Bangladesh, Sofya, And Cox Market

It was two days later when I shared my plan to Cox Bazar going alone, I could only sense her worry about me. Her guidance in this strange place made me feel like we were friends for ages.

June 18, 2023, 12:36 p.m.

This May, I paid a visit to Bangladesh accepting the invitation of the National Poetry Stage, to participate in the International Nazrul Poetry Festival, representing Nepal as a poet. The program was attended by prominent poets from Bangladesh and around the globe. I was only the invitee there from Nepal. The program was held on 25th May, at International Mother Language Institute, Dhaka, to commemorate the 124th birthday of Kaji Nazrul Islam. He is known as the Rebel Poet of his time in Bangladesh and his poetry includes the themes of equality, justice, anti-imperialism, humanity, rebellion against oppression, and religious devotion. I felt honored to be a part of this poetic festival.

My stay as a guest poet gave me a new sense of understanding, excitement, and experience. I was awe-struck when I heard two naïve faces waiting for me outside the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport gate to welcome me into their love-filled nation with a bouquet in their hands for more than two hours. Ayon and Tasnova, accept my apologies for making you wait for hours there. It was just a miscommunication about the proper timing of landing I guess. How humble and happy they were to greet their guest. As soon as we met, they called an ECO-Friendly CNG auto rickshaw to central Dhaka Topkhana Road, some twenty km far from the airport, where the organizer had arranged the hotels for the international delegates.

It took us nearly one and a half hours to cross the twenty km road due to heavy traffic. They confessed this traffic was the real culprit for Bengali people. When I saw the posters of Marx, Lenin, Che, Gorky, and Mao on the wall along with their founding father of the nation, Bangabandhu, who was murdered by the conspirators in 1975, it was not difficult for me to guess there were many communist supporters like here in Nepal. The conveners of the event Md. Shamsul Haq Babu and Nijami Bhai were there in the hotel waiting to welcome the international delegates. All of these did not come together though. The international attendees of the program were kept in the different hotels there. I admire the vigor of Mr. Babu for organizing such a great feat despite his bad health. It was almost the late evening when I reached the hotel. Though a little tired, I was relaxed, less worried, and thankful to the organizing committee, and felt as if I were home.

I spent my second day meeting some literary figures since the program was on the 25th and 26th. It was then Mr. Babu insisted I must meet the Russian artist, and poet Sofya Yechina by the midday. He informed me he had arranged our tea talk meeting in the evening. Not concerned too much, I met her just as a formality. Not more than that. There were other two people, later I knew were her parents. But as we talked, the immediacy I felt was divine. The soothing words of her father were charismatic. He is a man of compassion who has only love to share. I didn’t have any difficulty guessing the girl, Sofya, whom I talked less then, is as benevolent as her father. The talk was amusing. It was not only exchanging words but also establishing new relationships too, and if it has to, it happens in a flash.

Mr. Babu endowed the responsibility of taking a few of the delegates to the program venue on the 25th along with me and I readily accepted since it was just 1.2 km from the hotel where we stayed. Others went on a rickshaw but we (Sofya, Marina, and me) decided to go on foot. On the way, Sofya told me her parents are fond of me. Instantly, I asked her what she felt about me, instead of being direct, she informed me her parents have already entrusted this Nepali boy with a smile on her face. Her enigmatic smile was no less than Vinci’s Monalisa, and her splendor was as elegant as Helen of Troy. Soon reaching the venue I was mesmerized to see our posters hung here and there giving the reorganization of the international delegates. It was a true honor given by our Bengali friends. The program was due to begin; we decided to have some photos together. Upon looking at one of the photos taken (the one with pointed fingers up and both of us leaning each other slightly unknowingly) I cracked a joke that she looked like Angelina Jolly and I like Brad Pitt, she again just smiled, and I guess it was the smile of contentment. After that, we were there for the program the whole day. What a marvelous presentation by the participants! The program was stunning.

It was lunchtime in the afternoon and we were surrounded by poetic hearts. In the second session, I was said to call Sofya since she had already left the program for the reason I did not know. She was almost crying on the phone, and said it was a tough time for her there because everyone was trying to be close touching her body parts. I was right in my guess. We South Asians, especially people surrounding the Indian Sub-continent, try establishing relationships from a proximal distance, and being too much loyal to our guests is what we believe our best souvenir to offer. As I informed her about the cultural differences and tried to console her for what she felt, she joined the program again. It is ridiculous for those who are unaware of this culture here.

I was already saddened to hear her moving to her country early morning the next day. You know the thing is, I was much fond of her, or let me be honest and tell the truth, she is my silent crush now. Sofya is not just a name; she represents the epitome of love, beauty, and passion for me. The language of love is universal and it is silent too.

It was two days later when I shared my plan to Cox Bazar going alone, I could only sense her worry about me. Her guidance in this strange place made me feel like we were friends for ages. She had been to this place before for her artwork and poetry. Her generosity and selflessness are her strength. She has the power of love to bring joy, inspire greatness, and transform lives. The person she suggested me to meet was Hasan Vai, a fantastic fellow, and expressionist there in the area. His beautiful description of the area is still fresh in my memory. The civility of Ifa Jinnatara back in Dhaka is one more pleasant momentum added to my life.

This visit has taught me several things. First, it served me as a reminder of the transformative power of literature and its ability to shape our lives in profound ways. Second, it reminded me to embrace the wonders of the world. Third, a loving heart pays back if you are true to yourself. And finally, love is not just a fleeting emotion but a powerful force that can shape our lives and drive us to achieve greatness.

Bhoj Kumar Dhamala (Author: “The Selfish City” anthology of 54 poems in English)

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