• Tuesday, March 03, 2015


Made in Bangladesh, Both Ways


As a nation we have this unnerving, uncanny and unsavoury distinction, if you will, of soiling our achievements, howsoever unique and titanic the joy may be. We never seem to be able to bask long in the glory of our astounding feats before a counter weighing cataclysm, most often manmade in Bangladesh, tips the balance in favour of the ugly.
We have tarnished our recent Nobel Prize for whatever is worth the efforts of those who sing its praise for a model emulated worldwide, and of those who cannot equate microeconomics with peace and smell a conspiracy hitched with our politics.
With scant respect for Norgay Tenzing (the Sherpa who never became a Sir) and (Sir) Edmund Hillary, and other honest Sherpas and climbers, we have belittled the Everest by the doubts that have been strewn on its icy slope by those who are producing V-photos at the peak (???) and by others thumbs down with Nepali documents that vouch that our first 'conqueror' was scores of metres short.
We have deridingly mocked with the sentiment of our 'source of power', read people, and volunteered to be the laughing stock of the world, thanks to the antics of some politically motivated entities trying to trivialise the monumental event of the declaration of our independence, the greatest moment of a nation. While indeed a section have gained political mileage albeit from a prejudiced factional quarter, the younger generations by and large have not bitten the bitter pie.
We have seen the stupendous rise 2013 February of a youth-powered mancha demanding capital punishment for those who committed war transgressions and crimes against humanity in 1971. The slogan-rendering music-and-song sit-in became so popular that respective nervous agents, out of wits whether the cries were pro- or anti-government, thought it best to create confusion and division, at worst by revealing the religious prejudice of some among the organisers; such elements are actually present in minuscule percentage in any society locally and globally.
The common factor among all the scenarios involving the good, the bad, the pretty and the ugly is that the people, they are all made in Bangladesh.
The bank manager who siphoned millions in broad daylight, the government servant who made lakhs by signing 'legal' documents, the shady attendant who took money to make a sick man find a bed in a public hospital, they all have the tag Made in Bangladesh. So does the respectful CNG driver, who returned a purse, full of dollars to its rightful owner, and no one needed the money more than he for his family. As does the humble person who returned the mobile he had found in a shopping mall to its gleeful owner. They too and millions of others who live an honest life are made in our Bangladesh.

The madrasah teacher violating his pupil, the unethical trader (read killer)dealing in fish and fruit with formalin, as well as the university employee scripting falsehood in his professorial application are all crooks made in Bangladesh. On the other hand, the students and teachers who raise millions for the treatment of a student, the youth volunteers who brave the cold to distribute blankets among the poor, the doctors and nurses who work beyond the call of duty are also the angels made in this Bangladesh.
In the mega shops of London's Oxford Street or in the outlets in Los Angeles, or name any other major city,any shirt or baby apparel that catches your eye has too the tag Made in Bangladesh. At six times the price or more, you do not want to bring back an item already exported, and so you reluctantly pick up something from China, and they make everything, except Bangladeshis.
Now that the FIFA World Cup is here, and if press reports are authentic, Brazil has poignantly reminded us and the world of the numerous tragedies in our garment industry, most notably Rana Plaza April 2103, by deciding not only to play wearing jerseys made in Bangladesh factories but also displaying on them the tag Made in Bangladesh in honour of the Rana Plaza victims. Our salute too to all Brazilians behind this moving thought.
The sweating and neglected workers in our factories, the toiling and underpaid farmers in our fields, the labouring rickshaw pullers with whom we haggle, the lowly-paid staff in our city offices that we look down upon, the overstressed drivers and hands in the transport sector, and the slaving buas in our houses among others are the gems that are made in Bangladesh.
But then the underhanded government office dalals, the scheming Destiny scammers, the conniving Hall Mark fraudsters, the regional godfathers, and the unscrupulous real estate developer are sadly very much made in Bangladesh.
Take note of our armed forces and police personnel who have earned fame and fortune by serving gallantly since 1988 in UN peacekeeping missions abroad, described by BBC 2004 as the Cream of UN Peacekeepers. Sadly, eighty-eight Bangladesh peacekeepers laid down their lives. These brave personnel are made in Bangladesh, as too are the few bad apples in the cart, who have tarnished the image of the forces and the nation by getting involved in murder, rape and extortion.
There are many Made-in-Bangladesh devotees who out of compassion and often religious obligation give money to the beggars, who line the path to and from a masjid and a mandir. They come each waqt and every day, increasingly more distressingly with school-going children and infants loitering on the pavement with the expectation of a few coins.
On the other side of the coin, several Made-in-Bangladesh home owners have over the years been arrested, punished I am not certain. Their sin? Mistreating, hitting, and scalding underage domestic servants (those who should have been in school) as street animals or less.
The other morning while walking in Dhanmandi, I came across a group of people crowding around a street dog whining in agonising pain. One of them got water in a plastic bottle to feed the howling dog, another snatched the bottle seeing that the first person was unable to soothe the anguish of the animal lying in an open drain. A dozen or so persons around looked equally concerned. Water was being poured into the dog's open mouth which spilt most of it, and kept on crying. Here we are witnessing the humanity of a group of selfless people who perhaps do not even know each other, trying to comfort an anonymous dog. Not only are all these kind-hearted people made in Bangladesh, they are what this country is made of.
Whether the dog got up to walk and live to tell its tale, I did not wait to find out. For, I too am made in Bangladesh.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, June 06, 2014

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