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Arts & Letters, April 2018

Essay a large set of

Essay a large set of case markers, which are often tagged with words to generate the Karaka or case relations among the words used in the sentence. On the other hand, like an analytical language, it has a large list of postpositions, which are used separately after the words to denote almost the same kind of syntactic functions, which are generally expressed by case markers.” The unique potential of Bangla is that it’s the only language that uses both logocentric and verb-based systems. A few of us working in this field have already been successful in unlocking the semantic potential of the ancient texts including those of scriptures, myths and epics. Kalim Khan is the pioneer in this field, cutting a pathway by explaining and instituting this verb-based semantics theory relentlessly. The Bengali Lexicon: A Dictionary of Verb-based Letter-based Meanings of Words (Vol-I) that he co-authored with Ravi Chakravarti and which was published in 2009 has already triggered many an intense brain-storming session among the erudite and the academia. In an article styled “Bangla Semantics, Antidote to Western Amnesia,” Khan and Chakravarti wrote, “It is but natural that Bangla semantics should provide a clue The time has finally arrived to decipher the history of mankind encoded in the myths and legends and that Bangla of all the languages carries the attributes that makes it the potential key to those mysteries to the rich cultural heritage of Bangla-speakers and allied races of the Indian sub-continent. But this semantics is much more far-reaching than that. Thus one marvels at the amount of light thrown by it on many hitherto unexplained and obscure aspects of the European Tradition. “It has of course been known for more than two centuries that the majority of European and Indian (i.e. South Asian) languages have sprung from a common stock. But with all their knowledge of both the West and the East, the Western academics have not yet been able to explain adequately many features of their own language and culture. It is here that Bangla semantics can work wonders and furnish satisfactory solutions to a large number of problems. “According to the logic of verb-based word-formation, the word ashwa (asva) could well be applied to a person who could fast transmit and make effective the directive of the Center up to the limits of the realm. A specially interesting explanation tagged to the word ashwattha (asvattha) in the authoritative Bangla dictionary Bangiya Sabdakosh by Haricharan Bandyopadhyaya may here be referred to. Now, the word was derived by adding -stha (roughly = situated) to the stem ashwa (asva). The Bangiya Sabdakosh in its explanation of ashwattha (asvattha) quotes an ancient authority to give the meaning of the word. The quotation is ‘ashwah tishthanti asmin,’ which means ‘horses dwell here.’ One not accustomed to the ways of verb-based semantics would find this explanation rather bizarre. But this explanation would not appear much queer when one is reminded of the tree ‘Yggdrasil’ of Scandinavian mythology, ‘the ash tree binding together heaven, earth and hell,’ Yggr being a name of the supreme god Odin and the word ‘drasil’ having the meaning ‘horse.’ 6 One may also recall ‘Asgard,’ the heaven of Norse (i.e. Scandinavian) mythology, [with] ‘as’ having the meaning ‘god’ and ‘gard’ meaning ‘yard.’" The paucity of space forces us to forego with any more examples offered by Khan and Chakravarti of how the verb-based semantics system helps us open layers after layers of meaning of a word. The writer of this piece has recently made some sketches of a few episodes of the human history encoded in myths and epics using the verb-based semantics system and the findings in almost all the cases contradict and even negate the understanding of those myths and epics currently available in the mainstream epistemological world. The findings have not been shared before as his conclusions might outrage mainstream academia. However, he hopes a few examples of his findings may not be too obnoxious: 1. Every deva (or ang-el, where "el" means a divine entity) have their seats or corresponding points inside us. Michael’s seat is in the eyes and thus is related to the Sun, Gabriel’s is in the tongue and so with communication, Azrael’s is in the nose and thus with breathing, Rafael’s is in the ears, i.e., with the realm of sound. The seat of chaos or uncreated nature is in the Muladhar, Eros’s seat is in Swadishtana, Fire’s is in the naval, Vishnu’s in the heart, Akasha’s in the throat, the full moon’s in the Ajna, Siva’s in the crown (with the nectar and poison of his moon and serpents dripping from the Lalana Chakra), and the seat of the unspeakable One is in the Higher Heart. 2. The myths and epics are but the history of humanity encoded following its fall from a state of unity into individualism through accumulation of the surplus production -- Punji (private and state-owned capital that first commenced through hoarding of the fat of the meat -> Punj -> punji = capital). 3. First, the state capital led by the organizational entity called Daksha [that which instituted repetitive work for production] deviated from the natural state of collective existence, which resulted in the conflict between Siva and Daksha during the Daksha Jagna (or the institutionalization of the division of labor that saw the end of Sati, the first spouse/Sakti of Siva). 4. Many centuries later, the Vedas composed by Bedes (gypsies)/Bedus (desert nomads) and internalized by the Brahmins came to prominence and started promoting the private sector. Ravana was the biggest public sector entity, when Rama entered the scene and took the side of private capital. Rama was banished by the state capital of Ajodhya. But, at the end, through a prolonged war, the private capital came into dominance over the state capital that had accumulated a huge number of sycophants and beneficiaries including the intellectual bureaucrats (pundits, priests, advisers and technocrats, in addition to the muscle power of military forces to keep everything in check. The toiling masses would get the mere leftovers of such bureaucratic capital. Finally, the then reformist campaign of Rama won, and private-sector capital came to be the leading form of capital, not forgetting the bank capital represented by Kuber. 5. At the end of the Dwapara Yuga, the private sector again became too greedy, with Krishna, the black money, and Arjuna, the white, went through a long and devastating war with the public sector capital represented by Duryodhana and is brothers. Thus the private sector with the guidance of the black money defeated the state capitalism in the great war of Kurukshetra. Of course, at that time it was a positive and benevolent act of freeing people from the bureaucratic suckers of the state capital – almost similar to the Perestroika led by Gorvachev. But, during the war, the stance of Balarama, a brother of Krishna and an incarnation of Ananta Sesha aka Ananta Naga, sometimes translated as "the Endless One," was totally neutral. When Bhima, prompted by Krishna, defeated Duryodhyana by dealing him a blow below the navel with his mace, Balarama cried in disgust, as hitting at the opponent’s body below the naval was considered unethical and un-chivalrous. From a number of other similar events described to have had taken place in the wars led by Rama and Krishna, we can surmise that the private-sector capital has never been shy of breaking moral codes to ensure victory over its chief rival, the public sector. Conclusion It seems the time has finally arrived to decipher the history of mankind encoded in the myths and legends and that Bangla of all the languages carries the attributes that makes it the potential key to those mysteries. The task is huge and it requires a huge collective collaboration between all the best brains of the society, most particularly the linguists and those most advanced in spiritual evolution. • Azfar Aziz is a Dhaka-based freelance journalist, writer and poet. ARTS & LETTERS SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2018 | DHAKA TRIBUNE

