[Pramode Bikash Karbari (PBK) was born on 2 January 1940 at Shantipur village of Panchari Upazila under Khagrachari Hill District. His primary education started in Rangamati Police Line Primary School in 1950. He passed his Matriculation Examination from Rangamati Government High School in 1959. Having passed HSC, he passed BA Hons and obtained Masters Degree in English from Dhaka University. As per his academic record, he obtained first division in his Matriculation and Higher Secondary Examinations and Second division in Graduation and Master’s Degree. Chittagong and Rangamati including Dhaka, he served in 11 government and non-government schools and colleges as a teacher. He also found himself attached with progressive political, cultural and students’ organizations. He would compose poem and mini stories in Bengali since his student hood. But his practice with literature became irregular during his service period. Even being so, he has devoted himself regularly in authoring poems, rhymes, mini stories, dramas and novels in Chakma language since 1973.
Intu Moni Talukder (IMT) interviewed Pramode Bikash Karbari.
English version of this interview is being uploaded to hillvoice.net for the reader without bringing any change in it.
IMT: Namoskar! How are you?
PBK: Namoskar. Fine, thank you.
IMT: Could you please relate your childhood memories? Particularly, your first days in school.
PBK: Well, as it usually goes with the village children in the hills, so went with me. Such as, running, jumping, playing and roaming in the hills and woods. Besides, tending cattle with the cowboys, climbing in the trees and whistling and singing.
One day, my father took me to school for admission. When I saw the teacher beating a child, the school seemed to be terrible to me. So, I could not be admitted. Then again I got back to my earlier archdiocese pastural life, i.e. life of a cowboy. My paternal uncle put an end to my pastural life by taking me to Rangamati with him. By then I was 8 or 9 years old. He got me admitted to Class-II in Rangamati Police Line L.P. School. Of course, the Ballya Shikshma (Primer) was already half done to me.
IMT: How did you observe the CHT during your childhood and adolescence age?
PBK: By then, I would see romantic and dreamy hills far and near. Elsewhere were filled up water resources like streams, streamlets, fountains, rivers, tributaries, ponds and lakes; and innumerable varieties of trees and forests full of wildlife. Afar were the mountains. By the riverside were villages, haat-bazaars and (British) Company-constructed roads running along the riverside. Mobile Muslim businessmen, Hindu shopkeepers in the bazzars and Muslim paddy-reapers from Chittagong and Noakhali were to be seen. The forests, jungles, hills, shifting cultivation hill slopes and paddy lands were quite free from danger even at night.
It may be well said, safe were all things hat would comprise the common treasure for gathering forest resources and fields for mobility. CHT was open and lively with occasions of mass feast, worshipping, festivals, night-long songs of bard, cultural function and staging theatre. There had been a strong guidance in the social fabric whereby the aged were always obeyed by the younger sections in age. No ailments, feuds and chromes in the society were to be noticed. But as there was no medicine for cholera, during its outbreak, people would simply abandon their dwellings and get shifted to other locations. Population of hill men and Bengali community was small but both were reciprocative to each other and the relation between the two was as good as close relatives.
IMT: You belong to the generation of fifties and sixties. Please say something about socio-economic condition of the Jumma community people existent in those days.
PBK: The socio-economic structure of the Jumma society was almost semi-feudal-peasants-relation-based one. The number of educated or service holders were very negligible and population was small. It is for this reason, the sites for agriculture and shifting cultivation were not in scarce. Almost all were peasants practicing both agriculture and Jum cultivation. Hence, Crops had been the sole mean of livelihood. Besides, dealing in bamboos, timbers, cotton and mastered seeds was also existent. In respect of food, wears, treatment and materials for house construction, it may be said to have been almost self-dependent. But the number of schools was less. Rangamati English High School was the only secondary-level school.
For the consumer goods, such as, grocery items, clay potteries, ornaments, salt and dry fish, it had to depend on Bengali community. There was a practice of loving careness and cooperation in the society, as a whole. Corruption, theft, dacoity, dispute or crime were almost rare to be noticed. Problems out of any dispute would get solved in the courts of traditional social institutions. People would domesticate livestock including bore and poultry. Those who were solvent, would rear cows, buffalos, goats and even yolks, too. In Rangamati, with exception to one or one and a half mile long pucca road in totality, all other roads were unmetalled.
