The English translation of celebrated writer Syed Mujtaba Ali’s famous book ‘Deshe Bideshe’ has been launched in Dhaka.It is the only published eyewitness account of Afghanistan’s tumultuous days in the 1920s by a non-Afghan.
Former BBC executive editor of South and Central Asia Nazes Afroz has translated it, styled, ‘In A Land Far From Home’.India’s Deputy High Commissioner Sandeep Chakravorty unveiled the book at the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) in Dhaka on Monday.A journalist for over three decades, Afroz said how the translation came about.“It was not something that I had planned,” he said.
He joined the BBC in London in 1998 and spent close to 15 years with the organisation.He said he started travelling in Afghanistan from 2002, carrying the book as the only reference.A passionate photographer and a compulsive traveller, Afroz said he was also trying to locate the places mentioned in the book.‘Deshe Bideshe’ gives a fascinating first-hand account of events at a critical point in Afghanistan’s history, when the reformist King Amanullah tried to steer his country towards modernity by encouraging education for girls.It was Mujtaba Ali’s first book, published in 1948, though he was a regular contributor to various magazines by then.The legendary Bengali writer, also an intrepid traveller, wrote the book drawing on his experience during a year and a half’s stay in Kabul from 1927 to 1929.He explored the Afghan society of the time and, with his language skills, had access to a cross-section of Kabul’s population.The book chronicled those ideas and experiences with a keen eye and a delightful sense of humour.
Afroz said when he met his friends in Kabul “they were keen to see my interest in Afghanistan”.“Every time I told them about the book, they wanted to know if there were any translation.“They kept on insisting. We’ll like to read the book. When I sat down (for translation), I was only doing it for my friends,” he said.“Later they (friends) insisted that this book should be published.”“I wanted to do it for them who could not read Bangla,” he said.It took him four months to do the translation which he began working on after quitting the BBC in 2012.Afsan Chowdhury, a senior journalist, writer and researcher, discussed the book.