Happy Birthday, Newton!

Newton said, ‘We build too many walls and not enough bridges.’ Newton probably had asperger’s syndrome. He did not have enough bridges in his brains that worked for physics, alchemy and theology. Different areas of his brains worked independently, but each with intense local power. If his brains were integrated, he wouldn’t have been Newton., he would be just another farmer.

How does it feel!

As if it was me, not Felix Baumgartner. As if I jumped from space. As if it was me who floated for two hours in a capsule towed by an enormous helium balloon before leaping from 128,000ft – almost four times the height of a cruising passenger airline. I was feeling cold, I had fear that the speed I fell at would send me into an uncontrollable spin and the exposure to vacuum would literally cause my blood to boil. I was worried that my space suit could tear and that the low pressure in the stratosphere could cause my lung and blood circulation problems. Suddenly something happened. I blew my fears away. I forgot all the problems. I started feeling like a bird. I was flying in my dreams. It was like a dream until I landed on Earth.

‘Lost in translation’

I am not an academic scholar. I am just an ordinary writer from a poor country called Bangladesh. I studied medicine. Literature was not my subject in the universities. But I loved literature, and I was called a book worm when young.

I started writing poetry when I was 12 years old. While studying in a medical college, I edited a poetry magazine. While practicing medicine in the public hospitals, I began writing columns in some national newspapers. My columns were about the rights of women. My message was that of raising consciousness in a male-dominated patriarchal society where women are treated as sexual objects and slaves and child-bearing machines. Translation was not an issue for me until my books were published in Western languages.

In 1993, when a fatwa – which is a religious decree – was issued against me in my own country, I had to live under police protection. And when the government filed a case against me on the charge of blasphemy, I had to go into hiding. The news spread around the world. Western publishers immediately showed interest in publishing my book. Here was a writer who was facing a death threat – the Muslim fanatics were demanding her execution by hanging and had set a price on her head. Publishing my books meant instant business. The Western world thought it had found a female Salman Rushdie. But by no means should I be considered a female Rushdie. From the beginning, I have been a socially committed writer, one writing about a cause.

When the fatwa was issued, I was living in Bangladesh. Western journalists were keen to locate the book for which the fatwa had been issued. However, the fanatics had issued the fatwa not for any specific book of mine. Rather, I had incurred the wrath of the fundamentalists because of my ideas about women’s rights and my criticism of Islam. But inasmuch as the journalists had gathered information that one of my books was banned in Bangladesh by the government, right away they assumed the fatwa was issued for my having written Shame, the book that was banned in July, 1993.

Note that there was no connection between the banned book and the fatwa, which was issued later that year. The publishers wanted to publish one book – Shame, in which criticism of Islam ironically is not found – because they had read in newspapers that it was the book for which a fatwa had been issued against me. I told them repeatedly that Shame had been banned by the government but that the fatwa was not, repeat not, issued because of the book.

Shame was not about Islam or women’s rights. It was a documentary novel based on describing atrocities that were perpetrated by a government and Muslim fanatics on Hindu minorities. It was not the Muslim fanatics that shouted for banning Shame – it was the government. Its leaders were keen on banning the book because I had criticized the establishment for having failed to protect the religious minority community at a critical time when they needed it the most.

The book’s documentation was for the people of the Indian subcontinent or for the scholars who do research on atrocities committed by the hate-mongers in the name of religion. Shame was not particularly for Western readers, I told Western publishers. But they chose to publish it – they didn’t want to receive any advice from me on publishing my book. I even told them that they would find no criticism of Islam in Shame. I requested them to publish the books that Western readers would be interested to read and for which I was hated, attacked, and punished by the fanatics and misogynists.

I advised the publishers to publish my books on women’s freedom, but no publisher wanted to publish those books. I told the publishers that the government, as well as the fanatics, filed court cases against me on the charges of blasphemy for writing those books. Mullahs issued several fatwas for those books in which I declared that religious scriptures are out of time and out of place, where I said that we need a uniform civil code based on equality – we need no religious law. In those books, I pointed out that, like other religions, Islam is not compatible with human rights, women’s rights, democracy, and secularism. But the Western publishers did not trust me – they trusted the misinformation that journalists had published in the newspapers. They just wanted to publish my documentary novel Shame. And what happened afterwards? Shame was published in the West, but the readers were disappointed, because they could not relate to the contents of the book, and also the translation was not good. I was heavily misunderstood. Not many publishers thereafter took any interest in publishing my other books, and this can lead to destroying any writer’s life. Most of the publishers in the West published Shame but did not contact me afterwards. This is the fate I was awaiting and had warned the publishers about. I am an unfortunate writer who became not only the victim of religious fundamentalism but also a victim of misinformation by the media and by the commercial mindset of the publishers. Among the Western publishers, it was only a French publisher that was not afraid to publish books of mine other than Shame.

Most publishers show little interest in my creative writings. Just as language rules, the powerful media of the dominant languages also rule. You can be a popular writer overnight by the blessings of the media. And again, you can be thrown out of the publication scene if the media ignores you and spreads negative propaganda against you. Because of media reports, I was translated in the West. And because of a lack of good translators I was not properly read. Ultimately it is readers who decide. The problem I have had is to be able to reach my readers. If a translation is not good, it is the writer – not the translator – that is blamed.

A few of my books were translated into English and French by Bengalis who knew English or French. But their translations are not good either, because their mother-tongues are neither English nor French. So, those books of mine were translated either into bad English or into bad French. Worse, most of my books have been translated, either by a Bengali man or by a Western man who happened to know Bengali. Knowing a language does not mean that he or she has a good writing skill. As a result, critics who read such translations deduce that I am not a good writer.

