Archive for category chapters of life
Nayantara, by now you would’ve been two months old. Imagine that – TWO WHOLE MONTHS OLD. You would’ve been wiggling your tiny fingers, your tiny toes. You would’ve looked around in wonder at your parents struggling to keep up with you. You would’ve pecked your mother’s cheek or pulled your father’s hair.
For the first time in my life, I notice nayantara flowers wherever I go. They are so quiet and of the little I got to see you, you were anything but quiet. You pushed your tiny, immature lungs to squeak out a cry, you wiggled your way out of the covered oxygen mask because you just couldn’t wait to see the world. The flowers, in contrast, are content where they are. They bloom under the sun and rain, they sway in the breeze, they burst out into a million colors.
It isn’t fair that parents have to be so strong. It hurts so much. We aren’t born this strong and we try to hide our weakness by doing stupid things, by pretending to be someone we’re not. I have never felt so emotional, so sentimental, so dazed, so terrible in my entire life. I have never felt so little of myself. Sometimes I feel when you left, you probably took a giant part of me with you and all I’m left with is a terribly sad, bitter, vulnerable, completely-out-of-her-mind, angry, emotional me. I try very hard to recover, to not remember, to distract myself from the excruciating pain I feel throbbing between my lungs. I fail every time.
Parents aren’t so strong. They can be courageous for their children, but what happens to them when the children are up in heaven? What are parents left with then?
In life, when there is a crisis, there are two things we usually do. We quietly sit and wait for the tornado to pass over our heads, or we blame it for ruining our lives. I’ve grown up in a place where we were taught to “fight” the tornado. And all my life, I’ve believed my actions have been just that – a struggle, a battle, one victory at a time. When I was in school, everyone thought I was a meek, unfashionable person. As elitist as it may sound, everyone in my class seemed to have better cars, better houses and better summer vacations than I could possibly imagine. I fought through that, became academically comfortable – if not “elite” – and eventually found my way into going where my heart wandered. I learned to dance, sing, draw, write, manage and lead. Through university, I learnt to balance, rebel, negotiate, deliver and live.
I fought my way through everything.
I was always under the impression that to be happy, you need to do what you love the most. You need not compromise, rather you pursue your heart’s desires and one day, you will be find yourself standing on the 19th floor of a skyscraper and pat yourself on the back for your success. I have always chosen career over family, dreams over desires, ambition over love, and immortality over simplicity. I lived by the day because making plans never worked out for me. I learnt to forgive, to be politically correct, to see the bigger picture. And “the self” is extremely minuscule in the presence of fate.
However, it wasn’t until recently I realized all that I had thought and stood on meant nothing. Inside me, I carried a life I couldn’t value in the chaos of career, ambition, my life. I spent nights weeping and blaming my misfortune, I spent days wallowing within myself and I was a complete mess. I am not a cruel person, or at least, I believe I am not, yet during those times, all I can remember is how cruel the world was to me – or in fact, how cruel I was to myself, how I misunderstood simplicity. We get tied up in the complications of life, of how much we love our jobs, of all the magnificent plans we’ve made, of all the adventures we claimed that we often forget the real adventure, the real magnificence was in front of our eyes. We were merely blind.
I put my entire life to a halt and I blamed fate for it. I thought I could leave my baby to pursue what I was “destined” to. I used to get angry at the smallest details, at imperfections, at the success of my contemporaries. I used to mark days on the calendar and wait for the “worst” to pass. And I thought all my anguish came from the fact that my plan had deviated and I had to fight from the scratch to return to it.
Fate however, decided to give me exactly what I thought I wanted. It made things “simple”. It took away the “deviation” and suddenly, all I am left with is a plan with no purpose. When my baby was dying, I cried and begged for forgiveness. I didn’t want her to suffer, I was ready to suffer for her. Life, as she reminded me, was more than a degree, an nice couch, a loyal following, a few pieces of writing and loving your job. It was about rediscovering, happily compromising plans along the way. It was about people whom you loved. It was about the little moments when you turn in your sleep and hear the love of your life snoring next to you, or the comfort of knowing when you come home after fighting the world, a gentle hug and kiss are waiting – just for you.
I realized, for the first time in my life, that I wasn’t angry because my plans had deviated. I was terrified of losing what really mattered to me deep inside my heart. It was the beauty of being together against all odds, of knowing when your home isn’t empty, that you and your love can watch your child grow up together. I wasn’t afraid of my unplanned career, I was afraid that my heart would be separate across two continents and I couldn’t bear to have it.
