Nine-year-old Syona Roy, who has always lived in Mumbai, can’t read or write her mother tongue, Bengali. But the Class 4 student of Nerul’s Delhi Public School is looking forward to Sunday, when she will be able to celebrate the language at Shivaji Park’s Bengal Club with about 200 members of her community.
February 21 is celebrated as International Mother Language Day in United Nations member countries across the world. But this day is closer to the hearts of Bengalis, who observe it as Bhasha Shaheed Divas (Language Martyr’s Day).
With the UN recognising the occasion, the day is more than just remembering the martyrs.
“Celebrating our mother tongues is important to maintain unity in our culture and help it grow,” says Roy, who is determined to learn the Bengali script from her grandmother. “I have a Maharashtrian friend who is poor at Marathi, and I tell her it’s not right,” she adds.
At Sunday’s programme, she will see a discussion on the history of the Bangladeshi language struggle, a recitation of Bengali literature and folk music. “To survive in the practical world, you must know English. But if you let go of your mother tongue, you will lose your roots,” said Tapas Kar, head of Bengali cultural group, Sanlap, which will perform at the Bengal Club on Sunday. Sanlap has been organising Mother Language Day events in Mumbai for 10 years in an effort to spread this message to the youth.