Background to Bingo
A challenge to Pakistan’s unity emerged in East Pakistan when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (“Mujib”), leader of the Awami League, insisted on a federation under which East Pakistan would be virtually independent. He envisaged a federal government that would deal with defense and foreign affairs only; even the currencies would be different, although freely convertible.
Mujib’s program had great appeal for many East Pakistanis, and in the December 1970 election called by Yahya, he won by a landslide in East Pakistan, capturing 160 seats in the National Assembly. Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) emerged as the largest party in West Pakistan, capturing 81 seats (predominantly in Punjab and Sindh). This gave the Awami League an absolute majority in the National Assembly, a turn of events that was considered unacceptable by political interests in West Pakistan because of the divided political climate of the country. The Awami League adopted an uncompromising stance, however, and negotiations between the various sides became deadlocked.
Suspecting Mujib of secessionist politics, Yahya in March 1971 postponed indefinitely the convening of the National Assembly. Mujib in return accused Yahya of collusion with Bhutto and established a virtually independent government in East Pakistan. Yahya opened negotiations with Mujib in Dhaka in mid-March, but the effort soon failed. Meanwhile Pakistan’s army went into action against Mujib’s civilian followers, who demanded that East Pakistan become independent as the nation of Bangladesh.
There were many casualties during the ensuing military operations in East Pakistan, as the Pakistani army attacked the poorly armed population. India claimed that nearly 10 million Bengali refugees crossed its borders, and stories of West Pakistani atrocities abounded. The Awami League leaders took refuge in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and established a government in exile. India finally intervened on December 3, 1971, and the Pakistani army surrendered 13 days later. East Pakistan declared its independence as Bangladesh.
Yahya resigned, and on December 20 Bhutto was inaugurated as president and chief martial law administrator of a truncated Pakistan. Mujib became the first prime minister of Bangladesh in January 1972. When the Commonwealth of Nations admitted Bangladesh later that year, Pakistan withdrew its membership, not to return until 1989. However, the Bhutto government gave diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh in 1974.
Introduction to the story
Bingo is a game in which numbered balls are drawn at random and players cover the corresponding numbers on their cards; but here refers to a character Tajassur. He belonged to the East Pakistan; now called Bangladesh. People coming from Bangladesh are Bengalis and so the character Tajassur is nicknamed Bingo.
Bingo is an early short story written was Tariq Rahman in mid-1970’s. It was the first work of fiction in Pakistani English Literature, which focused on the 1971 war.
The tale revolves around the relationship between the West Pakistani narrator, Safeer, and his friend Tajassur, from East Pakistan. Both are in the military academy together and are posted as junior officers to Dhaka on the eve of the civil war, with tragic consequences.
The story shows friendship or enmity of the two parts of a country symbolically represented by two characters Tajassur and Safeer. The story also makes a telling comment on how a blinkered reading of colonial history has shaped the perceptions and institutions of Pakistan’s ruling elite.
It was very painful experience during the first term because they made us stand in our half pants in the cold weather at night. The Battalion sergeant was a sadist and enjoyed inflicting juniors. When I became SGC, I made my cadets stand up early, as it was idiotic to be late. I made them double round and why should they be sleeping while the seniors are all up.
Tajassur was one such idiot whom the seniors were trying hard to make a better soldier. He let the cadets get up late and had his back kicked but did not care. He chatted around, walked carelessly and was not particular of the military discipline and it was really hard to bear that while I was in my pants up and kicking; he was always sleep like top. Yet Tajassur looked more girlish in his looks and the seniors called him sissy and commented that he was fit to be a heroine. They joked about him and even bothered us much as he was popular and this drew attention of every one to both of us; although I was good at drill and Tajassur was a real louse at that. Most of us did his job for him; but what he was particularly interested in were jokes. These things made him popular but his performance and training sessions were always marked down. After during each military duty we ended up in a dance or some trivial activity and were always late for the academy doors. This could have been dangerous if any body had noticed that we shirked our cadet responsibilities.
He got the twentieth position and it was all due to his oral expression in English and discursive abilities. However, before we passed out, things were against him as he was a Bingo and the East Pakistan was in conflict with the West Pakistan striving to separate. We called him a traitor and Sheik Mujeebur Rahman’s ally. He did not say anything as he was a kid and kids do not mind politics.
