Tanvir Ratul ,Lecturer, University of Liverpool, UK
Years ago, when I came to the UK, I was so, so sad at the beginning. You know, in my country, we have ridiculous comedies, comedies that meant nothing to me when I was in Bangladesh. But now, I watch them and fall off my chair laughing. I have forgotten how funny my people are. I have forgotten a lot of things.
Forgetting things. Now that I am in the United Kingdom, I am constantly forgetting things. Like the glass table I had at my old home. I was told not to get it, but it was too beautiful for me to ignore. It became part of my everyday life, and after a while, I forgot it was special to me. One day, carelessly, I tossed the tangled-junk combined of my keys, zippo and potpipe on it, and it broke into pieces. Only then did I realize how much I loved it and how much it had become a part of me.
Now, I often think about how Bangladesh is that glass table. Now that I am not there, I remember some of these pieces, and each piece I find is like a discovery. I remember siblings and cousins laughing together. I remember a tree in my front yard. I remember the feel of my mother hugging me each day as I returned from school. Each piece has such value to me now! I spend hours thinking and remembering, gathering the broken pieces of my life.
For years, I have tried to do the best for my country because I knew, and even now I know the Bangladeshi people need someone to do something for them. That’s why I decided to do whatever I can, and why I decided to write today. I knew that it was the key to getting my dream to become real. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s not simple. But I decided. At least, I thought so.
One night the bitterness of self-exile made me tell myself, “I want it to stop.” You guys starring at me like I am joking. “I want it to stop. Stop because I cannot tolerate and endure this situation.” My outcry doesn’t stop until I look in front of the mirror. I see my eyes. I see how red they are, but more than that, I see a child, a crying, stubborn child.
Like a crazy person, I talk to myself. And this is not the first time.
“What do you want, Ratul?”
“I want to go home.”
“Why? Do you want to be lazy? They need you. They need you. I thought you wanted to sacrifice big things. I thought you wanted to sacrifice it all. There are bigger things than you.” The boy on the other side of the mirror stared at me with suspicious eyes.
“But I’m so tired.”
“Ratul, what are you doing? You look like a crazy person, staring at me crying like that. Have you no strength? Why did you choose this?”
“But I didn’t know…”
“You DID know. You did know it would be hard. You chose the Liberalism just for fun? Think about that. Just think.”
And I stare at myself in the mirror. The boy’s hands are in fists. I want to tell him that I just want to go home. I want him to understand. But her eyes show me he is in no mood to give sympathy.
I know, I want to relax and let other people suffer from corruption. It isn’t my fault that I was born into a poor country with a lot of disadvantaged people because of the years of bad governments. Why should I suffer? I clearly understand such a bad self-righteous strength of “Why do you say I am selfish? I am not selfish.”
I remember many students, the future of our country. Those students had hope, even in a system that was filled with decades of corruption. They believed that we could change the country. And I had left the country knowing that if we learned how to fight the dark elements with discourse of liberalism in our arsenal than other pieces of legal and administrative system should work as a finely tuned orchestra, then I could return to ‘Shonar Bangla’.
And I do remember the looks on the faces of students in Bangladesh. And I do remember their eyes. And I cannot imagine forgetting them, but I suddenly realize I have. I concentrate and try to remember some of their names. I think of their faces—like the lovely girl who wore a head scarf and was always reading ‘Ramayan’ which she borrowed from me. What was her name? And once again I realize that I have become careless. I stand for a long time trying to remember. I begin to see more faces, more names, until finally I am satisfied. I don’t know how long it takes, but I feel whole again and I open my eyes. I hadn’t even realized they were closed.
“You are right, I remember now.” He stares at me with a small grin. After a while, it turns into a big smile. I feel my heart spill out like water. I’m thankful for my imaginary friend.
“I won’t break any more glass today,” I tell him.
And then, without words, I promise myself I won’t be careless anymore when I see something so beautiful as a glass table. As I look in the mirror again I see that he and I are now somehow the same person, confident, able to do anything, accepting only the best. I don’t know when it happened, but he has become a part of me.