Nadia Kabir Barb
Last night I spent a fair few hours lying in bed staring at the fan, looking intermittently at the clock on the bedside table, watching the time pass in slow motion and listening to the hum of the air conditioner, hoping it would lull me to sleep. But no such luck. You would have thought that being in Dhaka for almost a week would have cured me of my jet lag, but sadly my internal clock appears to have gone on strike. No amount of counting sheep or closing my eyes and willing sleep to come to me had any effect, plus, the fact that the security guard outside kept blowing his whistle every now and then was not helping. Not wishing to wake the entire household, I thought that playing games on my mobile phone would do the trick, but once again I was mistaken. Squinting at the small screen, while pressing the tiny keys on my phone in the darkness of the room only contributed to my frustration by giving me a headache. So I finally gave up, dismayed at the prospect of spending the rest of the night gazing at the whitewashed ceiling.
Then the thought crossed my mind that I might be able to kill two birds with one stone by writing my article. A) It would help me pass the time and B) it might appease my long-suffering editor if I sent it in on time. So I apologise in advance to my readers if I happen to ramble on or if my thoughts are slightly disjointed. I also have no qualms in passing the buck and blaming it all on the jet lag!
On my last visit to Dhaka almost a year ago, I wrote about the changing face of Dhaka. Every year I return, I am amazed by the number of buildings that have mushroomed all over the city and the increase in the number of cars adorning the already crammed streets. But these days I expect the burgeoning metropolis to have mutated and altered physically like some gargantuan beast evolving over time. There is the obvious delight in the growth and development taking place but also a tinge of regret at the slow demise of the sleepy city I remember from my childhood. My children find it hard to reconcile the city I describe and the one they see on their visits. Like many Bangladeshis living abroad, I too cling to a fast fading memory of a Dhaka that no longer exists.
I always compare living in a city to being on a giant treadmill, you have to keep up with the pace or you might find yourself falling on your face. In London, people seem to be in a hurry the whole time, rushing towards some imaginary deadline. There is always an urgency in everything we do. We all claim that life is 'hectic', or 'manic' and we are all 'rushed off our feet' for some reason or the other. In fact, there are times when even making a phone call to a friend is something you put on your 'to do' list. A sad side effect of being part of the rat race. I wonder whether we lose a little bit of ourselves in this mad race that we are part of.
So when I come home to Dhaka, it is with the intention of spending time with my family and friends and of course getting away from the hustle and bustle of living in London. I crave the luxury of not having an agenda and being able to do nothing in particular if that is what takes my fancy.
Foolishly, we want everything to be just as we left it and expect to pick up where we left things. Then we find ourselves surprised when we realise that people and places have changed over the course of time.
I am also struck by the way that life in Dhaka has changed as drastically as its skyline. People are always busy with one thing or the other, rushing from one place to another (although rushing in Dhaka is an impossibility as you spend half your life stuck in traffic jams). No matter whom I meet or where I go, there is always a flurry of activity. Meetings, work related functions, shopping trips, dinners, milads, weddings, funerals all jostle with one another for priority in day-to-day life here. All I can say is that life in London feels almost sedentary in comparison! The other day, a friend of mine was explaining to me the amount of things she had to do and the number of places she had to be in within the span of one evening and it made my head spin just thinking about it!
When I was growing up, it felt like we always had an abundance of time but these days it is a rare and valuable commodity, as no one ever seems to have any of it. Or maybe when we are young we just have a very different perception of time itself. Maybe it is the stillness of the night or the jetlag that is making me wistful and nostalgic but I am sure I will see things differently in the morning.
I can see the first ray of light peeping through the curtains and it would be prudent for me to try and get a bit of sleep so I can face the day ahead of me. Now that I am in Dhaka it seems like I will need all the energy I can accumulate to help me keep up with pace of life that everyone here is so used to!
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