What does the ban on burqinis in Nice really stand for? A ban against oppression – have we ever come across such conflicting terminologies in the history of any oppressed minority group? Or does it imply exactly the opposite, a group of people with the assumption that they know what the greater good is for a society. Continue reading “What does it mean to cover?”
I have never travelled as far as North America. The North-est destination in my travel cap is Toronto, Canada and with exponential intensity, I consider that attainment as a more worthwhile feather in my cap. Raised at a dinner table though where politics happened to have been a constant source of conversation and interest, I have missed nothing on America. Continue reading “Finally Trumped!” →
This one word raises uncomfortable questions, invites undesirable dissection and contention. However, it has existed for as long as we can remember. My attempt is not to gain support in favour of homosexuality, but more from an educational and informative perspective, raise awareness. I wish to shed light on facts and observations derived from history, personal experience et al. While it is true what we do not know cannot harm us, it is also true that lack of knowledge and information is the biggest culprit behind most derailed perceptions we hold in this world today and misconstrued anger and frustration. Opportunists always tend to take advantage of these emotions and fuel it to satisfy their ulterior motives. Thus, should you have any confusion, reservation or pure curiosity in regards to homosexuality, please read on, as you would only be doing yourself a favour, only if not to let people take advantage of what you do not know. Alert: myth busters ahead! Continue reading “Homosexuality” →
Honufa was only nine and a half when she took her first steps into our new home. She was a tiny little figure with more bones in her body than flesh. Within a month or so, she flourished into a full-bodied beautiful young girl, who could capture anyone’s affection by just pouting her lips in a disarming smile. There was such longing in her melancholy eyes that it still haunts me and reminds me of the carefree soul of a child trapped in a mindless labyrinth unable to find her way out.
Our camaraderie was circumstantial and inevitable being of the same age and in the same house for most part of our lives but it was not always right for me to express my feelings for her. Individual seating arrangement in the house had early on defined our differences: while I sat on the couch, she would be on the floor by my side and while I slept in my own bedroom, she would make a bed on the kitchen floor! Such was the magnitude of the invisible difference, that it held me back from reaching out to her out of a need to conform to our social norms and customs.
Honufa was a hired help in our house: one of the millions working in a family home for a living in Bangladesh, a large number of who have become a part of our culture over the years. They are all around us leading their meaningless, non-existent lives and represent the non-entities of the society. The educated section of the society, on the other hand, who can afford them turn a blind eye to any responsibility they might have towards their condition apart from providing a salary, food and shelter. Most young people working for these families are aged between 7 to 16 years and every second family in the vicinity of Dhaka city are subconsciously supporting child labour without ever admitting the concept to themselves.
On my last trip to Bangladesh, I remember asking my mother how she justified the need of having two extra helping hands in the house besides being a housewife herself. Her defence included some atrocious remarks about people living abroad failing to understand how things are run in Bangladesh and another new angle that woke me up. This new angle shed light to a perspective that all families who have hired help seemed to share. They have this self-satisfying perception that they positively contribute towards the society by employing the impoverished and their salaries give them a better quality life. They also tend to believe that without this financial help they would either perish or be forced to beg on the streets. That all sounds very encouraging but my point is being trapped in a house with no security, doing ungodly hours with no idea about fair pay, no education- is all this really improving the quality of their lives? Is it not crippling another whole generation of people to suffer from illiteracy and lack of self respect? If some people are really that fond of charitable activity, they should donate those hefty amounts to charitable organisations and NGO-who have professional methods to undertake such responsibilities-and not take matters into their own hands. It is a poor excuse used by us for so long that we have actually started to believe in it but it is nothing but a camouflage over the fact that we choose comfort of our bodies over what is right or wrong. Especially the underprivileged children, growing up side by side with the more fortunate ones, will essentially have the same magnitude of differences in the future that Honufa and I had to grow up with and the legacy of this invisible chasm between the two classes will continue forever.
We, as Bangladeshis, have a general habit of blaming everything on the incompetence of the government without stopping to ponder if there is anything each of us can contribute in our daily lives to make life better. In a recent discussion over this issue, a friend commented saying there is no basic framework to control anything in Bangladesh let alone deciding fairness of pay and working conditions of hired help, which is why you just have to work around it or live with it. She pointed out the traffic conditions which is probably at its worst and asked me the simple question whether I would stop driving in Bangladesh and sit at home just because the traffic cannot be regulated by the government efficiently. In my opinion, traffic and the human beings concerned in this issue are very different subjects. If traffic conditions are bad on the streets, I agree there is little we can personally do about it but to let a tradition of locking young people up in our houses and expect children not to act like children continue, is inexcusable. If the government cannot maintain a framework to monitor this condition, it does not mean we can persist with this inhuman behaviour and make poor excuses for it. If the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate degrees combined cannot teach us the simple lesson of how to treat people with respect, then I have to admit we spend all that money after education in vain!
The main question to ask ourselves, I believe, is whether we can really justify the need for this sort of labour; the same question I asked my mother on my last visit. Is it really that difficult to wash your dishes after you eat or mop the floor that “you” dirty yourself? Everyone seems to be constantly whining about how impossible it has become to get a “good” maid in the house. Is it really necessary to have three different people do the household chores in the house which you can probably manage yourself and all because of cheap labour? I wonder if we ever stop to think about how we take advantage of people, who are in need and not in a position to decide what is right for themselves, forgetting the fact that they cannot think right but “we” can-we are capable of thinking for ourselves and also for them!
Honufa and millions of other children like her are incapable of making a decision on their own. If a family decides to invite a person to come into their home and work for them, they need to realize what an extremely serious responsibility it is. This decision needs to be looked upon as exactly the same as adopting that child and ensure that the minimum basic need of that person is looked into, of which the primary three would be food, living condition and education.
There is a serious need for a wake up call to raise social concerns in our surroundings and to discard old norms and customs that only make people suffer. We need to raise the minimum amount of awareness so we can at least meet our own eyes in the reflection. We need to wake up to the simple truth that only because there is nobody to watch over what we do in privacy, how we treat the ones who only stay in our kitchen, it does not give us the right to mistreat another human being. We have to learn to be accountable to ourselves since there is no system looking over us. If we make a mess, is it not easier to clean it ourselves rather than adopting a system with no regulations whatsoever? If we still decide to take up this practice with humanitarian reason and the like, we need to realize the seriousness of the responsibility, we cannot leave any stones unturned because the children should not have to bear the brunt under any circumstances. We need to take it upon ourselves to return the youth to the likes of Honufa and join the cause in our daily lives to free their souls