It’s amazing to go to your memory vault and try to salvage memories of a particular year, especially when that happens more than thirty years ago. I started searching my mind for pictures of when I was ten years old – wondering if that particular time was of any significance in my life.
In 1977, having moved from Chittagong (the year before), we were settling down in the leafy residential area, Dhanmondi. Our neighbors, in the middle of metropolitan Dhaka, had a cow barn in their backyard; their first home-welcoming gift was some fresh milk from their home dairy!
I was trying hard to adjust to new friends in a new school; even today, when I join a new group/organization, I think back to those days and try to remember it felt like to be a “new kid in town”. I was fortunate to have made one friend (at school) in my same neighborhood; I remember his parents were very strict about when he could go bicycling. And that’s all I ever wanted to do; I never went too far away with the bike. But navigating Road # 21 in Dhanmondi, from one end, where (my friend) Ishtiaq lived, to the other end, was like the journey of a lifetime.
Friendship with Ishtiaq continues, as he and his wonderful family live in the Washington DC area and often visit us in Fort Lauderdale. Whenever I meet his parents, I feel as if I am ten years old again. It’s amazing to have great friends that you share memories from over thirty years!
In 1977 Bangladesh, we were recently introduced to color TV. The military junta wanted to show modernization and controlled the one and only TV channel; my father bought a color TV and not all programs from our 6-12 pm line-up, was in color. This transition was like stepping into a new dimension!
We had many friends and relatives surrounding us in Dhanmondi; two aunts lived in the neighborhood (Road # 30& 32) and visiting them every week was a treat. My favorite Boro Phupu (paternal aunt) owned mango and lychee gardens in Rajshahee. Her home was a favorite visiting place for delicious juicy summer fruits, in unlimited abundance! Her younger children, Reza Bhai and Zia Apa, also had an amazing collection of Enid Blyton books; Famous Five, Fatty famous Five and Secret Seven were definitely my favorite reads. I am confident that their generosity in sharing their collection, contributed to my current reading habits.
Sometime that year, my Dad’s college room-mate and best friend came to visit us from Nebraska, USA. He brought along his two dynamic young sons, Eric and Faruk, who told us about the great stories of this land of prosperity. They brought their magical color camera and took a picture of my sister, wearing, for the first time, a green traditional sari.
Little did I know, only eight years later, this family would become my legal guardian and sponsor my visa to come to the US and help me start my new life in a different world. The Abdullah family has been that shady tree to me and my family over the years – generously extending their emotional support in trying to navigate the difficult first years in a US University, both for me and my sister.
In October 1977, one of my maternal aunts, came to live with us from Comilla, during the last month of her pregnancy. She stayed with us for that critical month and followed a strict, salt-free diet. One late afternoon, I saw my mother crying while carrying her to the car. My room was covered with blood. My Aunt had gone into early labor and rushed to the hospital to deliver her child in a chaotic series of events. I prayed to God that afternoon – and felt blessed to see my little cousin when we arrived at the hospital.
Reading is still one of my favorite past-times; and I pick out mangoes, whenever they show up in season at Costco. In circumstance beyond my control, I still say a simple prayer – and know that my prayers will be answered.
As if, somehow, our life, is composed of a series of steps of these introductions, events, accidents and activities, which are connected with a transparent cement of emotions. Sometimes, these introductions become a lifetime of friendship and support; at other times, these lead to habits you carry for a lifetime –or memories that make you look at life differently. You don’t have control of these events – you learn to live and build – something meaningful from those memories.
Thanks, Shania, for making me think of my experiences when I was ten years old. We didn’t have a camera that year – but the imprint on my mind – are definitely there.