I am heartbroken. I am angry at myself. I feel foolish.
And I am so relieved. I am relieved because for the first time in my life, I don’t feel what I supposed to feel – I feel what I genuinely feel. For the first time in my life, I believe there is no battle to be won. There is a third way to face a crisis. It was to embrace it and live life, remembering it.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
No no, I haven’t abandoned you – dear 18. You’re just as precious, as integral a part of me as ever. I’ve recently created a blog where I can compile all my work on human rights, development and education, and keep them organized.
I’ve been writing songs and children’s stories lately. If things work out, one of the children’s stories will be published for next year’s Ekushey Boi Mela (book festival).
There is a school of thought that teen dreams are mere fantasies. They are meant to remain unfulfilled as products of immature influences. However, when some teenagers in their unique ways saw identical dreams almost three years ago, that social belief very much pervaded their visions. This is probably why, three years later, in spite of the obstacles, against all predictions; their dream has come true.
That dream is called 1° Initiative.
The Beginning of a Beginning
The August of 2006 was a memorable one. My friend, Tushmit approached me with an idea of opening up a youth network; a concept forwarded to her by a common friend, Farhana. The plan was to allow young people to express their ideas and take up leadership roles in society. Seeing this to be a marvelous opportunity to create something, I jumped to the idea. Later, I contacted another friend, Zubair who was interested in similar things and in a few days, we became a small force of nine people.
Farhana, Zubair and I decided to act as heads and give this ‘plan’ a shape. The shape, of course, needed a name and on a sunny day while lazing inside an empty classroom in Mastermind, the team brainstormed and 1° Initiative was born. The idea behind it was simple. By each degree, we would change the way we contribute to our communities and eventually, create a small body of youngsters who wanted to act along the same line.
A few sleepless nights and Zubair had designed our logo while I had our MOU (fashionably termed ‘Constitution’) and WordPress blog. We signed, grinned and were excited to take on the world.
That was the beginning of all problems and all solutions.
We’re Not Kids!
The difficulties of being a more informed teenager than your peers are numerous. Firstly, you’re funny. You’re one of those people who don’t approve littering, finds something to do almost everywhere and has a tendency to give bombastic speeches on noble doings of not-so-noble persona. Secondly, you’re not taken seriously. You’re a hormone-imbrued teenager, unprepared for the wild reality that infatuates adulthood and your dreams are pointless.
We were of the kind, labeled funny and given little importance. Therefore, the transformation from thinking of doing something and actually executing it was itself a hurdle. Our first big break came with Autism Welfare Foundation (AWF). Volunteers from 1° Initiative were to spend certain hours weekly with autistic children at the foundation, and on a personal note, I believe it was the project that really changed what 1° Initiative was all about.
Autism was not a walk in the park. The children had demands and the volunteers needed to be patient. Having their own niches and shortcomings, autistic children were difficult to become friends with, but incredibly wonderful friends once you’ve managed to inch into their lives. For us, who were doing something of this sort as our first task, it clearly was an incomparable lesson. We learnt patience, realized exactly where we needed to start and began to value the gifts of life. Working with AWF not only taught us to be more understanding as people, but also made the group realize which of us were meant to stick with 1° Initiative.
Thus, although our force became dramatically smaller with fewer members, we shared that common belief that every miniscule difference counts. In the end, 1° Initiative (1dI) became a group of eight people, namely Zubair, Tushmit, Amreen, Mayeesha, Aaqib, Niloy, Rasha and I.
No Mum, I’m Not Doing Durgs!
With the notion of small-scale community service, 1° Initiative began to grow very tardily. Breaks were rare and our enthusiasm was often dampened with exams and life’s temptations. Nonetheless, in collaboration with Mastermind Community Service Club, we soon started teaching their supporting staff basic English and Maths. It was a three-month long project, a duration in which we faced many hassles. From being falsely accused of stealing ideas to being underestimated to the point of not allowing us to work, 1dI was in chaos with the world. Many started mocking us with pinching remarks on whether we were about to alleviate poverty or stop floods, and taunted about our futile efforts. Peers came up to us asking for certificates as a precondition to their dedication. Yet, we glued onto what we believed and it was probably because we did, we pulled through every slag.