Even though the Western publishers were eager to publish my book, it was difficult for them to find a translator who could translate my book from Bengali into Western languages.

Bengali is a language of a poor country. Who in the West wants to learn a language of a country where 80% of the population is illiterate and more than half the population lives under the poverty line and natural disasters are the only news they read about concerning that country? It is not worth it to learn such a language.

This is not my language’s fault. My language is beautiful, and I love it. But my language is not one of the dominant languages. Languages in poor countries and of tribes in the world are rich and beautiful, but they remain in the back yard of contemporary history. They are dying. At least half of the world’s 6,800 languages, and perhaps as many as 90 per cent, face a similar fate. Bengali could be dead some time from now. Maybe only a few languages eventually will be spoken and used on Earth. Maybe in the future there will be no problem of communicating with others or translating their thoughts. Maybe in the future nothing will be lost in translation. Would that be Utopia? I say no, it would be Dystopia.

Bengali, even though it is one of the sixth largest spoken languages in the world, is the language of a poor country. Bengali, however, has been the mother tongue of notables, for example Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray, who in 1992 won an honorary Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cinematic Art. And it is spoken by Sitar player Ravi Shankar; by Amartya Sen, who got the Nobel in Economics in 1998; and by Mohammad Yunus, who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2006.

I was in Iceland when my book came out there. How on Earth, I wondered, did they find an Icelander to translate the book? Was there anyone there to translate Bengali into Icelandic, and could I meet the person? No. The translation was from the Norwegian version. And the Norwegian book was translated from the Swedish. The Swedish version was translated from French and the French from English. Only the English version was from the original Bengali. Are Icelanders aware that they are not reading my book?

Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa’s well-known 1950 film, Rashomon, tells the story of an actual event witnessed by four, all of whom report widely different memories of what happened. Analogously, readers of my books have widely different understandings of what I wrote. I believe, admittedly without facts, that prose loses 50% and poetry loses its 80% of its essence/originality because of translation.

The Russian-born linguist Roman Jakobson declared that “poetry by definition is untranslatable.” I don’t totally agree with him. If a translator himself or herself is a poet and makes the translated poetry sound like the original, there is nothing better.

The title of my first poetry book in French is ‘Une Autre Vie’. As I do not know French, I could not check whether the translation was OK. The poems were translated by a French women who was a professor of Bengali language at Le Sorbonne. I was happy to see that the book get translated. But when one of my friends translated one poem from that book into English to me, I was shocked. Two lines of my Bengali poem was, ‘tomake anchole git diye bhalo bedhechi, din din tobu tumi tumiheenotay kNedechi’. It means ‘I have tied you well with the cloths I am wearing, but I have cried for day and night for not having you with me.’ Sari is a htraditional Bengali dress for women. It is common in the Indian subcontinent to tie the sari-end or one corner of the cloths of both men and women during romantic love and marriage, so that they can be near each other all their life. I expressed that idea and tried to say that you are so near to me, actually you are not near to me. I cried being without you. Physically you can be beside me, but your heart is somewhere else – That was the poem. But the translator made a big mistake. She did not understand sari-end, the word in Bengali sounded similar to another word in Bengali, that is hair. She translated my Bengali into French as ‘I have tied you with my hair’. What is the translation of next line? Instead of ‘I have cried for day and night for not having you with me’ she wrote ‘You are so mean that I have cried for day and night.’ In Bengali, ‘tumiheen’ is ‘without you’ or ‘your absence’. But if you separate the two words, then it means ‘you are mean’. Even though I did not separate the words, she did not understand the meaning of two words when they got together and carried a different meaning. The translator did not ask me any question while she was translating my poem. I have noticed that the translators do not try to discuss with the authors when they do not understand the words and sentences the authors wrote. Probably they are afraid of asking, because it might show that they do not know Bengali well, or they think the author is too busy to co operate with them. The readers are still reading the poem in French that sounds nonsense. I was afraid to check other poems of mine that are translated in French, I am afraid I would find this kind of grave mistakes in many of my translated poems. I have a fear of translation.

My second poetry book in French, Femmes, is the fruit of a literal translation. The translator is not a poet, she is not even a writer, she is French but knows English – no other criteria was considered by the publisher. She translated my poems from an English version of my Bengali poems into French. Several months ago when I read my poems for an hour in Maison de la Poesie, Theatre Moliere, in Paris, I read my poems in Bengali and a French actress standing beside me read the translation. The theater was full, and the audience was French who knew no Bengali. Surprisingly, I received the most applause after I read the poems in Bengali. The talented actress, however, did not get applause when she read the word-for-word translation which sounded, I imagine, unlistenable. Sometimes it is better to hear the sound of beautiful poems in a language that you do not know, rather than hear a bad translation in a language that you do know.

There are some particular problems in the translation process: problems of ambiguity, problems that originate from structural and lexical differences between languages and multi-word units such as idioms and collocations. Another problem is grammar, for there are several constructions of grammar poorly understood, in the sense that it isn’t clear how they should be represented, or what rules should describe them.

The words that are really hard to translate are frequently the small, common words, whose precise meaning depends heavily on context. Some words are untranslatable when one wishes to remain in the same grammatical category. The question of whether particular words are untranslatable is frequently debated.

