New program celebrates Bengali literature in Toronto

As a Bengali parent in Toronto, more and more we read English, speak in English, think in English, scream in English, even dream in English! While this is, in some ways, a necessity and how things evolve, Toronto’s Bengali Community also wants our progeny to know something about our own culture and language.

To that end, the Bengali Literary Resource Centre (BLRC) has launched a year-long literature program for youth and teens.

Many of our sons and daughters are not capable of reading Bengali; for some, even if they can, they are not comfortable doing so.

But as parents, we want our children to taste the essence of our own language, literature and culture. That’s the reason why BLRC has made Bengali literary pieces, translated into English, available for the younger members of our community. Teenagers or young adults who are interested in reading these books can simply borrow them.

The “Presenting Bengali Literature in English” program begins Nov. 18 at Albert Campbell Library, 496 Birchmount Rd. Anyone from 14 to 30 years of age, regardless of their community identity, may join and enrich their literary life with the books of Bengali. Organizers are working hard to build our already-robust collection, and gather more title requests to feed our literary hunger.

The BLRC has become a popular resource centre, connecting Bengalis from all over the world in the same thread. We have thousands of supporters from all around Canada actively working for BLRC, patronizing and helping us to grow together. In BLRC’s short history, people from many provinces of Canada, America, India, and Bangladesh, have become the well-wishers, guides, and promoters of BLRC.

Statistics say there are at least 100,000 Bengalis living in Canada, a major share of those in the GTA.

The book program will help us introduce the next generation to our history, heritage, and values. Books from Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, national poet of Bangladesh, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and other memorable poets and writers from Bangladesh and West Bengal are being collected. We are also collecting the English renderings of Mir Mosharraf Hossain, Jibanananda Das, Sukumar Roy, Sukanta Bhattacharya, Syed Waliullah, Shamsur Rahman, Syed Shamsul Huq, Samaresh Majumdar, Shirshendu Mukhopaddhay, Sunil Gangapadhyay and other famous Bengali poets, authors, and novelists.

Participants in the program can choose two books every month to read and refer, with opportunities for online and in person discussion. On the first Saturday of every month, we will be hosting a meeting at the Albert Campbell Library auditorium with a Canadian writer of fame.

We are optimistic that this attempt will create some good readers and, eventually, writers who will contribute to our literature.

We are grateful to Dr. Debashis Mridha, MD, the Michigan philosopher and social activist for his help, as well as the Writers’ Union and the Writers’ Trust of Canada. We would love to see you at 4 p.m. on Nov. 18, at the inaugural Presenting Bengali Literature in English project.

Tasmina Khan is the coordinator of the Bengali Literary Resource Centre initiated reading project.

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