The first time I was ashamed of myself was when my dad was trying to save my mom and his two sons from the atrocities of a foreign army in action. He started from Jhenaidah and was taking us through a rough terrain between Kushtia and Pabna.
When we arrived in Kushtia, the Muktijoddhas lent him a bicycle to make his mission easier. My mom, and I were walking with him, but my brother (three years of age) was sitting on the carrier at the back of the bicycle. Walking on hot sand, I was sweating under an April sun. I asked dad to take me on the bicycle as well.
Father, angry, clenched his jaws and said: “Aren’t you man enough to walk?”
That was it. I was so ashamed that I didn’t utter a single word after that. Dad’s powerful voice was enough to keep me going even though I felt like crying.
The second time I was ashamed of myself was when we killed the founder of our country. Because after the war of independence, I (a nine-year-old) came to understand what a country means to a man, even to a boy. Our elders used to chant stories of “that time in histo-ry,” full of iconic personalities across the world.
Bangladesh wasn’t an exception in producing a global hero. He was murdered before our eyes and the entire nation seemed non-chalant.
As soon as I was trying to recover from my guilty psyche of killing him, the next head of state, who broadcast the war of independ-ence on his behalf, was slain, again by his countrymen, his own soldiers.
The teenager (“man” in my dad’s eyes) in me had another shock of his life, during his entrance examination, that a dictator, a non-leader, had grabbed the state power and declared authoritarianism. Regular politics was destroyed, politicians were polluted, bureau-crats were corrupted, education (the backbone of a nation, we learnt as children in the 70s) was ruined, students were forced to become gunslingers and drug abusers, democracy was sent to the back bench, and the upholders of democracy were bulldozed, thereby, the spirit was wiped off.
The teenager was a graduate by then, and it was time for a relief from his shameful existence as a citizen of Bangladesh. The inheri-tors of two slain leaders (who were operative during the authoritarianism) showed courage and guided us to a Bangladeshi spring.
We had a Bangladeshi spring and we started dreaming again. Polls were held under a consensus government, but we didn’t realise that that consensus would be the root of all discord, and become the apparent tool for staying in power. Our upholders of democracy start-ed behaving like autocrats.
All their actions were focused on how to prevent others from coming to power rather than making the process of upholding democ-racy acceptable to the people. Their ego and power-mongering actions have successfully divided the country over the past two dec-ades, seemingly for good.
I felt ashamed again by helplessly watching countless Bangladeshis killed. There are very few examples in the world where people die because of their leaders’ egos.
At the same time, I felt humiliated by the concentration of the international community on our country. They started lecturing us on how to run the country, how to evolve a system in order to hold the polls, how to redeem ourselves from our egos, and start talking about the future.
To them, the phrase “political impasse” became synonymous with Bangladesh. They sent a Commonwealth envoy in 1994, they con-vinced our own Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan and Abdul Jalil to sit for dialogue in 2006, but with no effect. We miserably failed to come to an acceptable consensus.
Why did we fail? Simple. None of us was willing to give room to others. We lack in our attitudes to compromise. All of us. It has be-come the national reality at the moment. No matter how many times we sit for negotiations, no matter how logical a consensus theory looks, no matter how much the people want us to find a common ground that helps the country, we’re destined to remain rigid.
Here we are again, experiencing another bout of ego display to be fixed by the international community. I wish persons like my dad once again told our generation: “Aren’t you man enough to solve your own problems?”
That would have given us some impetus to start walking on our own. But for now, our only hope is a Charles Dickens quote: “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.”