My Pink Converse
Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a pilot. I took all the core sciences till my A'levels, believing that one day, Mechanics would give me wings to fly my own airliner. I practiced Calculus rigorously, trying to stay ahead of my potential classmates at aviation school. When I thought I was all set, my father came up to me and told me, I couldn't fly. He thankfully didn't mean it metaphorically; it was only the 'wrong' context that made him feel wings on an engine might not be my best bet.
I was crushed. I spent months crying myself to sleep; I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. By then, I was already writing for different magazines and while the work excited me, I couldn't imagine myself taking it up as a career. Physics and Chemistry deemed useless, and I almost felt cheated by John Nash. After staying in a daze for over 6 months, I woke up one morning to realise I needed a new dream. I was gargling on Listerine for less than thirty seconds when I was struck by an epiphany. And I have lived by it ever since.
The next few years (or, the past few years) led me through an incredible journey of life. Halfway through 11th grade, four friends and I founded an organisation that changed my take on the world forever. We realised as young people, our greatest gift was youth in all its elements. Dynamism, innovation, selflessness, madness, energy and synergy – the possibilities were surprisingly endless. Historically, every revolution in the world has been mobilised by young people, both in age and at heart. If we could harness the power of youth right now to create positive changes in the lives around us, we could potentially change our present and future. We asked our peers to brainstorm on social problems and potential solutions, and in the process, created a platform that facilitates the transformation of ideas to actions. We were on an adrenaline rush like no other – and our belief was enough to keep it together.
Unfortunately, the more real world had a separate plan for us. Whoever we took our ideas to turned us down, smirking at our oversized sweaters and pink converses. We moved from door to door, wishing desperately we were a few inches taller so people would take us seriously. We were miserable, had no extra cash to spare and our parents were more suspicious of 'unlawful' activities every time we returned home after sundown. We were beginning to lose friends as we repeatedly missed the addas, failing in grades while we daydreamed in class and getting skinnier in pursuit of our dreams. Almost a year had passed by before we got our first breakthrough – a tube well on raised grounded in a flood prone area in Sirajganj. The logic was simple; people suffer most from deficiency of clean drinking water immediately after floods because the water sources were either overflowing with murk or completely submerged. If the tube well was built on raised ground, it might be a band aid solution that could scope for more sustainable planning. After months of follow up, the small neighbourhood in Sirajganj became our first success story and suddenly, we no longer needed to wait for something to happen or someone to take notice. Our experiences and instincts gave us enough gut to take matters into our own hands, and we haven't stopped ever since.
We grew up with the organisation we once built. We understood not everyone could be trusted, money needs to be counted and friendships should be cherished. When we were left betrayed or rejected, we learnt to come to terms with our failures and believe in remodified dreams. When our parents began to impose longer curfew hours, we found a way to balance grades against passion. Challenges became a part of the daily routine, and very slowly, the ground beneath our feet grew stronger.
The years have been long, yet beautifully rewarding. We were able to visit half of the world before our 24th birthday and were constantly overwhelmed by the people we met. The only change we experienced was in our minds as it grew wings and learnt to appreciate life in all its forms. The best part was to never let go of the youth, the madness that once began all this. My epiphany over seven years back told me to be exactly myself and live life to the fullest. I promised myself to never be defeated by my ambitions, and dream through thick and thin.
I still wear my pink converse to work – only this time, people think it's cool.
(Sabhanaz Rashid Diya is a graduate from the Department of Media and Communication at Independent University Bangladesh, and founder of the nonprofit youth organisation, the One Degree Initiative Foundation.)