I still remember our first meeting. A tin-shed house next to Tushmit’s ‘real’ house, deserted and dusty to the throat. We unlocked the doors, cleaned the floors, coughed our way to set up a decent space and it soon became our own little office. And no, our parents weren’t exactly fully supportive of our cause. Community service required time and dedication, and we only had bucketfuls of the latter. The uncountable times we pretended to shop in Etcetra and gathered under their stairs to have a meeting, counted our funds and realized there was nothing and begged our parents to let us do something still lingers in our memories. We were cooped up in a small room and it was no common surprise that suspicions arose. No, we weren’t doing drugs! No, I don’t have my boyfriend in there! No, we’re not making bombs! The doubts kept mounting up and every time, we had to crawl our ways out of our houses to work.
With no one to fund us and no other financial backing from parents or any other organization or insitution, 1dI needed to be largely self-funded. Why should anyone trust us enough to shower their earthly greens? We were ‘children’, after all. So, each member had to contribute a certain amount of money every month and in this way, our funds began to grow. We started introducing projects that would allow us to ‘make money’ because charity had its own fair share of expenses. Friends started supporting us and stepped up to give a helping hand to our ventures. We began receiving mails from people all over the world, appreciating our initiative. A friend even wrote an article in this very magazine and responses poured in.
Things were finally beginning to roll.
Dreams Were On Wheels
Did you know 1° Initiative has its own rickshaw? Zubair and Asif bought the paints, my driver found the maker and I did the rickshaw art. It was for a guy whose rickshaw got stolen and he seemed like a decent chap who deserved help. The 1dI rickshaw was co-sponsored by Nazim Farhan Chowdhury from Adcomm Ltd and advertised by our friends from Mastermind. It was a piece of beauty for us and today, in some dusty street of Dhaka, it trundles happily carrying our name and our email address!
Now, since three years of its birth, 1dI has expanded beyond our imagination. From the small tin-shed house and staircases at shopping malls, we now have our meeting inside our houses because our parents have finally accepted us. We’ve worked with underprivileged children in different schools and share a very special bond with each of them. We’ve arranged series of quiz and art competitions for them, set up libraries at their schools with books we collected from our contacts and spent hours telling them about the glorious past of Bangladesh. Yes, we even found sponsors! The funny part is people from abroad are more willing to send us money because they believed we aren’t corrupt and we provide proof of its usage. Setting up tubewells and giving away sweaters to children (in collaboration with Drishtipat Canada), donating warm clothes in winter to rural regions (in collaboration with Chhinnamukul), cleaning up streets in Dhanmondi, promoting zero drug abuse, anti-littering campaigns and hosting Leadership Training Workshops in Jessore; 1° Initiative has accomplished an enormous lot. We now have our own T-shirts, a vibrant website, an awesome newsletter and most importantly, a dedicated pool of youngsters who are part of the family.
1° Initiative is now a brand. This statement is proven by the number of teens who now want to join our force and the emails we receive. We’re expanding to Nepal because people from Kathmandu believe in our initiative. It has been an overwhelming experience for me to head this dream since its birth and witness it growing wings. The time, effort, arguments and dedication have all proved their virtues and to this day, 1dI rolls in full swing. There is a long list of people to thank who have placed their faith in us, and this article does not provide me with enough space to do so (scroll down for list). You all know who you are and we will always be grateful to you. Thank you for being a 1° change in this world.
Visit the Official 1° Initiative Website for more information, or mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
1° Initiative thanks:
- Hossain M. Elius, North South University
- Daniel Rahman, Radio Foorti
- Nazim Farhan Choudhury, Adcomm
- Zaid Islam, Photographer
- Dr. Rownak Hafiz, Autism Welfare Foundation
- Nusrat Khandker, Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital
- Kashfia Habib, Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital
- Md. Mohituzzaman, London School of Economics
- Sameen Rehman, Drishtipat Canada
- Sumaiya Sharmeen, Drishtipat Canada
- Ehsanur Reza Ronny, Grey Ads
- Shahriar Shamim Emil, Rising Stars
- Nahiyan Khan, Scholastica
- Wafi Sattar, USA
- Ms. Nina Huq, Mastermind School
- Mrs. K. M. Sajjad, Sunbeams School
- Mr. Rick Davies, American International School Dhaka
- Sabrina F. Ahmad, Rising Stars
- Shamma M. Raghib, North South University
- Mr. Taimur Islam, Urban Study Group
- Md. Abdus Salam, DOM-INNO Ltd.
