In less than two weeks, Dhaka Lit Fest will take place in Bangla Academy. The pre-festival excitement made me want to write about Bangladesh, about how, historically, this land and her people have always been enlightened by liberal ideals, and how the Dhaka Lit Fest is an organic evolution of such liberal practices making its own space in our lives and our literature.

Unhappily, I wish to digress and tell you a different story. I want to tell you about how writers, publishers, bloggers, poets, authors, intellectuals and cultural liberals are rapidly vanishing from these same lands. Historically. In 1971, along with genocide, we witnessed a planned massacre of hundreds of such intellectuals with the sole purpose to culturally cripple us as a nation. In recent times, again we are seeing lives being robbed in attempts to curb free thought.

I believe, in this light, now more than ever before, the collective audiences that make up the entire DLF, including writers, authors, poets, readers, enthusiasts, critics, publishers, thought leaders, and even semantically challenged people like myself, have an unspoken course to stay, a point to make, and a larger responsibility than just to attend. We must do more of what we do, individually and together. We must make initiatives such as DLF grow to monumental heights. We must create more ideas, more words, more pages, and many more books. So much so, that the juxtaposition of cultural enormity with increasing numbers of liberal provocateurs creates an impossible environment for those who attempt to poison progress. Simply, we cannot allow our fear and inability to act be the greatest reason why we fall behind. To counter, all we need to do is be a part of Dhaka Lit Fest, be a part of the intelligentsia that brings forth all that is good in this great nation of ours so that the world may witness, be a part of the collaborative social movement that, little by little, year upon year, is encouraging the convergence of the best minds alive. Words are powerful enough to change the tides, let us never forget.

I am haunted by the eerie similarity of the present times with what Charles Dickens had to say in his opening paragraph of “A Tale of Two Cities” and value the quote worth another read:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Ishraq Dhaly is an advertising professional, fire spinner, dancer and cultural activist. Follow him on Twitter: @ishraqfire