Babu Bangladesh Review – Great story, but full of itself

Babu Bangladesh was a wild ride, with steep ups and downs. Numair has crafted a story drenched in Bangladeshi history without getting too nostalgic. Sadly, a pedantic tone and a narrative that never settles mars the overall experience of enjoying the story. 

Numair, I believe, focuses on the idea that reality is subjective. What we perceive is ‘personal’ reality and that a ‘communal’ existence may be massively different. His thesis is the malleability or the fragile nature of memories on which histories are built and stories are told.

Can memory be trusted? 

He contends that people, especially those in power, shape reality. Babu is a case study, as we see him explored from various angles: his friends and family, his supporters and detractors, and his diary. 

Each of these groups gives insight into Babu’s personality. Each perception is different, and he continually appears to be in flux. To his friends and family, Babu is a quiet introvert, while his supporters and rivals see him as a political powerhouse. His diary informs us of the academic within, presenting a highly reflective and self-aware side to him.

Numair was a colleague at NSU. He was passionate and dedicated to his job. And super professional.

This second-hand view of Babu works quite interestingly throughout the text. There is no ‘definite’ Babu to speak of. No one can agree on a singular Babu. He changes continuously, turning into what the narrative needs him to be. 

His relationship with Bangladesh is deeply entrenched in paranormal aspects. The first chapter looks at Jatiya Sangsad’s geometric mystical powers, while the second uses a quasi-supernatural bot tree to symbolize the nation’s indomitable spirit. The rest of the chapters use a long-lost, extinct breed of snake, a purported island home to merpeople, and a human-sized bird.

Lost in Ostentation 

Numair builds the story on a foundation of pseudo-academic mumbo jumbo that he indulges in extensively. The narrative is held back by an insane level of pedantry that is almost bordering on self-parody. The writing is serious and academic in tone, though the story takes comedic turns at times. It results in a confusing tone, a mishmash of ideas that are discordant with each other.

The writing gets bogged down by unnecessary details, making it a slog of a read. The story also takes a back seat to academia. I often forgot what was happening because there would be massive info dumps. It inevitably lost its charm very soon. The writing also is more concerned with ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing.’ 

There is a genuinely fascinating story about Bangladesh hidden in there under all the pretension. It highlights Bangladesh’s ups and downs, especially the potential buried under politics and corruption. However, it’s held back by its pompous nature and an apparent unwillingness to tell a ‘complete’ story. Numair makes a good point about perceived reality and ‘post-truth.’ The only problem: he comes across as trying too hard.

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