Coming back to live in Dhaka is something I have wanted to do since the day I left to go the U.S for college. It's not like I didn't like it there. I loved it. I spent the best four years of my life in college where I met my best friends. After graduation, I worked for two years in Boston. It wasn't easy being out in the “real world” and having to take care of myself. College life had been comfortable since my board and lodging had been paid for. All I had to worry about was getting good grades and finding something fun to do on weekends. Life in the big city was definitely different. Work hours were long and spending a whole day with psychiatric patients (did I mention I majored in psychology and worked as a counselor) can take a toll on you. Coming home to face housework, bills and loan repayments was exhausting. Although I had been in Massachusetts the whole time I was there, I never really got used to the New England weather. I still have nightmares about having to wait for the bus in the snow for hours at a time and wondering whether today was the day I would have to have my frostbitten toes amputated. When the company I worked for closed down, I thought it would be a good time (and excuse) to come back home and see my family.
I arrived home sometime in July 2009 and am still recovering from the shock of the many changes that have taken place in my life since then. To begin with, my parents seem to think I am still the teenager who left their home years ago. Since they missed my transition into adulthood, they still believe I am incapable of going out on my own and need constant supervision. Although it's nice to have people care about me so much, it gets tiresome having to ask for permission to step out of the house and have a curfew at my age. I am also trying to get used to the constant commentary on my life and how much more I can do with it. Apart from the lack of independence, living with my parents has its advantages. I had forgotten what it was like not to have to cook (my cooking is terrible) or clean after myself, listening to my dad sing, watching TV serials and going shopping with my mother and chatting for hours with my grandmother, when she is able to recognise me.
Since we have a large family, I also get to spend plenty of time with my aunts, uncles and cousins. Family gatherings are something I missed while I was away. With the wedding season in full swing, I have had a very busy winter, getting all dressed up and stuffing myself with biriyani every night.
One of the best things about being back is being able to hang out with my old friends. Since everyone's all grown up and working, we hardly get to see each other during the week and therefore have to make the most of our weekends. I've been told our old hang out, at the Dhanmondi Lake is no longer a safe place to go. My friends mostly hang out in the Gulshan and Banani area at X Lounge, Roll Express, Cofi 11, Floor 6, etc. Sheesha lounges have become very popular in Dhaka. While I amused myself by people watching at these places I noticed how the crowd dresses in more western outfits and there is talk about parties and concerts that were almost unheard of when I was living here. However, going to movies and taking trips is still not as easy here as it is abroad.
Traffic is another phenomenon that controls our lives here. Over the years the traffic situation has worsened. The roads are narrow, there are too many cars and hardly anyone follows traffic rules. I try every day not to get frustrated with the chaos; hopefully, in time I will get immune to this as well. For now, however, I am still angry about the two hours I waste every time I have to travel from Dhanmondi to Gulshan.
After over five months of being here I still have a feeling that I have more settling down to do. I have yet to find a job related to my field of study. Unfortunately, counselling is not something widely known about in Bangladesh. Most hospitals have psychiatric wards but do not have counselling centres. Only a few schools have a counsellor for their staff and students. I have worked at an NGO and am now looking for something a bit more interesting.
If I stop to think about it, I come across something new every day that is going to take getting used to but for now, I'm happy to be here and doing my best to re-adjust to the Dhaka way of life.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010