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Srihotto Moddhoma Naasti ( Sylhet is never in the middle- Always a pioneer )

35By Piya Mayenin ::

Bengali language cannot even write the word Sylheti because Sylheti has a s sound whereas Bangla does not have that s sound despite of having three ‘sho’ sounds and two ‘ch’ sounds. Those are not the the s sound in Sylhet.

That is precisely why a non Sylheti professor who lived in Sylhet for 40 years could only say Shylet and not Sylhet.

According to Munayem Mayenin, Linguist,  Sylheti and Bangla are two different languages like French and German. French and German have similarities but are not the same language. Portuguese and Spanish sound very similar but they are not the same language. Italian and Spanish may have similarities but they are not the same language. If anyone suggests they are they ought to go back to secondary school.

Study of the history of languages shows that the basics of a language is sounds. Sounds  could be said, the molecule and molecule is made of atoms  Phonyms could be said  the atoms of language. Similarly, Language is the system of arranging phonyms . Phonyms are divided into two groups vowels and consonants . The nature and organisation of vowels and consonants are the foundation of a language

There are Sylheti vowels that make sounds which one cannot make with the use of Bangla vowels despite of the long and short vowels existing in Bangla. These sounds are very different as they are produced from different part of the voice box.

A few examples of these vowels are not found in Bangla are:
Oollah Male cat)  utla   oori(Shim)  uree  are not in Bangla
Moy (khala) is not in Bangla
Boin  encompasses absolutely Sylheti sounds.
Afa  is Sylheti as there is no F in Bangla
Simialrly there is no Zo in Bangla despite of the two ‘jo’ sounds. So in Bangla ‘puzzle’  becomes ‘pujjle’ and zebra becomes ‘jebra’
Similarly,  jhinnaththi uta, jhin jhin kora  are words that not in Bangla.

The very sad thing is many that Sylheti’s are embarrassed about their language. Those same Sylheties would even pronounce puzzle as pujjle, similar to Bangla to be seen and accepted as the ‘higher class’. They strive to make Sylheti sound like the language of Bangla. However the reality is when there are two Sylheti people in a room of two thousand Bengali people- they will speak to each other only in Sylheti.

It must be realised by these people that Bangla is our state language and this is a political reality. But the existence of a language is not defined by politics. Where Sylheti has its roots in the world long before Bangla it cannot be related to the current politics of Bangladesh.

According to linguists, the existence of Sylheti could go back around 20,000 years or more. This can be seen with the study  of Nordic languages. Ie: Norwegian, Swiss and Finnish languages. Also Saami and Astonian languages and even Karelian languages in Ural region of Russia.

Lets take the Finnish language. It will no doubt be very difficult for us to understand it and we cannot make head or tails of it. However, if you see the phonetics case system you can be astounded that it is indeed  identical to the Sylheti phonetics case system.

According to Munayem Mayenin, people of Europe were going east at least 20 000 years before Christ. The mountain range of Sylhet Assam Monipur saw ‘ jhum khet’  harvest in mountain places where they plant crops and then they burned the place as they moved along- This went on all all the way to Russia and one group went West to Finland and carried their language with them .

Now lets look at Finnish ‘Kalevala.’  Kalevela is the name of the place in Finland and it is also an ancient epic. Even more ancient than Mahabarat Iliad or Odyssey. Kaalbela  in Sylheti (or Bangla) means  the ‘ending time’ or the ‘shore of time’

This is essential to our understanding of Sylheti’s and the Sylheti language. Mahabharat  Iliad and Odyssey are epics relatively very recent to Karevela – the time and places and practices in Karevala are even more ancient. We thus can still relate to the world of Mahabarat Iliad and Odyssey as we recognise God , destiny and rituals.  But Kalevala is a world you cannot ‘relate to’ as well as it was from such a remote and ancient time.

It is said that the origin of Sylheti people can be found there when the Karevala was sung as people moved across the world and finds resonance in the Sylheti culture to date.
It is remarkable that after all this time these two languages share similar grammar, phonetic system, morphology, syntax and linguistic features. This can only and truly be understood if one has studied both languages.

Further, if a Sylheti reads the Karevala they would found norms and practices that are found in Sylhet. Even though Fino- Ugric languages have been spoken in Europe unlike all other langauges in Europe, these languages are not related to Latin in the way most of the European languages are.

Accordingg to Munayem Mayenin. this proves that these languages have not derived from Europe. Where it is no related to neither Sanskrit nor Latin this means that we could safely hypothesise that Finnish and Sylheti are older than Sanskrit and Latin themselves (so definitely older than Bangla). So therefore, Bangla dare not put Sylheti down.

Another point is Sylheti culture is more Matriarchal than Patriarchal in many senses. Every child, adolescent and even the father or husband earns for the household but it is the mother who manages the household, mentors the family and provides guidance as to how the family is to live. This is the same as in Finland.

Let us take a Finnish dictionary and randomly pick 100 words – absolutely 80% will be  similar to Sylheti. Eg: Mina – sinha – sana fau matha zaau bahla khora. Except for the khora word according to linguists, all the rest are Finnish words. Sisso is a Finnish word meaning the same as zid or tik  similar to ‘guts courage’ but not quite. ‘Kira’,  one’s astonishing promise that would not be broken for if it is, it would amount to breaking himself or herself is a similar word.

