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Of Beautiful Bangladesh and Amazing Bangladeshis

We don't always feel ecstatic about the state of our country; we see it as a place where we witness our fellow countrymen spitting freely on the potholed traffic jam filled roads and spotlight-hogging politicians saying things that make us question their sanity. We feel discouraged at every step and our lives are littered with broken promises. But despite everything, we Bangladeshis do stand up for our causes, our ideas and visions and fight for what we believe in.

This week, RS pays tribute to those Bangladeshis around the globe who have made a difference, defied stereotypes and made us proud. These Bangladeshis might not be living in the country right now, but we are a bit better off knowing that these people are doing excellent things to humanity. Our country is a bit prouder because they are a part of it..................................................................................................................................................................

Jawed Karim, Founder of Youtube: From Rebecca Black's music to how-to videos, youtube is the portal to what we love (or love to hate) in the internet. And a Bangladeshi had a lot to do with it. Jawed Karim is a co-founder of youtube, along with Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, and as they were trying to work on making websites, it was Jawed who suggested doing something about video sharing and 'viral videos'. He was also one of the core employees of Paypal, another great internet service. Since selling youtube to Google, he is involved with a venture fund called Youniversity Ventures, which aims to help current and former university students to develop and launch their business ideas.

Salman Khan, Khan Academy: Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you have heard about Khan Academy, a non-profit educational institution with a vision of accelerating learning for student of all ages. The main man behind Khan Academy, which has already had around 70 million hits, is Salman Khan, an MIT graduate. The idea kicked off back in 2004, when he started to coach his cousin with her seventh grade math problems. Soon he started posting his 'doodles' on youtube to help friends and family and in 2009, he quit his day job in Finance to focus on Khan Academy.

With 2400 videos ranging from math to thermodynamics to history, Khan Academy is an excellent tool that is revolutionizing how we study math and science. With endorsements from the Gates Foundation and Google, it has great potential to touch millions of students' lives across the globe.

Rais Bhuyian, Texas hate crime victim: In 2001, Mark Stroman, a Texan, attacked three people, Vasudev Patel, Waqar Hasan and Rais Bhuiyan in a gas station to 'take revenge' for 9/11. He shot and killed Patel and Hasan, but Rais, who was shot and managed to play possum until the attacker was gone and even though his right eye was blinded, Rais survived. Mark Stroman was captured and convicted, and nine years later he was destined for execution. Rais Bhuyian, the lone survivor of the killing, forgave his attacker, saying he was ignorant and his death would not solve hate crimes across the globe, but rather mean another life lost. Rais also started a campaign with his attacker to promote passion, forgiveness, tolerance and healing. “We should not stay in the past, we must move forward,” Rais believes.

Rushanara Ali, MP: Rushanara Ali moved to the UK back when she was only seven years old. And 28 years later, she was elected as the first Bangladeshi-born MP in the House of Commons, taking the seat Bethnal Green and Bow. The Oxford graduate won by 11,574 votes in the ethnically diverse constituency and vows to work on youth engagement, jobs, education, health and crime. To millions of Bangladeshis around the world, it means a lot that somebody of their background has been elected to the mother of all parliaments.

NYC taxi drivers Osman Chowdhury and Mukul Asadujjaman: Honesty is a rare trait to come by, especially when there's thousands of dollars involved. But two Bangladeshi taxi drivers in New York defied stereotypes by their integrity.

In 2010, Felicia Lettieri, an Italian grandmother who had gone to New York, took a cab and then forgot all her jewelries, money and essentials worth $21000 in a taxicab. The cabbie was a Bangladeshi medical student, Mukul Asadujjaman, who went out of his way and tracked down her address, and drove 80 kilometers to return the valuables. As a working medical student, days are hard and it was tempting to take the money which would have allowed him pay off a substantial portion of his tuition fees, but as a devout Muslim, he thought it was his duty to return the cash. He said, "I'm needy, but I'm not greedy. It's better to be honest."

Another taxi driver Osman Chowdhury found 31 diamond rings worth $500,000 in the trunk of his taxi after dropping a passenger. He searched the apartments where he dropped her and then took the bag to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who then helped him track down the owner. The owner of the bag collected the gems and offered Osman a reward of $100. He was reluctant to take it, since being honest is something he strives to be every day, but had to take the money to make up for the fares he had lost to find the owner.

Monica Ali, Author: What can be said about Monica Ali? Author of Brick Lane, Ali was panned down for causing controversy than supported for adding another glorious chapter in the illustrious history of Bangladeshi literature. With her novel Brick Lane, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2003, Monica Ali shed some much needed light on Bangladeshi writers as a whole. Her book was also adapted into a film later on and she was further awarded Granta's Best of Young British Novelist. Acclaim for her novel has inspired another generation of writer's in Bangladesh, who feared how their work would be accepted if written in the English language. Hence, Monica Ali, apart bringing Bangladesh to the map, has opened more doors and she does make us proud (despite some negative portrayal of Sylhetis).



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