Strains and thrills of immigrant life | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 02, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 02, 2008

Strains and thrills of immigrant life

In conversation with Rukhsana Hasib

Life has had its pitfalls and Himalayan peaks for Rukhsana Hasib, now an expatriate entrepreneur in the US. She is in Dhaka now after 36 years, with the NRB cultural group. Rukhsana's life, since her college days to now as an active member of a cultural group in the US has had tragic moments as well as fun-filled exciting ones.
She was selected as a newscaster for TV before the Liberation War. Rukhsana says, on one occasion in 1969 -- when she was a student of Holy Cross College, she was overwhelmed and not in a mood at the outset for her duty as an announcer for TV. “It was late at night, and I was tired,” says Rukhsana. However, the programme manager, Mustafa Monowar, gave her a “7-Up” and a “roshogolla” and she overcame her stage fright in a jiffy. This for Rukshana remains a memorable moment. In her four years in TV, her experiences had always been full of laughter and sunshine. “The TV station in Dhaka at that time was like a family.”
Much later on in life, says Rukhsana, the birth of her two sons were naturally moments of absolute contentment and supreme satisfaction -- as childbirth is for most mothers.
As she went about her early years in the US, Rukhsana speaks of how she had to divide her limited resources between buying books for her education as an MBA student, and providing necessary nourishment, specially in the cold weather, when the snow and sleet overwhelmed her.
“I've been in Rutgers University in New Jersey, and went to work for City Bank, NA, the second largest bank in the world. Then I went into business and was also the Commissioner for Asian American Affairs in Philadelphia. Along with my profession I continued my interests in the cultural field, becoming the president -- for two terms -- of the Bangladesh Cultural Association in Pennsylvania, where I now live. I've been associated with them for 20 years,” says Rukhsana.
Rukhsana goes on to recount how, as a young international student, she had the choice of either buying a can of cheese and macaroni or a book, with only 88 cents in her pocket. “I opted for the can,” she says amidst merry chortles. “Like every immigrant in the US I struggled in the early '70s,” says Rukhsana.
The recent publication of her book -- a fiction -- also brings her a tremendous sense of achievement and gave her an ego boost, as Rukhsana indicates.
Life had its slings and arrows too. Thus, Rukhsana says that when her father, Major Hasib, was shot to death during the Liberation War by a firing squad and her sisters and mother kept in prison, she was naturally devastated.
Rukhsana, who was then newly married, was in a flood of tears, as well as in a state of jolting shock. It was her job as an English newscaster on TV, Rukhsana says, that saved her from a similar fate of savage brutality and thoughtless torture. “I and my husband left for US as a consequence,” with ten dollars in her pocket, says Rukhsana.
Today, she says that the young immigrants are “more aware of their cultural heritage in the field of drama, recitation, music, dancing and what you will.” As they are far from home, they appear not to take Bangladeshi cultural life for granted, as some of their blasé counterparts are in Dhaka, Rukhsana comments, without hesitation.

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