A river, a woman Mozaffar Hossain praises a story of life
Agoonmukhar Meye Nurjahan Bose Sahitya Prokash Agoonmukha is a terrible and turbulent river in the South Bengal coastal area. There are other rivers also of the same nature. But Agoonmukha has seen a rise in its intensity by the added flow of six other rivers like the Tentulia, the Lohadia, the Buda Gouranga, the Babnabad, the Darchida and the Degri rivers. Owing to the natural play of loss and gain of the river flows some strips of sandy land were raised out of the bed of the rivers or the sea above the water level where fortune-seekers made their shelter from time to time. In course of time the Burmese and Arakanese came to establish links with Bengalis.
The violent and untameable swelling of the sea waves and the deep roaring sounds with billows of the Agoonmukha have given birth to many myths and much hearsay. The coastal inhabitants have had no other way but to fight courageously with nature for their routine daily life. Capture of boats and loss of lives have been their common experience. Their struggling lives were at par with the nature of the restless and terrible rivers.
The Katakhali was one of the islands of the coastal zone where Nurjahan was born to fight against the innumerable inimical forces of nature, society and fate. Her misfortunes came rallying in, jousting with one another. Poverty, destitution, death of nearest kith and kin, including her father, her growing youth in a male-dominated society all tried to make her a victim of dejection and despondency. But she did not surrender as she was a child of the Agoonmukha.
Every cloud has a silver lining. Nurjahan's urge, zeal and inborn thirst for knowledge and study brought her to Barisal town where she had to take shelter with her friends and relatives. Her feelings for the poor and the distressed drew the attention of the then young student leader Emadullah, who after sometime, asked for her hand. But the happy marriage lasted only for a short period of time. The sudden unfortunate death of that promising young leader of the 1950s of the twentieth century made Nurjahan a widow with one child, Jasim. Yet she did not lose her courage to stand on her own feet. In the course of her journey to a path of life full of struggle, she found Swadesh Bose, a communist-to-the-core worker, as her friend, philosopher and guide. Swadesh married her, taking upon himself the entire responsibility of Jasim, the living reminder of Emad. And thus Nurjahan became Nurjahan Bose. The couple joined hands to walk a long way in various progressive movements far and near. They had to go to Karachi and America for both studies and service. Nurjahan's humanitarian service in Catholic Charity was a resplendent study in the acquisition of varied experience.
During the course of the liberation movement, Nurjahan was in Bangladesh. Bangabandhu had deep affection for her. She had to go abroad again. For the second time she became a widow after the death of Swadesh. Nurjahan had to leave her village at the age of ten in 1949. Now she is again in her village on the banks of the Agoonmukha with her lifelong varied experience. She is a spent force now.
Nurjahan's autobiography Agoonmukhar Meye speaks not just of her own experience. She brings forth a panoramic picture of different countries, of home and abroad; an honest exposition of great personalities, social picture of many countries and a keen observation of mind, faith and culture. Her story speaks of her instinctive and indomitable spirit of serving humanity irrespective of caste, creed, colour and faith. This spirit of serving the poor and distressed inspired her to form many humanitarian organizations that gave her a myriad of experience. The book itself is a world in miniature in 307 pages. The reader can enjoy the pleasures of the journey by poring through the work.
Sahitya Prokash deserves cheers for such a great job.
(This review is a reprint.)
Mozaffar Hossain is Chairman, Bangladesh Literary Resource Centre (BLRC)
Found this book extremely inspiring. I salute the author for all she has done in one lifetime and find my life insipid and pampered. My father's side belonged to Barisal before partition and I feel proud of the spirited ladies of Barisal. Hope I will be able to make some difference, something good, for the suffering women around me. If I visit Bangladesh, hope to meet this inspiring person.