The Unfinished Memoirs, English translation of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Osomapto Atmajiboni, is one of the most important books for the Bengalis. The book is also a great source of knowledge, wisdom and forte for surviving amid innumerable challenges. International readers are capable of reading the great book as it is available, in English translation, in renowned bookstores around the world. One of the leading translators of the country, Fakrul Alam, has carried the Memoirs into English. Professor Alam’s sincerity, his love for Bangabandhu and his mastery over the English language have made the translated book an exceptional piece of work.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the greatest Bengali in the history of a thousand years, was a charismatic politician who was capable of garnering respect and love of the people of Bengal. He was a visionary leader, dreaming for the emancipation of common people from poverty, hunger and oppression. He also inculcated the seeds of dreams among others so that they could come forward to build, develop and take a nation forward. Without his prime role that he played before, during and after the Liberation War, the people of Bangladesh could not have the taste of freedom.
During the earlier days of his life, Bangabandhu had been part of the Muslim League that later became Awami League. Turbulent days sated with extreme incidents culminated in the formation of Awami League and United Front in East Bengal. But what immensely shocked the people of Bangladesh and Bangabandhu was the imposing of Urdu as the state language by Pakistani rulers. The declaration sparked a huge protest, taking the people from Dhaka as well as from around the country to the streets. Young Bangabandhu vehemently opposed the declaration of Urdu to be the state language, even rousing fiery slogans against Pakistani rulers. As a result he was arrested and put into a state prison in Dhaka. He did not fear anyone or anything in making a protest against atrocities and oppressions.
After Partition 1947, an illogical segregation on the basis of religious belief, the people of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, had been constant victims of deprivation and atrocities at the hands of Pakistani, then West Pakistani, rulers and military. As a visionary and humanitarian politician, Bangabandhu, a valiant youth before and during Partition days, had understood that the people of Bengal needed a separate identity, which must not be, in any way, Pakistani. Later he paved the way, for the Bengalis, for complete freedom from the clutch of Pakistani oppressors through resistance and various movements, including the well-known 1966 six-points. In many of the movements and protests against Pakistani atrocities, Bangabandhu remained in the front – he indeed led from the front.
The Unfinished Memoirs, one of the most powerful autobiographies ever written by prominent politicians around the world, informs Bangabandhu’s life – his birth, childhood, boyhood, youth, political career, his influences, his dreams, and above all his indomitable spirit for the emancipation of the Bengalis from Pakistan and poverty are well reflected in the book. Bangabandhu’s student life in Islamia College, Kolkata, appears in the autobiography as well. During his student life before the Partition era, as the Memoirs reflects, he was conscious about politics and people’s rights. He indeed did politics for the welfare of the nation and its people throughout his whole life.
The title itself shows that the autobiography is unfinished. There are, of course, many other things left unsaid. But it is undeniable that the book is worth other great books of the world. Hadn’t a handful of brutal traitors cut Bangabandhu’s life short, he would have built the nation in an unprecedented way, making Bangladesh one of the proudest countries of the world, and he was indeed working towards that mission. As a few ambitious and treacherous military men killed him, along with his family members, including innocent Russel, at the wee hours of 15 August 1975, and the traitors took over power, the unsettling years leading to independence remain missing in the book – the autobiography ends with the events in and around 1950s. Some rare photographs, which are historically significant, have undoubtedly enriched the book. The credit goes to Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister, whose preface unfolds many unknown facts. The Memoirs, beyond doubt, is an outstanding document of history, the authentic history, which touches upon the years leading to the independence of Bangladesh.
By the time Bangabandhu was incarcerated in a state prison after having been accused in the controversial Agartala conspiracy case, he jotted down things happened in his life in the form of a diary. It was during the rousing days of the late 1960s. The Pakistani government was aware about Bangabandhu and others who protested against its cruel treatment to the Bengalis, so he had to spend many years in the prison. Once Sheikh Fazilatunnesa, Bangabandhu’s wife, his life-long inspiration, who is justifiably called mother of the nation, requested him to write about his life. He instantly liked her idea and started writing reminiscences and experiences – hence is his major influence behind writing such a great work.
Sheikh Hasina, current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu’s daughter, found four notebooks that he had written with his own hands. She and her sister Sheikh Rehana, the only survivors of appalling 1975 massacre, transcribed them and made them available for publication. With their will, the Bengali version of the autobiography was translated into English, and UPL, one of the leading publishers of the country, brought out the book in print. With the publication of the English version, The Unfinished Memoirs drew attention of the readers from both home and abroad – international readers found the book valuable, and it was translated into many other languages too.
The Memoirs records the Language Movement events, post-Movement reality and overall condition of East Bengal and its relationship with West Pakistan. The Language Movement, no doubt, is the seed of our liberation from the oppression of West Pakistan. Bangabandhu touches upon each and every event that he witnessed or was part of and presented them in a vivid and lucid manner. It is obvious that he was a wonderful writer as far as the style, diction and presentation of the events are concerned. He also focuses on how Awami League that led the independence struggle of the Bengalis was formed and how the party made immense contributions to the formation and consequent progress of the nation.
The Unfinished Memoirs is the autobiography of the politician, the father of a nation, who belongs to the all-time great figures of the world. About Bangabandhu, Cuba’s Fidel Castro remarked, “I have not seen the Himalayas. But I have seen Sheikh Mujib. In personality and in courage, this man is the Himalayas. I have thus had the experience of witnessing the Himalayas.” Such an accolade can only be conferred on a great personality like Bangabandhu. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahmn is truly the Himalayas for the people of Bangladesh and an influential and inspiring figure for the world.
If one aspires to follow the footprint of a great leader and great politician in order to work selflessly for the nation and its people and for overall humanity, The Unfinished Memoirs is a must read for him or her.
Writer : Department of English, SUST, Sylhet