Paddy, rice, vegetables, fruits fish – none of them could be sold since, almost all were self-dependent and in abundance of those items. Rice was too cheap and it would sell 4/5 seers by 1 rupee. In 1960, 2/3 seers of rice by 1 rupee was available and even in 1972-73, rice measuring 1/2 seers would cost 1 rupee. One big size cock would cost Rs 2 to 2.50 and if there would famine in the country, the people of CHT would not die in starvation. Food items of water, natural and forest resources like aurum, fruits and vegetables would by then available in the Jum sites, hill slopes and forests. The hill people would maintain almost self-dependent life and livelihood.
IMT: You studied in Dhaka University. Do you remember any alumni belonging to Jumma students?
PBK: I was in Jgannath Hall, since 1964 to 1969. But a break of study occurred for one year as I dropped in my Honors final examination. For this, I was with both of the students of senior and junior to me. Of the senior batch were: Ramendu Shekhar Dewan (Now settled in London), Sharadendu Shekhar Chakma (Former Ambassador), Bipassi Chakma (Former CSP and Bangladesh Accountant General) Gyanendu Bikash Chakma (Advocate) and Late Professor Amarendra Lal Khisa.
For or a time, my batchmates were: Late Purnanga Baran Khisa, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Chairman, CHT Regional Council), and Late Prafulla Kumar Chakma. Besides, junior to me were: Dr. Niru Kumar Chakma (Professor, Dhaka University), Maung Sanu Choudhury (Former Professor), Maung Thuai Choudhury, Amulya Ranjan Chakma (Former Magistrate), Tara Charan Chakma (Former Chairman, CHT Development Board), Professor Dr. Aditya Kumar Dewan (Canada), Dr.Sudhin Kumar Chakma (Former Principal of college), Harish Chandra Chakma (High School Teacher), Pinaki Ranjan Dewan, my classmate, Dr.Chiranjib Talukder (Canada), with whom I used to stay during his study of MBBS and no more comes to my mind right now.
IMT: Exactly since when the Literature and Culatural movement began in CHT?
PBK: In my opinion, Movement on Culture and Literature started at mid 1970 in CHT. Jumiya Vasha Prashar Daptar (JUVAPRAD) in research work, Charukala Academy in Arts, Girisur Shilpigosthi in dance and singing, Gengkhuli Shilpigosthi in music and in literature through Jum Aesthetic Council (JAC).
IMT: Revolutionary leader, Manabendra Narayan Larma protested against construction of Dam at Kaptai. Had you participated in that protestation? Could you please contribute something?
PBK: No, I did not. I was regularly and better to say to some extent irregularly busy with my studies in Dhaka since 1959 to 1970. In 1959, I got admitted in science stream in Dhaka College but dropped the examination and having worked as a teacher in Marishya, again I got admitted in Kanungo Para College. The uptide movement against the dam did not reach that much and moreover, number of students were a few in Dhaka, by then. This movement was mostly limited to the hill students studying in Rangamati, Kanungo Para and Chittagong town and being in student hood, M N Larma’s role was the principal one.
By then, amid severe government restrictions, nothing as such came to my knowledge that the Jumma leaders had been vocal in protest and active to involve the people in the protest against construction of the dam. But without worry, Mohammed Ayub Khan inaugurated the Dam keeping all the three Circle Chiefs (Kings) by his side.
IMT: How old were you during Liberation War? How do you estimate the Liberation War?
PBK: I was 30/31 years old when the Liberation War broke out. You see, liberation war is a just war through which both the nation and country are set free from foreign oppression, suppression, injustice, tyranny and aggression. Without waging the liberation war, Bangladesh could not have come into being and the condition of people of this country would have been very bad. Since, there was foreign exploitation and oppression, the liberation war was inevitable and hence, any liberation war is a just war.
IMT: Please put some light on your service life and the holistic reality of Bangladesh.
PBK: My service life began in 1969 with teaching in Matalob Degree College after having my graduation completed from Dhaka University and I appeared my Master Degree while teaching in that College. As I had no mentality to do job, I gave up job again and again. But each time I gave up I had to back to service for financial reality for which I served in Fatehbad Degree College of Chittagong, Rangamati College, Rangamati Night College, Abhoy Binodini College in Dhaka and Kadamtala East Basabo High School and College; also I taught in Rangamati Shah High School. Besides, I served in Private Enterprise named ‘The Marine Service and Ekota Engineers in Dhaka, for some times. Also I had been with various progressive organizations in different course of times. But as I lacked of firmness, being idle and inactive; so all my participation had been tantamount to keeping request reluctantly. During my days in Dhaka, I had to response to urgent request that drove me to come to Rangamati in 2002 and I found myself among them who established and conducted two English Medium Schools namely ‘Hill Point School’ and ‘Eastern Model School.’
