The Sapient Ape

Life as an employed MBA grad during an economic recovery. DISCLAIMER: Everything written here is fiction.

The Sickly-Sweet Smell of Success

I was gonna put a picture of rotting flesh with maggots in it to go along with the theme of my title for this post, but the pics I found were too sick even for me, so here's a sunflower.  Use ur imagination.

I was gonna put a picture of rotting flesh with maggots in it to go along with the theme of my title for this post, but the pics I found were too sick even for me, so here's a sunflower. Use ur imagination.

The measure of success is a fickle baking powder.

Only 4 scant weeks ago, I blindly sucked dirt at the bottom of Depression Ocean, not able to go out to family and outer-family functions without feeling like the leper I see every day on the road to Baridhara.  Today I walked in the hero returned from a glorious victory against the infidel hordes.

So what brought about this change in Bangladeshi “high”-society’s perception of me?  I got a job.

And I hate it.  Not the job, that’s pretty awesome.  But when I see those smiles from moms, aunts and great aunts, their giggles as they discuss me, I want to puke.  Not ‘coz I begrudge them their happiness, but it bothers me that my societal success is measured more by what multinational corporation I help to deface the planet than any intention I may have of doing something with my own initiative that may be better in the long run for my psychological well-being.

‘Coz that’s the measure of a man in Bangladesh — can he bring home the bacon?  Does he have those family values (ie., money, risk-averseness, and settling for less than he’s happy with for the sake of “family”).  But then again I guess that’s the measure of a man anywhere.  Oh society, why did u curse me with a penis?  Luckily for me, the alternative’s much worse.  Oh god (he-who-I-may-not-believe-in) thank you for making me a man.

Don’t get me wrong — my job’s great.  I think its a perfect fit for me, and I think I’ll be good at it.  Most of all, I like the peoplez I’m workin’ with, from the top level down.

But when I look at those moms’ and aunts’ beaming smiles I can’t help but wonder whether I preferred it the other way around. Whether I preferred the whispered jabs and darting looks.  I’m more comfortable in the role of the pariah, the underdog, the unwanted one, the undead, than otherwise.  I’m better off hated, thought of as a failure.  For “success”, or more accurately, comfort — begets complacency.  And I’m way too young to let myself get complacent (see “World Domination Plans — TOP SECRET“).

Nowadays, I find myself leaving family dinners even quicker, using my little nephew’s crying as an excuse to leave as early as possible.  Its an excuse that I’ve seen my sister and bro-in-law use more than once, and I’m a quick learner.  Staying a minute longer than dinner cloys the mouth.

But I’ll play their little game.  Let them try and set me up with their supposed “matches”, now that I am a viable candidate for marriage.  And then I’ll love ’em and leave ’em.  OK, I’ll probably just reject ’em before I even meet ’em.

I do have standards, you know.  All these girls are way too smart and educated for me.  Give me the equivalent of a Bangladeshi “dumb blonde”.  With a nice body.  Hopefully she never got past high school (gimmee an OLP — O-level pash (pass), as my sis says).  I’ve seen too many young Bangladeshi couple’s marriages totaled in a messy affair-ridden divorce to want the same for myself.  My relationships are tumultuous enough (not that I’d trade that — its the spice of wife).

Society here is too boring, hypocritical, and small-minded, and Bengali women are too controlling with just a too much of a splash of insanity for most new marriages to last (yes, the men are to blame as well, probably to a greater degree, but being a man myself, I choose to blind myself to their faults for the purposes of this piece).  I would complain about your upper-class bourgeois members of high society not being able to commit to one person for longer than a few years, but I see just as many divorces among the middle class, so I’m forced to admit that its something deeper.  It’s actually quite amazing how many divorced couples I know of.  If we were conservative Arabs we wouldn’t have this problem.

But shit, like I said.  I like mah women like I like my crazies — crazy.

Was this whole piece just one big contradiction?   Yesno.

Filed under: Personal, , , , , , , , , , ,

No rage against the Raj.

So I just came back from Kolkata today (Calcutta, to the colonially-inclined racists out there). It was my first time in India in like 25 years or something. Which is kinda weird considering I’m brown… but I was always bored by India — more into asian chicks. Ha ha — just kidding — brown chick renaissance goin’ on right here. Besides, I thought, what could be so damn different between Bangladesh and India? Between East Bengal and West? Between Kolkata and Dhaka? Both hot, stinky hellholes epitomizing human suffering, right? Typhoid, dysentery, malaria (do we got malaria?).

