If there’s one thing that Bangladesh does not lack in, it has got to be the amount of people pointing out what’s wrong with this country.
Opinion sections of all newspapers, talk shows on local TV, casual banter between uncles, friends, the cha wala, what have you -- all conversations flock to the same topic of debate.
This is wrong, that is wrong: The government, corruption, police, bribery, population, slums, NGOs, academics, reporters, the petty bourgeois, your neighbour.
Add to the list our favorite nouns, and we have ourselves a fairly convincing -- and most likely justified -- debunking of development.
Now, whether we are the way we are because we complain too much, or because of the structural violence we’ve endured from hundreds of years of colonisation and oppression of the masses in various forms, the concerns laid out aren’t all a pretense.
In fact, most people are just too tired of being stuck in traffic for unnecessarily long hours, broken roads, unavailable and unfit public transits … the list goes on.
And as much as I would like to harp on about how far we’ve come as a nation since independence -- which is another issue itself for possibly another day -- I can’t help but hop on the bandwagon of the pedantic, and point out the sad truth: The list keeps going on.
So, if one were to think and play the blame game a little bit more, perhaps the folks who sit in the central secretariat in Ramna should be the ones to point our fingers at. I mean, if the one body of authority looming over this tiny country, squeezed in between a “frenemy,” responsible for carrying out the task of providing the basics to its (albeit deluged) population, can’t do a proper job -- then maybe it’s time to change the constituents, and maybe even the framework of polity itself.
If the irksome reiterated statement of children being the ‘future of the nation’ is something we can bank on, we need to create a system that allows them to be the ‘backbone of our country’
Maybe it is time for the older generations to finally step off of their thrones and we can have a body of governance not falling asleep during national assemblies.
But none of this blaming and shifting around the puzzle pieces actually point to a problem rooted deeper in the Bangladeshi society.
If the younger generation were to step up onto a platform where change could be brought, we would need the means to do so, and of course, incentives, to toil away for a vision of what Bangladesh could actually be.
And while that could very well be arranged, there’s another issue that keeps us away from moving up: We lack a culture of moving out.
While most people are expected to live with their parents until, at least, they get married -- and for women, there’s a chance of moving out after marriage -- that doesn’t happen until they’re at least, say, 25 years old? From even a glance at Dhaka, people do not live on their own until they’re well into their 30s.
This creates a culture of being tethered to familial comfort, and frankly, a sense of comfort that began from childhood and lasts that long could transform, rather subtly and sinisterly, into a lack of accountability. Towards ourselves, our careers, and, perhaps, to our nation. Most of us lose a good eight to 10 years of our adult lives not paying rent -- and thus not experiencing the struggle of making ends meet, not worrying about how we’ll eat and so on.
Our realisation of responsibility doesn’t really hit until much later, and by that time, the vigour and drive that a twentysomething would have, fizzles out.
Then it becomes about coming home from the nine-to-five job, taking care of the parents, maybe looking for a new apartment with the spouse and kids?
I understand the privileged lenses that I’ve got on when making the claims that moving out of ones parents’ house is not a custom we traditionally have, and that people don’t struggle to make ends meet -- and the peers that I’ve seen come to the capital to study are examples of that. But if it is indeed the privilege that I am speaking of, that opportunity needs to be taken advantage of.
And there are methods available to facilitate this madness.
From allowing young people to be able to find part-time jobs so they can pay rent, to making apartments affordable and landlords approachable -- this list, too, goes on.
But the first step is to really believe that change is possible.
Let’s face it, if the irksome reiterated statement of children being “the future of the nation” is something we can bank on, we need to create a system that allows them to be “the backbone of our country.”
Mollycoddling sons and assuming that daughters only belong in their father’s house and then the husband’s, are customs which are lethal for the changes that we would like to see in Bangladesh, whether in 10 years or 200.
Luba Khalili is a Sub-Editor at the Dhaka Tribune.