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Coming home

SUMMER is a time many students return home from studying abroad. Here are accounts of three RS writers who have returned to Dhaka for the summer and how they feel being back in the motherland.

Another school year was over. It was time to relax, kick back and catch up on some much needed sleep. And also to go back home. For most people who go to school in their home country, going home is a no-brainer. Unless you had a minimum wage paid job or a hard searched internship that made you live in another city, most people would go back home, if only for a few weeks. But for a lot of international students living miles from home, it isn't that easy to do so. For Bangladeshis in particular, 'home' is usually very far away and expensive to boot so not everyone makes the annual trek in the hottest months of the year.

I consider myself lucky in that I am able to come back every year, at least for the summer. Last year this time I was already home, reveling in the heat and mosquitoes but this year an unexpected internship made me delay my trip. The anxiety of returning home after a long period away doesn't seem to get easier the longer you're away, just more routine. You keep on thinking about things like your friends and if they've changed beyond recognition or if they've stayed the way they are. What about your room, your home? Will it feel different, now that you haven't inhabited it for a while? What about the weather, the traffic? Have the comforts of modern society made you more vulnerable to trials that you were accustomed to before?

But then you also think about the family that you hadn't seen in a long while. Your mother's home-cooked meals, your already laundered sheet and clothes. You think about all the mouth watering Bengali food that you hadn't gorged on for some time now, instead of pizza and fries. And whether all that anticipation you built up inside comes to something or not, you'll know you always have a place to return to.

By Nisma Elias

I could feel euphoria creep in as soon as I turned in my final paper. I was done with freshman year and ever ready to go back home. HOME! I never really understood the meaning of this word until I was sent abroad ten thousand miles away in order to pursue “higher education”. The meaning of the word hit me when I came out of the airport terminal and a thick humid wave warmed my body. Home was where there were endless rickshaw rides, home was where there were sudden bursts of actual rain (not some lame drizzle) and home was where there were people that I truly loved.

Although it had just been nine months, I still needed some time to get used to the transition. It was quite awkward to become free all of a sudden, whereas the past nine months had barely left me some spare time to breathe. And then there were schedules and “rules” which I had forgotten thanks to the independent life I had in the US of A. However, as a couple of weeks passed, it felt as if I never left. My daily routine fell into place. I was sleeping and waking up late. There was hardly any day when I did not meet my friends. The everyday hang outs were going strong and to my delight, I got to explore new additions to the current hot spots in town. Moreover, my mother and all other elders were pampering me. I was (almost) getting whatever I wanted. There were certain drawbacks, however, like waiting to watch YouTube for a quarter of an hour, sweating out in the heat and getting stuck in horrible traffic jams. But these were what I grew up with in the first place and I did not seem to mind them at all. My spirits refused to be dampened and I could whole-heartedly agree that “home is where the heart is.”

By Faria Sanjana

As I craned my neck to look past the oval window at the tiny blinking lights miles beneath, I smiled for the first time in hours. That was Bangladesh, and I'd arrived. 10 months ago, I'd left the country for the first time to go to college in the US, alone. I'd experienced life like I never experienced it before. I'd lived in castles, eaten American food, gotten to know people from all over the world, written college essays, and been to college parties. Not necessarily great, but they were certainly different. As the airplane landed with a light bump on the runway, I could hardly contain my excitement at being back again.

5 days later, things weren't amazing. I still couldn't get over this horrendous jetlag, I hadn't gotten down to calling everyone up and nobody seemed to understand the reason to my tiredness. They started wondering if I'd become “too Americanised”; whether I'd forgotten the ways of Dhaka, and whether I didn't miss them and care enough to contact the whole world at once. As if that's ever possible! Hadn't I spent night after night being homesick missing the food, and each and every single person who's been a part of my life through the entirety of it?