The holistic reality of Bangladesh is much better than before. Even much better than many other countries of the world. Developments have been done in the areas, such as, vehicles, buildings, industries, infrastructure, science, education, technology, GDP, production, etc. etc. In some areas development, Bangladesh has been admired, praised and awarded. Foreign policy and international relation spell to be much better. At the same time, it is seen in the papers and visual media, as a developing country, Bangladesh yet to fulfill the demand of working people; also she has various problems and fresh problems are being added, which were to be found or would usually exist in the Third World countries under capitalist world order.
IMT: Please relate some experiences that had been funniest, most painful and formidable.
PBK: Funny incident that had happened in Marishya in the year 1962. The incident was that the money I had handed over to my friend mysteriously travelled back to my pocket. It was, as if, a magic. One of my batchmates of the past time, usually, we would address as ‘Biyai’ each other, were teachers teaching in Tulaban School. With an intention to get admission to college, after resigning from service, we both were on our way to the Launch Ghat. During setting out, I had refunded the borrowed money to him hand-to-hand and he, too, had received the money with thanks. That morning he came with me up to the Launch Ghat to see me off. We seated and talked in the Launch until it began to leave the shore. He got down as the Launch got started to move. While the launch got its course, suddenly, as I put my hand into the pocket, I got a letter. It reads: ‘Biyai, you need not to refund the money. Hence, I returned them back. You need money. The money will serve you. Yours ‘Biyai.’ How and by which way hehad slipped the letter with money is still mysterious and a funny incident to me.
The painful incident is that the young man was a BCS cadre and under service in abroad. He married the father’s only affectionate daughter studying in Honors 2nd year in Dhaka University and took her to abroad for better education as education in Bangladesh is not good. But he did not let her resume studies despite having financial solvency. She was kept no better than Nora, the heroine of ‘A Doll’s House’, afterward like Hoimanti of Rabindra Nath Tagore an at last like a ‘woman slave’ of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He created a reality so that the girl would get obliged to issue him ‘divorce’; and so that the society members would say, it was not on part of the male but female side to issue ‘divorce.’ It was exactly happened that the girl had to divorce him.
In my maternal uncle’s house at the age 0f 6/7, I had experienced fear, which would remain in my mind so long I stay alive. Among five Brothers bared of sisters, I, the youngest one as Sahadev, the youngest brother among the ‘Five Pandavas,’ used to consort my mother while paying a visit to my uncle’s house. I would remain busy in adventures with my cousins of equal age all the day long – as if, I was Robinson Crusoe. Once, aiming at a domesticated castrated bore measuring five fists, with a bow, I shot an arrow made out of an iron spoke of umbrella and the arrow got stuck in bottom of the tail.
The arrow remained stuck still. The bore, though kept moving here and there but the arrow did not fall down, itself. Together with my cousins, I remained outside of the house till the evening. My eldest uncle was looking at the bore and he cast so terrible a glance at us that I got frightened, which I cannot forget even to this day. Uncles would adore me enormously, whereas, such kind of staring? Also, I dreamt the same for several times by then. Now, I can understand that actually, such staring had been my uncle’s fun-making look.
IMT: In mid seventies, the Jumma movement had been a great deal of discussion in the print media. Did you have any role in that movement? Please state in details.
PBK: The Jumma movement that was being waged in mid seventies was a movement for the right to self-determination. That was a just movement and for this reason, the CHT Accord was signed. As the accord is in the interest of country, region and of nation, it is also called ‘Peace Accord.’ To the outer world, the accord has been welcomed, adored and honoured. With a great hope for implementation of those issues lying yet to be implemented, the people are looking forward to the nearing future. In the movement, through which the Peace Accord has been earned, I had no role or any form of participation.
IMT: How much is the influence of father in your life?
PBK: My father would tell various stories of Fairy tales, Hare Tree, Sindrella, North Wind, etc. fictions. Also he would tell life stories of Robert Bruce, Neheru Gnadhi, Ata Turk, De Gaul, Shivaji, Rana Pratap Singh, etc. Hearing such stories, I would wish to become like one of those personalities, too. I would wish to study law to become a Barrister. Also I would wish to become a Deputy Commissioner. But later on, all those becoming a personality of name and fame got washed away. However, the stories from fictions still thrill in me.
IMT: How did your debut write-ups begin?
PBK: Actually, right now, I cannot recall as to how and since when writing began. Of course, my writing started with poem. My brothers would write poems to a little extent. So, I think, my interest in writing poem may be owed to them. Studying in class-vii/viii may be in the years of 1955/56. My life has been Bohemian type since boyhood. My lifestyle was thoughtful, mobile and disorderly – a non-classic one, to say. It is for this reason, no record of poems, date of origin and place are available. Like this era, by then it was not the age of papers.
