<%-- Page Title--%> Impressions <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 112 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

July 4, 2003

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Back in Dhaka

Shuvo Hussain

I 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 months there."
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 firm.
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 watch.
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 Dhaka?
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.


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