Bangladesh is surrounded by India to the west, north and east. It borders Myanmar in the south-east. The Bay of Bengal is to the south. Bangladesh is mainly low-lying delta, but mountains separate it from Myanmar and parts of India. There is a large area of swamp forest in the south.
Bangla is also known as Bengali
164.7 million (2022)
147,570 square kilometres
H. E. Ms. Saida Muna Tasneem
1972 after independence from Pakistan
Mozammel Hossain KC
Mozammel Hossain KC is a Criminal Barrister based in London. He was born in Barisal, Bangladesh, and came to the UK in 1995. He was called to the Bar in 2001. In 2019, he became the first Bengali-speaking Criminal Lawyer to be appointed as Queen’s Counsel (now King’s Counsel). He has been involved in some of the most complex and high-profile cases in the country
Hey, Great Life
No more poetry.
Bring on the hard, harsh prose instead.
Let the jingle of verse disappear
And the strong hammer of prose strike.
No need for the soft caress of a poem;
Poetry, I give you a break/holiday today.
In the world of hunger, the earth belongs to prose,
And the moon burns like a roti.
Translated by Joe Winter
For thousands of years Earth’s path has been my path. I have passed
at dark of night the sea of Ceylon and the ocean of Malay;
th ashen worlds of Bimbisara and Asoka I’ve encompassed,
and Vidarbha town’s dark distance, in life’s far ocean-foam-play…
and a touch of peace came to me once, the tiredest of men –
there and gone, the gift to me of Natore’s Banalata Sen.
Her hair was all a midnight from Vidisha’s town of the past,
her face a sculpture out of Sravasti. Then as a steersman
on far seas, the rudder gone, to all the winds cast,
feasts his eyes on green grass in an island of cinnamon,
so I glimpsed her in the darkness; and ‘Where were you then?’
raising her bird’s-nest-eyes to me said Natore’s Banalata Sen.
At day’s end when evening is here at last
in syllables of the dew; and a kite cleans its wings of sun’s smell;
the world’s colour is all out; then a shimmering script is traced
in a sparkle of fireflies, a story to tell.
All birds make for home – all rivers – ended in all day’s regimen;
darkness is all there is – and I face-to-face with Banalata Sen.
Bidrohi (The Rebel)
Translated by Sajed Kamal
proclaim: I raise my head high!
Before me bows down the Himalayan peaks!
proclaim: rending through the sky,
surpassing the moon, the sun,
the planets, the stars,
piercing through the earth,
the heavens, the cosmos
and the Almighty’s throne,
have I risen—I, the eternal wonder
of the Creator of the universe.
The furious Shiva shines on my forehead
like a royal medallion of victory!
proclaim: My head is ever held high!
I’m ever indomitable, arrogant and cruel,
I’m the Dance-king of the Day of the Doom,
I’m the cyclone, the destruction!
I’m the great terror, I’m the curse of the world.
I smash everything into pieces!
I’m unruly and lawless.
I crush under my feet
all the bonds, rules and disciplines!
I don’t obey any laws.
I sink cargo-laden boats—I’m the torpedo,
I’m the dreadful floating mine.
I’m the destructive Dhurjati,
the sudden tempest of the summer.
I’m the Rebel, the Rebel son
of the Creator of the universe!
proclaim: My head is ever held high!
I’m the tempest, I’m the cyclone,
I destroy everything I find in my path.
I’m the dance-loving rhythm,
I dance to my own beats.
I’m the delight of a life of freedom.
I’m Hambeer, Chhayanat, Hindol.
I move like a flash of lightning
with turns and twists.
I swing, I leap and frolic!
I do whatever my heart desires.
I embrace my enemy and wrestle with death.
I’m untamed, I’m the tempest!
I’m pestilence, dread to the earth,
I’m the terminator of all reigns of terror,
I’m ever full of burning restlessness.
proclaim: My head is ever held high!
I’m ever uncontrollable, irrepressible.
My cup of elixir is always full.
I’m the sacrificial fire,
I’m Yamadagni, the keeper
of the sacrificial fire.
I’m the sacrifice, I’m the priest,
I’m the fire itself.
