Eyes Open

June 1, 2013
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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” is the clichéd travel philosophy of the day. I am in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a nation more widely known as a name on clothing labels than as the eighth most populated country in the world. To me, however, it is my birthplace, and a place that will always be attached to me no matter how much I distance myself from it or how many other citizenships I hold.

Since moving to New York City when I was eight, my parents have dragged me back to Dhaka almost every summer. It wasn’t until this summer, 2012, that I stopped complaining about being here and made myself believe that, with some willpower, I could turn being here a travel experience rather than something I had to just get through. I decided that for once I would actually leave the house and explore the city and do so the locals do: on foot. Without anyone to take us, my brother and I set out to conquer the city on our own, assuming that years of being New Yorkers would prepare us for dealing with a city where no mode of transportation, be it car, rickshaw, or bus, follows traffic lights and no pedestrian follows crossing signals.

The cars stop only long enough to let us run to cross the street. The sounds from all of the different vehicles make for a raucous environment. The hot sun glaring on my face makes for further tanning of my already tan skin. The dirt on the sidewalk makes for a pair of very dirty shoes. But in no way am I uncomfortable. I do not feel discouraged by any of it. There is a flow in all of the chaos, a flow that is comparable to New York City’s. We walk for over half an hour in the damp heat to a shopping mall, one that only interested me because it holds the honor of being the largest mall in all of South Asia. The mall would not seem earth-shatteringly beautiful or unique to a westerner, but for Bangladesh, it is a great social leap forward. Inside it is clean, welcoming, and crowded. Of course, like any other mall it is filled with an endless stream of stores. But what I find unique is the colorful stained-glass dome roof top, which on a clear, sunny day like this one looks rather stunning.
Looking up through the dome, and around me, I don’t see just the colors shining through the glass, or the people with dozens of bags in their grasp. I see the positive direction that Bangladesh is headed in. No longer will it be just an obscure third-world country to take pity on once in a while when there is news about a preventable tragedy at a garment factory which only made international news in the first place because it manufactured for Western companies. I see that Bangladesh can become a thriving metropolis, that it has so much potential. And I can see that I want very much to be part of that potential.

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Jasim said...
Jun. 14, 2013 at 11:50 pm
It is an excellent writing. I appreciate this type of writing. She feels of our garments workers' recent tragic death over 1000 workers. Our workers are more efficent than any countries worker. But their wages are very low. Service environment is also not good at all. So many problems are in Bangladesh. But I hope, that we will get more in future from our expert team in Bangladesh. Samiha, Take my all wishes. You will give more to our people in future. Mostafa Jasim Raihani
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