The tears and pride of a mother Nahid Khan is reminded of the pathos of war
Maa, Anisul Hoque, Shomoy Prokashon A mother is desperately looking for her only son through every lead she can get for days after he was seized by the Pakistani military for interrogation about the whereabouts of freedom fighters of the independence war. Finally she meets her son behind bars at the prison cell. The son has been so brutally tortured that he can barely stand or talk. He tells his mother that the military will release him if he reveals the names of the others who are in control of guerrilla groups. The devastated but brave and indomitable mother tells him, “Keep strong son, don't tell anyone's name”. This is a mother as strong as the now sovereign country of ours. She would not bend before the fear of losing a precious possession for the greater good, for upholding the rights of citizens, for the liberty of Bangladesh.
This mother is Shafia Begum, our proud martyr Azad's mother, whose sacrifice mirrors that of many other invincible mothers across the land, and resembles the country itself that went through so much agony for nine months of tyranny unleashed by the Pakistani army, eventually sacrificing million people. This mother is brought to the consciousness of readers by Anisul Hoque in Maa, which is based on the story of Shafia Begum. It has been called a docu-fiction by Shahadat Chowdhury, but to me it is a literary reconstruction of history. Anisul Hoque is popularly known to everyone for his positive thinking and awe-inspiring writings. He is a diligent dream-distributor who writes to scatter the magic dust of hope among people in order to have them rise challenges they have not dreamed of. To write Maa he dug very deep and has presented a well-researched piece that appears to be history based on facts used in the book. There are even real names in the book. His natural flair in telling a story did need a few threads of fiction here and there but the book essentially retains the purity of facts about people, places and the period. The references at the back of the book points to how many resources he has used to make the narrative so authentic. He has talked very closely to Azad's cousin Jayed and people like Nasiruddin Yusuf and Shahadat Chowdhury who are some of the most prominent names in the history of our liberation war.
The first page of the book engages the reader right away, to appreciate the depth of the meaning of our independence war. It is one of very few books which tells the story on the first page, but makes one still want to read the rest of the book non-stop to experience the journey. That journey tells a story of love, courage, sacrifice, resentment, commitment, sadness, tears and triumph. The triumph is embedded in the success of all the heart-wrenching episodes that gave us Bangladesh, and made it all worthwhile. It is a journey no one can make without a tissue box, a constant reminder of caring human beings. For me it meant a lot of sleepless nights; the thought of the anguish in Shafia Begum's heart and the ordeal of war for an entire country kept me awake.
The story begins with Shafia leaving her wealthy husband's affluent home with a small child, Azad, without any of his resources, due to resentment against him for cheating on her. She is determined never to return and raises Azad on her own, all the while struggling with the humiliation of having been cheated on and with not enough means for subsistence living. Azad, knowing how tormented his mother was, always wanted to write about her. The task has finally been accomplished by Anisul Hoque. When a little light begins to show at the end of Shafia's tunnel, the independence war commences and Azad gets actively involved in it. His mother gives his friends shelter, cooks for them and, most important, blesses them in their struggle. There is much danger and uncertainty but nothing diverts the mother from her focus. Like many of the contemptible collaborators of 1971, one contributes to Azad's arrest and disappearance. The day Azad's Maa gets to see him, he is lying on a cold floor. He tells her he has not eaten rice for days. The next day Maa takes rice for her beloved son but the soldiers have by then moved him to a location no one knows of. Maa never has any rice nor has she slept on a bed for the rest of her life, all fourteen years after Azad's disappearance. She has hoped Azad will come back one day, until death wipes it all away. This is the story in a nutshell but the vast plot of the book describes the true ordeal of the nine-month war in an unforgettable touch that reminds one of Rabindranath Tagore's words from Gitanjali, "When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable."