For example, it isn’t easy to translate poetry because you need to analyze the words and meaning in the work’s flow and rhythm or rhyme. Most translations of poetry are bad. This is principally because the translator knows the foreign language too well and his or her native language too poorly. Some English poetry translations, particularly if they are robotic, do a great disservice to the originals.

Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore’s poems were translated by W. B. Yeats, an eminent poet who understood another poet’s feelings. But knowing the language is not enough – one preferably needs to be a writer or a poet to translate a writer or a poet. In the past, writers translated the works of other writers. Nowadays, we hardly see this phenomenon. French poet Charles Baudelaire translated American writer Edgar Allen Poe, leading some bilinguals to prefer Baudelaire over Poe. Ezra Pound edited T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland, the work that got the American poet the 1948 Nobel Prize in literature. Edward FitzGerald, the English writer, translated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1859), which achieved its Oriental flavor. Long before that, in the 14th century, the first fine translation of Italian into English was made by England’s great poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, who adapted from the Italian of Giovanni Boccaccio in his own works. Chaucer began a translation of the French-language Roman de la Rose, and he completed a translation of Boethius from the Latin. Chaucer founded an English poetic tradition on adaptations and translations from those earlier-established literary languages. Adaptation, which formerly was common, changed over the centuries, probably since the 19th century. Instead of adaptation, literal translation or word-for-word authentic translation became a norm.

Not everyone is a Gilbert Adair, George Perec’s translator into English of his 300-page French novel La disparition (1969), a work which Perec wrote as a lipogram (a lipogram, for example, is a work in which the author never uses the letter “e”). Adair translated Perec’s work without using an “e” in English and it remains as magical as the original. Same as in Swedish. Perec was a magical writer, and any translator needs extra-ordinary talents to avoid one of the most commonly used letters of the alphabet. This would preclude the use of words normally considered essential such as je (“I”) and le (masculine “the”) in French, and “me” and “the” in English. The Spanish version contains no “a,” which is the most commonly used letter in that language. His novella, Les revenentes (1972), is a complementary univocalic piece in which the letter “e” is the only vowel used. This constraint affects even the title, which would conventionally be spelled Revenantes. An English translation by Ian Monk was published in 1996 as The Exeter Text: Jewels, Secrets, Sex in the collection Three. Look at all the e’s he used!

It is my understanding that English has had three periods: Old English, Middle English, and Modern English. I have enough problems understanding contemporary English, of course. I realize I cannot understand Beowulf in the original, although the translations of stories about the 11th century epic warrior are of real interest. I cannot fully appreciate Chaucer’s Middle English, but I smile at his critique of life around the time that America was discovered, when priests sold bones of animals and pretended they were the bones of saints.

Shakespeare is the one in the 17th century who helped straighten out English from that previously spoken and now spoken differently by Angles, Saxons, Normans, and Celts. His sonnets about love I need more time to understand: in English, not in someone’s translation of what he wrote. When I was much younger, I read Shakespeare translated into Bengali. The translation into Bengali by a non-poet was really not readable. Buddhadev Basu, a fine 20th century Bengali poet, translated poems of Charles Baudelaire and, after reading those poems in Bengali, I developed not only an interest in reading more Baudelaire but also I became desperate to read more French literature. A good translator has the capacity to create a hunger among readers. But it is not always the same. Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali poet, translated many of his own poems into English. They were not, of course, up to the mark. But when William Butler Yeats translated these works, he drew Westerners’ attention and helped Tagore to get the Nobel Prize. Tagore failed to create a great literature in his second language.

Many famous Bengali poets have translated English, French, German, and Spanish poets’ work. However, it is extremely rare that English or French poets translate works by famous Bengali poets. It is not that they are not good writers or not good poets, but the Western publishers are not interested in their work until they start writing in a language of one of the major powers.

I depend on translation. I do not have enough knowledge to write in any other language than Bengali, my mother tongue. We know that many talented writers wrote their books in their second language. They did not need any translator to make them understood to the readers. Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s best-known novels are the series of three novels written in French. He translated his own novels into English. Czech writer Milan Kundera wrote in French, his second language. Joseph Conrad, a Polish man, wrote his novels in English – Conrad was a master prose stylist who brought a distinctly non-English tragic sensibility into English literature. Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov wrote his famous book, Lolita, first in English and then he translated Lolita into Russian. Nabokov, even though he wrote excellent English once said and I quote, “My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammelled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English.”

Although Nabokov was dismissive of his second language, he is regarded as perhaps the stylist of the century. John Updike commented that “Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.”

If I could write English like Nabokov, I would never complain about my English. But writers are never satisfied with their writings. Satisfaction is like poison – it indicates that death lies ahead. As long you remain unsatisfied with your work, you will continue to improve.

Would we wish that translations of works not be necessary, that we all could understand each other’s language? Would it be better if everyone on Earth spoke the same language? I can’t possibly think of that horrible situation. I can’t deny that many languages and cultures make the earth beautiful. Communication might be a problem now, but not having diversity would lead only to the sound of monotony.

As for meta-phrase, or literal word-for-word translation, I don’t give it a good mark. I am an unfortunate writer, most of whose works have been word-for-word translations. But this does not take into account context, grammar, conventions, and idioms. Sometimes there are no problems with grammar as such; all the difficulties are with the choice of words or the use of words.

Language is not a mere collection of words and grammar rules – it is the expression of a culture. It embodies the efforts of a language community to conceptualize and interpret the world, as well as human experience and relations. As a result, language reflects the complex “personality” of such a community. Therefore, language can only be interpreted and learned with reference to a specific cultural context.

