Wednesday, March 22, 2017

shorir amar, shiddhanto amar (my body, my decision)

it has been painfully difficult for me to write, a complete shutdown of my fingers, even thoughts. the feeling is hard to capture in words, but in short, i feel a mixture of sadness and anxiety when this happens. i wish i exercised better writing practices. maybe it's procrastination, i don't know. maybe i should set deadlines on myself, i don't know. maybe i don't actually want to write, i don't know. some days i make up my mind about writing, i tell myself it's okay to write a single sentence, one that doesn't have to be the perfect sentence. but i'm a sucker for perfect sentences.

i'm in an uber after an early evening of rain. i missed the rain, but from inside watched the city go from hues of grey to sunlight while honoring the life of feminist, social justice warrior and naripokkho volunteer and leader nasreen huq, whose death anniversary is on April 24th. naripokkho members host an annual get together to remember the woman whose brilliance shaped the organization and its supporters for 20 years, whose brilliance continues to play a pivotal role today in understanding and implementing women's right to choice, women's right to justice in bangladesh. she coined the slogan shorir amar, shiddhanto amar (my body, my decision). i'm mostly silent during this planning meeting, silently observing the six other women with me. their facial gestures, body language, and "i remember when" memories are unlike any other affirmation sessions i've sat through. it's romantic, their unconditional love is so tender and so sisterly. here and there the rain pours louder and we are interrupted. i can't help but think nasreen huq's spirit watching over us.

the rain ends just as we finish up but i decide to stay in dhanmondi to avoid the peak of a saturday traffic jam. i camp out at aarong and come out with two colorful sharees, one for myself and the other for my mother, both purchased for pohela boishakh, bengali new year.

my uber driver asks if i can help him get to banani as he's still new to uber, still new to dhaka. i share, that like him, i'm also new here. he's from bogra, newly married, and missing both bogra and his wife. he can't get himself to want to stay in dhaka. i contemplate on this and feel similarly; that i too can't get myself to stay in dhaka, that even while in dhaka, i'm reminded of brooklyn in delicate ways. getting to know who's driving me home is one of those subtleties. uber taxi has helped me navigate dhaka independently, though CNGs have also. while the costs can add up for both, my budget for living with Lupus includes transportation (read: car service). it's not always that i can ride on a crowded bus or train, especially when it's standing only, given the ongoing aches in my legs and residual reminders that i've two hip implants. if i were in nyc, i would have happily deleted the app given uber's shameful political stance in the US post-Trump Muslim Ban 1.0 while unionized cabs were on strike at JFK airpoirt. in dhaka, uber's all i've got in terms of safety, accessibility, and easy.

the following tuesday at naripokkho is hard to sit through. we are discussing the rape of three young girls (ages 3-4) in mirpur's kalshi bihari camp, one of the largest camps of urdu speaking bihari ethnic minorities in bangladesh. the identified rapist is of bangladeshi descent alongside the three girls. the rapist and his confidantes have fled from the slum and the community has destroyed their shop and home, a model punishment given that the cops delayed giving directions for immediate medical treatment, a rape kit and instead accused the parents for concocting a tale and potentially wanting to make quick money through a court appeal. from brooklyn to dhaka, young girls are denied their truths and traumas.

tuesdays at naripokkho. dhanmondi, dhaka

i arrived to the tuesday meeting early craving fresh fruit juice. i walk around dhanmondi hopelessly and am unable to spot any juice vendors. i instead stop for 10 taka chola boot, one of my favorite foods all throughout the year, not just during ramadan. new york should have a chola booter truck, has anyone done this yet? i ask for extra lime juice and kacha morich; i may have to start carrying an emergency pouch of green chili peppers with me. eating chola boot reminds me of my mother's version with potato mash, not chunks. she uses potato chunks for chicken curry, the best i've ever had, also on the list of ammu's dishes i miss from brooklyn. i miss ma's ranna and ma's ghor.

আখের রস // sugarcane juice. banani, dhaka

i am planning my return to brooklyn in may, with a trip to india and malaysia scheduled in april. the malaysia tour is for the gender and tech institute, an all expenses paid for digital security training forum for activists and rights defenders in asia. i was almost planning to stay in dhaka for three years following an offer at an international feminist human rights organization in the global south. three years, i offered one year but to no avail, is a hard commitment and that too in a place still unfamiliar to me. maybe later, not now.

at last, i am writing again.

(friends: i post more frequently on instagram, @sha.banana; write to me with your questions/thoughts about my solo travel. it'll help me to write!)

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