A crash course in changing the world.
Even though I was born and raised in Dhaka, an urban jungle of almost 15 million people, and where traces of greenery is now almost non-existent, like all other Bengalis when asked where I am from, I identify myself as coming from a small village in northern Bangladesh – a place where my father was born and where we still own a small homestead, a place my father left when his mother decided to continue his
education and enrolled him in the nearest middle school a distance of 14 miles away, a journey of what was then almost half a day's journey away. Because daily commute was difficult and nearly impossible, he was boarded with relatives who did not take kindly to the fact that they would have another mouth to feed. My widowed grandmother valued her son’s education enough that she agreed to send rice and pulses to her wealthier brother-in-law’s house after every harvest for the years my father boarded with his first cousin.
Sadly within three years of my father’s enrollment, my grandmother died of poor health leaving her teenage son alone to look after himself. At her deathbed, she made him promise that he would complete graduate school come what may – a promise that he did not renege.
Ten years from now, I would like to be living back at the homestead where my father was born. Hope springs eternal and hopefully technology would grant me a wish to sit down to a meal with my grandmother. We would spend the day walking around the fields, learning from her how to identify and collect greens that grow wild, which the elders I have been told also used as indicators of soil fertility, and which cooked with garlic and mustard oil tastes divine. Together we would eat a simple meal of rice, greens, vegetables grown from our backyard and perhaps some fish from our pond. I would insist on doing the cooking and pamper her the best way I can and listen to her as she tells me why to that illiterate woman it was so important that her son finished schooling.