Sunday, February 13, 2005

This is me and my country !

Just started to write my thoughts . I hope they all spread out to you the people everywhere in the world. I have written an article few days on the identity crisis of Bangladeshi people living outside. Waiting to publish somewhere. Let me publish it here first so that you can all have a good look and tell me how good or bad it is !


The very alarming identity crisis!


I was brought up as a middle class Bangladeshi Muslim and like all of my friends I never had to face the question of my identity when I was living in Dhaka – studying, passing time with my friends and families and not really bothered about the seriousness of a nation’s identity. As I came abroad in my early twenties, I had to face a pretty different and somehow troublesome picture of my beloved country or the countrymen. I am writing this today because I have never seen someone bringing up this issue to an extent that attracts some sort of interest or action from the Bangladeshi community both home and abroad.


I remember during my sophomore year, I was working in an exam board during the summer time and then when it first struck me. I met a Bangladeshi guy who is educated to the masters’ level and working in the same place. He was always hanging out with his Pakistani friends and never really caring about his fellow brothers. But that was not the problem; I was stunned to see that this very Bangladeshi guy was speaking in Urdu all day, everyday just to impress his superior Pakistani friends. I remember asking him few times why he speaks in Urdu and every time he failed to come up with a reasonable answer. Well, you might be saying this might be a single case happening somewhere and you are drawing a conclusion based on that. But wait a second, I have more to say. As I got surprised everyday of my life for the last few years I am sure you will be the same as you read through the rest of this article.

Back in the University, the very next year, I met a guy studying law and his father was the then president of the Bar association in Bangladesh. I was expecting a rather polished personality in a young guy like him but guess what , this guy was surrounded by his nearest and dearest Pakistani friends like the other guy I talked about before and this guy was speaking Urdu even better than the first one. His Urdu was so fluent that many of the Pakistanis I knew used to tell me they don’t even know Urdu like this Bangladeshi guy. He even mastered Punjabi version of Urdu and was very proud of it. I know what you are thinking; this guy must be a Rajakar or a Pakistani lover. Oh no! You are absolutely and totally wrong. Just walk into his room and you will discover a large poster of Sheikh Mujib hanging in his wall. He is fluent in Urdu and a fierce supporter of Awami league at the same time. Life is strange. Isn’t it?

I guess those of you who have lived most of their life in Bangladesh or never been out of the country must be thinking I am talking rubbish here. May be I am-may be most of the Bangladeshis are not like the ones I talked about but certainly an alarming percentage of Bangladeshis abroad are like that. You can count on me in this case. I have seen so many Bangladeshis who are so ashamed of the fact they come from Bangladesh that they do not want to express their true nationality to other people. It’s not only that they are ashamed but also they introduce themselves as Indians. In the café or in the classroom wherever you go you will find one or two Indian Bangladeshis trying their heart out to be devoted in Indian culture and polishing their already near perfect Hindi skill. It might no be so shocking to see so many elderly and young people back home glued to the TV set to watch the latest in Hindi serial but watching my fellow brothers trying to become Indians is very shocking and heart breaking –specially abroad. There was one Bangladeshi guy doing MBA who told my Indian friends that he wants to burn his Bangladeshi passport and would like to have an Indian passport. My beloved Indian friends, for obvious reason, were delighted to hear this and even more delighted to tell me about my brother’s desire. How was I feeling as a Bangladeshi that time – mention not!


So what’s wrong to be a ‘Bangladeshi’ after all? Sometimes I feel the lack of pride as a country is the root of the entire crisis. But is it really that or something more into it than you can assume from the surface – after all, where on earth all these inferiority complexes coming from. The sign of identity crisis becomes evident whenever an India-Pakistan match is played in Dhaka. Bangladeshi people supporting India having Indian flags drawn over their faces and Bangladeshi Pakistan fans waving Pakistani flags like crusaders. I wonder if any other country in the world would support another country in this fashion and the support doesn’t just stop there in the field; it stretches into universities, cafes and even in the discussion forums on the Internet. Few days ago, I was checking my mails and to my surprise, I found out that a hot discussion is going in a famous forum and the topic of the discussion is West Bengal vs. East Bengal. East Bengal? Now, is that a country or just a province of India? Someone somewhere must be comparing West Pakistan to East Pakistan now. So where is Bangladesh here? Surprisingly, nobody complained about calling the present Bangladesh as East Bengal – a term very famous in the cultural arena of Bangladesh!

Bangladeshis have started migrating long time ago and they have done very good in terms of establishing themselves in foreign lands. The country I am residing now accommodates a large Sylheti population and they have done great in restaurant business. In fact, I was watching a program on Channel 4 few days ago called ‘The Great British Asian Invasion’ and the documentary showed how the people from Sylhet in Bangladesh have changed the taste of British people. But hearing that if you go out to look for a Bangladeshi or a Sylheti restaurant, you will be disheartened surely. What you will find instead is in almost every single area a restaurant having Sylheti owner but outside the restaurant it says ‘Indian cuisine’ and if you dare to go inside you will be hearing Hindi music all day , every day in every single Bangladeshi restaurants as if we don’t have our food or the music even. Strange and pathetic and God knows how many times I have been humiliated by my Indian friends pointing out to these fake Indian restaurants! Now I tried to get an answer for this Namkoron and I found various reasons ( apparently !) . The famous reasoning is most people would recognise India but not Bangladesh. Yeah but that could be a reason for excuse when Bangladeshis first came to UK in the 60's but now ? No way, simply beacuse people who are used to eating 'Indian Curry' already know that these meals are prepared by Bangladeshi people. Actually quite a few of the top Bangladeshi restaurants have managed to name themselves as Bangladshi cuisine and trust me - their business hasn't gone down since they have put the name Bangladesh on the front. So it's completety rubbish if somebody says it's for the business reason, it's probabaly beacuse they are ashamed of their identity at first place. Thanks God that number of Bangladshis having backbones are growing and they have started a campaign to put dine Bangladeshi logo in all the restaurants ( http://www.gbr.org.uk/page4.html).

The Bangladesh that I have left behind in Dhaka and the Bangladesh that I see here is pretty different. Many of the established ones don’t really care about Bangladesh because it’s not posh enough for them! The new generation of Bangladeshis don’t have a clue what’s going on back home but they do know what the latest in Bollywood is. It’s all very frightening but whenever I see Bangladeshis gathering up to celebrate a special occasion it gives me hope – maybe one day everything will fall in place, Bangladesh will play better than India or Pakistan, Dhallywood will be bigger than Bollywood, we will have nuclear power and people will be proud to call themselves Bangladeshi- let’s hope so !

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt the bangladeshis you know are all speaking in urdu because they want to be pakistani but rather because they know the language. Just imagine, everyone around you is speaking in english but your the only one speaking in bangla? come on..if you know the language then why not communicate and bridge the gap? however that doesnt mean they shouldnt speak in bangla to their peers. the real question is whether there all speaking in urdu to their own bengali friends or just to the pakistanis or hindi to the indians.

10:18 PM  
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