| July 9th, 2007

* popular bangla rhymes: how appropriate they are?

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Since my little girl was born I made a pledge that I will make sure she can learn Bangla language and culture very well even though she will be growing up in the US. Now as a 3-yr old, she can speak fluent Bangla, enjoys bangla music and has even become a big fan of Close up 1 star Salma!

I am still not too successful in keeping my promises though. Whenever I want to introduce her to some Bangla nursery rhymes I find it quite challenging to make my child interested in those. Let me explain why.

The other day it was raining and I was reciting,
“Brishti pore tapur tupur noday elo baan, shib thakurer bie hobe tin konne daan”, wait a second, what is the significance of “tin konne daan” to a 3-yr old?

Then I tried this one,
“baak bakum paira, mathay die taira, bou shajbe kalki, chorbe shonar palki”. Just imagine, why can’t they have some childlike fun without being a “bou”!  Listen to another one:
“Noton noton paira guli jhoton bedheche, oi parete chele meye naite nemeche, ke dekheche ke dekheche dada dekheche, dada-r hate kolom chilo chure mereche, ooh boddo legeche”. How did this one sound…that “Dada” couldn’t stand just a joyful moment where the children are enjoying their bath, so he throws a pen towards them and makes them hurt!

Let alone us who are rearing child outside Bangladesh, even in Bangaldesh I wonder how the children of these days would be interested in Bangla rhymes when a majority of them are talking about getting married and all such non-childlike stuff. Something our new generation poets and writers need to think about.

Here is my thought – These days I am seeing (in the US) some of the traditional stories are being rewritten with a much more positive spin. For example, we all know about the story where the grasshopper plays around all summer, while all other insects work hard to gather food for the winter. When the winter finally comes the grasshopper realizes that he made a mistake, and becomes very sad while the other insects enjoy their food and warm house. The traditional story ends here, but the new story says, one ant invites the grasshopper to her house, gives him food and helps him stay warm. The grasshopper learns from this lesson and next summer he joins others to gather food rather than playing all day long.

There are many other examples where the traditional ones are being rewritten like the grasshopper story. I hope same thing happens for the bangle rhymes as well and our children can happily recite them while they grow up as thoughtful adults.


14 Responses to “* popular bangla rhymes: how appropriate they are?”

  1. samiha esha says:

    hello sharmin apu, its really great to know about that your girl can speak bangla fluently…you are fantastic mom…:)

  2. Oneza says:

    Very good topic Sharmin. After reading this, I tried but could not come up with a good and appropriate example either. These rhymes, like any field of folk arts reflect the social structure of their own time; may be early 20th century when little 8 yrs old girls were set for marriage. These rhymes can no longer be the learning tools for kids.

    This is something we all ought to think about, our writer’s, educators and parents – what are we teaching our kids inadvertently? I would like to invite our poets/chhorakaars to bring in new rhymes with new and morally appropriate fun ideas for kids.

  3. Shahnaz says:


    I can come up with a few which is appropriate for children of all ages,’shobey miley kori kaaj, haari jiti nahi laaj.’ And, there are few which was intended for pure joy and fun, like this one – ,’duti paka bel, shorishar tel…’and many from Sukumar Roy’s anthology (Hojoborolo) which has no rhymes or reasons, and I still cherish those non-sensible fun rhymes from our culture as treasures.

    But what Sharmin has mentioned is very true, and we should be careful when we first introduce our children to the Bangla language with nursery rhymes, for example when I first recited the following rhymes to my son, I had to stop and improvise it, so the famous,’Tai tai tai, mama bari jai, mama dilo dud bhat, pet bhorey khai, mami elo lathi niye, palai palai1′ is recited in my house as following,’ tai tai tai, mama bari jai, mama dilo dud bhat, pet bhorey khai, mami elo mishti niye, aro chai chai’. Why on earth a mami would bring a lathi to beat a child, my son’s wouldn’t:)

    My suggestion would be for the parents and the people who are responsible to take care of our children is to take the conscious decision to teach the children how not to ‘label’ or ‘demean’ others in their young and adult life, be that as simple as changing a ‘word’ in a poem, or a song. And encourage the new poets and writers who are doing an excellent job creating new rhymes on bringing a positive change in our children’s life.

    Thanks Sharmin for bringing out the very important issue to us.

  4. Phantom says:

    Since the Admin and Participants say that this is a forum wherein one can freely suggests topic, I take this oppurtunity to say that Parenting is a great responsibility -one of which is definitely education/knowledge and therefore am glad to learn from here that expatriate Bangladeshis are making efforts to teach Bengali at home so the children dont forget their Mother-tongue and Culture.However there is one more responsibilty–thats religion too.Since that is not mentioned anywhere, thought I would just remind all.

  5. Himadri says:

    Does the original poet rewrite the poems? Or can anyone do it?

  6. Himadri says:

    If it was possible for anyone to rewrite the poems that do not seem appropriate for today’s young audience that would have been a fun community project. Young students could rewrite and turn in their work, and get rewarded if their poems are chosen to be published as the modified version. And in the process they could get to know more about bengali litrature while playing with words that best the poems, as well as be aware of the issue that’t being addressed.

  7. Sharmin says:

    Most of them has passed their copyright time already:). Even you won’t find the original poets name for many of those.
    Yes It will be nice if we could arrange some competion and encourage young poets to write something more meaningful for the new generation kids (both living in and outside Bangladesh).

    My idea is going through some Bangla newspaper would help us draw more crowds for this. Even NTV can arrange something like this. BTW, I never see any children’s program in NTV. Anyone wonder why?


