Thursday, November 15, 2012

New York Times India Ink on Bengal, and my insignificant thoughts

The New York Times India Ink blog highlighted Bengal from both sides of the border this week in a duet of well-written articles.

Arnab Ray, otherwise known as Greatbong, gave us a look back at cross-border unity and how the two Bengals have drifted further apart, in his characteristic nostalgic style.

Naeem Mohaiemen paints a picture of the struggle to cross the divide, which despite best intentions, is rewarded with isolation as cultural collaboration seems to threaten the political powers that be.

I had written my impressions here in brief, until I had a few discussions and realized how little I actually know about the situation.

Here's what I do know.

I have been learning Bengali for five years. I have teachers and mentors from both India and Bangladesh. Without their unique perspective, I would not know anything close to what I know now. You cannot learn a language if you separate it from its culture. I had previously only learned from Indian Bengali sources but I was missing something very significant. Only in the last year did I really learn anything about Bangladesh, and since then, my skill level has gone from novice to intermediate. I just feel like I have a fuller picture and I understand much more now that I am getting multiple perspectives.

I know people who have worked cross-border in film, radio, and new media, and yet they remain more influential in their country of origin. I suppose this is natural, but I still admire them for reaching out, particularly when governments don't make this easy.

If you are a student of Bengali, read the articles posted by these talented authors and gain a deeper understanding.

If you are a Bengali, read them and take away what you will; new perspectives or reinforcement of what you have always been saying.

If you are neither, still read and learn a little bit more about a part of the world you may not be familiar with.

I am once again inspired to read, to listen, and to understand. May you find something that inspires you in the same way.

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