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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers"

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The dictionary defines literature as written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit. Written works can exist in many formats, such as texts, reports, brochures, etc., and is found in every language that exists in the world.

Out of the various forms of literature, certain texts meet the standard definition of literature, in that they truly comprise of lasting artistic merit. Such publications are present universally, and literature enthusiasts bring forth these published writings to share with the general population.

To give a glimpse into an author's life via their biography, to provide an insight into an author's mind via their fictional stories, to demonstrate an author's enhanced understanding of a subject via their research in non-fictional papers - that is the primary goal of groups who seek to explore literature.

From this aspect, a group's name comes to mind: Bengali Literary Resource Center (BLRC), which has undertaken multiple initiatives in Toronto since its establishment; namely, creating a magazine, hosting writers' conferences, generating language-and-grammar based workshops, and most recently, a year-long project to present Bengali literature in English, to those who may not be able to read in Bengali.

So, what does this mean? Is this simply a way to write the Bengali words from a book into English using a phonetic system? No, absolutely not. Are the texts going to be a translated version of the original work? Yes, that is correct. The works of many noteworthy Bengali authors, a significant collection, will be presented to interested readers every month for a chance to explore their favorite books in a different language. Everyone in Toronto is welcome to the inauguration ceremony, where the love for literature will be shared by readers and writers alike. Now, why do the youth seem to be heavily involved?

Have you ever heard of the expression "made BY the kids, FOR the kids, given TO the kids"?  If so, then you know that the youth find other similar-aged youth to be more relevant and relatable to them than adults. There are many children and teenagers living abroad, specifically in Toronto, who do not know how to read and write in their native language.

Growing up, they may have heard of some renowned figures from their country of origin, from their parents or others in the household, but they may not have been able to actually relate to such figures, due to the language barrier. As the influence of technology continues to overtake society, people are becoming more and more aware of movie stars and celebrities through television and social media, but this is causing them to steer away from books and reading, thereby neglecting authors and writers.

Many of the youth have probably never even heard of some of the authors whose work BLRC has managed to collect for the project. Yet, the parents of such youth most likely grew up with those same books in Bengali, and somewhere deep in their hearts, they would have liked it if their children knew these names and stories as well. Hence, this project plays an important role in bridging the gap between generations and language-obstacles, and produces an excellent opportunity to keep Bengali literature alive even among those who cannot read Bengali.

Likewise, this project is also intended for non-Bengali people, who simply have an interest in literature and would like to familiarize themselves with Bengali publications, in the language that they understand, in this case, English. It is a diverse approach to connect the minds of many who share a passion for reading, as well as raise awareness amongst the Bengali and non-Bengali youth in Toronto about the famous works of literature.

Reading the English-translated works of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Jibanananda Das, Michael Madhusudan Datta, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Humayun Ahmed, and many, many other distinguished authors is truly a miracle for those who are living abroad. Let's not forget about the two most celebrated Bengali writers throughout the years, Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam, whose well-known and popular publications will also be part of the collection of this project.

For many Bengali adults, the titles will bring about a wave of nostalgia, as they gaze upon said books, and for the non-Bengali populace and the youth who are unable to read in Bengali, the titles will hold open doors filled with mystery, romance, comedy, and other genres under the category of fiction. Thinking about such a courageous venture is enough to get Goosebumps on the skin!

On Saturday, November 18, be sure to be present at Albert Campbell Library of Toronto by 3:59 p.m., as the inauguration ceremony will start promptly at 4:00 p.m. More details about this spectacular mission will come to light at the launching. Do not miss the prospect of giving your children a piece of their heritage by the use of an English medium, through the merited works of the prominent Bengali authors of the generations.

Who else will be there to encourage you in reading literature of your forefathers?  The patron of the project Dr Debashis Mridha, MD, the Michigan philosopher and social activist who has a deep feeling for the project will grace us. There will also be the Prof Janam Mukherjee, a historian of Ryerson University, parents of whom hailed from Satkhira of Bangladesh, but who himself was born in the United States.

Must I mention that Janam has learnt Bengali when he crossed his fortieth?  And Parthi Kandavel, the very popular trustee of Toronto School Board, along with Janet Davis, a city councilor of Toronto will also be there to welcome you. They are enthusiastic of the project going to run. Do you think it worthy to join? If yes, please do come. If no, please don't hesitate to come and express your views to the organizers of the project. Your views will help the initiators to understand your expectations and thus modify the ways to contribute to the society.


The writer is a Masters Degree student of neuroscience at University of Toronto and a member of the project team. 

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