SRABONTI NARMEEN ALI
year, Bangladeshis celebrate their so-called Bangali-ness
on the designated days -- Pohela Baishakh, Independence
Day, Victory Day. Our parents’ generation jump into
the festivities full throttle, reminiscing about the good
old days and taking pride in the fact that they fought so
hard for an independent, liberated Bangladesh. The second
generation of free Bangladeshis, seemingly us, follow suit.
There are many of us who share the same pride in our nation
that our parents so enthusiastically showcase, but then again,
there are some who grudgingly allow themselves to go with
the flow, moving and pulling themselves along with the motions
without really understanding or caring.
to this lack of enthusiasm for our motherland, our parents
(inevitably) blame us. We are spoilt. We got everything handed
to us on a silver platter. We didn't struggle for freedom
as they did, so our feelings for the <>desh are not
as strong. However, the fact that we are only the second generation
of free Bangladeshis should make us all the more proud. Our
parents remember the war, they talk about it, they reiterate
stories for us. Our generational counterparts in nations such
as the United States (for whom independence was centuries
ago) and India (who will, this year, celebrate its 57th birthday)
display a fierce loyalty to their respective countries --
one that puts all us Bangladeshi youngsters to shame. So what
happened to our generation? Why are we so indifferent in our
loyalties to our nation?
claim our generation is full of good-for-nothings. Drug use
is horrifyingly and shamefully rampant, political clashes
within the university student groups seem to cause no changes
– instead they only hamper education and endanger the
lives of other students -- the select few who actually go
to school to learn. Along with violence, murder, rape and
harassment (which are now every-day occurrences for the youth
of today) comes the indifference of the privileged class,
and the complete lack of caring for anything of any substance
that we seem to come across in the youngsters of today. Match
that with laziness and no motivation to speak of and a complete
disregard for hard work ethics, and there you have it -- generation
XY and Z, in a nutshell -- grossly generalised, naturally.
prized candidates in line for the future leadership of Bangladesh,
one has to wonder what fate has in store for us, and whether
this is all a cruel joke. Our parents are shocked by our behaviour,
because I doubt they were ever as lost a generation as we
are. We hear from them all the time about how safe Dhaka city
was in "those days" -- so what happened? Where did
we go wrong?
generation's defence, parents all over the world say the same
thing and these complaints are not unique to Bangladeshis.
The difference lies in the fact that, along with everything
else that is "wrong with us," we have no sense of
pride and loyalty for our identity, which gives us even more
cause to be lost.
here is what do we have to be proud of? Sure, our parents
fought hard and gave us the gift of independence. One can
never forget that, nor can they slight it or trivialise it.
However, where did they go from there?
we have that can make us say, "I am proud to be a Bangladeshi"?
And by Bangladeshi I do not mean Muslim or Kolkata Bangali.
What do we have, which is not borrowed or influenced from
another culture, that we can claim to be ours and ours alone?
not the Bangladesh any of our parents dreamed of. Even the
most fierce and loyal freedom fighters will admit to that.
We see all around us corruption, exploitation, extortion,
and of course, (the mantra of our parents for the last two
decades) the fact that "desher din kal bhalo na".
true that our generation displays a shameful lack of empathy
for what our parents hold so near and dear, but honestly,
can you blame us? Star TV has given us the gift of seeing
the world through new eyes -- we see Indian teenagers and
young adults celebrating their culture every day. Bollywood
and Indian pop culture has slowly but surely managed to wedge
itself into the international spectrum. We hear African and
Latino beats being incorporated into mainstream music. We
envy the spirit and pride that other countries display for
their national sports. We see the entire world going through
a metamorphosis, in which traditions, identity and culture
are no longer differences that we would rather hide in order
to fit in, but rather things that enable the proud distinction
of one person to the next. Unfortunately, we ourselves cannot
find that bit of Bangladeshi which gives us reason to hold
on to our identities and not hide behind India's (or anyone
else's, for that matter) shadow.
of making Bangladesh a better place, (aside from all the other
problems that we have to fix) lies in giving the nation --
as a whole -- a sense of pride in who we are. But how can
we do that when our older generation is sending us mixed messages?
Are we Muslim? Are we Bangali? Are we Bangladeshi? Or are
we just a mix -- in which case, what can we, as the younger
generation, refer to as “amar desh, amar ohonkar"?
(R) thedailystar.net 2004