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Children of a lesser nation

  • Published at 06:47 pm January 29th, 2018
  • Last updated at 07:12 pm January 29th, 2018
Children of a lesser nation
Like many before me, and many after, I, too, took the trans-Eurasian flight abroad to find better opportunities, both in career and in life. I was, frankly, only somewhat successful. The conditions that the great “abroad” present, especially for Bangladeshis, of brown skin and foreign religion, of unheard of tongues and stilted accents, are not ideal. To begin, we are venturing into what can only be deemed the great unknown. Sure, you imbibe the culture through television and other media, you may even socially inherit the language from your school, friends, peers, but you are not one of them. You, a product of globalization, are struck between worlds. You believe, so intensely, some of the same things they believe, and you deny, so abhorrently, some of their norms and customs. This is not an issue of conservative or liberal; you are merely a product of circumstance and influence. You have become a person whose heart and mind belong nowhere. Then there is the cost, of living in a country whose currency trumps yours in ways unimaginable until you actually place your foot on the soil and have to pay 10 times what you usually did back in your country to go a few kilometres to your campus. You do not belong on this foreign land. The streets may be cleaner (not always), the people may be friendlier and more polite (not always), and there may be free health care (not always), and you may think that you are cementing a better future for you and your progeny, but the reality of the situation is simple: You are fighting to survive, cleaning dishes, plates, living alone, suffocating in the solitude of city life, and getting stranded on the other end of the distance that exists between two people. And you hear, so often, the stories of countless friends and acquaintances who have made the journey into this great beyond, and come back empty-handed, after having toiled for a decade as a working-class slave for a multi-national fast food chain. But yet, you still go. You must escape. Big bad Bangladesh In the last 10 years, the number of students leaving Bangladesh to pursue this empty dream has doubled, rising to 33,139. One could argue that the population has increased too. But those who make this journey abroad, firstly, need to boast some sort of economic stability to attempt it in the first place and, secondly, the population itself has not doubled. But, one must ask, is the situation in Bangladesh so bad that so many of us are making that leap of faith, despite the risks involved? And, if so, what is so bad about it? One supposes that, though the underlying draw of the “Western Dream” is what drives many of us out, there is also the fact that this great nation of ours, despite its so-called economic growth and improvements, has still failed to, consistently, capitalize on its expanding youth population. Much of this stems from the fact that opportunities are rare; not only is job creation low (with most of the growth being in a few select sectors), there is little opportunity for certain lines of work.
What of the 19-year-old who has grown up fascinated by dinosaurs? What of the girl with an interest in mathematics? The boy who wishes to fly off into space?
A market flooded by BBA graduates, and recurring desires to join MNCs and banks to make the big bucks, have nothing short of created a culture in which the youth desires to make money by playing around with money, without creating anything substantial in the process. Tiny start-ups galore in this tiny nation of ours, but not a single innovation, to say nothing of substantial research. Research is nothing short of a joke as highlighted by the recent case of three KUET professors who were found to have plagiarized their papers. Because those who study the sciences, or those who study “niche” subjects such as archaeology, anthropology, art, language, culture, they are left to make an impression out of their own devices. Bangladesh’s hyper-capitalistic mindset, which has left the individual to fend for themselves in a landscape of increasingly larger money-players, has created a veritable echo-chamber of drones who understand the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Why would any young mind with skill and talent, presuming they can afford it, choose to stay here? While, recently, artists have flourished in upper-middle-class cities, this is out of a thankfully growing minority who value such things, ideals, and tastes inherited from beyond the national borders. What of the 19-year-old who has grown up fascinated by dinosaurs? What of the girl with an interest in mathematics? The boy who wishes to fly off into space? When asked, where do they wish to pursue their passion, their dream, why, honestly, should their answer not be: “Anywhere but here”? SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant in the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snrasul.