21st Century “Kunta Kinte”! Chapter 4: The flash back! (part one)

21st Century “Kunta Kinte”! Chapter 4: The flash back! (part one)

21st Century “Kunta Kinte”!
Introduction: Revealing the “untold”! | Chapter 1: The realisation! | Chapter 2 : The beginning! | Chapter 3: The dream!

Chapter 4: The flash back! (part one)

Yes, I still believe there is a ‘case manger’ managing my case as a skilled migrant and commenced his/her work to influence my life long ago!

It is almost four months that I have been writing this ongoing saga of my life, which is probably not much different than a lot of other first generation migrants. I am humbled that a lot of people are reading it and sending me e-mails, discussing some of the issues when I meet them at social gatherings and/or a community functions! I am highly grateful to those readers who have taken their valuable time to read this reflection of my life as a migrant.

I still get questions like, why am I writing this? what is my motive? where do I want to go with this?

The answer is, I do not know!

I really have no motive! I do not have a destination with this! But one thing is true that I would like to share the reality of my migrant life with others including my families and friends, who probably have very little idea about the struggle we had to go through as a migrant. The ‘pull’ and ‘push’ factors work behind us to influence our ‘life’ decisions.

I wish to document my experience and feeling as first generation migrant from a developing country to the developed world. As I have mentioned few times, this is solely “MY” experience and feelings. I am grateful to the editor of PriyoAustralia.com, who is happily publishing this experience. As some of my friends said, it is the reader’s choice ‘to read or not to read’!

At this stage, I would like you to ‘time travel’ with me in the 1980’s Dhaka, Bangladesh. I would like you to have a much clearer idea where I am coming from. What was in my mind and life at that time. I believe it is time to ‘flash back’ the memories which actually influenced me to fall into this ‘trap’!

I would like to reflect in-depth, how I ended up in such a lovely country like Australia. It is interesting, when I realised that both ‘pull’ and ‘push’ factors have got lot to do with me being outside of Bangladesh. It is now more years of my life – I have been living overseas, it has been more years that I have been living with my wife than I have lived with my mother! This must be the turning point of my life!

Flash back starts in 1984, graduated from BUET in December with excellent academic result and a bonus by acquiring the ‘love of life’. Yes, Nigar graduated with me and we both had realised by that time (after five years of studying together), we were ready to share our lives more than we used to share as class friends. We were planning to commence a “Shongshar” together!

Few months before my graduation, I had a job offer from one of BUET’s best teacher Architect Shamsul Wares to work with him in his small Architectural practice. At that time, this was like a golden opportunity to work alongside the great Architect like Wares sir. He was like the legendary designer among the Architect’s circle, our idol, our dream designer to work with! I was the only one got that opportunity to work with him even before I was graduated! The catch, with a salary of Tk1,500 per month! That salary was increased to Tk3,000 in December after I became a graduate Architect. I was happy with the pay, as I did not have any family liabilities and the public service was paying around Tk2,850 per month to fresh graduates.

The next person got the same opportunity was Nigar. She commenced work with the same practice in January 1985.

This was for the first time and last time we worked together in same office!

But even the joint income would no way assist us to fulfil our dream of a “Shongshar”.

I always had a dream to become a teacher, dream to work for Bangladesh, dream to involve actively in the cultural arena and media. I never had any willingness to live overseas. I never thought that I will spend most of my life overseas.

Yes, ‘man proposes but god disposes’!

I was short listed for an interview for the position of lecturer at the Department of Architecture of BUET. I was very confident (probably over confident!) that I will get the job. I did not mention anyone at home about the interview; I can’t remember whether Nigar was aware about the interview as I wanted to surprise everyone with the good news!! I had the best academic result among all candidates, I had championship trophies for national debate under my belt – brought national trophy’s for BUET few times, regular presenter on the only TV Channel (Bangladesh TV) – comparing entertainments programs, programs on architecture and planning and programs on contemporary industrial development in Bangladesh. Who would have more credible case than me!

Well, the interview was going very well with the than Vice Chancellor of BUET Prof Matin Patwary, Dean and Head of the faculty of Architecture Prof. Muktadir and Prof. Mubasshar Ali.

Suddenly, after half an hour the interview turned negative! It started to go downhill!

The moment I mentioned about working with Architect Shamsul Wares, it seems the whole room was covered with ‘cold’ air. The panel had a different plan for my life outside the life of an academic! I did not realise the ‘tension’ between Wares sir and the faculty at that time. I made a complete ‘booboo’ by highlighting my joy and happiness after commencing work with Wares sir.

I still don’t know why I did not get the job!

All I was told by the panel, I will be better off working as a professional Architect with professional person like Wares sir and it would be better for the Architecture of Bangladesh if I keep on representing Architects/Architecture through the media

This was shock number one! One of the accumulating ‘push’ factors to influence my exit from Bangladesh!

Back to Wares sir’s practice with Tk3,000 salary!

Time moves on. By this time Nigar has moved to another practice with a little bit more salary. I have started to earn a little bit more money through some private projects. Time to approach Nigar’s family to agree for us to get married!

I had agreement from my mother and my sibling’s about Nigar but I have never tested my ‘approval rating’ with Nigar’s family!

Attempt one: my older brother, brother-in-laws and some of their friends (as my father went out of our lives in 1976) went with the wedding proposal to Nigar’s family at their home in Dilu road. After listening to all the ‘fantastic’ credibility of the proposed ‘groom’ including the earnings, my ‘hope to be’ “Father-in-law” very nicely but boldly rejected the proposal.

There goes my dream wedding!

