mahmud rahman's pages

writer.translator

Category: migration

Looking backwards: 1947 and after

When the white crescent on green flag was hoisted in Dhaka, as the Raj took leave, I was yet to be born. The only family story I have heard of that day is that my Dada — really my Nana, my mother's father — lit a cigarette. He was not a smoker.
    Lighting a cigarette can have different meanings. Some smoke to calm their nerves. Some light up after they make love. I was never a habitual smoker. Now and then I smoked with friends, enjoying their company. One winter I even tried cigarettes to ward off cold.
    For my grandfather, it was an act of celebration.
    There would have been others that day smoking with different feelings. For many, their lives turned upside down, that day was not a happy one.

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Troubled waters

Here in northern California, winter rainstorms have thoroughly soaked us. To the north of San Francisco, rivers flooded their banks and some areas were drenched with as much as nine inches of rain from a single storm.
   I wasn’t affected much. Thanks to last year’s patching, my ceiling sprung no leaks this time. The neighbor upstairs wasn’t as fortunate.
   It is winter, so the rains are no surprise. But even before the rains arrived, water was on my mind.

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How far is Penang from Dhaka?

On my last trip back to Dhaka, Bangladesh, nearly a year ago, I flew in via Singapore.  At that airport, dozens of Bangladeshis came on board.  I sat in an aisle seat, and a young man with a mustache took the window.  After we had finished the evening meal, I asked him where he was coming from.  Malaysia, he said. He had flown in from Penang, where he worked in construction, setting up elevators.
    There are perhaps as many as 200,000 Bangladeshi laborers in Malaysia, just over half that number having legal contracts to work there.  Most are employed in construction.  Through our conversation I learned something of the conditions in which they lived and worked.

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