Exhibition review A topography of loss unredeemed • Sharmillie Rahman Dhali Al Mamoon turns time into a portal to gaze back at our colonial history, a history laden with grief and shame at the loss of capacity for articulation that Dhali feels has resulted in forfeiting an authentic artistic language in favor of one that alienates a person from his self. The part of history that synchronically becomes Dhali’s locus is marked with acts of dehumanizing exploitation that dislocated people from their own land and culture and tradition. The new trade or colonial mode of production by its very premise deprived the indigenous population of any right to ownership or to any claims to the change they were bringing afoot, if one may, in the making of history (in terms of autonomous narratives). It is the cultivation of indigo and tea and a smattering of other iconic-symbolic representations that became the metonym for a process of subjugation going deep enough to seep into the psyche of the people. Might we call it the colonial atrophy or erosion of the self/mind that caused them to lose their voice or made them dissociated from their own system of knowledge? In Dhali’s world, one could argue, these legacies mar our progress as a people and are at the root of all evil. Once trapped in the “ecology of colonialism,” people of the sub-continent were brutally dislodged from the shared bedrock of a system of knowledge conducive to self-determination. They became mere “objects trouvés (foundlings) of the colonial discourse -- the (virtual) part-objects of presence” (see Homi Bhabha’s The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse) who cannot be represented without taking recourse to the “axis of metonymy” only to be “displayed in part.” This is manifest in the visual imagery of cowering, emaciated bodies of natives, obscured by towering tea leaves and a coterie of “signs” of colonial might. It is a display of indigeneity being diminished under the crushing blows of an extraneous, hegemonic force. And hence, a profound lament wafts from the images engraved in lines from across swathes of paper as if in imitation of the colonial scar that lacerates our soul, robs us of our essence. In a capital-driven, neo-imperialist order, we still feel marginalized as the stakes are manipulated by powers in the west. Dhali locates this daemon which seems to be a peoples’ sense of inadequacy within a timeline that ran across two hundred years of “servitude.” If we turn to millennia-old migration-history, we find it is wrought with stories of symbiosis of cultures, be it marked by clash or peace. As cultures come into contact with each other and meld, the fault-lines transcend into grounds for proliferation of knowledge and then hierarchization of systems of knowledge, as soon as these come under the marauding wheels of an imperialist project, as we know it. Dhali eyes the west with suspicion, as the center of power which disseminates “knowledge” to the lesser lump of humanity (or its denial thereof), coercing them into the tactic of sheer mimicry. But we surely cannot bury our face in the sand, ignoring the fact that a system of thought assumes the adage of knowledge only when aligned with the seat of power. Knowledge is irrefutably power and, by association, is prescriptive. At the same time, knowledge is a tool to use in negotiating one’s accession to a position to participate in the game of power. So, you are lucky if you are on the right side of the history of power. This pretty much surmises the essence of the message sent out by Drawing and Thinking, Thinking and Drawing - 1 by Dhali Al Mamoon. Dhali is constantly confronted by the tension between academia and creative energies. On one hand, academia trains the mind to comply with the encoded fundamentals of form, composition, balance and so forth, and on the other, his calling as an artist propels him toward the Dionysian to move beyond the bounds of the known and especially the learnt. This calling also propels him to move beyond the borrowed, prejudiced and purist knowledge that the schools of fine arts across the country propagate. Dhali has reached a crucial juncture in his career. Five years away from retirement as a teacher, he finds his canvases are straining, seething at the frames. He finds the in- A collage of selected works from the exhibition ner landscape markedly reorienting itself to the discords of a rogue impulse threatening to un-make the meanings of its visual language. Even in his earlier works, he has shown signs of resorting to a childlike idiom in the way of an act of labored “unlearning,” a theme which, too, has found expression in the current exhibition but which fizzles away in the wistfulness of a harano shur, an elusive tune. Dhali refrains from anointing the past with a longing for the return of its glories upon the present. He, however, picks holes in a stillborn present that carries the past’s wounds -- a sterile, stultified present burdened with knowledge of a denuded self. Hence, he continues his tireless probing into the fissures of our knowledge to unearth the missing links, to fill in the lacunae in our thoughts, which is more than corroborated by the conceptually intensive installation works by Dhali. The exhibition Drawing and Thinking, Thinking and Drawing – 1 by Dhali Al Mamoon ran its course through March 10–31, 2018 at Kalakendra. • Sharmillie Rahman is an art critic. 7 DHAKA TRIBUNE | SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2018 ARTS & LETTERS

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