The book is invaluable for its narration of the atrocities perpetrated by the soldiers, the co-ordination of guerrilla fighters, the commitment of country people. No fictitious character is used to adulterate the truth. The writer makes it a historical piece for anyone who wants to know about our freedom fighters. For new generations, who were lucky to be born in the independent country, they ought to know the true price at which their homeland was achieved so that they respect the great martyrs to whom we owe so much. A youngster once asked me about the liberation war and the emergence of Bangladesh, and I gave him Maa. The youngster with his somewhat dispassionate feelings, having been brought up abroad, and with little knowledge of Bengali said to me, 'Superb, revealing documentation of the war in a story'. That comment shows how beautifully the book covers the facts of war and engages a reader to the search for truth. War stories are always disturbing because of the brutality involved, as we read in Graham Greene's The Quiet American, Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong or Ian McEwan's Atonement. But the brutality of 1971 perhaps tops everything else, touches a Bangladeshi's heart, which is documented admirably by the author in the gentlest possible way so that the greatness of our liberation war does not get lost in remembrances of the worst side of the war.
The description flows from the writer's own feelings and perceptions, so wonderfully portrayed that they overwhelm readers. When he says, on a bright beautiful day which suddenly is drenched in rain and when Maa's body is lowered into the grave, that Azad and his friends are there too, those raindrops take on another meaning. Reading these lines chokes you, you can't help sobbing knowing there is no relation between her and yourself, but somehow she becomes your own, our very own maa. The writer uses many songs and poems in the book in full and it never feels that just a one or two-line mention would be sufficient. George Harrison's song gives a reader the sense of compassion for others, Tagore's song 'Aji Bangladesher hridoy hotey' gives the true blend of mother and country one can imagine, or Shamsur Rahman's poem reveals the beauty of independence and what it really means. That is because these are very cohesive in the very places of the novel that they were totally worth putting in.
A great book, a novel, history, docu-fiction --- whatever you might want to call it --- Maa by Anisul Hoque is a work that will take the reader into the past and a long way forward in feeling patriotism in the heart. Professor Anisuzzaman once visited me and I asked him to name some Bengali books one should read. He readily gave me a list of sixteen books, one of which was Maa. I knew in my heart he was right. I felt exactly the same way when I read the book.
The book haunts me and inspires me in feeling for my country and its people, makes me cry in sadness, enlightens me with knowledge of the great war, empowers me with the passion of feeling that one day I will go to Jurain cemetery to find the epitaph reminding me of 'Martyr Azad's Mother' and sit there quietly. That is how Maa wanted her epitaph to be, nothing else. Perhaps I could take this book with me and place it next to the epitaph and whisper, 'Maa, this is your life, this is our love. Anisul Hoque very passionately did it with a lot of love and respect on behalf of all of us. Please accept it. May your soul find some peace'.
Nahid Khan teaches at the University of Melbourne, Australia. http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=187486
ajj bijoy dibosh.ae jonno e bodh kori egragi chaa baglai likhai bashi valo.mirthur r pora jodi kono jibon thaka tahola sha jibone ami shohid azad ar shatha katatha chai tar jibon soggi hoa.sothi e i love with him very much.yes i do.tuni jodi jibitho thakthan tahola o hoitho bea kortham jodi tha somvob hoito.ami ae noble ta bou bar porachi.tar kotha tar maa r kotha prothi bagla fastival a mona pora.ami ajj o soshid azad ar jonmodin palon kori tar maa mirtho barshiki palon kori,ami zaed vi ka khub doa kori ar shohid azad ar poribarar sobai ka.
By: Md. Shakawat Hossain (Arif)
maa book is very described. thanks the writer
I REALY SHOCK AFTER READING THIS STORY.I THINK AZAD AND HIS MOM IS GREAT ENOUGH FOR RESPECT FROM MY MIND .BUT I WANNA KNOW FROM AUTHOR HOW MANY FAKE U ADD THIS STORY. PLS REPLY ME
Maa maa maa,sobar preo sobdo.Khoboi bhalo boi.Apnake thanks.Tobe ata porle kanna ashe.
This book is very nice.After read the book i have feel respect to AZAD BHAI. As a realistic incident i think one of the most favourable book in bangladesh.
By: Sufe Rahman
Based on a real story in 1971..Really a masterpiece....