Friday, December 2, 2016

not in brooklyn

i left Brooklyn, my home. my mother tells me she misses me more tonight because there's freshly made shutkir bhorta (bhorta = mashed, shutki = dried fish) in the house. to me, spicy, the kind where your mouth, nose, eyes are watering, shutkir bhorta, paired with white rice, though the last time i had it in Brooklyn was with quinoa (would not recommend this pairing), is the centerpiece of Bangladeshi cuisine. it is care, comfort, and contentment, and crying depending on the jhal temperature. bhorta in the house means Monowara Auntie is over after Isha prayer. her visits are routine, and has been for 25 some odd years. we cook, eat, and clean together. that's Brooklyn, my home.

my mother.
that her name is Monowara is something i learned before my trip to Bangladesh. sometimes we'd call her Progoti Auntie- Progoti after her family-owned grocery store on the strip of McDonald Avenue in Little Bangladesh, Kensington, Brooklyn. Progoti for progress; the American Dream. other times, she's Dorji Auntie, in honor of her husband's line of work in Bangladesh. he was a tailor. when i think of Brooklyn, sweet shutki wafts in the air, i see Monowara Auntie's oiled hair, gold rings and studs clenched in droopy ears with no room left for new piercings, i imagine my mother in 1990 at 18 styling her short curly bob, just arrived to Kensington, her linguistic finesse switching between tongue twisting Bangla dialects, and atiteyata, that Brooklyn Bangladeshi hospitality, which cannot be replicated.

i left Brooklyn. there was an urgency in me to leave because i'm in remission, though at the same time not quite in absolute remission. semi-remission means that when i'm sick, i'm able to independently manage my care without a visit to my rheumatologist or the Emergency Room. joint aches persist and there's escalation in Avascular Necrosis (bone deterioration) in my shoulder joints, but i'm bearing the pain until i absolutely cannot. i'm bearing the pain because i'm not prepared for hospitalization, surgery, months of recovery, inactivity.

there was an urgency in me to travel before another full-on lupus flare or the next joint replacement surgery, which wouldn't allow me to travel solo or travel at all (review: both of my hips are replaced, next in line are my knees and shoulders. my knees are currently injected with orthovisc, the last treatment option before surgery).

there was an urgency to leave because i'm tired, emotionally exhausted, and physically cannot meet the demands of a full-time commuter job/career right now...or ever. there was an urgency to leave because i need to reboot, i need to think about my life goals, incorporating how i will survive the next five years with lupus as i age, grow more limited in mobility, and feel the pressures of capitalism and not being able to maintain a job unless i run something on my own terms and accommodations.

there was an urgency to feed my creativity and the academic in me. i was decided on learning to read and write Bangla to strengthen my organizing skills beyond the nyc bubble and the "nyc left" that i don't wanna fuck with right now. there was an urgency to meet other Bangladeshi women and grassroots organizers and social justice leaders.

i quit my job after much hesitation and was fraught with the fears tied to unemployment and disability: how many months can i survive without a paid job? how much money do i have to save up to live in bangladesh for up to a year without needing to be employed? how do i save money in nyc? will i have adequate medical care in bangladesh? how many months of bulk medications will my insurance approve? will i be okay without the care of my parents? is this a good decision? what happens when i return to Brooklyn? how will i hold a job with the accommodations i need?

i am depressed as fuck, high on anxiety, stumbling in speech. i needed to stop everything and disappear to a place no one knows me. my creativity was diminishing, yet i was still imagining what to create despite the constant lethargy and apathy because it is not in me to survive without creating. i was losing patience, passion. i can't recall the beginning of this funk, but i could not stay in Brooklyn. why am i overtaken with deep sadness, resentfulness, unhappy thoughts?

it's 5:28am in Dhaka and i'm kept awake because of a big cockroach. the room was not lit, i could only hear the sound of crumbling paper, coming from my bag of mixed berry Ricola cough drops. there's no one but me in this room so who else is in here? i flash the light on my phone and wake wide eyed to a bright pink Ricola bag and a massive cockroach. i jump, i'm awake, i'm writing. and it seems, i've gotten out of my funk. oddly, Netflix's Chef's Table has also supported me in the healing. the chefs highlighted, though their passions center gastronomy, reaffirm and remind me that i've got this busy mind conjuring ideas envisioning ways for supportive and just communities and strategies to see them actualized. i cannot lose hope. i cannot compare. i will live in my own pace. my work style may be unconventional, but i will continue to create.

i yearn to dream, dreams of how i can live passionately as a cripple struggling to sit where the pavement meets earth or while tying my hair in a ponytail because my shoulders lock and crack in pain. i yearn to dream feminist dreams of fat, disabled bodies loved tenderly and with care in homes and outdoors, where medical accommodations are not understood as accommodations, just a way of life. i dream of traveling without the burden of monies to see more than Brooklyn for fantasies and feet touching these places where my prosthetic hips swing in curiosity and joy. Monowara Auntie and my mother, and all my sisters, blood and beyond, will be with me. and hopefully, there'll be platters of assorted bhorta.

assorted bhorta.
*more writing to come on my Dhaka adventures. stay tuned. for pictures, follow me on IG: sha.banana, FB: Shahana Hanif

RIP nanu