When I was growing up, I read translations of Russian literature. Then I read translations of French and German literature. I enriched myself with a knowledge of different cultures. Also, of course, I read Bengali literature as well as Bengali translations. Some of my friends didn’t like to read translations at all, but I did. I wanted to read books in their original language – French, Italian, German, Russian, and others. But I found life is too short to learn so many languages in order to read so many literary works. I did not wait to learn the Russian language to read Russian literature. The translation may have been perfect or not, but it touched my heart. I even cried when I read the translation of Maxim Gorky’s My Childhood or Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I don’t remember how the Bengali translation of those classics was. I knew I was reading a foreign classic, so I accepted that the behavior of the foreign characters would look strange to me, their way of life being different from my way of life, their way of saying things entirely different. But that was not at all a problem for me. I learned the differences. But I felt so emotionally involved with the characters.

The most important book that I read in translation, the one that changed my life the most, is the Koran. Had I not read it, I would not have become the person I now am. Like Muslims in the non-Arab world, I do not know Arabic. Like them when growing up, I read Koranic verses as if I was a parrot, repeating the sounds but not knowing what they meant. Once I read a translation of what I was parroting, I became an atheist, for I found that Islam is not a religion of peace and that it discriminates against women. I didn’t find that God was kind and merciful, and I saw no reason to be fooled. In fact, it was clear that the words had been written by a man or a group of men for their own social and political interest.

Thousands of writers who write in regional languages remain unknown. Writers who came from the Indian subcontinent and write in English – like Salman Rushdie, Amitava Ghosh, Arundhuti Roy, Jhumpa Lahiri – are praised by Western readers. Do they write better than other writers in the subcontinent? I do not think so. It is the language that makes them understood and praised by the readers. You can be a famous writer all over the world if only you write in a dominant language. You can be an excellent writer, but if you use a little-used language you likely will not become well-known. No Booker Prize, no Pulitzer, and no Nobel will come your way.

Don’t kill them

Birds or little dinosaurs migrate for different reasons, temperature changes, seasonal fluctuations in food supplies, breeding needs etc.

Bar-tailed Godwit, the non-breeding migratory birds fly more than 11,000 kilometer non stop, from Alaska to New Zealand.

Brent Geese migrate from Siberia to Western Europe. They travel via White Sea and Baltic Sea.

This is arctic tern that flies from Britain to Australia. They fly more than 22,000 km during migration.

Talking. killing, possessing migratory birds is unlawful almost in every countries. But who cares! hunting and killing migratory birds are common everywhere. Hundreds of millions of birds get killed every year. Collisions with communication towers kill millions of birds. Windmills kill many. Every year trappers in Cyprus 1-million-migrating-songbirds-are-killed-for-pickled-dish-in-cyprus that are boiled or pickled – a national delicacy called ambelopoulia.Birds are killed for their feathers. selling in the black market Oil and gas kill them. Pesticides kill them. Men kill migratory birds for food. Boys kill them for fun. Millions of birds flying to Spain for the winter will be caught in traps, which glue the animals to the ground. There are hundreds of reasons why the population of the migratory birds has declined.

Greylag geese, mallards, teals, pochards, shovelers, wigeons, black cormorant, little grebe, darter, egret, heron and hundreds of thousands of species of migratory birds come to the Indian subcontinent every year. They come from Siberia, from South Africa. The number of migratory birds in many parts of the Indian subcontinent has been declined. Rapid urbanization and encroachment are the reasons for declining the migratory bird population. Birds that thrive in swampy wetlands face a higher risk. Commercial use of wetlands has affected the aquatic ecosystem. Many lakes are dried up. The condition of non-aquatic birds is not that bad. More bird sanctuaries and migratory bird conservation are needed.

Great white pelican


Common Crane.

Many migratory birds are not coming to the subcontinent anymore. Common cranes are not coming, Flamingos not coming.

People hunt and kill them. They sell migratory birds in India and Bangladesh. They eat them.

I tried, but I could not be proud of humans.


We have seen all those sexist vintage ads. What about 21st century’s new sexist ads!

In the West the companies are forced to ban their ads because of criticism and protests from feminists and women’s rights activists. In the East, no body protests against sexist ads. Sexism is cultural norms.

The Vodka company put up a new billboard promising New Yorkers ‘escort quality at a hooker price’. The poster was removed later.

It is a poster of the movie ‘the players’. Woman down. Man up. Woman naked, man dressed up. Woman slut, man gentleman. Woman begs, man gives. But for how long?

They are telling us that a woman can’t open a bottle of wine or a jar of olives. Men help to open the bottle and the jar. Do we really need those huge muscles to open those simple things? Hatred against women has no limits.

Believe me, it has no limits.

Did you ever think of sexualizing penile cancer, dude?

Many women have been fighting against sexualizing breast cancer. They are saying:

‘Sexualizing breast cancer reduces the serious disease to the realm of popular trends and reducing women to the quality of their physical appearance (again!). It probably implies that a woman without breasts is not a woman at all, making it so vital that her breasts be saved. It also implies that only women are the victims of this merciless disease promoting the misnomer that only women possess mammary glands and are susceptible to breast cancer.

Breast cancer campaigns use sexuality because breasts are constantly portrayed in the media as sexual entities. There is a something a little erotic about a woman being prescribed by her doctor to feel her breasts on a regular basis. Breast cancer, however, is not sexy nor is it fun. It is not the pink ribbon sporting, fun loving, laughing beauty in the advertisements. Its scary and sterile. Its full of hospitals and doctors and uncertainty.

