"Why Do I Speak Bangla" by Behnaz Ahmed

“Ekushey February” is tomorrow and feelings of patriotism are apparent than ever throughout the Bengali communities around the world. I am sure there are ongoing television programs on Channel i portraying our history of 1952, parents listening to “amar ey bangla basha”, Tagore poetry readings, and of course, many patriotic articles being posted on the daily janakantha or related websites. I am lucky to know a very talented young writer (Behnaz Ahmed) whose great write-up was recently published on The Dhaka Tribune. Her expression of love for the Bengali language and culture is straight from the heart, and that is great to see around this time of Ekushey February. I have copied her article below as well as an attached link (share it!). After reading that, everyone enjoy your Ekushey February, remember your martyrs who so bravely advocated the recognition of the Bengali language, and embrace your history and Bengali-ness a little tighter :) 

“Why Do I Speak Bangla” by Behnaz Ahmed 

I have a love-hate relationship with dinner parties. As a Bengali twentysomething who grew up in the United States, you could say these gatherings defined a certain part of my cultural upbringing.

In suburban American-Bengali communities, these affairs usually involve women, “aunties” as I call them, crowding around a kitchen, assisting the host serve culinary marvels straight from Siddika Kabir’s cookbook.

Their husbands sit in the drawing room and attempt to solve the world’s political problems over a game of cards. Late into the evening, there is tea, and if we’re lucky, the culturally enlightened among us will find a harmonium somewhere and grace us with their talents. What’s there not to like?

So we’ve talked about the love, let’s talk about some of the hate. While I was growing up, it was without fail that at these gatherings, I was asked in some way or form: “Your Bangla’s pretty good, how did you learn to speak so well?”

I never really understood why my linguistic capabilities earned me so much Bengali party street cred. One thing the nine-year-old me did know was if I forgot Bangla, the next winter vacation I went to Dhaka, my Mama, one of my favourite people in the world, probably wouldn’t buy me an ice cream cone if I asked for it in English. And that, in my nine-year-old mind, was serious cause for concern.

Sixty-two years ago, four brave men, Abdus Salam, Rafiq Uddin Ahmed, Abul Barkat, and Abdul Jabbar, sacrificed their lives for me to be able to speak the language that gave me those adolescent moments of fame.

I have these men and the Bengali Language Movement to thank for my ability to enrich my life with the music of Tagore and Nazrul, the poetry of Jibananda Das, and end of workday phone calls from my Ammu that just wouldn’t be the same if they weren’t in Bangla.

So, how is it that Western-immersed Bengalis like myself choose to speak and converse in Bangla? It is around Ekushey February that my mind wanders, and I try to find an explanation to these questions.

The truth is, I don’t have an answer, but a feeling. Bangla is an escape from the language of my meetings, exams, and excel spreadsheets. It is a language whose script to me is like art. Bangla is chaos.

It is those winter vacations in Dhaka where I am lost in a sea of family, awful traffic, and stories of my parents’ youth. Bangla is the smell of my grandfather’s beard, and the taste of patishapta pitha. Bangla to me is love. 

Article link: 


 - Rumination #56

Halterneck dress with leggings

Behind the scenes of New season, new trends!

Concept & Styling: Sabiha Akond Rupa
During a friendly get-together, wear this beautiful Monaco blue dress with yellow leggings to bring out your inner-child. Matching slippers and funky jewelry will give you a complete new look.

Model: Hridi
Photography: Rupsmania
Wardrobe: Doors

Dhaka Tribune Top 10 fictional works of Bangladeshi literature:
Dhaka Tribune is short listing the 10 best works of Bangla fiction from Bangladesh. Readers can vote from the list below. Visit their Facebook page to enter your picks. This is exciting, readers, so participate!



