Longing to belong

I ask myself: Do I really belong to any of these places or am I just floating towards nowhere? Photo: Jessica Lia

Often during my evening stroll, I ask myself: Who am I?

Where do I belong?

I was born in Bogura city, and grew up in Jashore and Dhaka cantonments.

My father’s family is from Kishoreganj–a district I hardly set foot in — and mother is from Tangail. I search for an answer in the air with no immediate response when people ask me where I am from.

I get confused.

Again, I ask myself: Do I really belong to any of these places or am I just floating towards nowhere?

It has been 12 years now that I am living in Dhaka but do I belong here?

Do I love this city?

Can I confidently say it is my city?

The other day, while walking by the Hatirjheel Lake, my mind was muddled by all these questions and I immediately got my answer when my body was touched inappropriately from the back.

In the evening when everyone is rushing towards home, a pervert taking pleasure by touching women inappropriately is not something strange in “my city”. If a girl can walk alone without being stared at or touched inappropriately, we consider that surprising.

I love to walk. But I see these narrow footpaths, open, overflowing manholes, smell this odour of footpaths flooded by open urination, see these over-populated public transport where at a corner a man is masturbating and pointing at a girl.

And I see those eyes that are coming to gulp me down.

Now you must ask me, as a dutiful member of the Bengali society, what type of clothes do I wear?

My answer: That is none of your business and I am not obliged to answer that.

But how I want my city to be?

I want this city to be for pedestrians, for cyclists, for kids, for women, and for pregnant women precisely. If a city is friendly to a pregnant woman, that means it is fulfilled and perfect for everyone.

A city, hence, should take care of its mothers.

I also want it to be a place for rebels, and a place for poets for recitations. After all, what a Bengali is without rhymes and revolution?

But these seem to be a distant dream only, and I must be living in a bubble.

I therefore do not belong to these roads.

I do not belong to these footpaths.

I do not belong to these public transportation.

But I want to belong here; to this city, to these roads. From time to time, I literally crave for this belonging.

Yet, I see, I do not belong here.

I want Hibiscus, Roses, Sukhdarshan, Jarul, Bougainvillea and Sonalu flowers to flaunt their charm by the roadside. Photo: Jessica Lia

I want Hibiscus, Roses, Sukhdarshan, Jarul, Bougainvillea and Sonalu flowers to flaunt their charm by the roadside.

I want enough public toilets.

I want safe transport to go home.

Are these too much to ask for?

If I do not belong to the city I am living in, if this is not my own, then can I ever be able to belong anywhere in this world?

I do not know.

May be in the process of craving to belong, someday, I will find this all futile and stop longing for belonging.

This article was first published on Prothom Alo

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Shishir

Shishir

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Journalist | Work focuses on Rohingya Refugees, Human Trafficking, Gender, Environment and social issues | & a Poet of everyday life