Celebrated on the 21st day of each February, International Mother Language Day, or Ekushey February in the Bangla language, marks the day students in Bangladesh lost their lives in an arduous effort to preserve their linguistic rights.
I grew up between the contrasting worlds of South Asian and Arab culture. Born to Algerian and Bengali parents, I could identify with a realm of backgrounds and the experiences that came with them. A valuable part of this experience was community and people.
My “Abbu” (father) came from a Bangla-speaking family while my Ammu (mother) hailed from a Urdu-speaking family. It’s a common phenomenon in Bangladesh because before the 1971 war, we used to be East Pakistan and families that spoke both languages lived in both East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (now Pakistan). Growing up, my brother and I spoke both languages, at home we spoke Bangla and in my maternal grandparents' house we spoke Urdu/Hindi mixed.