I’m creation, I’m destruction,
I’m habitation, I’m the cremation ground.
I’m the end, the end of night.
I’m the son of Indrani,
with the moon in my hand and the sun on my forehead.
In one hand I hold the bamboo flute,
in the other, a trumpet of war.
I’m Shiva’s blued-hued throat
from drinking poison from the ocean of pain.
I’m Byomkesh, the Ganges flows freely
through my matted locks.
proclaim: My head is ever held high!
I’m the ascetic, the minstrel,
I’m the prince, my royal garb embarrasses
even the most ostentatious.
I’m Bedouin, I’m Chenghis,
I salute none but myself!
I’m the OM sound of Ishan’s horn.
I’m the mighty call of Israfil’s trumpet.
I’m Pinakapani’s hourglass drum, trident,
the sceptre of the Lord of Justice.
I’m the Chakra and the Great Conch,
I’m the primordial sound of the Gong!
I’m the furious Durbasa, the disciple
I’m the fury of fire, to burn this earth to ashes.
I’m the ecstatic laughter, terrifying the creation.
I’m the eclipse of the twelve suns
on the Day of the Doom.
Sometimes calm, sometimes wild,
I’m the youth of new blood—
I humble even the fate’s pride!
I’m the violent gust of a windstorm,
the roar of the ocean.
I’m bright, effulgent.
I’m the murmur of over-flowing water,
Hindol dance of rolling waves!
I’m the unbridled hair of a maiden,
the fire in her eyes.
I’m the budding romance of a girl of sixteen—
I’m the state of bliss!
I’m the madness of the recluse,
I’m the sigh of grief of a widow,
I’m the anguish of the dejected,
I’m the suffering of the homeless,
I’m the pain of the humiliated,
I’m the afflicted heart of the lovesick.
I’m the trembling passion of the first kiss,
the fleeting glance of the secret lover.
I’m the love of a restless girl,
the jingling music of her bangles!
I’m the eternal child, the eternal adolescent,
I’m the bashfulness of a village girl’s budding youth.
I’m the northern breeze, the southern breeze,
the callous eastwind.
I’m the minstrel’s song,
the music of his flute and lyre.
I’m the unquenched summer thirst,
the scorching rays of the sun.
I’m the softly flowing desert spring
and the green oasis!
In ecstatic joy, in madness,
I’ve suddenly realized myself—
all the barriers have crumbled away!
I’m the rise, I’m the fall,
I’m the consciousness in the unconscious mind.
I’m the flag of triumph at the gate
of the universe—
the triumph of humanity!
Like a tempest
I traverse the heaven and earth
riding Uchchaishraba and the mighty Borrak.
I’m the burning volcano in the bosom of the earth,
the wildest commotion of the subterranean ocean of fire.
I ride on lightning
and panic the world with earthquakes!
I clasp the hood of the Snake-king
and the fiery wing of the angel Gabriel.
I’m the child-divine—restless and defiant.
With my teeth I tear apart
the skirt of Mother Earth!
I’m Orpheus’ flute.
I calm the restless ocean
and bring lethean sleep to the fevered world
with a kiss of my melody.
I’m the flute in the hands of Shyam.
When I fly into a rage and traverse the vast sky,
the fires of Seven Hells and the hell of hells, Habia,
tremble in fear and die.
I’m the messenger of revolt
across the earth and the sky.
I’m the mighty flood.
Sometimes I bring blessings to the earth,
at other times, cause colossal damage.
I wrestle away the maidens two
from Vishnu’s bosom!
I’m injustice, I’m a meteor, I’m Saturn,
I’m a blazing comet, a venomous cobra!
I’m the headless Chandi,
I’m the warlord Ranada.
Sitting amidst the fire of hell
I smile like an innocent flower!
I’m made of clay, I’m the embodiment of the Soul.
I’m imperishable, inexhaustible, immortal.
I intimidate the humans, demons and gods.
I’m the God of gods, the supreme humanity,
traversing the heaven and earth!
I’m mad, I’m mad!
I have realized myself,
all the barriers have crumbled away!!
I’m Parashuram’s merciless axe.