The day came when we passed out and Safeer thought that Tajassur would bring shame to army due to his indiscipline. Tajassur said that he did what he liked to do and it had nothing to do with Bingo. Later, they had to report to the stations for duty. They boarded a plane and found themselves lucky as they were among the soldiers.
When they reached the station, they found hurry and tension. There was captain Maqsood who ordered them to look sharp in their army uniform, which meant ready for battle. Captain Maqsood rebuked Tajassur as he got there late as was his wont and was much advised by him. Captain Maqsood, the Adjutant, seemed to be a real officer. Then the commanding officer (CO) came in. He had a little introduction with the Safeer and Tajassur and Tajassur was again much advised by the C.O. Some military and personal information and ideas were shared.
They were talking about the bravery of various soldiers and military officers while Tajassur was silent. He suddenly spoke that people had to fight when they were oppressed and exploited. This startled every body. Tajassur’s view was that bravery was only good if is used for a just cause and if it is used to exploit people, it is evil. The C.O. became furious thought he didn’t express his anger and left. The adjutant spoke angrily to Tajassur, ‘How dare you speak so insolently before the C.O.?’ Tajassur replied, ‘I merely expressed my opinion.’ Safeer had always advised him not to speak so casually before the elders because a respect for the senior is necessary in the army. When he went to the room, Tajassur was asleep and had fallen into every body’s bad books.
Then the C.O. called a conference and briefed about the border conditions while Tajassur remained psychologically aloof. Then they started discussing what would happen and that they would have to kill the Bingo friends (the people of Bangladesh) and they felt sorry for that. Safeer said, ‘my conscience says that kill the enemies of Pakistan’ and Tajassur spoke, ‘that is propaganda’. Before independence, we were beaten by the British and now by our own government. He detailed the exploitation and devastation of the Bingo people and he frantically kept on it and behaved like a mad man. Days passed and the condition of the Bingos went worse. Safeer began to think that it was a race of slaves. They started killing the Bingos where they found and where they heard the news that some military guys were killed.
When Tajassur came of age, he also got his first girl friend. He was intoxicated with whisky and when he went into her room, she started crying out and Safeer gave her a slap and she lay quietly like a log and he felt disgusted and later he learnt the rules of the game and found brown bodies enjoying and better to play with.
One day, they were given the orders to clear the village the Muktees. Safeer was in charge. They attacked the village and spread havoc and they were counterattacked and had to retreat. Safeer was given a blow and fell into unconsciousness and found himself to be prisoner with the Bingos. They started a heated conversation about the two different nations, their governments and the next day Safeer was to be killed. He recalled Tajassur and the happy moments he had spent with the girl and his friends.
When the day for execution approached, there was a tap at the door and a familiar voice. It was Tajassur who had come to rescue Safeer. Safeer was most delighted to have him back at that critical moment and glad at his help. The Civil War beginning to end. The Pakistani soldiers had surrendered and the East Pakistan had come up as Bangladesh. Safeer had to stay with Tajassur and his family for some days to reach back to Pakistan. Tajassur had a sister and a mother who most politely welcomed him and treated him well and when Safeer’s was about to leave for Pakistan, Tajassur’s mother and sister gave him some gifts. But just before he was leaving, a band of soldiers entered the house and shot down Tajassur and his family. There was no mother and no sister any more. Safeer shouted to stop them, but to no avail.
Tajassur’s sister Amina was naked, raped and dead. Her mother tore her hair at this sight and Safeer could not look into the mother’s eye and shot her down as well. Nothing mattered now. Tajassur, his sister and mother were death. Pakistan had surrender and Bangladesh was free at the expense of so many innocent lives.
Bingo – Critical appreciation
Introduction and Title
Bingo is a story about the two countries represented by the two characters; Safeer and Tajassur. The tale revolves around the relationship between the West Pakistani narrator, Safeer, and his friend Tajassur, from East Pakistan. Both are in the military academy together and are posted as junior officers to Dhaka on the eve of the civil war, with tragic consequences. The title of the story is significant because it is surprising for some people as Bingo denotes a game; but Bingo here refers to a person belonging to Bangladesh and the title is just belongs the story revolves around and in Bangladesh and about a Bangladeshi; Tajassur.
