The Unsung Questions
After defusing several snooze bombs from my preset alarm, I was finally up. While lazily scrolling down the newsfeed, I received a "ping" from Tricia at Hangout. She's my online buddy from exactly the opposite side of the world with an exact difference of twelve hours in our time zones.
Tricia had had a long day. Mine was just about to start. Tricia decided to treat herself with a tall glass of wine; while I, again, lazily sipped from my cup of tea. We did a decent "hangout", with all the catching ups. My morning head was getting out of fog. Her daylong stress found peaceful stars. We were just about to sign off. And then she dropped the bomb!
Tricia: Hey, how do you say "Good Day" in your language?
I was in trouble! I took an entire minute to scan through my brain; searching for expressions that might come closer to give her a proper answer. How do we say "Good Day"? We don't say that! Our TV and radio show hosts bid us goodbye with the typical, "Bhalo Thakun, Shustho Thakun" (Stay Well, Stay Healthy), but that's not the same thing!
Alright then, we don't bid people like that. So what? Our culture is different! But we say that, and it's the same English phrase that we use.
- Hey! Mehnaz! Are you there?
- Yes! I am.
- I thought I lost the connection. Tell me how you say that. I want to learn!
- Actually, we don't use that exact expression, but if you want to, you can say, Din Bhalo Katuk.
- Wow! Is it the same thing?
- It means May your day go well!
- That's a lot to say!
- Well, our language is something we hold our pride in. So we don't like to cut it short!
- Wow! That's actually pretty sweet! Anyway, I have to call it a day now, Din Bhalo Katuk!
I kept staring at the screen. Is it how I say goodbye to a friend? No. Our expressions are different. We are different people. Then again, why don't we comfortably use what we would say with our own language? Why this hesitation? Why?
This little incident blocked my head for the rest of the day. Why Tricia? Why do you have to ask so many questions? I remember when I first met her online. We somehow crossed paths. That's a different story.
She runs this home business and they sell muslin cotton blankets for children. While talking about it, she asked me if I knew about muslin! I, with all the pride I had, said,
"Please Google 'Dhakai Muslin' and tell me what you see!"
She came back to me and started apologizing for her ignorance. After I calmed her down, she said,
"Then you must have a great industry surrounding it! I can actually get some tips from you!"
It was my time to feel low. I had to let her know that we don't have those "Golden Days" anymore. Muslin, the kind that once made us proud, isn't there anymore!
- Why not? It's such a nice fabric and it's all organic! It's a gem!
- I know!
- Why don't you try to redeem it? Wiki says you guys were the best to produce it. People around the world would love to have such a fine fabric!
- I know!
- You said it's your culture! And you said you hold great pride in your traditions. Then why don't you spread it across the world for everyone to know and relish?
I knew what I had to say. For the first time I questioned my ready answers. Tricia kept asking me her enthusiastic questions. She asks a lot of those. Or perhaps it is us who don't! Perhaps we are afraid of the answers. Or THE very questions?
Mehnaz Tabassum is a student of the M.A. in Literatures in English and Cultural Studies program in the Department of English at Jahangirnagar University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org