The classick adventures of DS and Dr Gonjo 2
This is part two of a series by Dhaka Shohor, who visited Desh recently. Part one is here. Please direct comments appropriately. — JR
These posts will contain inappropriate language, rampant racism/sexism/age-ism, random references to things good Bangladeshi boys and girls are not supposed to know about until one day they get married and magically become experts. — DS
It is 2005 and I am at university. New continent, new country, new friends, new music. On those faraway shores for the first time I hear Gari chole na, Bioscope and Chader Shohorey. It’s also the first time I have good friends from Bangla-medium schools. Because over there, away from Dhaka’s status games, we are all Bangladeshi first.
Chikna is one of those friends.
So is Guitarman.
Standing there on the beach at Cox’s Bazar on 31 December 2011, I remembered both fondly. But I also remembered how awkward it was with Chikna during the first couple of years. He would tend to make snide remarks about English-medium students or “Dhaka’s elite” every chance he got. Guitarman was too much of a gentleman to ever join in.
I think Chikna finally warmed up to me the day I told him I actually listened to and liked Dolchhut. We had previously discussed the Bangla music scene quite a bit. It was hard not to in, Guitarman’s presence. But I think he had stuck talking to the usual suspects in my presence — Bangla, Cryptic Fate, Watson Brothers etc — all good English medium-sanctioned choices back then.
I remember to this day the expression on his face. What I had mentioned casually had come to him as a revelation. He stayed silent for a moment and then said simply, “I didn’t think you’d like them.”
I never asked him why not. I guess I implicitly understood that Dolchhut was to him some sort of marker of authenticity. Most of us have one: eating rice with one’s hands, lungis, prayer, puffing the magic dragon, whathaveyou. Something that makes you one of us rather than one of them.
Chikna treated me differently from that day on. The jibes stopped gradually. I often wondered what select club I had been admitted to through my fondness for Dolchhut. Did he finally recognise me as a kindred soul from middle Dhaka (middle by income, middle by geography, amra moddhyomoni! Hat tali!) rather than as some aberration who just happened to grow up near Farmgate?
If that was the case, then he was mistaken. But not any more so than others had been and would be over the years…
For instance, Chikna just got married this winter. To a beautiful Bangladeshi girl he met in that cold country where we had also met, and where he now lives. Myself? I am no closer to marrying the ideal Bangladeshi girl as I approach the big three-oh and the bathetic tales of my failed romance(s?) would earn me 10 years in jail or a $6000 fine at the least.
Yes, at the least.
I decided long ago not to stay in a pigeon-hole once I was put into it. As anything, good or bad. Middle class, elite, poor, immigrant, patriarchal, EMS, brown, Muslim, drunk, Marley-fan, Bogart-wannabe, khait, FOB, westoxified, liberal, mullah, young, old, marriage material, “hai hai, oi cheley? hajar bochoreo na“. Yes, I have heard all of those. Perhaps that is why I get along with Dr Gonjo.
It’s understandable to be honest. Labels help us navigate the complexity of the social ecology by simplifying it. Or as the Clooney character says in Up in the Air, “I stereotype. Like my mother. Makes life easier.” Can’t argue against a man’s mother’s advice.
The nomadism helps with ditching labels (unless the label you’re looking for is “like George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air, except less handchum of course”).
But it hasn’t been easy.
Especially when I’ve been in Dhaka.
(To be continued…)