The focus on breasts as sexual objects and breast cancer as the mortal enemy of breasts is demoralizing to women who get breast cancer. It emphasizes an elevated status that a woman’s breast has over her person and it reinforces importance that society places on these physical objects.

It is important for diseases that affect women be researched and studied. Breast cancer is incredibly important and needs public support, however that support should not come at the expense of women themselves’.

No other cancer is sexualized the way breast cancer is sexualized. Breast cancer should be taken equally seriously like other cancers.

Please raise awareness for all cancers, not only for breast cancer. People have been suffering from many different cancers and dying young. Some cancers can be prevented, and treatment works best when cancer is found early.

Penile Cancer:

Tongue Cancer:

Liver Cancer:

Male breast Cancer:

Lung Cancer:

Skin Cancer:

Prostate Cancer:

Stomach Cancer:

Cervical Cancer:

Men are crazy for hymen, a thin tiny membrane

Millions of men are crazy to sleep with virgins. They marry children because children are most likely to be virgins. Men go to brothels and pay a lot of money only to fuck 5 to 10-year-old children. Men love hymen that surrounds or partially covers the external vaginal opening.

The man who created Islam knew about the desire of men to have sex with virgins. He tempted men whoever convert to Islam with seventy two virgins.


In some parts of the world a white bed sheet is put on the bed to see virgin’s blood on the first night of wedding. Women are forced to give proof of their chastity. Female ‘purity’ is an asset for patriarchy.Unfortunately their Purity, chastity, virginity, morality all are made available nowhere but in vagina. Women get divorced or tortured or even murdered if their hymens are not intact on wedding night.

Women were forced to wear chastity belts in medieval times.

They do not wear chastity belts made of Iron anymore. Today’s chastity belts are made of different or they are just invisible. There is no change in the mindset of controlling women. Male domination or patriarchy has reduced women the half of the world’s human population to mere sex objects.

Hymens can be broken because of physical exercises, tampons, traumas etc. But men are not ready to accept any torn hymen. Women have to give their husbands or masters or lords the proof of their virginity. Before wedding, out of fear women rush to doctors for having hymenoplasty or hymenorrhaphy. Women’s dignity and honor are based on whether or not their hymens are intact.

Women’s sexuality has never been a private thing. It has always been the property of men and society. They throws stones towards women if their hymens are broken.


Women are also forced to have a hymenoplasty to tighten vagina so that men can feel that they are having sex with teens or children. Doctors are now becoming expert in tightening vagina or restoring virginity. Women have been taught for centuries not to have respect for themselves. They are taught to hate their own bodies. They are taught to live for men and men only.

What if women did not have but men had hymens covering their penises! Men would face no problems if men’s hymens were broken because of horse back riding or masturbation or sex or something else. Would women ever ask men to give proof of their virginity? No. Rupturing hymens would be a man’s proof of masculinity. Men would be treated as uncouth and retard if their hymens remained intact after puberty.



They do not believe in freedom of expression



“It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That’s all I have to say on that subject.” — Philip Pullman, the author of The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.


American Historian Peter Heehs is facing expulsion from his home of 41 years.   He wrote a  book on Indian spiritual Guru  Sri Aurobindo.  The disciples of   Aurobindo claim that the  book is  blasphemous because Heehs wrote Aurobindo was schizophrenic and  had a romantic  relationship with  one of his disciples.

Aurobindo was  a  talented man, a  freedom fighter, philosopher,yogi, guru, and a poet. If he were alive today, he would probably  not have allowed his disciples to expel  Peter Heehs from his ashram.

We are now witnessing a gradual Islamization of  Hinduism.


The   disciples  or the believers or the worshipers  create  problems. They can’t stand the truth.

They could not stand  the truth Pakistani Dr. Sheikh Yunus  said. During his  lecture at a medical college, he said that  Muhammad did not become a Muslim  until the age of 40 when  he received his  first revelation  from God, and also that Muhammad’s parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam was created, and  that Muhammad  married his first wife when he was 25, without an Islamic marriage contract, and that he  was not circumcised.

Sheikh Yunus  was sentenced to death by hanging.


We have been  paying  the price  for their  collective ignorance big time.




Homeless Everywhere

( Dwikhandito ( A life divided or Split in  Two), the 3rd part of my autobiography    caused a furore in [East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and West Bengal, India]. I was accused of having written  my sexual relationship outside of marriage. The book was later banned for hurting religious feelings of people in  India.  $4 million dollar  demanation lawsuits were  filed against me for writing  Dwikhandito by two male writers both in Bangladesh and  India . The Indian high court lifted the ban on my book.  But the book is still  banned in Bangladesh. I wrote this article when some media and male-writers were spreading hatred  against me in 2003. )

“Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently”.  — Rosa Luxemburg

When I look back, the years gone by appear dry, ashen. Suddenly, a half-forgotten  dream tears itself from that inert grey mass and stands before me, iridescent, obtrusive. Odd memories tiptoe into my solitary room. Confronting me, they make me tremble, they make me cry; they drag me back towards the days left behind. I cannot help but walk down the serpentine, shadowy alleys of my life, foraging for remembered fragments. To what use? The past is past, irrevocably so. The dreams that are long dead are unrecognizably dead. What good can it do to dust the cobwebs off them with tender fingers? What is gone just isn’t here anymore. I know, yet my life in exile makes me reach back into my past, again and again. I walk through the landscape of my memories like someone possessed. Each night brings  with it nightmares, its own thick blanket of melancholy. It is then that I start telling the story of that girl.



