Bangladesh must be the first country which receives so much hatred from its very own citizens. Whether the citizens are residents or non-residents, they do not fail to castigate the country for being 'crowded, dirty, and corrupt'. Even faculty members of renowned universities in the country remind the students that Dhaka is the second least livable city in the world, citing the Economist Intelligence Unit's survey.
While many of the complaints are indeed valid, some of them are characteristics of other societies too, and Bangladeshis are simply being too harsh in their evaluations of the country. There are remarkable differences abroad in the form of better transportation systems and unadulterated products, but there are similar complexities too that Bangladesh shares with other nations.
In Bali, for instance, the Bali Nusa Dua area is generally dark and quiet. Tourists are advised to avoid walking alone or riding public buses at night. Cat-calling, especially by taxi-drivers, is common. If you are a woman travelling at night, even within a group, unkind stares and remarks will come your way. Tourists are also warned of theft of wallets and passports; mosquito-borne diseases; contaminated tap water; unscrupulous taxi-drivers; and fraudulent automated teller machines on the streets. Traffic congestion is a problem there too.
In London, an elderly man with unkempt greying hair and outstretched hands can be seen begging in Canary Wharf, the business district, although he does not throw tantrums like the beggars in Dhaka do. Reckless road-crossing, although less frequent, occurs there too. At a Turkish restaurant in Canary Wharf, the waiters misplaced my orders and greatly delayed my other commitments in the evenings. If the same were to happen in Dhaka, many would have blamed the Bangladeshi 'race,'.
Beijing has held the title of 'the world's most polluted city' for years before being overtaken by New Delhi this year. If you follow world news, Paris is currently struggling with pollution levels similar to that of Beijing. This is not to say, that in a globalised world, Bangladeshi citizens should not travel or settle abroad. By all means, engage Bangladesh globally, but while you are doing that, spare the bad-mouthing and the inaccurate representation of Bangladesh. American Apparel's 'Made in Bangladesh' campaign did not cause a stir because it was considered “immodest in the eyes of Bangladeshis,” but because it was an inaccurate representation of the majority of Bangladeshi women today.
Then there are reporters (both at home and abroad) and local community leaders who brand Bangladesh as an “Islamist” state. Religious extremism threatens Bangladesh just as much as it threatens any other country in the world, but to falsely say that Bangladesh is at the mercy of Islamists is a gross exaggeration and a huge affront to the mostly religiously-tolerant population of Bangladesh.
In another instance, a man hailing from Sylhet who has lived almost his entire life in London had the audacity to call Bangladesh a failed state merely based on the post-election reports that he came across. The unpopular truth is that one cannot begin to comprehend the socio-economic intricacies of a nation without dwelling in that space for months, if not years. Recently, the Bangladesh Cricket Board Celebration Concert caused uproar in the country and it is not only because some segments of the population unwittingly perceived it as a “cultural hijack”. Many Bangladeshis love world music and will not agree to the idea that every cross-border exchange is a cultural hijack.
What amazed the local artistes, however, is how they received minimal or even no applause from Bangladeshis, as if by being Bangladeshi, the artistes have automatically joined the lower ranks. If you follow world music, especially the traditional songs, not every tune will cater to your tastes, but when such performances are made during a cultural exchange, it is only polite of the audience to applaud .
Love for a country is not expressed by breaking a record; by wrapping a 'gamcha' around the neck and speaking an affectedly immaculate Bengali (or on the flipside, by appearing to be civilised and well-versed through your fluency in English); or by hating upon other countries. Love for a country is expressed by being optimistic about the potential of the country and by working towards materialising that potential. If you are settled abroad, contribute some of your expertise or resources to Bangladesh instead of whining about its failure. If you are living in Bangladesh, focus on progressing collectively instead of undermining others.
Please stop spitting on Bangladesh and you might as well take that request literally. If Bangladesh is such a sinister place, I have only admiration for its citizens who are flourishing and sharing the prosperity with others amidst this alleged chaos.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed