The novel begins with the feelings of first love between Anjan and Manjuli, schoolchildren in Chandpur, a prosperous city in Bangladesh. A little eye contact, a little smile, a touch of hand by mistake and a light gesture of love. Adolescent love goes on secretly even under the guardians’ watch. At such a time comes the bloody seventy-one. Like many other families, Anjan’s family left Mofswal and moved to a remote village to save their lives amid the chaos of the liberation war. And Manjuli’s family went to a refugee camp in India.
Meanwhile, after the war, Anjan’s family returned to Chandpur, but Manjali’s family remained in Kolkata. Two of them completed their studies in two cities keeping this love in their hearts. Anjan settled in Toronto to earn a living. Manjuli is no longer married. He had to work in a bank in Kolkata to support his family. He has to take care of his parents, younger sister’s marriage and more responsibility of the family. Childhood love is like a childhood doll tucked away in a secret drawer. In the words of Manjuli in the writer’s pen…
“From one place to another – in the difficult battle of survival, it was more important to find some means for the survival of the mother-father-little sister than to search for love like a selfish person.”
Meanwhile, there was a political change in Bangladesh after independence. A dark chapter begins with the brutal massacre of 75. Then came the days of military rule and changed the image of the country. Then, at the end of the uphill journey, the murderous brokers of the 1970s had to come to justice. Ghulam Azam and some other war criminals were hanged.
Teenagers who fell in love with a lifelong dream of being together, their lives run like parallel lines of railroad tracks at both ends of the world. In the city of Kolkata, Manjuli turns the wheels of the world with a strong hand. On the other hand, Anjan spends his life in the busy city of Toronto with his two daughters and his wife. In course of time both reach middle age. Yet both, from both ends of the world, freely fill the silver cup of their minds with the peacock feathers of their velvet days. That feather sometimes smells of ‘Aguru’; Both are nostalgic. A sigh rises from the depths of the chest. Both of them hide their chest wounds and lead their lives according to the rules of life.
The novel is written like a diary. One chapter of Anjan’s diary The next chapter is Manjuli’s diary. The husband and wife of the novel have expressed their feelings of love in their own words. He told about the moment of their first meeting, the excitement of both of them and their own thoughts at the first sight. Said of their sorrows, of longings for loved ones who remained in their hearts from a distance. As a result, the picture of the mind of these two characters is very clear in the eyes of the reader.
The story is written in very simple language. As you read, the reader will feel that this is Manjuli and Anjan’s childhood diary. Sometimes the writer has resorted to poetry to express Anjan Manjuli’s love. Poetry is a very good medium to convey the emotion of love. So even after reading the novel, the resonance of the story will remain in the mind of the reader for a long time.
The cover of the book is done by the author himself. The cover features a dejected teenage girl’s face drawn in light pink over black lines. Half of the girl’s face is covered by hair – a red tip on the forehead. I can imagine the downcast face of Manjuli. Manjulis can never assert their will. All his life he bows down and sacrifices his dreams for everyone in the world. So this degraded face of the girl is very meaningful. The red tip of the girl’s forehead is like the vermilion of Anjan’s imagination given to Manjuli. The red tip of the forehead is like the new sun of liberated Bangladesh, the sun of hope for a new life after enduring the rule of Razakar for a long time even after independence. The pink color of the entire cover is like an innocent canvas of the teenage mind. In short a very meaningful and aesthetic cover.
As many Hindus had to migrate to India on the basis of religion during the partition of the country in 1947, many Muslims also had to migrate to Bangladesh from India. According to the British Red Cross, 14 million people were displaced at that time The people of that generation paid the economic and social cost of this emigration. We have read many stories and novels of that time in Bengali literature. The end of the period was expected as the country was divided on the basis of religion.
But in 1971 there was another major influx. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 10 million Hindus went to India in 1971 fearing genocide, rape, and looting. This influx was a terrible humanitarian disaster and unexpected. Leaving aside the theoretical discussion about what caused this disaster, I feel that all the stories and novels written about the Liberation War, the struggle of this sub-culture or the people of a particular religion who emigrated and resettled in India even after the independence of the country, are necessary. Not written, as much as could be written. The novel’s background to this consideration is invaluable.
Although the novel is written in the backdrop of the Liberation War, it is not a political novel. Because only the story of sweet love in the historical background, no historical character or story is sheltered in this novel. Although Bangladesh’s independence war, Bangabandhu’s murder, Ghulam Azam’s hanging etc. are mentioned in the novel, but the tension of Anjan and Manjuli’s personal life can be felt more than the tension of hope and despair of any historical figure or historical period. The author himself says in the introduction…
“When I was a teenager, I saw Raktajhara ’71. Those who were neighbors, school friends, many of them disappeared. They never met again. Similarly, two teenagers are told in this novel.”
On pages 32 and 34 of the novel, there is a news about the death of four youths from Chandpur town while making bombs. It is not known whether it is the author’s imagination for the sake of the novel or there is any truth behind it. But if it really happened, the reference could have been given. Along with this, the execution of Ghulam Azam’s death sentence has also come up. A more detailed reference to these issues would have benefited the new generation of readers, who are not aware of the post-independence rehabilitation of the Rajakars.
People suffer the most in partition, war, communal strife. Even though all the damadol stops at one time, the tears of losing a loved one remain in the chest. So in the words of the author…
“Crying is not always visible – not even understood. But the mind always cries! This cry does not touch others. It does not hurt. May it find comfort in itself!”
This novel of sweet love in such a wonderful background will inspire other writers and we hope to get more novels of this author in the future.
Canadian-expatriate writer Mamunur Rasheed lives in London, Ontario. After studying public administration department in Dhaka University, he worked in Bangladesh Tourism Corporation. Has been associated with non-sectarian cultural activities in post-war independent Bangladesh. He was an active member of Bangladesh Students Union, Bangladesh Udichi Artists Group, Dhaka University Drama Circle and Culture Council. He is also a Rabindra Sangeet artist.
So far two collections of his poetry, a novel, a collection of short stories, and childhood stories have been published. He is also associated with the Udichi Artist Group in Canada. Younger sister Rebecca Champa is one of the inspirations for her writing. His father late Mohammad Faridullah is a sports organizer. Mata Faizunnessa Begum is the former president of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad of Chandpur district.
Mamunu’s Rashid novel “Manjuli” is published by Sochoyoni Publishers, Dhaka. Release date January 2023.
Congratulations Mamunur Rashid for this new novel.