A shy, timid girl, who grew up in a strict family, uncomplaining, constantly humiliated; a girl encircled by boundaries, whose every desire, every whim was thrown away as garbage; whose small, frail body was prey to many dark, hairy hands. I have narrated the story of that girl. A girl with modest adolescent dreams, who fell in love and married in secret, hoping  to live the ordinary life of an ordinary woman. I have told her story. A woman betrayed by her dearly beloved husband, whose convictions came crashing down like a house of straw, a woman who knew sorrow, pain, mourning, and bereavement; a woman who was tempted to follow the terrible road to self-destruction. I have simply told her agonizing tale. A woman who then gathered up the broken pieces of her dreams and tried to live again, to make a little room of her own in the midst of a cruel, heartless society; who surrendered to a guardian called ‘man’ because society demanded it of her. But the hurt, the pain kept growing, the traumatic pain of losing an unborn child, wounds that left her bloodied and sore, onslaughts of malice, distrust and unbearable humiliation.

All that I have done is to tell the story of that trampled and bruised girl. That girl who, with whatever strength remained in her body and mind, stood up again, without anyone’s help, turned away from all shelter, trying to be her own self once more, her own refuge; a woman who refused to renounce and retreat from the world that had deceived and rejected her, a woman who refused to heed people’s taunts and sneers I have narrated the story of this girl, of this woman standing upright. A woman who  refused to obey society’s diktats, its rituals and traditions. A woman whose constant stumbling, falling, being thrown, taught her to stand straight. Whose stumbling steps taught her to walk, whose wanderings showed her the way. Slowly, gradually, she witnessed the  growth of a new consciousness within her, a simple thought took hold of her – “This life was her own and no one else’s. She was the one who could rule over it, no one else”. I have told the story of that girl, of the circumstances that shaped her. It is the story of a girl who came out of the furnace of patriarchy, not reduced to ashes, but as burnished steel. Have I done wrong? Even if I don’t think so, many people think today that it was wrong of me to tell this story. Today, I am standing in the prosecution box waiting for the verdict. It wouldn’t have been such a terrible crime if I had not disclosed the identity of that girl. The girl was I, Taslima.


Had I used my imagination, I could have done whatever I pleased – written page after page of fancy and all would have been forgiven. But it is forbidden to stake my claim in this real world to being a flesh and blood woman and announce audaciously – “I am that girl; after those turbulent years of sorrow I am standing up again; I have vowed to live my life as I see fit”. Why would the world accept this bold stance? No woman should have this kind of  courage. I am completely unfit for a patriarchal society. In my own country Bangladesh, in  my very own West Bengal, I am a forbidden name, an outlawed woman, a banned book. Nobody can utter my name, touch me, read me; if they do so their tongues will rot, their hands will become soiled, a deep disgust will overwhelm them. This is the way I am. This is  the way I have chosen to be. Yet even if the publication of Dwikhandito  shatters me into a thousand pieces, I will still not confess to any wrongdoing. Is it wrong to write the story of one’s life? Is it wrong to expose the deep, secret truths of life as you have lived it? The unwritten rule of every autobiography is – ‘Nothing will be hidden, everything shall be written about’. An  autobiography’s subject is the unknown, the secrets of a human life. I have simply tried to follow this rule honestly. The first two volumes of my life story, Amar Meyebela (My Girlhood)  and Utal Hawa (Strong Winds) have not raised the kind of controversy Dwikhandito has. In any case, I have not started the controversy, others have. Many have said that I have deliberately chosen sensational subject matter, incapable of generating anything but controversy.
This question should not be raised in the case of an autobiography. I have described the years of my childhood, my adolescence, my youth, living and growing through all kinds of experiences. I have spoken about my philosophy, my hopes and despairs, my beauty and my ugliness, my happiness and sorrow, my anger and tears, my own deviation from my ideals. I have not chosen a titillating or sensitive subject. I have simply chosen my own life to write about. If this life is a stimulating and exciting life, then how can I make it less so? I am told this volume has been written to raise a hue and cry. Does every conception have to have a petty motive? As if honesty, simplicity cannot be adequate reasons. As if courage, something that I am told I have in abundance, cannot be a good enough reason. Controversy about my writing is nothing new. I am familiar with it from the very time I was being published. Actually, isn’t the truth rather simple? Just this: if you don’t compromise with a patriarchal society, you will find yourself at the centre of a storm?  There are many different definitions of what makes an autobiography. Most of us easily accept those autobiographies that are idealistic and describe only good and happy events. Generally, great men write about their lives to inspire other lives, to reveal the truth and the path of righteousness. I am neither a sage, nor a great, erudite being, and I write not to show light to the blind. I am simply unmasking the wounds and blights of an ordinary human life.


