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     Volume 7 Issue 20 | May 16, 2008 |

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Reinstating Independence

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

Moving to a new apartment in Bangladesh is an interesting experience. While there is nothing more satisfying than having your own beautiful place and decorating it to your heart's content, the truth is that getting to that point is something akin to a roller coaster ride.

For starters, it's hard for a young couple to find a place (we won't even get into the question of singles looking for their own homes as that is another story). In many cases, young couples have to suffer all sorts of invasions on their privacy if they want to rent an apartment out.

It seems that most landlords are under the impression that any young couple moving to an apartment are either up to something suspicious, or they are not legally married. Because it still is not normal in our culture for young married couples to move out, many people have been in situations in which they need proof of marriage (a marriage certificate is not always enough in these cases, often you must know someone who knows someone so that they can speak on your behalf and claim that your intentions are honourable). It may have something to do with our society being naturally suspicious of young people. It is unfortunate that the older generation has no trust in us whatsoever and chooses to assume that there is something dui nombori going on if we want to (heaven forbid) start our lives independent of others' rules and regulations.

Once you finally get the apartment (the papers are signed and you have started to move your stuff in), you would think that this is the end of all your troubles and that you can start your happily ever after from this moment onwards. Unfortunately that is not always the case. Because now that you have finally been given sole responsibility and independence after so much trouble (exactly what you wanted) you have to deal with all sorts of other obstacles that often drive you to insanity and make the path towards a peaceful life seem never-ending.

At the top of this list would have to be mistiris (and I mean any kind of mistiris). Be it carpenters, plumbers, electricians or even those strange man-Fridays that seem to do everything under the sun, it is generally believed that such men are out to try our patience. Firstly, they never come when they say they will. How many times have you been told that whatever it is that is broken will be fixed by tomorrow? More often than not, tomorrow almost never comes and you are left with an overflowing toilet, an unfinished table or a broken window which lets in a variety of delightful little insects that infest your beautiful new home. Another problem with these men is that they never seem to do a job right. Meaning a week after they seemingly fix the problem, they have to come back and fix it again. And contrary to popular belief, this is NOT because Bangalis are stupid by nature and cannot do anything right. The real reason is that they want more money. That's right, they fix your broken toilet or whatever else that needs to be done TEMPORARILY so that they can come back again and again. And somehow, these things never happened in your dad's house, did they? And if they did they would not happen as often as they do in your own place.

At some point everything gets fixed and broken and mended again, and in a couple of weeks you are ready to start your life once again. After overcoming all these obstacles there are the usual irritating additional factors, such as nosy neighbours who need to know your entire life history -- who your parents' parents are, why you are moving here (whether there was some dramatic family feud), how much your husband makes etc.--; disapproving aunties, who just need to criticise you and make you feel bad about yourself so that they can feel better about themselves (a growing breed in Dhaka city) and of course the old fogeys that do not like the music you listen to or the volume that you listen at, as well as just generally think that young people are a nuisance.

It seems to be such a small thing, moving out on one's own, but in our culture, people almost think that those who do so are selfish and are not thinking about their poor families. It is interesting that despite the fact that there are so many things working against young people who want to establish their own shongshar, many young couples are putting on a brave face and moving out on their own regardless.

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