Friday, March 18, 2016

Partition thoughts

I had a strange realization today. Whenever I think of partition, I think of Pakistan. West Pakistan specifically. But never Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan). It is all the more strange, because I am much closer to Bangladesh ethnically, culturally, linguistically (we speak the same language), food-wise, etc. I have always wanted to visit Pakistan (the desire being borne out of separation stories from 1947 shown in movies), but never Bangladesh. When I think of Bangladesh, I think of the Sundarbans. I think of tourism, and increasing my country count. When I think of Pakistan, my heart melts with longing, wanting to visit every city and walk on its soil because we used to be one country (although much before I was born, so I haven't really experienced the consequences of partition first-hand).

I've been thinking why, and only one explanation makes sense to me. That we are more a product of what we consume compared to who we are born as. Although I am Bengali, I grew up (still growing) on a steady diet of mainstream Bollywood (that has many India-Pakistan movies, but none of India-Bangladesh that I know of) and Hindi literature. Just like whenever I wrote stories as a kid, all my characters had English names. John, Jane, Julia. Whenever I wrote formal and informal letters during English I exams, it was always to some Frank or Mr. Smith. Why was I, a Bengali girl living in a little town in eastern India, writing letters to John and Frank? I don't think I had ever met an Englishman//Westerner until I moved to the US. So when I heard a Ted talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called "The danger of a single story", I exactly knew what she was talking about. I was thrilled, knowing that there is someone else who has faced the same confusion. The talk is highly recommended.

So that is my reflection for today, that we are merely a product of what we consume much more than who we are born as.


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