History has never been my forte since the labyrinth of dates, names, dynasties, and places leave me in cosmic chaos. But a history narrated in the form of stories such as films, documentaries, novels, and comics intrigued me as I could navigate through the twists and turns of the plot and run under the skins of the characters. From Steven Spielberg's War Horse to Zahir Raihan's Stop Genocide, stories knitting historic junctures hooked me up, helping the pages of history come alive before my eyes.
In our country, that genre has not thrived to a great extent as the officious manner of narrating history is a loop we haven't yet fully spiralled out of. Recently, I picked up a graphic novel that broke the stereotype of this overly formal manner of history-telling. This graphic novel named 'Mujib' sketches the minor and often overlooked events of the Father of the Nation that are outshined by other legendary aspects of his life such as leadership for independence and an electrifying speech. The eighth episode of this series paints the stories of his role in organising the language movement, now paid homage to by the entire world through the International Mother Language Day on 21 February.
This part of the graphic novel endows us with a breath-taking tour of a city furious with the government's decision to not officially recognise the language that almost every citizen of that city speaks. Placards, posters, and voices blurt out the same demand that Bangla, the language of the majority, has to be reinstated as one of the state languages. Young Mujib takes up all the super-heroic tasks on his shoulder to keep the shuttle of the movement going that even outperforms other imaginative comic characters. From dodging police cars to his unwavering stance in the face of police brutality, his real-life stories, stranger than fiction, offered me a virtual journey through the eye of a youth who would later end up being the Father of the Nation.
As I explored the stories behind this graphic novel, they piqued my interest as well. It was long after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that it was discovered that he had penned his life stories inside the four walls of a jail. When the repressive regime of Pakistan tried to suppress Mujib's voice by imprisoning him, the only thing he found solace in was reminiscing and penning his journey from an ordinary schoolboy to a leader. Published as the 'Unfinished Memoirs', it was later transformed into a graphic novel capturing the imagination of children and teenagers.
When I observe the entire planet commemorating the language heroes who consigned their lives to protect their mother tongue, when I see people walking barefooted in the city to pay tribute to language martyrs, when I listen to school children singing soulfully in a choir, "21 February stained with the blood of my beloved brother", tears roll down my cheek, leaving me in a quandary – whether to joy at weeping or to weep at joy. But, it becomes more fascinating when I come to know about the involvement Bangabandhu had in organising and carrying forward this movement. Getting acquainted with this chapter is equivalent to catching the glimpse of undiscovered land. If this series continues, Young Mujib will nourish our generation getting anchored to the very root of our freedom and where our flag emerged from.
Nazmul Hasan is a 9 grader student from a school in the capital.