Nazneen Shifa 

Chutipur, a typical village of Jessore stands by the river Kaptakkha. We went past the marketplace, and agricultural land to see men and women agricultural workers busy at work. In Kumor Para (Potters’ village), we discovered the potters’ community busy making and colouring potteries for the upcoming mela (carnival), celebrating the Sharodio Durga Puja.

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Memories work like flashbulbs. This sudden visit to Chutipur may not be special but it rekindled in me some childhood memories just like that. Especially, I recalled the regular visits we made to my great-grand parent’s home which we used to visit with my dadu, my grandfather from my father’s side. The locality was named ‘Chianobboi Gram (meaning 96 villages)’ in Jessore. I grew up knowing that the locality was mainly inhabited by Hindu families.

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As a child, I heard from my dadu that in the past cow slaughtering was forbidden in the area as the majority of the population in the locality were Hindus. Curiously, my grandmother, a woman of Muslim background, who was married off to my dadu at the age of 2 and a half (family legend has it that she made her first trip to her in-laws with a milk feeder in hand. Of course they started married life a bit later, the exact age is not available at the moment.) was not used to eating beef at home. When she started to live with us after my grandfather’s death, she would often object to having that dish at our house. Interestingly enough, she would call her father in law Thakur, a term usually reserved for Hindu families back then!

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My memories around this village called Chianobboi Gram come from the early 1980s when I was just a 4/5-year-old toddler. On our way to my grandparent’s village, we used to visit different Hindu baris (homes). The roads were muddy and the journey on those days took time. I remember one “Naren babu’s” house (that’s how my dadu used to address him but we called him Naren dadu) where we used to take a regular break to drink water and sometimes take a bit of rest. The household members would always entertain us (usually it was me, my elder brother and sister, my mother and occasionally my aunties from my father’s side would make these trips together, I don’t recall my abba accompanying us on any of these occasions; looks like he was always busy with his teaching) with coconut water, muri murki, and boroi (yes, I have strong memory) etc.

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My grandfather and my mother would chat with them. Often people from the household would talk about someone x y z leaving the village and moving to India. I recall sentences like “Noren babu’s brother has left. We may also leave soon but the father does not want to go” etc.

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That discussion of course would make no sense to me at that age. I reckon that the village that I saw in my childhood with a good majority of Hindu households does not exist anymore. My grandmother would often say there were lines of people of Hindu background who left the village in the 1971 war of independence. Of course, I have no idea of the present situation as I do not visit my great grand parent’s village these days. Visiting Chutipur with a brief chat in the Kumor Para rekindled all this!

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Nazneen Shifa is a feminist anthropologist based in Dhaka. She holds an MA in Anthropology from Jahangirnagar University and M Phil in Women’s studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. Her work in progress doctoral research critically looks at the formations of the women’s movement in Bangladesh.

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