1. “Bishad Shindhu,” by Mir Mosharraf Hossain
2. “Lal Salu,” by Syed Waliullah
3. “Kando Nadi Kando,” by Syed Waliullah
4. “Kritadaser Hasi,” by Shawkat Osman
5. “Janani,” by Shawkat Osman
6. “Surjo Dighol Bari,” by Abu Ishaq
7. “Pokamakorer Ghar Bashati,” by Abu Ishaq
8. “Jibon Amar Bon,” by Mahmudul Haq
9. “Uttam Purush,” by Rashid Karim
10. “Amar Joto Glani,” by Rashid Karim
11. “Jibrailer Dana,” by Shahed Ali
12. “Pushpa Briksha Ebong Bihanga Puran,” by Ahmed Sofa
13. “Onkar,” by Ahmed Sofa
14. “Alat Chakra,” by Ahmed Sofa
15. “Atmaja o ekti Karabi Gachh,” by Hasan Ajijul Haq
16. “Agunpakhi,” by Hasan Ajijul Haq
17. “Khoabnama,” by Akhtaruzzaman Elias
18. “Chilekothar Sepai,” by Akhtaruzzaman Elias
19. “Josna O Jononir Golpo,” by Humayn Ahmed
20. “Modhanno,” by Humayun Ahmed
21. “Magna Chaitonne Shish,” by Selina Hossain
22. “She Rate Purnima Chilo,” by Shahidul Jahir
23. “Amar Bondhu Rashed,” by Md Jafar Iqbal
24. “Dipu Number Two,” by Md Jafar Iqbal
25. “Ma,” by Anisul Haq
26. “Kracher Kornel,” by Shahaduzzaman
27. “Sareng Bou,” by Shahidullah Kaiser
28. “Urukku,” by Nasreen Jahan
29. “Nishiddha Loban” By Sayed Shamsul Haq
30. “Chappanno Hazar Borgomile” by Humayun Azad
A bibliophile’s abibliophobia

I have stayed up many nights with a good book for company, but the fear of not having anything to read has caused me a few sleepless nights…

Books, libraries, reading, bookstores, the written word, language and culture, all of this, and much more related to them, I credit with keeping me sane.

I can’t imagine my world without books, especially my books, the ones I have collected over many years. They have become in many ways my keepers of secrets.

I am not sure I like the idea of digital books, while Amazon and Apple wrangle over the digitalisation of books, prices online, and publishing, all the talk about traditional books becoming obsolete just makes me nervous.

I am tempted to get copies of all the books I love and put them in a time capsule.

Amazon.com has changed the way people buy books, and with Kindle it has started to change how people read books. Last year, it went one step ahead and released a programme that essentially uses algorithms to determine readers’ expectations, and suggests for writers a suitable storyline.

I simplify of course but surely such a contrived idea would make anyone sit up and take notice, and ask why we needed to have formulated stories published for a market already dominated by and large by a few key players?

Later this year Random House and Penguin will merge, which means fewer options for everyone. Readers and writers. With the likes of Katie Price aka Jordan getting published and climbing up bestseller lists, but creative writers so often left out of the loop because they don’t fit some marketing box?

When it comes to books, and the authors we want to read, the idea of any company making decisions on our behalf grates. The buying and reading of books are deeply emotional and personal acts, and the material we choose to read is determined by innumerable influences, which includes subtle and not so subtle marketing gimmicks I admit. But mostly the mood I am in determines the books I buy and the book or books I choose to read.

Among all the things I can’t find easily in Dhaka, the absence of a good bookshop upsets me the most. There are compensations in the form of New Market’s musty old stores, among which Zeenat Bookstores holds pride of place. I used to go there every other weekend, with my uncle, we would usually walk down from Dhanmondi in less then twenty five minutes and I was allowed to pick any book I wanted, and two comics. My childhood was shaped by these trips to the bookstore, and my birthdays were marked by volumes of books,mostly abridged versions of the classics, and assorted comics, Enid Blytons and Nancy Drew. But I would read anything I could get my hands on. Nothing escaped my grimy little fingers, I devoured books, often they made little or no sense, but I just loved the flow of words when I read them. If I wasn’t tearing around, I was cooped up on a window ledge of the old house, which was wide enough for me to sit comfortably on, with a book of my choice.

When I was going to university in Delhi, my favourite bookshop was Sehgal Brothers in South Extension market, in my final year the store was being renovated so they had a massive sale on everything, with 50% off on all stock, I wanted to buy everything. I would end up at the shop without fail on alternate days on my way back from classes, and pick several books, and return home with my purchases dizzy with excitement. It wasn’t that I had loads of ready cash, I didn’t, but I was happy to live on milk, bread and eggs for a month if I could buy all the books I wanted. I did, and arrived at the airport with 60kg of extra luggage, all books. The man at the counter took pity on me I think, because he let me onboard without charging me. I couldn’t have paid if he had charged me for the extra luggage, I had nothing left after the taxi ride to the airport!

When I was in London, I would buy at least six new books every week, taking advantage of the Waterstone’s three for two schemes. My fondest memories of the time I spent with an ex boyfriend are of weekends drinking red wine and ordering books from Amazon.com – he had access to an international credit card and a diplomatic “bag” that guaranteed delivery – and I would wait eagerly for the twice monthly thrill associated with the moment he would return from work, bag full of new books, for us, for me!

