Food for thought: Why do people migrate ?

The first ten years of my life, I was born and brought up in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was surrounded not just by parents, but dadi-nani(grand-mothers), aunt, uncle, cousins, neighbours, home-carers all of whom made up the balanced harmony of my happy childhood. Life was all but play, listening to stories, studying as less as possible – never realising where the food on the table appeared from, how the cloths were washed, dried and ironed prim and proper, or the room was organised and twinkling even after I’d leave it in a mess before going to school. My only other world was school, where I was a shy kid. The one who was always found day dreaming in a corner.
And after the tenth year, my life as a migrant began.
At the early age of ten, settling abroad was at first, the excitement of going to a place, the show-offs at school always bragged about. However, it’s only on the second day of migration, that a child of ten, actually grew up faster than her age…well in terms of “deshi” age, because in Bangladesh, I was fortunate enough to have a luxurious childhood. Suddenly, the only familiar faces were of mom and dad’s. Everyone else looked different, spoke a new language, had a new way of expressing themselves. Suddenly, the disappearance of all the loving people I knew since my senses matured. Suddenly, realising that mom has no other help, so helping her fold cloths with my tiny hands. Suddenly, making sure to remind mom, to buy the lunch-box juices for school. Suddenly, helping dad tie up the huge garbage bag. Suddenly, coming home to find no one but a note from mom “Eat dinner in the fridge. Feed baby sister. Mom will be home by 6”. Suddenly, taking small steps to a world outside, and asking a stranger, “How much would these be?” Suddenly, learning to budget and shop.
It was after I returned to my country of origin, I felt like a caged-bird. My matured mind, who was no longer a child, could now compare the vast differences between, the life I had abroad and the country I was born in. As much as I appreciate my culture and country, the truth is, it has been dipped in the dark magic of corruption over and over again by the conscience-less politicians and policy makers. The black soot that engulfs my culture and country now has been man made and fabricated and left no place for simpletons like myself. I would never blame the society or culture for me feeling like a jailbird in my country. I guess it’s the kind of person I am and the personality that has been curved in me that I crave the need speak as I please, to cloth as I please, so think as I please and to talk as I please, without having judgemental eyes scrutinizing me. The matured mind understood the taste of having freedom, self efficiency and living in a secured condition. The reality was, I was born in, what the world categorises as a third world country, based on political, living and financial ranking. To me, I was born in a country whose independence story shook the World, whose language is considered one of the richest in world literature, whose culture is a composition of multiple religions and community living together as Bangladesh. To me, my country would never be a third grade country. But, whatever it was to me, does not change the reality, that since its independence, forty years back, it has been raped over and over again by its own power hungry and corrupt administrators. The beautiful “Shonar Bangla” crippled by mutated laws and an unguided society is not where I belonged, I realised with a heavy heart. And I believe I am not the only person to feel that way, which explains so much migration from our third world countries to the first world countries, in search of a better lifestyle, improved values and better career.
My opportunity to migrate, like many others, arose when foreign countries offered tertiary education for international students and eventually the chances of becoming their citizen. It is through this adventure, that I came across so many lives, who like me, have their own migration story. My search for a new land began as I continued higher education and at the same time looked for countries whose language, values, culture and weather suited my preferred lifestyle. I took the opportunity to select my soil.
Many a times I have questioned myself, does that make me a traitor to my motherland ? And many a times I cringed at the nasty jokes of some insensitive freak who called me a traitor for wishing to migrate. Migration is in my blood. Some five or six generations ago, a perfume merchant from Persia migrated to the Daccan Plateau, now known as West Bengal, in search of business. Pre-Indian independence, in 1947, his descendant migrated once again, from West Bengal to neighbour city Dacca. Post 1947, what became capital of East Pakistan, now re-named Dhaka the capital of Bangladesh. This descendant was my grandfather.
Being called a traiter, a wanna-be is not one of the fun-sides of being a migrant. Rather, it is a pain, that only another migrant, who has gone through the process would understand. Migration is as much struggle for an adult, as a child. It is never easy to leave the place one has spent a significant amount of time since birth. Especially for matured migrants. It is never easy to give up some cultural practices so close to ones heart, simply because the rest of the world does not celebrate it. It is never appreciated to be pointed out, that one has migrated due to financial gain. And yet, the showers of judgement never stops.
It is funny to think that at the end of the day, our loyalties are actually NOT to the soil we are born in, rather the community. Suppose Columbus never found America, Caucasians would be only Europeans and Blacks would only be Africans. In that sense, there would be no USA, to be loyal to for “Americans”. It is because of us migrants that this world is a potpourri of colourful cultures, languages, values and humanity’s progress. No longer, are racial, religious, gender, disability or any other discriminations tolerated, openly. We live in a world today, where people have learnt to overcome their differences and stand up for individual rights. The struggle of migration has not only dispersed the human race, but has also taught it to be tolerant and humble.
I am a migrant. And proud to be one. © Tasnim Hafiz – 2012

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