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A Bangladesh redefined

  • Published at 06:52 pm March 25th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:33 am March 26th, 2018
A Bangladesh redefined
Bangladesh is on her 48th year. She has become a developing country. I find that this newfound status is a topic of ridicule among a lot of people, who were mostly born after the 90s. For us, who are just as old as the country and have seen the phenomenal rise of this state from an impoverished one facing innumerable sociopolitical woes, this elevation is actually a vindication. On March 26, 2018, the name Bangladesh does not simply conjure up images of suffering, plight, and privation. This is not a perfect country, but then, we now know that neither are those which claim to be bastions of transparency, accountability, and human rights. Just a look at the Iraq invasion will prove what grand-scale corruption, laced with coordinated lies, can be. Compared to that depravity, our misdeeds often become mere follies. Anyway, on this Independence Day, one feels that the world plus the youth of today need to come out of a few ingrained concepts, concepts implanted in our psyche in the decades after liberation. Once they had some meaning. Today, these need to be kicked out. We are a poor country As first generation Bangladeshis growing up in a devastated country with its economic structure in tatters, and inescapable suffering, we were fed the idea that this country and her citizens are poor compared to people of other states. For decades, this notion controlled, shaped, and dictated our thoughts. When we were school-going children in the mid-70s, teachers related to us tales of other nations and the comfort of their people. As teenagers, our lives were governed by the middle-class ingenuity of making do with what was available. For two decades after independence, youngsters in this country wore second-hand clothes sent as handouts from other countries, re-used textbooks of their seniors to save money, ate meat once or twice a week, smoked filter-less cigarettes, looked forward to that one day a year when the family could afford to eat out at a Chinese restaurant, and, after graduation, desperately looked for a job to survive. Hardly anyone envisioned owning a car or taking a holiday abroad. Today, the traffic jams are proof of how far this country has come. Yes, we dread the prospect of being caught in a tailback but look at it from another angle: Middle-class Bangladeshis can now own a car, take a holiday abroad, send children to top schools and yes, they can afford to go to swanky sushi bars and have the best of international cuisine. For almost two decades after Independence, the picture of the young middle-class university or college graduate was that of a mentally-tormented young man, going door to door, clutching certificates, desperately begging for a job, while his romantic interest faced an uphill battle warding off unwanted marriage proposals from others.
Take pride in what this country stands for; of course, we have plenty of problems, but also acknowledge how we have come from almost nothing
The films propagated this image and we saw it in reality. Young men out of university in a constant state of depression. Shikkhito bekar -- the educated unemployed and a life bound by a curse. In 2018, graduation isn’t about entering a world of angst. In fact, long before graduation, youngsters today have paid work experience as sales people, part-time promoters, teachers, consultants, and youth guides. There are even young girls who earn by dancing at weddings and young men who work at fast food joints even before they enter full-time work. And no, today’s graduates have far more enterprising things to do rather than going around holding their certificates and cutting a sorry sight. Look at the start-ups, entrepreneurs, and the tech savvy, for example. Bangladesh will always loseBangladesh toh harbei” (Bangladesh will inevitably lose) is a line we were constantly fed back in the day. Somehow, a colonial era poison that was injected during the imperial times made us firmly believe that, physically, we were inferior to others. This was, of course, an abhorrent colonial ploy to break the morale and sow uncertainty in our minds. No, Bangladesh will not lose anymore -- we know we can beat the best and the proof is right there in our cricket team. To recount an anecdote: In 2011, when the Cricket World Cup was being held here, Bangladesh was pitted against England in Chittagong and one English diplomat posted here told me, “we are going to Chittagong and we will burn Bangladesh.” Of course, he said it in sporting spirit but I didn’t like the word “burn.” Among many memorable victories, Chittagong is etched in mind. Time is ours and we will now be the ones who “burn” others Live abroad, drive a fancy car “I drive a Mercedes/BMW abroad” was a line that could see eyes raised in awe. To be frank, in Dhaka, we have countless people who drive the most expensive cars and they made the money right here, either in textiles or in real estate or by being in manufacturing. Once, the misconception was that one could only get a touch of luxurious life if he/she went abroad. Well, I feel soon it’s going to be the other way round. In the 48th year of independence, our wealthy can match the affluence of the rich in any other nation. Yep, you can get rich in Bangladesh. So, the message to all those young people: Take pride in what this country stands for; of course, we have plenty of problems, but also acknowledge how we have come from almost nothing. As for the world, the message: Get rid of all those notions of the past and then you will understand the potential of a rising Bangladesh. Towheed Feroze is a journalist, teaching at the University of Dhaka.