If I am on holiday, half my budget is allocated for books. In Bangkok, the massive Kinokoniya is a favourite, where I spend hours browsing.

I read several books at a time, which does muddle the stories and characters sometimes but knowing I can always go back and read them again means I can re-discover the stories with each reading.

It isn’t unusual for me to be at a party and wish I was in my room reading my book. I have feigned illness, and all kinds of “problems”, because I am reading a book too good to put down. I fail to answer the phone, eat, sleep, wash or bother with anyone or anything because I am so engrossed in the book I am reading. I have been known to skip work because I could not bear to part with a book.

On March 7, many countries celebrate World Book Day, but did you know there was also a World Book Night, observed on April 23. Held on a symbolic date for world literature, it marks Shakespeare birth and death anniversary, which is why UNESCO picked the date for International Day of the Book. It is celebrated in many countries, with events to celebrate reading and the giving of books.

Isabel Allende in a recent interview said: “Humanity has this need to hear stories because they connect us with other people, they teach us about our own feelings. We feel less lonely when we see other people going through the same things, even if they’re fictional characters.”

I have always treasured books. They are, for me, the best gift anyone can give me. The return of a “lost” book that someone borrowed and forgot about, is an even better gift in my books, excuse the pun. 

We all need stories to give our lives meaning and perspective, and I am never as happy as I am when I have a great book to read.

Avid readers will know how discombobulating it can be when you finish a book and find yourself in the mundane real world. The sense of loss associated with the end of a book, is akin to saying goodbye to a dear friend forever. Except with books it is not forever, we can always go back and find them again, and again. There are books that I start to read again, as soon as I have read the last page.

There are too many books that have left their indelible marks on me, too many authors to mention. The books that have been my constant companions, the ones that saved me and helped me rise out of the depths of despair reveal new layers and meanings with each reading. While there are some books and authors I find difficult to read, I save them for the right mood, some simply evade me. It is a rare book that I hate and am unable to read at all. Not counting the genre known as Misery Lit, and the teenage girls’ fantasy Mills and Boons, neither of which ever held any appeal for me.

Praise for reading, the unique and singular experience it is for each of us, defies all fears about books and reading becoming obsolete. The life changing experience that reading a good book entails, means people will always read books because books change us inextricably. 

Whether they are textbooks in schools, or scholarly treatises, tomes for reference, biographies, fiction, novels, short stories, poetry or prose, enrich and enlighten us through words. Books are both educational and entertaining, and nothing Hollywood produces can beat the experience of reading.

Books give us perspective and make us better people; as a University of Buffalo study proves. Reading fiction the study found, makes us more empathetic. I am wary of the methodology used: researchers gave 140 undergraduates passages from the Twilight series, and from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to read. The details can be found online. Bizarre.

All books to some extent enrich us so I am wary of anyone who says they do not read books. I am scared silly when I learn there are people in this world, who, and I know this for a fact - because I went and checked myself - don’t own a single book. Not one! The scary part is they have children. My concern is, should such people be allowed to have children? From my limited experience of child bearing and rearing, I would say reading is an essential part of the whole process. When my close friend was pregnant Heidi Murkoff’s “What To Expect When You Are Expecting” were constant companions, and for good reason too. I recommend that book to anyone whether you are expecting, spouse of or just because everyone should read it. I think that book should be essential reading for everyone.  

While it is easy to point fingers and blame everyone for everything, reading habits despite the Internet, computer games, television, libraries closing down, absence of teachers, mentors and what have you, I believe the future of traditional books is not so bleak or dire.

I don’t have a gadget to read books on, yet. A friend I trust says a Kindle will change my life, imagine having all those books in your gadget? The whole world of books, entire libraries…I will withhold judgement until I get one, if ever. I like old fashioned books, but I also understand the environmental aspect of saving trees, and so on. Its a Catch-22 option!

But we need not fear because the printed book is not dying any time soon. Though surveys and studies indicate people are reading less, they also indicate we are still reading for pleasure. In fact, when a book holds meaning for a reader, we go out and get a copy of the printed version, even if we have Kindle or iPads. So there is no need to worry about digital books taking over the good old printed book, because unlike gadgets, books don’t run out of power or need batteries!

*Abibliophilia: The fear of running out of reading materials.

 Naheed Kamal, Big Mouth Strikes Again, Weekend Tribune, Dhaka Tribune, Vol 1, Issue 8, June 8, 2013

Hello World!!

