The Ballad of Ayesha
About the Author: Anisul Hoque is one of the most prominent contemporary writers and journalists from Bangladesh. He is the author of over sixty books and has won many awards, including Bangla Academy Award for Literature. Inam Ahmed is a journalist, working for the Daily Star. He translates from Bengali to English and also from English to Bengali.
Review: Dhaka. 2 October 1977. A military coup is thwarted, but the exact sequence of events is shrouded in mystery. Soon after, Ayesha Begum, recovering from the birth of her second child, receives a letter from the air force stating that her husband Joynal Abedin has been sentenced to death, convicted of insurgency. But has the verdict been carried out? If it was, when and where was he executed? If he was indeed hanged, what has happened to his body? Trying to find answers to these questions, Ayesha embarks on a long and arduous quest to search for her husband, reminiscent of Behula’s epic journey in her effort to resurrect her dead husband Lakhindar in the Bengali folktale Manashamangal. Set against the backdrop of a raging famine, political assassinations and coups that took Bangladesh by storm right after its independence in 1971, Anisul Hoque s The Ballad of Ayesha is as much a story of the newly created nation as it is the story of its people. I loved the character of Ayesha, she is an intelligent girl who is very good at studies and the apple of her father’s eye but due to some reason her father married her off at the age of sixteen and throughout her journey, we get to see how she grows as a person and stays strong even when she faces so many problems in her life. Joynal Abedin is a very happy person who fell in love as soon as he see’s Ayesha and how he is there for his wife at all times and supports her even when his parents were skeptical about Ayesha. I loved the characters they were all very real, the struggle and the pain that the characters go through and how they try to overcome the day to day struggle and grow is very emotional. Set in Dhaka during 1977, we get to see the struggles that a newly created nation goes through and the things that go in the defence and how war, political stress not only affects the people who are in directly involved but also the relatives and the nation as a whole also get affected. We also get to see how innocent people are dragged and convicted for crimes/things that they haven’t done. The folklore of Behula and Lakhinder: The Story of Manashamangal is also very interesting and I loved how a detailed story has been included in the book and also how the main character links the story of Behula and Lakhinder with her owns and doesn’t lose her hope in the quest of searching her husband. Overall, I loved the story and loved the writing style of the author. I would surely recommend ‘The Ballad of Ayesha’ to everyone.
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