It is true however, the words have totally reverted meaning in Finnish and Sylheti, although phonetically the same. Certain things happened in history and so words are reverted so that foot for instance in Sylheti may mean head in Finnish. Sometimes the same word for bird would mean animals with wings. In Sylheti a name Karim or Muhit would mean human in Finnish.

According to linguist Munayem Mayenin, Sylheti is as old as if not older than Charapadya (Chorjapod). The Charapadya is much also more related to Sylheti then to Bangla. The Buddhisty names of of the 39 or so poems end with suffix  pada (padho). And for instance,  Kannupado becomes even ‘ Kanuupa’  Bushukupada becomes Bushukupa. In Finnish the suffix is still used such as Mayanpa sammilpa samipa (Made up words for illustration purposes) . These are directly expression that are found in Charyapada.

Munayem Mayenin is working on his book ‘Shoman Samantha’ both words meaning ‘equal’ is a comparative linguistic study both  Finnish and Sylheti . Munayem Mayenin is working on the language of Sylheti for the last 35 years and has many other publications and a Sylheti dictionary already published.

An example of Bangla and Sylheti can be:

Uni jokhon amaake dhaakte eshsechilen tokhon ami bhaath kachchilam
Tain zebla amaare dhakhath aiyssla hebla ami baath khawaath asslaam

These are complete sentences with all the ingredients of a language in both and are not identical even if there is a similarity in some words. Even a child would identify the two sentences as totally different.

The writer concludes that Bangla is the state language of Bangladesh and Sylhetis welcome that. However, politics has nothing to do with linguistics. We will remember the Soviet Union, portrayed that Russian was the state language but when it collapsed there emerged a myriad of equally powerful and rich languages within the Union.

Our unique struggle with the Bangla language and liberation from West Pakistan is something Sylhetis had a leading and active role in. For instance one of the strongest base for the language movement was in Sylhet. Leaders such as Tassaduq Ahmed and Professor Mohd Abdul Aziz amongst other educated Sylheti people were at the forefront of that movement and the liberation movement. Professor Abdul Mohd Aziz provided  the political economy of how West Pakistan exploited East Pakistan. Foreign Minster Abdus Samad Azad, MAG Osmani, leader of the East Pakistani Army and other leading executives were of Sylhet region playing crucial roles for our independence and existence. We thus do not need to be certified from other parts of Bangladesh as to whether we are part of Bangladesh or not.

History has taught us that cultural dominance causes disharmony and hurts a lot of people and creates discrimination and injustice and ultimately violence. The writer thus opposes all forms of cultural dominance.

Those Sylhetis that are reaching for acceptance by people who put Sylhetis down, living in England and planning for big positions in Bangladesh overlook the reality and history of cultural domination. They overlook the biased and prejudiced division in their own country which rightfully hurt Sylheti people. These people celebrate Tom Dick and Abdul so that they can bring us down with factually incorrect or incomplete, highly opinionated, judgemental and biased information. As for leftists, well they ought to know that this is discrimination and hurting a large population that played a part in the liberation of Bangladesh and built the Bangladesh economy with remittances from abroad is not at all leftist idea.

When the ‘je suis Charlie Hebdo’ campaign run after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France,  it was Shami Chakravarty, Director of Liberty in London, who said in a TV program, something along the lines of ‘Yes maybe it is Freedom of Speech, However whether it is a decent thing to do to hurt millions of people is another question altogether.’  The writer was and is totally with Shami Chakravarty on that as if what we hear is not decent and injures the feelings of many then it is clearly wrong regardless of intentions.

Sylheti people must have more self belief and rise up above being embarrassed about a language that has its roots in this world much before the Bangla language. Sylheti people must not let racist innuendo by Tom Dick and Abdul, to fly past unchallenged. Those that let it fly and pretend to be more Bengali than other Sylhetis are politically motivated and certainly do not possess self respect. However, language is not politically motivated it is simply language. Cultural diversity is the most beautiful phenomena of our human world. It should be cherished and celebrated as without it the human world would be most mundane.

My question to the Bengali people is ‘if it is accepted by those people of Bangladesh that the actions of West Pakistan was oppression and hatred of a culture and language then surely we must not allow ourselves to do that with anybody else within our own country or outside of it?’   If we have learned anything from history it is that racism and fascism must be eradicated for all languages, cultures, religions and no religion.

I am proud to born in a the region, Sylhet, that has never seen deprivation indecency and is known as the ‘Bilaath’ of Bangladesh  because it is wealthy and generates employment for people from other parts of the country. The people of Sylhet are communal big hearted and carry their own with them.

Further It was the Sanskrit Universities that rendered the phrase ‘Srihotto moddhoma Naasti’. This means Sylhet is never at the middle. In other words,  Sylhetis are never at the periphery – they lead.

A further question is, ‘if you are a Sylheti person whose ancestors spoke Sylheti for many millennia , long long before Bangla, are you going to accept that it is an ‘Oshudhdhdu or Kasaa’ bhashaa in other words, ‘ a vulgar language’? Particularly, given the fact that Bangla which originated from Sanskrit  which only arrived with European Aryans when they arrived in India?’.

Sylheti was spoken was much before that. So no language, the least of all Bangla,, has a right to say Sylheti is a vulgar tongue.

Piya Mayenin