Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 28, Tuesday December 9, 2003







Lifestyle chats with a few eligible singles

You were born and raised in the West. You've only visited Bangladesh a handful of times on vacations, so the knowledge you have about Bangladesh is mostly gleaned from books, movies, and tales from your parents. Then you reach your twenties and your parents suddenly lay down a rule that you cannot marry a Westerner or someone who is not from your own religion. Isn't this strange to you, when all through your life your friends were people from a different culture, creed or background? How do you react to this? How can you even begin to reach a compromise with your parents regarding the issue of marriage?

If you agree to marry someone from Bangladesh (especially males get their brides from Bangladesh) how do you cope with the difference, I mean, in that case, religion is your only common point. How do you make adjustments?

Answer: Although I was raised in the United States, my parents have always made me aware of the fact that my culture and my entire religion is different from those of others around me. It has been hard to accept and deal with while I was growing up, because my parents always worried that if I hung out with too many 'Christians' I would marry one. Because of the way I was raised and because of my own desires, I did not have much of a problem because I do not want to marry outside of my religion. Race however, is not as huge a concern for me as it is for my parents. I think my parents realise that they cannot have everything their way, and that they have to sacrifice and compromise as much as I had to while growing up. To them the main thing is religion and they would accept my husband if he was non-desi although with reluctance. This is the best we can do, and I really do not expect more because of the narrow mindedness of my family.

I would not marry someone straight from Bangladesh. There are too many compromises and Bangladeshi men usually do not compromise nor can they handle an American woman. They are much harder to co-operate with than women, which is why most American-born women cannot marry men straight from Bangladesh. I would be willing to marry someone who was born and brought up in Bangladesh but has had time in his younger years to adapt to life in the United States. Although it is easier to compromise with a groom who has lived here, it there is still a lot of compromising to do because of the background. I would say that both of us would respect each other's cultural differences and be open minded and participate in each other's activities. At the very least we would not try to change each other, and let them live the way they want to that is compatible and not extremely contradicting to our own lifestyle and vice versa. It is hard however to find such open-minded men.
-- ND, born and brought up in USA, age 24, female

Answers: I really don't know what to say, because I am going to marry someone from Bangladesh. This is easy as we both share the same cultural values. Somewhat different from each other, but still the same roots.
However, the idea of rejecting the other races is absurd to be. What if I fall in love with a white or a Hispanic female? I am not going to sacrifice love to enjoy the 'comfort' of living life with someone from the same culture. Most likely, though, my parents may not want me to marry someone from a different background. For that, I think I'll have to sit down with them, and explain to them what would really make me happy. As any loving and caring parents, I am sure, mine too would want my happiness. At the same time, I would like to see them happy too, so I'd introduce the person I want to marry to my parents and let them feel comfortable with each other. Hopefully my parents will not disagree with me and I won't have to disagree with them.

It would be interesting to marry someone from Bangladesh, someone who wasn't brought up with the same values and ideas as myself. I may be a Bangladeshi, but I have been brought up in the States. Here I've adopted a different set of values, completely alien to many Bangladeshis. At the same time, I have rejected a few aspects of my own tradition. So, what I am and what I follow is an unique fusion of two wonderful cultures. Therefore, when I marry someone from Bangladesh, who has been brought up with only one point of view, it would be hard of both of us to cope with each other. However, I have been brought up with an open mind and thus I hope to understand where my future wife (sounds scary) is coming from. Thus I'll be able to cope with her. As for her, I would like her to continue education in the states, where she hopefully would pick up the American values and lifestyle. I believe that would help her to cope with me.
-- MH residing in USA since 10, age 25, male.

Answers: It is very strange to adhere to the expectation of being in relationships only with Bengalis. However, my parents have been trying to adapt to our needs in that they don't expect us to marry someone from Bangladesh. They want us to marry a Bengali that was born and raised in America. I think the hardest thing for them to understand is the concept of being in love; it's not something that they had the opportunity to do and never got to do so naturally they are opposed to it being under the impression that it is a bad thing. Romance is a highly Western concept and it's very hard for our parents to understand. It's hard for them to understand the concept of sexual liberation. In the end, as the first generation, we just have to make some very important choices in life about who we are and come to terms with the fact that by being bicultural, we are not as grounded in our identities as they are and people back in Bangladesh are.
-- SM, born and brought up in USA, age 23, female.

LS Desk, Special thanks to Iffat Nawaz

Reader's Chit

Life with an angel…a story of five heart-warming years

Baba! Come here and sit still because you are my slave and I am your owner! " This politically incorrect drama of slavery in the 21st century was being enacted by my daughter. How poignant that I immediately obeyed my 'mistress' and sat down beside her! Father's with little daughters would recognise my action and chuckle. They are willing slaves themselves, and know the joy of being in this bondage!

It has been many days that my days literally changed from all work and no play to no work and just play! My personal acquaintances remember a piece I wrote some years back in this page about the birth of my daughter and how I took time off to be with her. . Things have changed a little in the natural course of time. The little feet now walk and take the slightly grown girl to places. No need of "baba" the human hauler! She can predict the call of nature, and put the toilet seat down before sitting! All of nearly five years and she already shows that women are more inclined to put the toilet seat down and up correctly! Good heavens! No wonder they are so fussy and tidy; they learn it early and it comes naturally!

How things have changed in everything that she does. Gone are the chores, like soiled diapers, applying powder after clean-up, mashing some vegetable for her to eat, trying to put her to sleep or just doing the jumping jack flash when she would not sleep.

She is now a little woman. We hear "Baba I am up" whispered in our ears when she opens her eyes early in the morning, very early in the morning! It is time to start getting ready for my office and she is the boss. Lie around to take part in the morning stag party, before the parental instinct wakes me up to take charge. She gives me a fight all the way. A one-person union leader, who knows she has a right to one more song or one more tumble in the jumble. I do spoil her a little, after all, she is my only daughter and she is everything to her mom and me.

I am there when she cries and refuses to go to school. It is heart wrenching to see her in distress from a distance but she is strong and willing to learn, like all human spirits. Raisa now eats by herself, pours water to serve me, knows her way around the house, talks with her friends and has even learnt to love another person besides her family members: it is her little friend Lia, who is in the early school that my daughter attends.

My daughter is going to be five years old. It has been five years. How time flies! I am a little early to wish her a happy birthday.

It will be time to cut the cake before we know it, and I would not want to leave my friends out of the party. So, please wish Raisa Subhana Khandker a happy fifth birthday!

By Ershad Khandker


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