50 Years After Bangladesh’s Independence, The Bangladeshi Woman’s Voice Is Still Too Controversial
If I began to Speak the Truth, then I would not stop crying…
When I say Bangladeshi woman, I am not speaking of the 0.01% of power holding elite who despite some contestation to the contrary, don’t have much of a hard time conforming to the global elite circles.
I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s been suggested to me that I take up a career in food as a cook. I can cook dishes from all over the world insitinctively and with ease because I was taught how to cook perfectly from a very young age. Not because my family had aspirations of me becoming the Bengali Nigella Lawson, but as a practical necessity of feeding the family and in order to prepare me for marriage; the only two acceptable reasons for me to do something. Everything else was forbidden; from books to toys to having friends. I was not allowed a life of my own.
Where does such an extreme existence come from? Last year, over the summer a group of friends and I were watching a new nature documentary. And I was quite in awe and simultaneously shocked at how much we’d discovered about jellyfish. Don’t get me wrong, I love jellyfish and I have my daydreams about the life and the existence of jellyfish. But it also struck me how much more detailed research there is on animals compared to human beings. A simple question; What is a jellyfish? Why do jellyfish behave the way they do? What is the history of the jellyfish? Questions often not so neutrally or carefully or respectfully or ever asked of human beings.
So a common question like; “Why have ordinary British Bangladeshis not integrated into society?” and “Why are Bangladeshis consistently the most socially-economically deprived group in the U.K”? are fair questions to ask, but it is also jumping the gun. In my experience, being “good at” cooking and maintaining a house; being domestic, has left the impression that this is all we are good at or that this is what we are best at or best suited to, leaving the glass ceiling very low indeed.. You cannot move, you cannot look up without hitting your head. This is a blatant way to normalise taking away our humanity in one fell swoop; without objection, without contestation and it is all too familiar.
Bangladesh is a very new country, established just under 50 years ago though this establishment has often been likened to “birth”; 9 months in duration, bloody and painful. It was almost 50 years ago that my mother gave birth to my eldest brother. Her first child, a girl, having died in infancy, he must have been precious. Yet she had just survived a genocide while carrying him. My father left for the U.K. when my brother was just a few weeks old. He didn’t return for 8 years and I don’t know why. People in my family don’t talk about their feelings. Did the War devastate him? Without him, alone, traumatised, my mother couldn’t parent. At one point, she attempted to kill her only child. Why…?
After the War was over there were piles of dead bodies being eaten by vultures and wild dogs; too many to bury. She recounts the unbearable stench… I don’t have the complete story, I am the youngest of six and the only one who my mother shares these stories with. I carry these stories for my mother, at least I try.. I will speak to my mother and write a new piece every day until 26th March; Bangladesh’s Birthday.