  8. Himadri says:

    I guess their market research showed that kids programs won’t bring them profit!

    In any case, if Adhunika wants to arrange that sort of event NTV’s mobile camera team can cover the event.

    Local newspapers in BD will most probably be in interested in co-hosting as well as cover such event.

  9. Priyo Bhashini says:

    Well…even some English nursery ryhmes now see controversial in todays world…. (Anyone remember remember Ring-a-Ring-a-roses?) . One has to think of the time perspective when something was written. What seemed like fun 100 years ago certainly isnt anymore ( like an 8 year old rhyming somehting about a being a bou ..because by 8/10 years she would actually become a bou, that was the dimension sof he rprospective life ). Its the same as all the fairy tales, where grandmothers’ are villains…and the bad princesses puke out frogs and snakes and lizards ( while the good one pukes out gold and dimaonds!!! ) etc etc. There was some suggestion that they be re-written..(I think this was a BBC research when i was only 11..) and yet it hasnt totally happened till date.

    Hmm…I think i lost myself a bit here. A community project to get new writrs to make more approriates rhymes sounds like a good project, but I for myself wont shy from teaching the originals to my kids either. because after all…its part of the culture of who I am ..the heritage of my nation that bounds my culture. I can rephrase some rhymes but cant re-write my cultural history, can I ?

    I was an expatriate child who didnt set foot home till was 19 ( apart form a few months as a 8 year old)….and nursery rhymes like tai tai tai mama bari jai….didnt make me lose total sense for its meaning either….it was a silly nursery rhyme like the other “silly” English nursery rhymes my mum taught us. Personally what i remember was the joy of discovering that “silly” rhymes existed in another foregn language ( Bangla ) like English too, and i actually, truly enjoyed that … I felt my mother-tongue (Bangla) was just a “normal” language like all the others i picked up!!.

    Well that was personal insight.

  10. TRB says:

    Having read this post with interest, I would like to introduce the idea that perhaps rhymes should not be adapted just because the reader/listener finds their sensibilities offensive. First of all, a few generations of children have grown up listening to the original rhymes, including your good selves, and you seemed to have turned out ok without any lasting psychological damage caused! Can you imagine your own parents thinking to change the wording for you when you were a child? No, they wouldn’t, because they understood that a rhyme is usually a cute/silly set of words which in no way encourages the listener to act in a certain way. Rhymes are not prescriptive, nor are they a non-fiction account of the world. So what if a rhyme talks about mama fetching a stick to beat a child with – it’s intended to be funny not scary, and those who don’t understand that need to work out where their attitudes have come from. It is quite offensive, actually, to change rhymes to make them more ‘appropriate’ for today’s young audience. Rhymes are like pieces of art – if you don’t like them, then you don’t just paint over bits of them. Just don’t look! And create something new that you do like. But the kind of adaptation that is being suggested here is destructive and short-sighted.

  11. Sharmin says:

    The reality is today many kids in Dhaka (mostly English medium students) don’t even know any Bangla rhymes. Parents and teachers (I saw in NTV) said they don’t find anything suitable to introduce to those kids.

    I would appreaciate some thoughts around this, how to make it more appealing to the kids and their parent/teachers.

    Please focus on the problem, not the suggestion I proposed, come up with your ideas like Himadri has done. Arranging a competion for new nursery rhymes would be an option as well. 

    BTW I have already seen this rhyme (modified from original) in published books:

    Tai Tai tai

    Mama bari Jai

    Mami dilo dudh bhaat pet bhore Khai

    Mama elo chhip nie maach dhorte jai.

    Now if you want you can mourne about it that “Mami elo lathi nie” is missing and the new generation may not get familiar with Mami’s unfriendly attitude anymore:).


  12. sajni mukherji says:

    Hey. you might all like to try some of the ones I wrote for my daughter when she was little. I think the originals dont often giveto many alternative ways to children for spending their time;
    So here is one for the archrtypal Khoka:
    Khoka jacchhe rannaghore
    aajke skuler chhuti
    Moghli ranna korbe shey
    Biryani chaanp aar ruti

    and instead of the sulking khukumani who goes on hungerstrike:
    Ke dhorechhey ke merechhe ke diyechhe gaal
    tai to khuku raag korecche
    Bhat khaye ni kaal
    I have, keeping the first portion unchanged
    tai to kung fu shikhechhe khuku
    dekhbe taader haal

  13. sharmin says:

    Hi Sajni,

    These are really innovative ones. Thanks for sharing.


  14. Preetu Firoz says:

    Could not help but comment. It is our stereotypical mentality that wants to stick to things excessively popular. the rhymes mentioned here are the very famous ones at the same time are very traditional and old. There are many new poets who have written great rhymes and poetry, which are still taught at schools. My nephew was taught “Lichu Chor” by Kazi Nazrul Islam. “Bhor holo dor kholo” is such a beauty in its entirety! Shaat by Chompa by Kazi Nazrul Islam is where it comes from.
    Amongst the new chhorakars, my favourite it Lutfar Rahman Liton, who has created great piece of art like ‘Sharly ke lekha chithi’, and poems relating to ghotok, cast and class systems, contrasts between rich and poor children and so on.
    There will always be good ones, bad ones, old ones, new ones, unrevised versions, revised versions, weird ones, perfect ones. While in my opinion, children should learn everything, parents should also pick the ones they really want their children to learn by heart.
    I have grown up reciting and learning those wedding and bou related rhymes, but never given a thought about the contents really!… May be because by the time I learnt to research upon the contents and true meanings of the poems, they got really old and i got really uninterested, just as much as i learnt to differentiate between bad and good poems.

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