Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Evening With Nationalists

As I've mentioned before, most of my wider family are nationalists – they are supporters of the Awami League. That they are beyond reason and sanity, everyone knows: that they are beyond humanity should not be a well-kept secret either.

My wife and I spent an evening with them: it was supposed to be a getting-together to mourn a dead relative, but we found the booze flowing merrily enough, and, naturally, singers at the podium.

But that was nothing compared to what followed.

My cousin and his wife had recently come here for a short visit. A more tragic couple I have yet to meet. She had breast cancer, and had had a mastectomy performed. She was under chemotherapy. They were devout Muslims, and thoroughly apolitical.

But she had a major defect in the eyes of her nationalist relatives: she wore a hijab (albeit with the face showing). That she was very religious seemed to earn her the scorn of everyone present. And they were both revolted by the booze, which the company sensed.

The girl was crying. She spoke, sobbing, to one of my uncles: "Nobody knows what we're going through" I heard her say. And I could imagine: besides the Damocles' sword of cancer hanging over you, there's the sheer cost of treatment in America; even insurance was expensive and my cousin had lost his job in the economic downturn, and his wife couldn't work.

And my uncle told her: "Try to take things lightly".

How do you take cancer lightly? Is religion an inappropriate response to the prospect of imminent death?

So, there were these secular nationalists, swilling booze and listening to the songs of Tagore, and looking down their collective noses at my cousin and his cancerous wife for being practicing Muslims, non-Awami Leaguers.

Isn't that our country writ small?


Rezwan said...

Surely the attitude of your uncle was preposterous. These are the hypocrites whose work is contradictory to their swaggering.

However these are human traits and can be found across people from all walks of the society or political beliefs (at least I have seen). And it would be wrong to associate them with any party, any religion (or non-believers) or any particular taste of music.

Listening to Rabindra sangeet does not make you do this. Nor Rabindra Sangeet lyrics warrant such behavior. No political party in Bangladesh prescribes alcohol for its followers.

Fiona said...

What is the associative link between Rabindra sangeet, alcohol and Islam?
Has the social norms changed in the last twenty five years since I left the country?