My Love Letter to Bangladesh

Posted on July 15, 2012

4


Now that I have left Bangladesh, the land of flowing ornas and floating sunsets, it’s been strange to return to life in Australia and, now, China. I flounder at pedestrian crossings, unconvinced that the cars will really stop. I marvel at the wonders of giant supermarkets that stock everything from everywhere, everyday; but I also feel a little overwhelmed by the extra choices that now confront me. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for someone who has migrated from Bangladesh to another country. It reaffirms my respect for the people of Bangladesh and makes me reflect on how lucky I was to have shared the best and the worst of their country over the past year.

In Bangladesh, you are constantly reminded to be grateful for what you’ve got, to move on quickly from any problems, and to keep on trying harder to build something better than what there is now. This blog post is a bit of a love letter to Bangladesh and the Bangladeshis who made my time there so special – I miss them all and I hope I will return some day soon ~ আমি আবার আসব |

Resilience

If I had to describe the Bangladeshi people in one word, it would be: resilient. Every day I encountered new evidence of the collective resilience of the Bangladeshi people.

Sometimes it was something simple – watching a beggar with no legs manoeuvre his way around Dhanmondi Lake with arms of steel and a big smile. Other times it was more confronting, like visiting Korail (Dhaka’s largest slum) after the Government had bulldozed residents’ homes. In the days after, I was overwhelmed by the pragmatism of the community, both the inhabitants and their well-meaning supporters – let’s get food for the children, let’s find plastic to use as tents. Two months after the event, in the face of further evictions and destruction, I was struck again by the rapid rebuilding and reinvigoration of the community that had taken place.

There is always laughter

There is always something in the world to laugh at, no matter how bad things might seem. Like the time, stuck in Dhaka’s infamous traffic, that I watched my bored CNG driver leap out of the vehicle and strip down to his lungi and prayer hatto have a bit of a boogie in the middle of the traffic. There under the monsoonal rain, the tune was in his head and most passersby didn’t even blink. I had been sitting there fuming at the heat, the traffic, the crowds, and the fact that it was taking an hour to drive what would normally take 20 minutes. But he made me laugh, and it made my day.

Singing in public is awesome

I was always a closet advocate of singing in public – thanks to my Dad – but I lacked the courage to come out, so to speak. But Bangladesh has made me a proud public singer. Every day in my office, I would know the rubbish collectors had arrived because of the sound of their singing. When I stayed with friends, I’d know they’d awakened when I heard them sing. Often, rickshaw wallahs would break into song mid-cycle. Just the other day, as I wandered along the canals of Hangzhou, China on my morning walk, I found myself wanting to burst into song (to the very cool Fleetwood Mac). So I did, knowing that in at least one country in the world, I was completely normal.

Thanks giving day

I’m not really sure if many Bangladeshis practice this but it was my beautiful colleague Juee who shared it with me. Every week, once a week, she gives thanks to someone in her life, for something that they’ve shared with her, taught her, done for her, or simply something that she appreciates about the world. I think it is the most beautiful practice – I knew about keeping a private journal of gratitude but I love that she actually makes part of her gratefulness a shared experience with someone else.Her graciousness and kindness captured what I loved about that deeply spiritual place.

Hope

Though I left with just a small suitcase (a tiny portion of the three that I lugged over there), Bangladesh grabbed my heart in such a way that I am sure I will be back there one day or another. Bangladesh has been described as “the basket-case” of the world – showcasing every ailment a nation can have. It’s true, it faces many problems. But what Bangladesh lacks in infrastructure and governance, it makes up for in the baskets of hope carried by its people. Bangladesh affirmed for me that if there is no hope, there is nothing. Every day, people there wake up without a roof over their head, without a breakfast to eat, without clean water to drink. But they keep on going. It’s that combination of aspiration and resilience that makes me so grateful I had the chance to spend some time in Bangladesh. I only hope that one day, their resilience pays off.

Advertisements
Posted in: Travel, Writing