting minds”.

 

His other books include:

  1. A Documentation of Rajbangshi Language (Volume 1), written on recommendation of National Library. It deals with the linguistic perspectives, syntactical developments, and morphemes of Rajbangshi language.
  2. Sub-Himalayan Regions of West Bengal, deals with the different communities and cultures living in this region from an anthropological perspective.
  1. Three poem collections in Rajbangshi.
  1. Book on Rajbangshi Bibaha Geeti. (Marriage songs)
  1. Collection of sixteen essays titled “Uttar Banger Loko Sanskriti”
  1. Bengali book, “Bol Tuleche Maadol.”
  1. His Rajbangshi translation of Rabindranath Tagore’ “Gitanjali” will be soon available
  1. And his latest work translating Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s “Wings of Fire” in Rajbangshi, is in making.

 

-NABANITA ROY (NOYA)

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