- Mr. Golam Kibria Chowdhury, G.A.P
- Dr. Nizam, Afzalunnessa Foundation
- Dr. Shareef Hasan, BSMMU
- Ms. Rasheda, Aalok Shishu Shikkhaloy
- Mr. Shamim Ahmed, Sunbeams School
- Dr. Idris Ali, BSMMU
- Dr. M. A. Rashid, Ibrahim Cardiac Center
- Dr. Rebecca Milton, Asif Survivors’ Foundation
- Nabila Idris, Bangladesh Medical College & Hospital
- Hiroki Bhai, Ekmattra
- Mr. Azizur Rahman, Surovi
- Community Action
- Mastermind Community Service Club
- Sunbeams Community Service Club
- Abu Sayeed Mohammad Sohail
- Nurullah Sir, The Ark Int’l School
- Rubayat Khan, Jagoree
- Nashrah Rahman, Brandeis
- Anato Chowdhury, University of Birmingham
- Tahmid Islam, University of Liverpool
Yes, kids do grow up very fast. (=
Just the other day, she was all warm and cuddly, wrapped in blankets and sleeping peacefully in my arms. And now, she’s all grown, dreaming and looking up at the skies. I really made a grand effort to take a picture of her properly. You know, the typical smiling, laughing, playing kid who’s happy to be growing up.
However, in spite of my efforts (and some successes as well), I kinda fell in love with this photo. We were trying to make her sit and smile, but she kept falling back and staring up at the heavens. And what a sky it was that day!
I think she was dreaming.
I don’t really like blowing my own trumpet. In fact, I would rather be without it. However, I figured this is a news I can’t help but share, and I am thankful to a lot of people for bringing me to this moment. So yes, for people who know have played a role in my becoming, do know this is a toast to you for your support and love.
A couple of months back, I submitted three photographs at the Sony Cannes World Photography Awards 2009 Contest. There were 10 categories (for ‘Amateurs’) and recently, I came to know one of my photos have been shortlisted into the Top 10 under the category of ‘Music’. 183 photographers from across the globe have been selected and shortlisted (10 or more in each category under the labels ‘Amateur’ and ‘Professional’, so 183 in total), and I couldn’t believe I made it! It was even cooler to know I was the only one from Bangladesh, and it felt really good see my country’s name up in that list.
The second round of judging would have selected the Top 10 photos from the 183 shortlisted ones, and clearly, I didn’t make it through that round. That means I don’t get the prize money; however, I already had more than I could ask for.
So, I received a mail a few days back that read the following:
From a total of 25,370 images entered into the amateur categories alone, it was certainly a difficult decision for all our esteemed judges to narrow the many excellent entries down to the shortlist and then the winner. We thank you for your hard work and commitment to capturing and submitting some amazing images.
Having been short-listed, your work will be on display at the Winner’s exhibition in Cannes as well as featured in the 2009 SWPA Winner’s Book – so congratulations once more on getting to the top 10!
Sony World Photography Awards
World Photography Awards Limited
9 Manchester Square
London. W1U 3PL
Like I said, I already got more than I asked for.
Thank you everyone (you know who you are) for your continuous support and belief in my abilities. I still remember the days I dragged Tushmit or Amreen through Dhanmondi Lake to practice portraits, or begged Rajiv to buy me a camera. And Zabir, you know I would not have even participated if you hadn’t pushed me hard enough. I love you all. ❤
A very big thanks also goes to my niece, Zara (who is one now) on whom I practiced each and everything about photography I learnt. I don’t think I would have come to this day without her.
As for everyone who will get tagged in this note on Facebook, I am eternally grateful to you for giving me a place to express myself. I never thought I’ll be someone carrying a camera and loving it so much! (=
Thanks to all my Flickr buddies, RS peeps and folks at Drik. You’ve all been an inspiration! (=
The photo on Flickr
I still don’t consider myself a photographer. I am growing, learning and evolving every day. However, it still gives me joy to know all this. woot!
May God bless you all.
I will be uploading my article/insight on the title shortly.
Meanwhile, feel free to browse the following link for photos and videos of the uprising for border guards in Bangladesh:
Footage of BDR Mutiny