Even though I am not a great litterateur, momentous things  have happened in my life. Certainly it is no ordinary life, when, because of my beliefs and ideals, thousands take to the streets asking for my death; or when my books are banned because they carry my opinions; or when the state snatches away the right to live in my  own land for speaking the truth!  When it is all right for others to constantly describe my life, and add color to their  portrayal, why shouldn’t it be all right for me to take the responsibility to describe it myself, fully, truthfully? Surely no one else can know my life the way I know it?  If I don’t reveal myself, if I don’t depict the whole of myself – especially those events  that have shaken me — if I don’t talk of all that is good and bad in me, of my weaknesses  and my strengths, my happiness and sorrow, my generosity and cruelty, then I don’t think I can stay true to the responsibility of writing an autobiography. For me, literature for literature’s  sake, or literary niceties for their own sake, cannot be the last word; I place a greater  value on honesty.
Whatever my life may be, however contemptible or despicable, I do not deceive myself  when I sit down to write about it. If the reader is disgusted or appalled by my tale, so be it.  At least I can be satisfied that I have not cheated my reader. I am not presenting a fictitious  narrative in the guise of an autobiography. I narrate the truths of my life, the ugly as  much as I do the beautiful, without hesitation. I can’t change my past. The ugliness and the  beauty must both be accepted; I won’t lie and say, “It didn’t happen”.  The sharp arrows of mockery come flying from every direction. The mud of slander  and humiliation is flung to soil me. There is only one reason for this assault. I have spoken  the truth. Not everyone can bear the truth. The truths of Amar Meyebela   and Utal Hawa   can  be borne; Dwikhandito’s is insupportable. In Amar Meyebela, when I described my ignoble  childhood, people said sympathetically, “How terrible!” In Utal Hawa, when I described being  cheated on by my husband, they expressed their sympathy. But in Dwikhandito, when I  spoke openly of my relationships with various men, they began to point fingers at me. We  can draw only one conclusion from this: As long as a woman is oppressed and defenseless,  people like her and sympathize with her. But when she refuses to remain exploited or  suppressed, when she stands up, when she straightens her spine, establishes her rights,  breaks the oppressive social systems that chain her so as to free her body and mind – she is no longer admirable. I knew this character of our society; even then I was not afraid to speak freely about myself.
One of the main reasons for the controversy regarding Dwikhandito is sexual freedom. Since most people are immersed neck-deep in the traditions of a patriarchal society, they  are irritated, angry and outraged at the open declaration of a woman’s sexual autonomy. This freedom is not something that I simply talk about; rather, I have established it  for myself, in and through my life. But this freedom is not license; men cannot touch me  whenever they please. I decide.  Our society is not yet ready for such freedom in a woman. It refuses to accept the fact  that a woman can sexually engage with and enjoy any man she desires, and yet rigorously  decide where to draw the line in any encounter. Our renowned, famous, well-heeled writers delight in slandering me by calling me a fallen woman, a whore. In doing this they only prove themselves to be the figureheads of  this disgusting, dirty patriarchal society! They first use ‘whore’ for their enjoyment and then deploy the words ‘whore’ as a term for abuse! There is really nothing novel  in the use of women as sexual slaves.  Although in this volume of my autobiography I have spoken about my personal struggle   against patriarchy, and religious fundamentalism, spoken about the torture meted out by society on women and religious  minorities, nobody talks of the fact that I have spoken of such things. They only notice my relationships  with men. They notice the audacity that I have in opening my mouth about the deep,  secret, ugly and repulsive subject of what happens to sexuality in a patriarchal society.


Whenever, in the history of the world, in times of darkness, a woman stands up against  patriarchy, speaks about emancipation, tries to break free from her chains, she gets called a  ‘whore’. Many years ago, in the preface to my book, A Fallen Woman’s Fallen Prose‚ I  wrote about how I delighted in calling myself a ‘fallen woman’. It was because I knew that whenever  a woman has protested against oppression by the state, by religion, or by society, whenever  she has become aware of all her rights, society has called her a whore. I believe that in  this world, for a woman to be pure, to be true to herself, she has to become a ‘fallen woman’.  Only when a woman is called a ‘whore’ can she know that she is free from the coils of society’s  diktats. The ‘fallen’ woman is really a pure and pristine human being. I truly believe that if a woman wants to earn her freedom, be a human, she has to earn this label. This title, coming from a fallen, degenerate society, should be seen as an honour by every woman. Till now, of all the prizes I have received, I consider this honour to be the greatest recognition of what  I have done with my life. I have earned it because I have given a mortal blow to the decaying,  rotten body of patriarchy. This is the true measure of the worth of my life as a writer, of my  life as a woman and the long years of my struggle to be the person I am.
A writer in Bangladesh has sued me for defamation after Dwikhandito came out.  Another in West Bengal has also followed suit. Dissatisfied with that, they have demanded  a ban on my book. I really cannot understand how a writer can demand this about another  writer’s work. How can they fight for freedom of speech and thought and then behave like  fundamentalists. I believe every word of what Evelyn Beatrice Hall said – “Je ne suis absolument pas  d’accord avec vos idées, mais je me battrais pour que vous puissiez les exprimer…” – (“I  do not agree with your ideas, but I will fight for your right to express them”.)  So many people have written about their lives. If it is a human life, it is full of errors, mistakes, black marks, and thorns, even when those in question are saints. St. Augustine   (335-430 AD) wrote about his life, talked openly about his undisciplined, immoral, reckless  youth in Algeria, his illegitimate son, his sexual exploits. Mahatma Gandhi spoken of how he  tested his celibacy by making women sleep in the same bed with him. Jean Jacques   Rousseau (1712-1774) in his Confessions narrates every incident of his life, without holding
back the ugly and the bad. Benjamin Franklin (1709-1790) confesses how he brought  up his illegitimate son, William. Bertrand Russell and Leo Tolstoy have been equally frank  about their lives. Why did these men talk about things they knew were unacceptable by  society? It is because they wanted to let their readers know their real selves, and because
they felt that these experiences were important in their lives. Does anyone call them names  because they have been indiscreet? Rather, these admirable men remain exactly in the  position of honor they have always occupied, and it is reinforced by their telling of the   truths of their lives. Catherine Millet’s La vie sexuelle de Catherine M (The sexual life of  Catherine M) describes the sexual freedom of the sixties, her life with many men, vivid  descriptions of sex. Hasn’t this book occupied a place among other literary works? Gabriel  Garcia Marquez in his Vivir Para Contarla talks of other women with whom he had relations.  Will someone run to court to ban Marquez’s book?


