This Land is Your Land, This Land is Our Land

Originally in:

There are a few things I want to say to my peers.

Dost, we the “new-new,” don’t know much about our history other than the heroism of our relatives, the brutality of the hanadar bahini, some specific dates, some illustrious names and some songs.

When we wear a Che t-shirt, he looks like Michael Jackson. Most of us haven’t read his biography. Most of us are unaware of his flaws. Yes, he had some. You’d know if you dug beyond the translation of “Hasta La Victoria Siempre.”

When we buy a t-shirt with “Joy Bangla” printed on it, we kind of know what it means. To us it resonates as something parallel to “carpe diem/noctem” or “veni, vidi, vici” sort of a deal or even a yin-yang tattoo.

History is not a thing of the past for us to relish on particular days. It is what we make everyday, whether we know it or not – just by virtue of existing. When we were too busy being the Converse All-star, Old Navy hoodie and gaamchha clad ‘casually classy’ generation, Bengali settlers burnt down over 200 homes of Bangladeshis who don’t look like us. The army joined in and brushed-fire killing several of them. And we were here making history – once again with our silence.

We are going down in the books babe, as the one that didn’t speak up; as the one that when asked to attend a rally to protest said, “kintu dost, oita toh plan a chhilona.” Sorry for the disruption bud, but I don’t think being subjected to this kind of atrocity oder “plan a chhilo.”

Some elders tell us this land really isn’t ours; that we don’t respect our history and are too west-bound and east-wounded; that we really don’t know what it means to be Bangladeshi since the desh was fed to us with a silver spoon. We resentfully worship the rubble we stand on, as if it’s all over; as if there is nothing else to fight.

But there is one more thing left to be defined though. We have that one more edge to etch that shows when we say “us” we mean “them” too. Why did we vote in 2008, in what was arguably the most monumental political event we witnessed in our two-decades-and-then-some old lives? I thought we took a few vows:

To not only chuckle when our friend laughingly tells us that his dad, an army officer, asked him to “stop acting like a bloody civilian” when he was disappointed, but be alarmed by how people who are paid to protect us, see us.
To be repulsed by their gunshots and read it as rokkhok morphing into homicidal tokkhoks, disrupting the silence we choose to bury those darn paharis under.
To not only high-five me when I tell you how I walked into the check-post to give that officer a piece of my mind for winking at me, but remember how you especially loved the part where I told him that he gets paid to protect me and I have the right to make him surrender his uniform if he makes me feel vulnerable. Since playing poker is your favourite after-work past-time, can you see that same sentiment to the hills and raise it a thousand notches?
To not forget to notice the face some several inches above the pinon your sister was wondering where she could buy.
To notice the human-being whose dancing feet you admiringly watched while saying “era kintu ektu Thai-der moton, na?”
To cringe at the patronizing generalization when the aunty asked for a chakma cook because “ora khub sincere hoy” or a night-guard of the same because “ora khub teji hoy.” To burst this greedy and exploitative bubble of fantasy traits attributed to those who are forced to be third-class citizens for our needs and convenience, as if their sole purpose is to serve us – the Raj.
To slap our friend who has a crush on his chakma classmate and calls her “minority” behind her back as if that’s her name, and allows his friends to do the same. “Dost, Minority’r shathe khub mojaye asos na?”
To not pervert “majority rule” to mean the rule of a power-tripping, vile and nonchalant majority, but the rule of a conscientious majority.
To put an end to those darn brackets – “foreign” … “stranger” … “unknown” … “different” … “them.”
To harness a Bangladesh that isn’t exclusively for Bangalis.

Can we vow to not allow evil to defecate all over our Home? Can we fix our radars to catch their corpses though we have skipped their lives? One of these days during one of those addas at one of those coffee joints, can we touch on their plight? Maybe just throw in a “dost, oi paharigulir na life a onek para … purai bad buzz” for good measure?


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