Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 9, Tuesday February 26, 2008



Under a different sky

Have always liked the corner of my eyes. They give me a better perspective than the centre of my eyes. When I look directly at someone I feel like my pointy chin gets pointier, my lips thin out, and the expression on my face is less confident. Eye contact is great you know, as long as it is with complete strangers stealing glances at you, but I prefer the corner of my eyes. It makes me feel seductive, mysterious, almost beautiful, and I rather play that pretence.

I have always loved attention, and here in my hometown I feel it the most, you know that Bengali girl fantasy, all those clichés, like roof tops, green mangos, neighbourhood boys, love letters, prank calls, all that jazz. Not to mention a set of parents who gave you a self exaggerated view of yourself, and growing up you somehow thought you were better than others, all the rest of the girls. And for the rest of your life you continue to compete silently. It shows, the insecurity, but do you care? By you, I mean I…

I am over all that now. I realize I am superficial; and don't judge me, you are too, yes you, you in the corner, you who have been starting at me from the moment I walked in, you with the long black curly hair, those stone washed jeans and green kurta. You are kind of cute you know. Yeah I am interested, sure I will stare back at you… hell I will just come over and talk to you, how about that?

As I walk towards you, you seem surprised. Between my walk from my centre to your corner I think how I should start this conversation. I dig my brain for something philosophically clever, something profound,

But instead I say: "Hello!"

You say: "Hi, you look so familiar."

I say: "Is that why you have been staring at me?"

You say: "Actually yes, I was staring at you to figure out why you looked so familiar."

I say: "Nice try, but there is no way I can look familiar to you, I don't live in this city, I don't live in this country as a matter of fact, I am just here for a bit to catch my breath."

You say: "Catch your breath…?"

I say: "Yes from all the running around."

You say: "What are you running from?"

I say: “You,” and then I smile, I see that you aren't smiling, I think, you don't have a sense of humour and then I say “Just running around so I can lose some weight, earn some money, travel some places, meet some people, eat some food…”

You stop me and then you say: "Where do you live?"

I say: "Why do you want to know?"

You say: "I don't but you said earlier you were visiting Bangladesh."

I say: "Oh right, well I live in the states… I thought you were asking me where in Dhaka I live…"

You say: "And which part of the states?"

I say: "Washington DC."

You say: "The capitol, huh?"

I say: “Yes, you know your geography I see”, I think you are a little boring, I think you aren't looking at me with the kind of stare I hoped you were giving me. I think why is it so hard for me to meet someone who I won't get turned off by easily. That's always been my problem, my sudden random crushes.

In the middle of my thought, you say: "Can I buy you a drink?"

I say: “Sure,” then I think what will I owe you if you buy me a drink, in the Dhaka standard what does buying me a drink equal up to? And then I forget about inane standards and walk over to the counter with you and grab a fresh cup of coffee, although I am not really a coffee drinker.

You say: "So when did you move there?"

I think you are trying to figure me out, trying to size me up to see how Americanised or Banglafied I still am, I try to guess your age, you don't look younger than me, but I definitely feel older than you, I answer you: “It's been fifteen years”.

You say: "Fifteen, wow, that's a long time, so you are not really a Bangladeshi anymore!"

I feel mad. Just because I have a blue passport doesn't mean I am not a Bangladeshi anymore.

When you see that I haven't answered, you say: "But you seem to be still a part of this town, coming back here to catch your breath, means you haven't forgotten your roots, you are reconnecting, yeah?

I feel even more ticked off. Who are you to validate me anyway? I have a thing against this type of typical comments. I hate how people like you try to validate my agenda. It's like you are patronizing me.

I say: "My roots, I don't need to reconnect, I was never disconnected."

You say: "Oh yeah? Fifteen years is a long time though, and you look it too, you have it all over your face, that American-ness."

I am seriously mad this time. Who do you think you are? Here I am wearing my 'taat' er sari and 'lal teep', carrying myself pretending to be a Sharatchandra's 'nayika' and you are telling me American-ness is all over my face…is that supposed to impress me?

Seeing that I am sort of fuming, you say: "It's a good thing you know, your American-ness, you have this extra edge with your smartness, it stands out."

I think, thank god, at last something positive. I like that you have picked up on my complexity, the complexity I so advertise, the one I claimed to have earned through being born in Bangladesh and growing up in America.

I say: "Thank you, smartness is a relative thing anyway…"

You say: "Well you look sharp."

I think, finally! You have finally started to give me that attention that I wanted to begin with. I think maybe you aren't so bad after all, if you continue with this positive feedback maybe I will give you my cell phone number, maybe we will have a fling, maybe we will even have something more than a fling, maybe I will move back to Dhaka for good, and we will get engaged, and my parents will be happy I found someone I like, someone Bengali, they won't try to set me up with random boys in America, too cool or too cold. I think maybe I will balance my American-ness with your Bengaliness, the vibe you are exuding through your green kurta and curly long hair, the modern day Tagore that you are trying to be, I like it. I think even a girl like me, so full of myself, yet empty inside wants a Bengali man, a man she has met for only a few minutes, still a man…I think maybe it can become love and I smile.

You say: "I like your sari, you know these days lesser and lesser woman are wearing them."

I say: "Well it's my favourite thing to wear when I am in Dhaka, I wear nothing but saris."

I see you looking down at my toenails, I feel embarrassed, I should have gotten a pedicure.

You look up. You smile, you stare right into my eyes. You say: "I love your eyes, I love the 'kajol' around it."

I smile. I am melting. Surely this will be a fling, surely I will glow like I have had a thousand facials by the end of this trip, you will tell me you love me in four days, tomorrow when I first dial your number to call you and as the phone will ring on that other side, my life will be intertwined with yours, your world will become my worry…I smile.

You say: "I never got your name."

I say: "It's Nitu."

You say: "Nitu… wait… Nitu Apu?"

Nitu Apu hits my ears and instantly falls on the floor making one of those chalk-board-to-nail sounds.

You say: "Nitu apu, chinte parcho na, no wonder you looked so familiar, I am Shubho."

Shubho? I know a few Shubhos, but none of them would call me Nitu Apu except one, my cousin, whom I haven't seen in 13 years.

I choke a bit, I whisper: "Shubho? Kemon acchis?"

You say: "Bhalo, tumi Dhaka te esheccho amader bolo ni keno, it's been soooo long!"

You keep talking, asking me something else, something more… I don't hear you, I think to myself, is Dhaka too small or my mind? Or both? And without realizing I become a bit more cynical.

By the way

COLLECTIVE recycling is not that big an operation in Bangladesh as of yet. So it is up to you to make the most of old materials and launch an operation by yourself. Get all your family members involved too, especially the children for whom it is crucial to learn the importance of good citizenship. Sort different types of items, like cans, plastic materials and papers into different cartons. And label them in bold fonts, so that it is easier for people to know where to put what.


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