IMT: Any book or personality from the source of which you derived inspiration?
PBK: I cannot remember any particular book as I studied enumerable books. As a person of English literature background, even I am not capable of quoting a dialogue from play of Shakespeare. To me, it would feel pleasure to study ‘Kopal Kundola’ of Bonkim Chandra and ‘Debdas’ of Sharat Chandra. But Rabindranath Tagore played a role of inspiration in me. His poems, such as, ‘Choto Nodi,’ ‘Nirjharer Swapno Bhangha,’ ‘Dui Bigha Jomi’ and many would make me feel good. The poems of romantic poets, be it in Bengali or English were objects of very much adoration to me. Bengali -English literature were, of course, even ancient rennnaisance of Greek and Roman Epic, Plays, Sctlandian dramas, some American poems and nobels would also make me feel good. Some poems of romantic English poets, not only recitation but also I used to store them entirely in memory. I think I bore optimal influence of the romantic poets. In my student life, it would appear to me that the multi-rhythmic Bengali poems of Stayendranath were almost Rabindra followers.
IMT: CHT of dream and what is your dream in future?
PBK: My CHT of dream is an abode where the Jumma peoples will dwell in mutual cooperation, harmony and in unity. There will be no rule, exploitation, oppression and corruption of reactionaries belonging to Hill men and Bengali community. All the races residing in CHT will live peacefully in communal harmony under the rule of progressive and patriotic civic polity belonging to hill men and Bengali community of the country. The CHT will be a land of world attraction, a place of visit, a diverse, golden and a region of festivity where the people will be progressive and will enjoy the recognized rights as individuals, races and indigenousgroups.
My future dream is to continue to write the literature ‘Art’s for life shake and pleasure’; and to leave the world in easy, natural and in full consciousness after passing a life in hale & hearty, a long working and in scientific way.
IMT: Two of your books have been published from REGA Publication. How has been your feeling about?
PBK: The book: ‘Kijingot Pugobel’ (Eastern Sun in the Hilly Narrow Gap), a Bengali-English bilingual version, is a manifestation of my feelings of happiness, sorrow and joy. Hence, getting published is the joy let the standardness of book alone. If not, it would have been as helplessness as Valmiki for being unable to translate the waves of feelings and ideas into expressions, which would have been like, as it goes in words of Rabindranath Tagore: ‘Anonder Bhar Bidhata Jahare Den, Tar Pokkhe Bedona Opar’ (Upon whom the Almighty endows joy, boundless pain awaits for him). Though decoration, placement and publication, in a word, ‘holistic lay-out’ of the book is not up-to-the-mark yet I am happy and delighted for, it was my first book to get published. On the book ‘AlorPath Dekhalo Jara’ (Those who showed the Path of Light) is a compendium of biographies, I deserve no credit and the credit goes to them who gave information and collected the information.
I convey my sincere thanks to them. I did render information from their write-ups or books in my own way only. In CHT, some more personalities are there about whom I could not collect information and many are there about whom, their families or other people could not provide information. Even for being able to publish out the book, I feel happy, because, we and our next generation need to know about the life of our enlightened and path-finders of light, as to derive inspiration and get enlightened. If the REGA Publication had not shoulder upon the entire responsibility of the two books, the books would not have found the face of light – they would have confined to darkness. Hence, my gratefulness to the REAGA Prokashani is endless.
IMT: How many unpublished books you have?
PKB: Uptill now, altogether 10. They are:
1. Sabanor Jumor Dech (a book of rhymes with Bengali version)
2. Kochpanar Kabita (Book of Literature)
3. Ek Gawjor Chigon Kittya (A Bunch of Tiny Stories)
4. Jengeri Udhe Pugobel (As How the Eastern Sun Rises – A Drama)
5. Dhebacharir Bou (The Bride of Dhebachari – a Social Novel)
6. Porongya Jinkanir Boijyakkya Jhar (A Nor-Western Storm of Displaced Life – A Novel based on problems of a displaced family due to Kaptai Dam)
7. Gharokunot Jinkani (Life Confined to House – A novel on life of a husband-suppressed woman)
8. Rajkumari Madhuchhanda (Princess Madhuchhanda – An imaginery novel based on the Legend: Jamai Maroni Morong (Bridegroom Killer deep water lake) and
9. Kugi Monor Jumola Monchan (Monchan, the Jum cultivator of Kugi hill – A novel based on life of a shifting cultivator)
IMT: How would you estimate the movement for right to self-determination of CHT?