I’ll rid the world of all the war mongers
and bring peace.
I’m the plough on Balaram’s shoulders.
I’ll uproot this subjugated world
in the joy of recreating it.
Weary of battles, I, the Great Rebel,
shall rest in peace only when
the anguished cry of the oppressed
shall no longer reverberate in the sky and the air,
and the tyrant’s bloody sword
will no longer rattle in battlefields.
Only then shall I, the Rebel,
rest in peace.
I’m the Rebel Bhrigu,
I’ll stamp my footprints on the chest of god
sleeping away indifferently, whimsically,
while the creation is suffering.
I’m the Rebel Bhrigu,
I’ll stamp my footprints—
I’ll tear apart the chest of the whimsical god!
I’m the eternal Rebel,
I have risen beyond this world, alone,
with my head ever held high!
I Won't Let You Go
Translated by Ketaki Kushari Dyson
The carriage stands at the door. It is midday.
The autumn sun is gradually gathering strength.
The noon wind blows the dust on the deserted
village path. Beneath a cool peepul
an ancient, weary beggar-woman sleeps
on a tattered cloth. All is hushed and still
and shines brilliantly – like a sun-lit night.
Only in my home there’s neither siesta nor rest.
Ashwin’s gone. The Puja vacation’s ended.
I’ve to return to the far-off place where I work.
Servants, busybodies, shout and fuss
with ropes and strings, tying packages sprawled
in this room and that, all over the house.
The lady of the house, her heart heavy as a stone,
her eyes moist, nevertheless has no time
to shed tears, no, not a minute: she has
too much to organise, rushes about,
extremely busy, and though there already is
too much baggage, she reckons it’s not enough.
‘Look,’I say, ‘what on earth hall I do with these –
so many stewpots, jugs, bowls, casseroles,
bedclothes, bottles, boxes? Let me take
a few and leave the rest behind.’
Nobody pays the slightest attention to what I say. ‘You might
suddenly feel the need for this or that
and where then would you find it far from home?
Golden moong beans, long-grain rice, betel leaves,
areca-nutes; in that bowl, covered, a few blocks
of date-palm molasses; firm ripe coconuts;
two contains of fine mustard oil;
dried mago, mango-cakes, milk – two seers –
and in these jars and bottles your medicines.
Some sweet goodies I’ve left inside this bowl.
For goodness’s sake, do eat them, don’t forget them.’
I realise it would be useless to argue with her.
There it is, my luggage, piled high as a mountain.
I look at the clock, then look back at the face
of my beloved, and gently say, ‘Bye then.’
Quickly she turns her face away, head bent,
and pulls the end of her sari over her eyes
to hide her tears, for tears are inauspicious.
By the front door sits my daughter, four years old,
low in spirits, who, on any other day,
would have had her bath well completed by now,
andd with two mouthfuls of lunch wou l d have succumbed
to drowsiness in her eyelids, but who , today,
neglected by her mother, has neither bathed
nor lunched yet. Like a shadow she has
kept close to me all morning, observing
the fuss of the packing, silent, wide-eyed.
Weary now, and sunk in some thought of hers,
she sits by the front door quietly, without a word.
‘Goodbye then, poppet,’ when I say,
she simply replies, sad-eyed, her face grave:
I won’t let you go.’ That is all.
She sits where she is, makes not the slightest attempt
to either hold my arm or close the door,
but only with her heart’s right, given by love,
proclaims her stand: ‘I won’t let you go.’
Yet in the end the time comes when, alas,
she has to let me go.
Foolish girl, my
daughter, who gave you the strength
to make such as statement, so bold, so self-assured –
‘I won’t let you go’? Whom will you,
in this universe, with two little hands
hold back, proud girl, and against whom fight,
with that tiny weary body of yours by the door,
that stock of love in your heart your only arms?
Nervously, shyly, urged by our plain within,
we can but express our innermost desire,
just say, ‘I do not wish
to let you go.’ But who can
say such a thing as ‘I won’t let you go’!
Hearing such a proud assertion of love
from your little mouth, the world, with a mischievous smile,
dragged me from you, and you, quite defeated,
sat by the door like a picture, tears in your eyes.
