The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Diary of nationally critical times  

| Updated: July 26, 2020 22:40:31

Diary of nationally critical times   

After the over two-month-long shutdown has been lifted, most of the general people in the capital have resumed their day-to-day work. Residents in some areas, however, are under strict lockdowns. The areas have been identified as being neighborhoods experiencing high intensity of Covid-19 cases.

Outwardly, conscious people in the lately reopened areas are seen coming out of their homes maintaining extreme caution. They do not fail to take the premier preventive measure of wearing masks. Many of the employees and business people who worked online by staying at home have yet to come out. Thus, a large number of the educated people still remain confined to their homes, with their computers on their desks.

During the shutdown period, people in Dhaka and the other cities had to stay at home mandatorily. The city residents went through such a phase of forced confinement to home another time in the past. That was back in 1971, when the whole nation was engaged in its Liberation War. During the nine-month war, the country being under the occupation of the then Pakistan Army, lots of people stayed back in the cities, especially Dhaka. A great number of them couldn't join the war physically due to unavoidable compulsions; but their heart and soul had been with the Freedom Fighters and the Liberation War.

Although the invisibility of the 'enemies' during the present corona pandemic creates a false sense of relief among people, the panic-filled nine months didn't provide even a faint respite from the reign of terror. But by taking sufficient precautions, the city-dwellers could safely stay at home in 1971. In urban areas of Dhaka every moment was a nightmare for people. Many of them could not join the majority in leaving the cities for village homes. Different urgencies forced them to cling to a life hounded by death in the half deserted Dhaka; its nook and cranny under sharp watch of Pakistani soldiers and their local collaborators.

The period under a pandemic-prompted shutdown was outwardly different. Quintessentially, it carried the elements of fear similar to those which prevailed in occupied Dhaka in 1971. The 'stateless' Jewish teenage girl Anne Frank passed her time giving a day-to-day account of her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944 in the German occupied city of Amsterdam. She, along with her parents and sister, got trapped in that city in the Netherlands. Anne's diary brought her global fame for her keen observation of the harsh realities of life under Nazi occupation.

It's not known how many people kept a diary while living in the 1971 occupied Dhaka. But the number was not negligible. After liberation, excerpts from a few of those were published in piecemeal in newspapers and periodicals. They were not compiled in books, and finally got lost. The only exception was 'Ekattorer Dinguli' (The Days of 1971), a compilation of the diaries kept by Jahanara Imam, an academic and war trial activist. Also the mother of a martyred Freedom Fighter, the courageous lady used to provide shelter to the fighters whenever they would visit the occupied Dhaka in disguise. Her collection comprising nine months' detailed account of occupied Dhaka in 1971 was published in the early 1980s. The book remained a best seller in the following decades. Its demand keeps rising among the youths.

The trend of keeping diaries systematically was evidently unknown to the Europeans even in the 17th century. Thanks to this, mankind remains deprived of the details about the terrible times of Black Death. Except in cartoons and pamphlets, the 17th century European pandemic isn't found in any private account. One hopes such a lacuna in the corona prevalence doesn't occur in Bangladesh, or elsewhere.






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