Saturday, March 5, 2011

Agents of change

Choosing to live in Dhaka for six months or, may be more, over Kathmandu was one of the toughest decisions that I had to make in recent times. Though overwhelming, I was confident that would be able to adapt to the change because of all those years of living abroad and working in a bank for a year, had brought about a rigorous change and growth in me. I had by now become supremely confident, capable of handling the fallouts of my own decisions.

With a handful of modest outfits, given the fact that Bangladesh is an Islamic country, and just a few shades of my makeup packed in my suitcase in half an hour, I left Nepal with a heavy heart. However, I must add a part of me was also excited in anticipation for what waiting for me in Dhaka, an internship with the United Nations.
Within a few days, I found that the country was a mess: Horrible public transports, rickshaws every where and unbearable traffic. You were constantly watched by thousands of eyes when you walked the streets. For a month or so, my social life was limited to hanging out with expats at various international clubs.

I never really got to see how the youth of Bangladesh lived until I figured out that some friends of my friends were Bengalis. Only then did my South Asian way of life began. After spending some time with my new ‘local’ friends, I also realized that much like me they were also not really happy with their life and career, among other things, unlike my western friends I had befriended at the clubs who were working with various developmental organizations, earning in dollars and spending in Taka.

So, it isn’t just me, I realized! Many young people in the region—India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh—are unhappy. As I tried to delve deep into the root cause of our unhappiness, I realized that our generation is unhappy essentially because it is caught up in between their desire to embrace the liberal ways of the Western world and adhering to the very conservative ways of their respective countries and culture.

This dichotomy is especially painful for the females. We are continuously under the pressure of being smart and intelligent professionally, but also dumb for guys who want to marry us. We are expected to change with the changing world, and still take steps back to stay in tune with our cultural norms and values. Not that I do not believe in our culture and traditions.

But don’t we need to revise, change and move forward? When grew up learning the importance of education, career and independence for women, but when we act on it we are shunned. A typical example of which is marriage; one wants to marry someone they are compatible regardless of their bank balance. Our parents expect us to marry a rich man, maybe even a Non-Resident Nepali, irrespective of whether or not he is the best match for you. Whither goes our independence that was inculcated into us early on?

I am not trying to blame anyone here, not least our culture which has its own charm. But what is the point of the education when we, as a generation cannot even make its own decisions in accordance with the belief that it has grown up with? Why doesn’t anyone understand our frustrations and dilemmas?

At the same time, I would also like to salute this great generation that knows how to live through it all, hit rock bottom and still bounce back and live it again. And here is a humble advice to those still struggling like me: Don’t give up. We should continue fighting to change all this for WE ARE THE HARBINGERS OF CHANGE!