All I could do was mop my own eyes and leave.
On either side of the road as I move on
fields of autumn, bent by the weight of their crops,
bask in the sun; trees, indifferent to others,
stand on either side, staring all day
at their own shadows. Full, autumnal,
Ganga flows rapidly. In the blue heavens
white cloudlets lie like delicate new-born calves,
fully satisfied with their mother’s milk
and blissfully asleep. I sigh,
looking at the earth, stretching to the horizon,
weary of the passing epochs, bare in the brilliant sun.
In what a profound sadness are sky and earth
immersed! The further I go,
the more I hear the same piteous note:
‘I won’t let you go!’ From the earth’s edge
to the outermost limits of the blue heavens rings
this perennial cry, without beginning, without end: ‘I won t let you go! I won’t let you go!’ That’s what
they all say – ‘I won’t let you go!’ Mother earth,
holding the littlest grass-stalk to her breast,
says with all her power: ‘I won’t let you go!’
And in a lamp about to go out, someone seems
to pull the dying flame from the darkness’s grasp,
saying a hundred times, ‘Ah, I won’t let you go!’
From heaven to earth in this infinite universe
this is the oldest statement, the deepest cry –
‘I won’t let you go!’ And yet, alas,
we have to let go of everything, and they go.
Thus it has been since time without beginning.
In creation’s torrent, carrier of deluging seas,
they all rush past with fierce velocity,
eyes burning, eager arms outstretched,
moaning, calling, – ‘Won’t, won’t let you go!’ –
filling the shores of the cosmos with their clamour.
‘Won’t, won’t let you go,’ declares the rear wave
to the front wave, but none listens
From all directions today
that sad heat-rending wail reaches my ears,
rining without pause, and in my daughter’s voice:
a cry of the cosmos quite as importunate
as a child’s. Since time began
all it gets it loses. Yet its grasp
of things hasn’t slackened, and in the pride
of undiminished love, like my daughter of four,
ceaselessly it sends out this cry: ‘I won’t let you go!’
Face wan, tears streaming,
its pride is shattered each hour, every minute.
Yet such is love, it never concedes defeat
and in a choked voice rebelliously repeats:
‘I won’t let you go!’ Each time it loses,
each time it blurts, ‘How can what I
love be ever alienated from me?
Is there anything in this whole universe
as full of yearning, as superlative,
as mighty , as boundless as my desire?’
So saying, it arrogantly proclaims:
‘I won’t let you go’, only to see at once
its cherished treasure blown away by a breath
like trivial dry dust, whereupon
eyes overflowing, like a tree uprooted,
it collapses on the ground, pride crushed, head bent.
Yet this remains love’s plea: ‘I won’t let the Creator break His promise to me.
A great pledge, sealed and signed, to me was given,
a charter of rights in perpetuity.’
Thus though thin and frail, and face to face
with almighty death, it says, swollen with pride,
‘Death, you don’t exist!’ What cheek!
Death sits, smiling. And that eternal love,
so death-tormented, for ever in a flutter
with restless anxiety, has quite overpowered
this infinite universe, like the dampness of tears
suffusing sad eyes. A weary hope against hope
has drawn a mist of dejection over the whole
universe. Yes, I think I see
two hapless imploring arms lie quietly,
encircling the world, in a vain attempt
to bind it in its embrace, like a still reflection
lying in a flowing stream – some illusion
of a cloud charged with raindrops and tears.
Wherefore today I can hear
so much yearning in the rustling of the trees,
as the noonday’s hot wind, idly unmindful, plays
meaningless games with dry leaves, and as the day wanes,
lengthening the shadows under the peepul trees.
The cosmos is a field where the infinite’s flute
plays a pastoral lament. And she sits and listens,
earth, her hair down, and it fills her with longing,
there, in the far cornfields, by Ganga’s borders,
a golden cloth-end, sunlight-yellow, drawn
over her breast. Her eyes are still,
fixed on the far blue sky, and she says nothing.
Yes, I’ve seen her pale face,
no different from the face of my daughter of four,
so quiet, so hurt, and nearly lost in the door-edge.