The Boxes We Live In | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 24, 2018


The Boxes We Live In

Most aspects of personal and collective social lives change with time, but some things do not, and become integral to the psyche of the nation. That does not mean life becomes staid or static, rather, it keeps imbibing more and more into its main fabric, becoming further enriched. Each new element, a neat little box. Here, in this section, we open these boxes that we live in, some old, some new, some cherished.


You live in a box that you have bought or rented. Usually, you share these with others; disguised as houses. Dhaka is a concrete jungle, and it has thousands of apartments. Some are big, many are small, and only a few handful are pretty. Most are quite homogeneous, and come with windows, allowing you to peek outside to the other boxes. But within these boxes, there are many others: the rooms. You may wish to call your room your own sanctuary, and it very well might be, but at its core it remains a box where you happen to be comfortable. Often, you go to the dining table, take your food, and return to your room and lock yourself in it, because your family is not half as entertaining as Netflix.

Of course, in your everyday life, you spend time in other boxes too. You leave your home and get inside a metallic box for a brief period of time. In these small boxes called elevators, the norm is to not speak to other occupants. It's a silent box, really. Moving out of the house, you pick again a box to travel, a comfortable car or an overcrowded and noisy bus, the cage-like metallic boxes better known as CNGs. The options are not many, and the choice is not yours alone; rather your bank balance, and status and necessity all play a role.

And then, you will enter a very important box: your office cubicle, identical to all others arranged in row after monotonous row. Yet this tiny space is perhaps the most important of all boxes that you must learn to fit in, as it pays for more or less all the other boxes in your life.

You may not enjoy said space, it might not have been your first preference for occupation,the neighbours might be annoying, ignorant, snobbish, or simply unimportant, but the rule remains that you have to get along, wear a smile, always nod, and above all, serve everything your given box stands for.

As the day ends, you get out of the confines of the workspace, and may be move towards some entertainment. Maybe a mall, again with rows and rows of almost identical shops selling nearly the same things or food.

But soon enough, you will hop into the silent box again, away from the crowd, to find your refuge in your very own box–the bedroom.

This goes on every day. This is our life - trapped in boxes. 


Time is a box, too. If you think about it, every second is a box. We run through a series of these boxes in the journey of life - always trapped in the current one, with no way to escape to the past or future.

That second you became a living creature was your first box ever. 

What do you reckon was your first physical box, though? No, it was not school. The hospital where you were born? Close enough.

The first box was your mother's womb. It was your whole world. And it took care of you in every way for nine long months - feeding you and giving you shelter.

Then, you entered another box - an incredibly huge one in comparison to the former-welcome to the world! This oval box is a very old one, roughly about four and a half billion years. It is a grand one, which houses countless billions of boxes in it.

You can travel far and wide to reach other boxes in the world which are very different to your usual one. In order to do that, you need to pack all the necessities in a couple of small boxes and then get yourself inside a very fast, flying box. That flying box will transport you to other places which will prove very exciting for you.

But there are innumerable boxes outside the world which are completely alien to us. We know very little about most of them, let alone visiting them. And beyond the observable universe, there are worlds we are quite clueless of.

But all we care about are the tiny boxes we live in.

Most of us are like a fish in an aquarium. The tank is the entire universe.

Even though our planet is the only one that we know is habitable for certain, we still pollute it, destroy it, and abuse it in any way we want to. As if when this one is destroyed, we could simply unwrap another brand new one from some tucked away storage box.


Some boxes are quite addictive, such as televisions and laptops. Perhaps, the most powerful of all is the mobile phone.

Now, this box is a great invention. It is both useful and entertaining. But we are so immersed in it all the time that we isolate ourselves from everyone and everything around us, with no regard for other people. From our friendships to our secret vices, everything nowadays is in that one box. After all, we virtually live in it.

Of course, this box is connected by a web which runs worldwide, and we have happily entangled ourselves to it. 


Even though our world is filled with boxes, we still cannot have enough of them! And that is why we create boxes which we do not need, often causing more harm than good. We build too many unnecessary parameters and fences and walls. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are imaginary boxes in our minds too. These divide us further.

Our brain has many compartments and folders, we file away all our thoughts and interactions under these-- stereotypes, biases, and bigotry. These, in turn, translate to the so-called glass ceiling, discrimination, hate crimes, difference between the rich and poor, and several other problems that are choking society. They may be imaginary, but their implications are very real, very lasting. 

And then there are make-believe boxes created by ourselves, to restrict ourselves, be it willingly or unwittingly. When you dream big but cannot summon the courage to make it into reality, it is because of the cocoon of your comfort zone which you cannot leave. Or, when you are madly in love with someone but cannot pull yourself together to tell her about it, it is because you put her in the “she's-way-out-of-my-league box” in your head.


To simplify life, sometimes all one needs to do is take a hammer and break these imaginary boxes.

How about thinking outside the box? What does this old adage even mean, really? How can you think outside the box when you inevitably have spent all your life in those and may have even been trained to adhere by such rules?

We live in boxes. This is a reality and we cannot really change it. But we can take over many things and trick fate.

For starters, let's check the right boxes! Many boxes are dull, but there are also those with interesting shapes and sizes and vivid colours.

No one box is perfect for all. It is up to us to choose the box which will be right for us, and this goes for everything, from career to your home.

Society may not approve of your odd-looking box, but that's not up to them to judge. It's your box after all!

Thinking outside the box means much more than just creating an innovative ad campaign for a brand or  product. You are thinking outside the box whenever you challenge the status quo. This can mean brewing up battles to birth whole new nations, like our forefathers did. Meanwhile, it can also be something very simple, like coming out of your bedroom to the dining table where you will have real conversations with your family.

Let's cut down the use of boxes which enslave us, be it our room, the television, or our phones. Life in tiny boxes is often a life not lived to the fullest. So make your boxes bolder and brighter before the day comes when you will be put inside one final box, for the rest of eternity. Until that day arrives, pick your boxes wisely, renovate them, reconstruct them from time to time, and when necessary, step out of them and get some new ones!


Model: Ema

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