15 days later, things were still not like how I'd left it last summer. Some of my friends were not back from abroad yet; some who were back, preferred staying at home and playing games. Those that lived here were busy with exams and were hardly able to meet. And then there were a few who thought I'd “changed” and just didn't like whatever I did, however I did it. I, on the other hand, felt like everybody else had transformed. I wondered when and if all this was going to change for the better

Finally a month after I came back, it did. I got on a CNG and went to Bashundhara City alone. I had hot chicken curry and daal for lunch. I'd met up with most people and I realised they'd changed as much as I had. Life didn't sit still for either party and we needed time to get used to each other again. Exams were dealt with, games were done being played, and friends from abroad were all finally coming back home. Life seemed infinitely better and worse at the same time here in Bangladesh. And I was learning to love it again. As the floor beneath my feet rumbled while I sat looking out through the new CNG doors that I hadn't seen last year, I finally experienced the feeling I'd craved for and missed for so long: the feeling of being home.

By Nuzhat Binte Arif

To Put a Bangali on a Plane...

...means a lot of things. Firstly it means that the award-winning in-flight entertainment system that lies before you will remain completely useless for the entire duration of the flight. More importantly, it means that you can't use the on-board toilets. To embark upon a journey abroad is a great undertaking for our kind. We will remember to dress suitably for the occasion. The younger Mofiz-es among us will opt for Hawaiian shirts in the latest floral prints, tucked into the most artistically studded jeans. This is, of course, all the rage out there in bidesh. The older, more conservative gentlemen will don the brown velvet suit he wore to his niece's walima two years ago, despite the temperature being 40-something outside. The women will wear their walima saris themselves.

Now that we are dressed to fit right in with the bideshi crowd, we have to remember to carry it in style. Custom dictates that Bangali luggage be wrapped in at least three stages - the suitcase, or trunk itself, covered by a thick layer of bedding, covered with your latest purchase from New Market (to help find it on the luggage belt, of course, nothing to do with our sense of aesthetics).

Gifts for loved ones are mandatory. We will show our love for our relatives by showing utter disrespect for the airport authorities. We will bring the season's best aam, kathal, narikel and even shutki maach proudly into the airport. And when we are told we cannot board the airplane with our precious possessions, we will not hesitate to pick a fight with the hapless law enforcer. Luggage finally gets sorted, somehow. But what about us? As soon as the gates of the departure lounge open, it is an Olympic sprint for the plane, followed by the great event of finding our seats and stowing away our hand luggage. Cell phones are now pulled out, and each of the entire clan is personally informed that the caller is now, indeed, aboard the airplane. This will go on for as long as the air hostess can hold her patience.

Mealtime is when the real entertainment starts. Our Mofiz-es will look at salt in sachets with all the wonder of the caveman discovering fire. Upon receiving coffee, and glancing furtively around to see what everyone else is doing, he will carefully empty the contents of every one of the sachets (pepper included) into his coffee. He will stir, and he will sip. And he will display facial expressions hitherto unimagined by humankind.

So what else can a Bangali do on a non-stop seven-hour flight? We have eaten, and we have drunk. And what goes in must come out. Thus begins the quest for the toilets. We will walk the entire length of the cabin, and push and shove anyone who gets in the way. While doing so, we will nudge past the air hostess seventeen times (the smiling one who helped us with our seat belts), and each time we will ask her where the toilet is. When finally located, the place is found to be a great site for adda, as we discover at least four people from the same jela as ourselves.

When everyone waiting outside the toilets become friends with each other, our Mofiz-es will remember to be courteous to fellow passengers. After coming out of the toilet and seeing a young lady waiting outside, he graciously says, “Apa, eta-te jan,” indicating the cubicle he has just vacated. On seeing the horrified look on her face, our Mofiz is quick to apologise. “Oh, sorry, Apa! Flush korte bhule gesilam.” A frank, wide-toothed grin accompanies his apology. He promptly returns to the cubicle to finish his business there. Who else but a true Bangali would show such thoughtfulness?

And through it all, the airplane somehow manages to get the crowd of squabbling, fidgeting, non-seatbelt-wearing Bangalis from this end of the world to the other. With every one of us very much alive and kicking, and bursting to get out there. The plane journey was only that- getting there. Venturing forth into the bidesh is the true epic that's yet to unfold. Just wait.

(while Mofiz may be a fictional character, the incidents regarding Mofiz are sadly, very true)

By TheAlien4mEarth



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