His main concern was the bunch of young people bringing this sort of serious proposal for his daughter and when did this ‘class friend’ of her daughter become a prospective ‘groom’. He was also concern with a salary of Tk 3,000!!

Very valid questions.

Probably I would ask similar question to my daughter’s if they bring their class friend with similar proposal!

But, I was ‘nachorbanda’.

I started to gather some ‘trump cards’ to be ready for a second attempt!
In the 1980’s (probably still in 2012), one of the most valued ‘trump card’ at that time was prospect of an overseas education, overseas scholarships, migration etc etc. I started to work on that and luckily got a scholarship to do my Master’s in Architecture at a university in Vienna, Austria. I was obviously happy to ‘enhance’ my credibility with a confirmed foreign admission. I had to be in Vienna by September 1985 to commence my study.

Attempt two: With that ‘trump card’ of a scholarship for higher study, this time all the ‘big guns’ from our family (my doctor uncle who was/is an internationally renowned cancer specialist, army officer uncle, brother-in-law works for the UN etc etc. ) went to Nigar’s house with a much more concrete proposal. By this time Nigar’s siblings were on my side.

Hooray! It worked!

Everyone agreed to the wedding! My ‘to be father-in-law’ very reluctantly agreed as all his ‘team member’s’ transformed into our supporters!

Democracy prevailed!

July 7, 1985, we got married and August 6 1985 we welcomed Nigar to our family home.

This was another accumulating factor to influence the ‘push’ factor! My in-laws family including my newly married wife wished for us to settle overseas!

September 1985, I was out of the country with a plan to stay overseas for long time (at least that was the plan). I was in Vienna, but still with a hope to complete my higher study and return to Bangladesh.

First week, started to miss my newlywed wife, who was still in Bangladesh. With lots of courage, I went to my professor and asked, “when could I bring my wife to Vienna?” He just looked at me with surprise and replied that it may take a year. I have to be fluent in German language and only then they will allow me to bring a dependent. I was terrified!

Three weeks later, I went back to the professor and asked the same question. Got the same answer but this time the reply wasn’t as soft as last time. I got the message that I was still asking questions in ‘English’ rather than in German!

Fourth week, the ‘missing wife barometer’ already crossed the red lines. I was desperate to have permission to bring my wife to Vienna. By this time Nigar already commenced learning German at the German Cultural Centre in Dhaka, she went back to her Father’s house to spend last few weeks before ‘flying’ to Vienna etc. etc.

I also got a job in Vienna with a local Architectural firm to design a mosque in Vienna. Fortunately my experience in designing few mosques in Bangladesh helped me to get that job.
Fifth week, the ‘missing wife barometer’ ultimately cracked with very loud noise. With all this ammunitions (my job, broken German conversation, Nigar’s attendance at the German Cultural Centre), I went back to my Professor and requested him to assist me to initiate the process for my wife to join me in Vienna.

He looked at me again, and this time the response was even ‘harsh’ than last time. He wanted to know the purpose of my ‘visit’ to Vienna? He wanted to know whether it was to study or to stay there for ever with my wife? He was questioning my loyalty to my country! He was questioning the motive for me being so desperate to have my wife with me!

At that point, I thought of him as one of the most ‘cruellest’ person I have ever met. He did not have any consideration or sympathy for me being overseas for more than a month, leaving my newly married wife in far far away Bangladesh!

Being a very vocal person (even at that time), I still remember arguing with him about my priorities and how Nigar’s presence/absence may influence my study. I tried all known tactics from my book, I tried all my technics to impress him to agree to my proposal. I urged him to consider!

No reaction, like a typical ‘German soldier’ belongs to the ‘Hitlar clan’ that we see in most of the Second World War movies, he was a man of ‘steel heart’! a man without a smile!

Well, I made my own decision – I had judged between my priorities – education or wife, wife or education! I had reflected significance of events in my life and I had projected the ‘quality of my life’ without Nigar over the coming 12 months.

What I did not judge was the consequences of my decision!

Sixth week, straight went to the office of Aeroflot Airlines, reconfirmed my return ticket on the following day and went to the Vienna international airport to fly back to Dhaka without informing anyone at home including Nigar!

October 1985, after six weeks of ‘Higher education in Europe’, here I am – Back at the than Kurmitola Airport. Obviously, no one was there to receive me unlike the night I left the country with many watery eyes and sad faces!

But the truth is I was feeling great, happy and joyful! I left Vienna to meet my wife!! I left Vienna to meet my mother, to meet my family and friends. I left Vienna to be in Bangladesh!! I left Vienna to ‘live’ with my family!!

Higher education – that can happen anytime in the future. I am still too young for higher studies without my wife! This was the conversation going in my head. This was the rationale I had, to guide my actions!

I took a ‘Bikolpo taxi’ from the airport.
It took the taxi around forty minutes to reach our home. I pinched myself to confirm that it is not a dream. It is real and I am home! It was around 11.30am. I climbed through the stairs up to the third floor. I knocked on the door. I didn’t know who will open the door and what will be his/her reaction after seeing me!

I realised, this is probably the shortest time for anyone to return from a planned higher study and probably the longest time for anyone to wait outside the front door of their own house!

I knocked the door again. I think at this stage my heart bits were also very loud and fast. I started to feel the tension inside me, my heart started to bit faster and faster!

I was ready to knock again, the door opened with a pair of eyes which probably experienced the biggest surprise of their life! I have never seen such a pair of eyes full of dis-belief!!

All I realised, God must have a different plan for me/us!

(to be continued in May)

Farhadur Reza Probal

Farhadur Reza Probal

Architect Farhadur Reza FIAB MPIA


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21st Century “Kunta Kinte”Kunta Kinte

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