Letters-based literature occupies a distinctive place in today's corpus of literary activity. Some collections have long been among the widely read books as part of the broader literary arena. In the sub-continent, they range from Jawaharlal Nehru's letters from prison to his young daughter Indira Gandhi, later Prime Minister of India, to Rabindranath Tagore's long missives written from his 'zemindari' estates in the then East Bengal to his niece Indira in Kolkata. There are scores of letters written by celebrities to their near and dear ones. These letters bring to light lots of experiences in the lives of them and the letter recipients.
Undoubtedly, many of these letters later emerged as valuable documents of the private lives the persons concerned have led. An interesting aspect of letter-based writings is correspondences between non-celebrity persons or commoners have also become valuable pieces with literary value in the later times. The importance of these letters lies in their depiction of socio-familial details in the lives of people living in certain periods. 'Nirbak Kathamala', ('Silence-coated Words') by Khodeza Khatoon is such a book.
The 171-page collection containing photographs is an exceptional one. The book contains 59 letters written by late Khodeza Khatoon to his son Khorshed Bahar, now a successful engineer and poet. The letters were written between 1982 and 1986 from Jamtoil village in Sirajganj in Pabna district. Khodeza Khatoon, as gleaned from her letters, was a struggling yet iron-willed and ever-optimist lady. Despite constant financial hardship and adversities she had never given up hope she reposed in his son's bright academic career. Unlike typical rural mothers of the country, she was enlightened, intelligent and highly sensitive. By profession a school teacher with a thirst for knowledge and scholarship, she knew how to deal with different types of situations. An enlightened and loving mother as she was, Khodeza Khatoon found letters to be an effective medium in keeping constant watch on and taking care of his son Khorshed Bahar. Bahar was studying at Rajshahi Engineering College when the letters were written. Readers also find in them a graphic narration of Bahar's paternal family during that time.
As years wore on, the mother is seen demonstrating her increasing love and anxieties for his engineer-aspirant son, eldest of her three sons and one daughter. In her letters, the educated rural mother is seen enquiring about her son's progresses in his engineering studies and financial, health and other conditions.
In this age of information superhighway, phone calls and emails & SMS, Skype etc by smart phones have almost driven out letters. But none of these could outshine the personal touch of handwritten letters. In many respects 'Nirbak Kathamala' deserves a special place in our letter-based literature. Facsimile of the original letters adds to the documentary value of the lavishly printed book.
By Khodeza Khatoon
Chitra Prokashoni, Dhaka
Tk 1,000/-, 171 pages