Being from Dhaka means you've probably experienced a few perks all your life, like empty roads during Eid. However, it also means that you've missed out on some experiences that sound like they would be fun. As someone whose ancestors have lived in Dhaka for as far back as can be traced, here are a few things I have never related to.
BONDING BASED ON COMMON DESHER BARI
People often ask each other where their ancestral homes are upon the first meeting. If any of them have any shared history in that area, the next question that follows is, “Oh, where in that region?” Then they go into a detailed discussion about which roads they can commonly name, and which wells their great grandmothers might have drawn water from together once upon a time. Somehow by the end of that conversation, trivial though it may seem to me, they have formed a type of kinship.
All the while, I stand there, knowing that I'll be going through the same interrogation process soon. They ask me, I tell them, and then inevitably they follow up with, “Yeah, you live in Dhaka, but where are you FROM?” while looking at me like I'm not quite right in the head. I sigh heavily. Where is that face-palm emoji when you need it?
ANCESTRAL HOME EID TRIPS
Sure, the empty roads during Eid are something us folk from Dhaka hold covetously as our own. However, I always see people terribly upset because they haven't been able to go to their hometowns for Eid. That, combined with the dangerous looking trips by road and water that show up on the news, makes me wonder whether I'm really missing out on something great. Is there a secret club that throws the best raves out there? Would someone please spill the beans already?
POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE BIASES
This is not news to anyone, but biases based on someone's region of origin are widespread in this country. There are positive biases, whence people eagerly help out those who are from their own regions or ally regions. And then there are epic enmities between people from “rival” districts, which can be expressed in the form of mild comments or full blown wars at the dinner table. I just watch, popcorn in hand, as the events pan out, comfortable in my knowledge that no one usually has a problem marrying people from Dhaka.
SPEAKING IN DIALECTS
I have numerous friends who come from different parts of Bangladesh. I'm at a constant risk of being engulfed by people from Sylhet or Chittagong. And when they start speaking in their tongues amongst themselves, it annoys me to no avail. It makes me feel like an outsider in my own motherland! I concentrate my hardest on trying to decipher their cryptic codes. It can't be that hard, I think. After all it's just a version of a language I already speak. Alas, this one time I walked in on a friend talking in a rapid Noakhali dialect with her mother, and I swear it sounded like Klingon to me.
Despite all these missed experiences, I wouldn't change my heritage for anything. People from Dhaka, if you're reading this, don't be disheartened. They can keep their Eid trips and dialects. The best biryani is still ours.
Rabita Saleh is a perfectionist/workaholic. Email feedback to this generally boring person at firstname.lastname@example.org