PBK: ‘Movement for Right to Self-determination of CHT’ means ‘movement for protection of national entity of the Jumma people of CHT.’ In the era of democracy, it is a movement for the rights recognized by the UN and it is a just movement. It is for this reason the CHT Accord (which for being aimed at peace, known as ‘Peace Accord’) came into being at government’s initiative. This Accord has been admired, adored, honored and awarded in the world. After the Accord, it is primary task to implement it upon which depends the success and significance of the Accord. It ought to pay respect and place trust to the issues awaiting and the ones given commitment for implementation. It should be hopeful and pro-active.
IMT: What is your unfulfillment?
PBK: Of course, there exists unfulfillment. If the green hills of CHT had not lose their greenness; if they had not been bared of wildlife environment and their fountains emptied of fishes, crabs, frowns, etc.; if the remote living people had enjoyed civic facilities to some extent; if the negative and provocative news in the dailies had got lessened; if here and there, in TV-Cinema caricature had not come to notice and hair-raising voice had not heard over phone; if the already established rights had not been violated; if the indigenous people or small nationalities or minority communities of the world had enjoy their rights; if the smile of the working class people had got enhanced and lessened the weeping of their children; if there had prevailed the system where all the students and youths would get passed; if the people had turned into laborious, sensible to self-dignity, self-reliant, of conscience, tolerant, patriotic and internationalists.
IMT: What do you dream for the children? Please say a few words to the youths.
PBK: Children comprise the very basis and are the future of nation and country. As it is said: “Morning shows the day.” It is for this, children will grow up with honesty, courage, self-reliance, science-based education and through an outlook covering liberalism to all religions, races and communities, tolerant morality and positively free from prejudices. The society must acquire the academic and social system that can assure such education, environment and management.
For the youths, job should not be the only objective of studying. To this end, it should not be like obtaining a certificate by this or that way. The knowledge or education that is required for serving an individual, family, society, country and nation, must be obtained. In earlier days, the purpose of education was to gain knowledge, not for a job. But now, education is being carried out to get a job, not for knowledge. With this, jobs are not attainable. Consequently, with this sort of education, serving to individuals, family, society, nation and country has become hardly possible. If it is so, then, they are the cycle of miserable plight and that the following generation must suffer. In present era of capitalism, science, technology, education, culture, relationship in principle, business and production – everything has become a slave of profit almost in all the countries. Mostly, all those visible and invisible structures/infrastructure are being directed to serve interest of profit. Body and morality are being sold while crimes, corruption, unemployment and injustice are in the increase. At this, a small percent of persons are becoming big while wide range of working people are getting shrinked.
To the youths I would say: Go for the quality education of modern knowledge, science, technology and commerce to combat the challenges of this era. Be a capacitized and good citizen by building up your career on the basis of hard work and self-reliance. Be respectful and tolerant to all religions, castes and races. Abide in freedom from eternal and inactive prejudices. Be liberal patriots and internationalists. Cast away conservatism, reactionary attitude, narrowism and ultraism. For assertion of justice, be courageous for good and active. Cast away the negative and pessimistic outlook and undertake optimism and proactive outlook. Develop yourself to productive, creative and self-working state. Then the family will also be as that. If the family takes the shape, the whole society will become so. If the society stands to be so, the nation and the country will become so.
IMT: As a conscious intellectual, what is your expectation on rights of the indigenous peoples living in hills and plains?
PBK: My expectation is that the democratic, patriotic and progressive forces always remain in the state power in the coming days. For this, the indigenous people will ensure their firm and active cooperation at their possible extent. Since, the problems of wide-range of mass people and that of the indigenous people are under the same state governance system. The fortune of indigenous people is fixed with that of the wide-scale unfortunate people. To achieve the rights and facilities of wide-ranging unfortunate people as well as the rights of indigenous people, it is imperative that work should be done with both domestic and international progressive, sympathetic and patriotic quarters and the indigenous people and to imitate them as they work with the people in distress.
I am hopeful that the rights as recognized and admired among the international community; and the rights that stands as a ‘safe guard’ of entity to the indigenous people who are hiding in the forest or jungles in fear after having been dispossessed of their rights, state and, property; the rights that inspire to dream for protecting their entities or to live alive; the government of this country will recognize those human, democratic and indigenous people’s rights in the interest of greater and balanced development and the indigenous people will enjoy those rights.
IMT: Thank you.
PBK: Thank you, too.