In every country, biographies are written about famous men and women. Biographers  conduct research for years to unearth some hidden aspects of the life under examination.  Even innermost secrets no longer remain so, and we have seen this even in the case of  Rabindranath Tagore’s life. In spite of being a passionate spokesman against child marriage,  why did he allow his daughter to marry so young? We now know the reason. But the  question remains: Why does a reader need to know all this? Why do researchers spend  years finding out the most intimate details of a person’s life? It is because in the light of  these hidden facts we can analyze and understand the writer and his work in a new way.  Many Bengali writers love playing games with women, and even if they hesitate to mention  these escapades in their autobiographies, the characters they create boldly commit  such acts. Nobody has ever questioned them, but if a woman talks of sexuality, in a fictional  work or in her autobiography, eyebrows are raised. Sexuality is a man’s prerogative, his  ancestral’ patrilineal property. I can’t possibly write like men. I must write more discreetly. I am a woman after all. Only a man possesses the right to discuss a woman’s body, her  thighs, her breasts, her waist and her vagina. Why should a woman do it? This patriarchal  society has not given me that right, but since I have thumbed my nose at this rule and have  written about it, however sad or poignant my tale may be, I have crossed the limits.



For a man, a playboy image is something to be proud of.  When a woman writes about  her love and sexuality with honesty, she becomes a suspect, a ‘characterless’ woman. I  have talked of certain things in my autobiography that I should not have. I have muckraked;  I have crossed the limit allowed to me.  One should not discuss what happens inside the bedroom or between two individuals  because such events are unimportant. But I consider them important because all those  incidents have shaped the Taslima that I am today – this woman with her beliefs and  disbeliefs, mores and thoughts, and her own sense of her self. The world around her has  created her brick by brick, not as a chaste domesticated angel, but as an ardent, renegade,  disobedient brat.  Then they say: I can destroy my own reputation, but why do I have to destroy the reputation  of others? This question has come up, although I am writing about what is after all my  own life. I fail to understand why those who are so self-consciously respectable do things that  they consider contemptible? They say that I have broken their trust. But I never promised anyone  my silence. People tell me there is an unwritten rule, but only those afraid my revelations  will destroy their saintly images uphold this code of discretion. And then they try to intimidate  me with their furious wrinkled brows! But what if I want to reveal whatever I consider important?  What if I decide that what I am talking about is not obscene, at least to me?  Who creates these definitions of obscenity and sets out the limits? I decide what I  should write in my autobiography, how much to reveal, how much to conceal. Or should I  not? Should I wait for instructions from X, Y, and Z, from some Maqsud Ali, some Keramat  Mian, or from some Paritosh or Haridas Pal? Should I wait on them to tell me what to write,  how much to write?
Critics want to characterize my freedom as self-indulgent license. This is because our  likes and dislikes, our sense of right and wrong, sin and virtue, beauty and ugliness are  moulded by thousands of years of patriarchy. So, patriarchy has taught us that the true  characteristics of a woman are her diffidence, her timidity, her chastity, her lowered head,  and her patience. Therefore, the critic’s habituated, controlled perceptions are afraid to face  harsh truths, and quickly shut their ears in disgust. “Is she a real writer? Does she have the  right to an autobiography?”, they ask in anger.  I think that everyone has a right to talk about their lives, even the pompous critic who  regards a pen in my hands as an outrage! I have been called irresponsible. I may be irresponsible, I may be irrational, but I refuse to give up the right to be so. George Bernard  Shaw once said, “A reasonable man adapts himself to the world. An unreasonable man  persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends upon the  unreasonable man”.  Taslima Nasreen is one of those unreasonable human beings. I do not claim that  progress depends upon me; I am simply an insignificant writer. In the eyes of wise men, I  am happy to be labelled an unreasonable or imprudent person. It is because I am foolish  that I have not kept my mouth shut, I have stood my ground even as an entire society has  spat upon me. I have remained firm when patriarchy’s ardent supporters have come to trample me. My naïveté, my unreasonableness, my irrationality are my greatest assets.
The question of religion has also come up. Those who know me also know that I  always speak up against religious conventions. Religion is thoroughly patriarchal. If I insult  religion or religious texts, why should men tolerate it, especially when these same men use  religion and religious texts to suppress others? It is these pious gentlemen who have forced  me to leave my country. I have paid the price for truth with my own life. How much more should I pay?  Just like in West Bengal today, my books have been banned earlier in Bangladesh on the excuse that they may incite riots. The communal tension raging through South Asia is  not caused by my books but by other reasons. The torture of Bangladesh’s minorities, the  killing of Muslims in Gujarat, the oppression of Biharis in Assam, the attacks against  Christians, the  conflicts between shitte and Sunni in Pakistan have all occurred without any contribution  from me. Even if I am an insignificant writer, I write for humanity, I write with all my heart that every human being is equal, and there must be no discrimination on the basis of  gender, color, or religion. Everyone has the right to live. Riots don’t break out because of what I write. But I am the one who is punished for what I write. Fires rage in my home. I am  the one who has to suffer exile. I am the one who is homeless everywhere.