Back in Dhaka
have returned to Bangladesh after five years. It's peculiar,
but I used to be reluctant to lose precious school vacation
with my friends in a land where mosquitoes and diarrhea
seem too eager to replace my companions.
As this summer approached, I planned a stay over here even
before anything could discourage me - summer blockbusters,
amusement park visits, country music festivals…
A friend of mine called.
"Why don't you come down and spend the weekend here?"
"Or I could fly to Bangladesh and spend the next two
He asked why I wanted to go; I don't remember what I said
to him. That one response has gotten lost among others I
had given after so many others asked the same question:
Because I have an astonishing thirst for fresh and inexpensive
mango. It's been a while since I've been back to my desh.
I'm going to find my mom a cook. I want to spend some time
with my family. Bangladesh is the next U.S. target and I'm
doing some top secret reconnaissance. I didn't think 20
degree weather is hot enough for me. I really need some
time to de-Americanise...
I will soon be finishing my formal education. I hope to
find a job and gradually be able to support myself. Sadly,
in the land of the individual, living with your parents
is frowned upon. So, I tried to figure out where I stood
on spending, earning, managing and other stuff I let my
folks take care of.
I thought about the toys that, as a child, kept me from
an early death. Will I have money to buy a better guitar
and the banjo that I'll want after that? I wondered if I
will have cable television or will I just rent movies, or
go see movies…
or plays. Or concerts. Of course, it would be nice to have
a reliable car to get there in. Gas. Air fresheners.
I think I thought a little too much.
I will be chasing the American dream, but I don't even know
what that is. In the land of the free and the home of the
24-hour one-stop Superstore, it's all about deception: Liberty
is boxed and sold like sugarcoated, marshmallow-infested
cereal that we are tricked into thinking we need.
And the marketing is astounding in America. Very psychological.
Very sly. They can't use subliminal advertising (any more),
but operate in the huge, gray area between awareness and
the unconscious. Through the years, they have become too
good at manipulating the mind of the consumer.
It's my head, stay out.
Arriving at the Dhaka International Airport, I saw one magazine
stand. In the parking garage one little boy pleaded for
my money. I turned my attention to my uncle and quickly
forgot the child. Not bad, I thought. I am no longer a bleeding
swimmer in the shark-infested waters of an open market.
Then, we left the airport.
On the road, I couldn't help but notice the billboards that
cut into my vision. It seems advertising here is less covert
and more constant. Trickery traded for tenacity.
I'm sure they have always been there, I just didn't see
them. I saw happy people who weren't happy before they started
using a particular soap. I saw companies whose only purpose
was to make sure little Shuvo had chosen the right investment
This time, I knew they just wanted to chew on me like sugarcane,
but the repetitive signs seemed lined up like they were
waiting to vote for my money.
Sadly, I couldn't help it. I was staring at a hypnotist's
Talk long. Talk clear. Talk safe. Talk. Take. Taka.
I began to wonder if I needed a mobile phone. Big city,
right? Lots of people, no pay phones. I never know when
I'll really, really need to talk to my friends or get stabbed
and need to call my relatives to tell them I'll be having
dinner at the hospital.
I shudder. People abuse them in America.
Don't get me started on mobile phones.
I wonder, is this the beginning of something tragic for
I guess, I can cope with this. But Bangladesh, promise me
that you won't let in any McDonald's. And please, just say
no to Starbucks.