Sir Frank Peters
Today, December 16, is Victory Day… as if you didn’t know and wondered what the thousands of national flags were doing enthusiastically fluttering their little hearts out in celebration!
Of all the celebrations on the Bangladesh calendar, Victory Day has that special unique ring to it. And the tone vibrates like no other throughout the nation, bringing happiness, camaraderie, and a feeling of goodwill and togetherness.
There’s no doubt it’s special to all Bangalees, wherever they might be, but it’s also a day in which all people of foreign origin can participate and enjoy. Many can even relate to the experience and their extrication from suppression by a foreign power. It indelibly marks the day good triumphed over evil. There’s no other day like it on the calendar. It truly is a magical day that all Bengalees can celebrate/
My own experience of celebrating Victory Day dates back to 1972, when it first began. I came to know about Bangladesh from Bengali work friends at Jaguar Cars in Coventry (UK). They, in my books, were among the most honest, compassionate, and decent human beings I’ve ever come to know in life. Unfortunately, they’ve all returned home to Allah since.
They knew me initially as a ‘tin-shaker’ who was forever going through the Jaguar factory raising money for different charitable organizations. One day they approached and asked for my help in raising funds for the suffering people in their homeland. They imparted horrific stories that were hard for any young person in the security and comfort of the UK to believe (or stomach), but as horrific as they were, sadly, they were proved to be true.
Engineer Ali Sorif Islam, one of the Bangalee fund-raisers, later wrote a heart-felt report (The New Age, Dhaka, 2010.11.21) about his fund-raising experience and how it changed his life for the better. I treasure the sentiments he expressed therein. It confirms everything I suspected the character of the fund-raisers to be.
Before the actual fund-raising began, the small compassionate team involved gave their solemn promise to me (with Almighty Allah as a witness), that every single penny (paisa) raised would be given to needy freedom fighter families in Bangladesh.
A considerable sum was raised and these noble Bengalis (although they were relatively poor themselves), kept solemnly to their word and didn’t siphon-off and filter funds to their families in the UK or Bangladesh. Their next move took me totally by surprise, making me even more in awe and appreciative of them.
To ensure the money they worked tirelessly to raise got into the right hands in Bangladesh; Engineer Ali Sorif Islam paid for an airfare out of his own pocket and distributed the funds in person! It made me very proud to be associated with such compassionate Bengalis. I think of them on Independence Day and Victory Day every year without fail.
It’s thanks to people like Ali Islam that many Bengalis are alive today to celebrate Victory Day.
So, Victory Day is indeed a day of celebration. It’s a day in which all Bengalis are re-united as one as they once were in 1971. It’s a day for all freedom-loving people of the world to rejoice and to join-in with them in their celebration.
On Victory Day morning, as the distinct smell of mist departs, the fog lifts to unveil a sea of national flags in many different sizes that have seemingly sprouted like mushrooms on trees, houses and shops overnight. Children, and some adults, paint the national flag on their face and that sets the mood for the day. It’s hard not to smile when confronted with a talking flag!
While I have always been as neutral as the sun and as political as the wind, here and overseas, I cannot, but help admire the changes for the better, I have witnessed over the years. Bangladesh still has a long road to travel, but being on the right road and moving at a progressive pace is half the battle won.
It’s well known and documented by award-winning writers and freedom fighters like Muhammad Musa that victory and independence came at a high price for Bengalis (and one must remember and honour their Indian brothers) during the horrific brutal and bloody war that saw blood liberally spilt throughout the nation.
The blood of these heroes helped fertilize the land and cultivate the soil that gave it the fertility we benefit from today in mangoes, jackfruit, and other delicious vitamin-impacted fruits and vegetables. When the names of freedom fighters are long forgotten, their memory will live eternally in the Bangladesh soil that their blood helped fertilize.
Victory Day is a day to be celebrated and remembered from one to the next. If it didn’t already exist, it would be worthy of invention.
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, a humanitarian, and foreign friend of Bangladesh.