Boy was I wrong. Sure they’re both hot. They’re both stinky. Both cities share similar linguistic roots, and many of the men in both places sport thick virility-tickling mustaches. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Whether it’s the Airtel/Aircel ads that bring to mind Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni telling me to press my internet button, or the fresh and mountainy TATA Himalayan spring water bringing the slight taste of diesel fuel to my mind’s tongue, India (or INDIA!, as it prefers to be known) has seeped into West Bengali culture like arsenic into UNICEF tubewell water in Bangladesh.

Today, Hindi and English are two of the more prevalent languages spoken in Kolkata, a city that used to pride itself on having the “purest” language in all of South Asia (Bengali – as per its similarities to Sanskrit, the now-dead root of most South Asian languages). And no one seems to care about the cultural dilution. Coz everyone’s making bank (except those poor muslims living in those huts on the way to Kolkata airport sorting through filth). Immigrants, whether it be Biharis, Tibetans, or Punjabis, are taking all the shitty jobs that those intellectualized Bengalis think themselves too good for, like street vending, bell-boying and cab driving. Bengalis work 9-5, getting fat on ghee and counting money, as they have for hundreds of years. Except now they do it in multinational banks. And everybody’s happy (cept the muslims of course, but who cares about them).

But only upon walking the streets of this modern, cosmopolitan Kolkata( they have sidewalks and little shops, and people actually walk and talk, unlike in Dhaka), and checking out the cute girls of all races, shapes and sizes (I like the Orissans! Nah jk, I’m equal opportunity fucker) walking on the streets with no male guardian or protective SUV shell, did I get a sense of how great the divide really is between us Bangladeshis and our snooty neighbors who don’t wear deodorant.

On my first day, I got into a discussion with one of my travel companions about how he believed India is actually falling apart from the inside, coz they are all so culturally dissimilar, and how there’s an Maoist uprising in every state now, and how us Bangladeshis are actually lucky coz we’re a cohesive homogenous unit who all think a certain way, and we really don’t treat our minorities as badly. Ummmm… bullshit. My whole life I’ve seen what culturally dissimilar democracies bring to the global table. New York City, London, and Spain, to name a few. Probably the three pinnacles of human civilization in terms of open-mindedness, acceptance of different cultures, and kick-ass art and music. Immigration, emigration — the movement of people to new locations where they are isolated from those who think just like them — fosters social, cultural, and economic development. Sure, it may be a rocky road, but its one that ends in nougaty nutty goodness.

That to me, is the inherent problem that we face as Bangladeshis. There are a shitload of us — 140 million — but most of us worship the same god, speak the same language, eat the same food, and even wipe our asses the same way (although that last part’s changing, hopefully). We drink the same tea, spit on the same corners, squat to piss, like the same bad Chinese food and music that makes us weepy. How can 140 million be wrong? Well even if they aren’t wrong they sure are damn boring.

Shazia's book cover... I tried to snort this line several times to no avail.

Shazia's book cover... I tried to snort it several times.

The above individual also had a few words of wisdom to ad (nah he’s pretty smart and he’s gonna be reading this blog soon, so I gotta ease up on him). “A friend of mine once said Dhaka has all of the bad things about a big city with none of the good.” We have the insane traffic, we have the pollution, we’ve got the crime, and we’ve got the drug problem. But where is the cultural gemification? Where are the centers for cutting edge music and art? The great street food and the open minded people?

They’re in India, right across the border. Tickets start at about $90 bucks round trip on Kingfisher Airlines, and the stewardesses are hot (with their little red miniskirts)!

Now in case anyone thinks I’m hating on my country, no way. Bengalis have a lot of great democratic, open-minded qualities upon which this country was formed (they escape me right now, its been a while). I just don’t want us to forget those on the road to globalization. I’m just another self-loathing liberal who “wants us to be as good as I know we can.”

Lastly, I’d also like to give a shout out to mah gurl Shazia, who just published her first book with Penguin India, and who’s book launch was the reason I flew out to Kolkata. “Like a Diamond in the Sky.” Its about drugs and Bangladesh so you know its good or at least ironically sad. Read it. She’s gots talents, yo.

Filed under: Politics, traveling, , , , , , , , ,