The story describes the condition of East and West Pakistan in which both the people of the country shared equal status; but the East Pakistan under the leadership of Mujeebur Rahman announced autonomy and independence. The writer contends that price of meaningless independence is at the cost of one’s valuable innocent lives. Pakistan as composite of East and West could have been even stronger and more productive but for the unnecessary slogan for freedom from the Bingo leadership.
Symbolic elements in the story
The story Bingo is highly symbolic of the two forces struggling to set each one of them free and ironically destroying themselves. Tajassur symbolically represents Bangladesh and Safeer symbolizes Pakistan.
Both the friends undergo the military training and aspire to contribute to the protection of the state; but ironically, they are put under the trial of their consciousness whether the war they are fighting is just or wrong. Both Safeer and Tajassur think that they are right and Safeer towards the end of the story is changed into a type of beast who, though unwillingly, but still kills the family of his friend. He kills Tajassur’s sister and mother who praised for his protection. There is another ironical pattern in the story. Both the countries are Muslim states; both of them got independence under one banner; but the Bingo state (The East Pakistan separated) and what can be more ironical than the fact the two Muslim states are fighting for the same cause which each of them thinks right for himself and wrong for the other.
Tariq Rahman has employed very few characters in the story. Tajassur and Safeer tower above other characters and significantly provide a contrast to the military-trained officers who know no humanity. Tariq Rahman’s depiction of characters is real and authentic and his characters are felt by heart as we feel humans in our real life. Tariq’s main achievement in Work and Other Short Stories is the portrayal of Tajassur and Safeer in Bingo. Nowhere does he command our full attention as in Bingo which the crown of this selection in terms of characterization.
Style and Technique
Tariq Rahman’s style in Bingo has a different change in it. He did not write Bingo as he wrote other stories. He seems to have conceived the idea properly and applies his style well to the structure of the story. He has used conversation language at some places to amuse as well as to philosophize his issue. His conversational style also adds variety to this story.
In short, Bingo is a well-conceived and well-structured story. Plot moves from a certain cause and effect pattern. The idea of 1971 war is really thrashing and very few Pakistani writers have chosen it to present in their literature. Tariq Rahman has not only used the topic but also given it a new orientation.
Main Characters – Tajassur and Safeer
Bingo does not have any one central character to be superimposed on the others. It has a parallelism of Tajassur and Safeer; both of whom are to be military officers. Tajassur belongs to Bangladesh and is nicknamed Bingo while Safeer belongs to Pakistan. Before the civil war, both the countries were one and the east wing was called East Pakistan which became Bangladesh and the west wing was called Western Pakistan; now Pakistan only. These two characters represent these two countries respectively.
Tajassur belongs to Bangladesh. He is a young man having some boyish and shy look. He is very casual. He does not attend his meetings well in time and he doesn’t even get better marks in the pass-out. Tajassur has a sister, Amina and a mother in his east wing. However, he is very outspoken and sometimes bitter, but is very kind and generous. Safeer does not seem to regard the Bingos; but we see that at the end of the story, he not only gets his released, but also helps him get out safely from Bangladesh while the Pakistani troops were surrendering. Largely, Tajassur is a good and loyal character who is enveloped into bad political conditions.
Safeer is the narrator of the story. We come to know his name later in the story while Tajassur is the first to be mentioned in the narrative. Safeer is Tajassur’s friend and belongs to West Pakistan. He is also an aspirant military man like Tajassur; but is serious and a lot more responsible than the same. He passes out with a good position and is intellectually superior. He supports Western Pakistan and doesn’t have good regards for the Bingos. Hence the term ‘Bingo’ rather than ‘Bangladesh or East Pakistani’. Safeer is a complex character. Towards the end of the story, when he is caught by the Bangladeshi soldiers, he is released by Tajassur who supports him and looks forward to sending him back safely. Safeer is well treated by Tajassur’s family. While he is in Tajassur’s house, Pakistani soldiers enter the house and kill Tajassur and rape and kill his sister too. His mother is left badly off whom Safeer himself kills because he is unable to look into her eyes that treated him so well.
Tajassur and Safeer are the central characters of the story. They are so tightly connected that one cannot discuss one without mentioning or discussing the other. They were as linked as the East and West Pakistan were and were such like separated. The death of Tajassur causes a number of questions and the shooting of Safeer at the end of the story produces questions whose answers lie in the unnecessary freedom of a nation at the expense of thousands of innocent lives.