Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 3 | July 9, 2004 |


   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Slice of Life
   A Roman Column
   Photo Story
   Vantage Point
   Time Out
   Book Review
   Dhaka Diary
   New Flicks

   SWM Home



B for Bangladeshi?


Every 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.

In response 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?

Parents 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.

With these 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?

In my 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.

The question 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?

What do 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?

This is 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".

It is 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.

The future 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"?

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004