Bangladesh - a conservative country where people are still afraid of religion hence vast number of people prefer to live their lives timidly. I’m living in a city called Dhaka - a city where young people tend to imitate the western culture and live-in-between. I was born outside of Dhaka, but grew up here. Lived my whole life here, been to very few places and seen many people living with different perspective of life. Imitating was the least thing for me to pursuit. Becoming an computer engineer but ended with journalism. Now here I am, living my life, happily-ever-after.

Hello World!! This is Sabiha Akond Rupa, and Welcome to my blog!

Started my career as a fashion journalist of a renown newspaper Dhaka Tribune since May, 2013. Thought to share my views about Fashion in Bangladeshi context, so starting this blog. Hope you all will give feedback of my opinions about fashion. 

“Life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!” ~ Forrest Gump’s Mommy

Watch on findingmotherland.tumblr.com

Video from the Dhaka Tribune


In Bangladesh, news is everywhere. Though it is usually unclear in the details. What I mean by that is it is rare we really know the whole story or even if the story is fact or fiction. The stories we read are often slanted to present political views, favoritism or to cover up the sins of near and dear ones who have made gross errors in judgement. Money is also a key factor.

Live news has been coming to the foray in recent times, but not always in print media.  There is a ticker on most of the news media’s website, but I don’t know why it really isn’t updated as much as it could be. This became painfully apparent during the blackout we experienced over a week ago. I am thankful that reality TV hasn’t yet hit Bangladesh in its worst forms.

As for me, I spent what little electricity we had keeping my phone charged and checking for updates as to when the power would be back. Call the local Dhaka Electric Suppy Association (DESA) was pointless as the line was continually busy. 

After looking at The Daily Star and BDNews24 mostly, I found that the Dhaka Tribune kept the most updated coverage. Way to go Dhaka Tribune! Keep up the good work! Just needed to give a shoutout to them as I think they are awesome. 

Bangladesh, the Aging Society of the Future

External image

Photo by Khaled Hasan, Image via globalpost.com

Maher Sattar in Dhaka Tribune

It might be hard to come to terms with, but Bangladesh is an ageing society. The number of elderly people in the country – that is, those aged 60 and above – is growing at a faster rate than the number of people below the age of 18. We’re getting old.

But that still doesn’t acknowledge the full scale of what’s about to happen. In 2010, Bangladesh’s elderly demographic was 6.6% of the total population. By 2050, it’s projected to be 22.5%, making Bangladesh a fully-fledged aged society.

To put this in another way, at present only about one-twentieth of our population is over 60; in just 35 years, it’ll be about one out of every four people. It’s going to be one of the sharpest demographic shifts in Asia, and one of the sharpest shifts in population age in history, anywhere.

In a way, this is quite an accomplishment given our status as a poster-child for developing country problems – a monumental success in accomplishing birth control targets and prolonging life expectancy. On these terms, we win.

In almost every other way, we don’t. Bangladesh is not ready to become an aged society.

Read more here.

Warning: Do not read if you are easily offended

It is important to choose our battles and our friends, imaginary or otherwise

Lets get one thing out of the way first, I don’t believe in any god. I am an atheist. Not an agnostic, not confused, not mislead or lost. I simply do not believe in any religion, dogma or prophet. But I know the force is strong in me, and it is the same force that propels the universe.

Now don’t jump to conclusions. I don’t have a problem with religion or religious people or people who believe in religions. But I do know for a fact that many, if not most religious people have lots of issues with people like me. How do I know this? Because I have often been at the receiving end of over exuberant proselytisers’ fanatical efforts to “turn me back” from my non-believing, errant ways. Lately, there are anonymous callers and veiled threats. Friends tell me I ought to keep my big mouth shut. Now until the nation’s attention was drawn to these “atheist bloggers” I was keeping calm and carrying on, mouthing off as I always do…

So what do I believe in, is a question I am asked often. I believe in freedom, and human dignity, in mutual self-respect and knowledge, in differences and acceptance.  We are all entitled to our opinions, and we are free to express them, they can and often are different from those held by others. We should be free to practise, or not, any religion, if we want to, or not if we don’t. It is, whether we like it or not, a life choice, not mandatory and certainly not required for life to have meaning. There are no legal requirements for anyone to believe in any deity or idea or dogma (the ones in “holy books” don’t count.)

Most people practise a religion in some form or other. Some are more devout, others less, some practise for social reasons, many find strength in being part of a herd, while others find comfort in rituals, most use it for their own selfish end, while many more use it to control others, and so many fall under the stick of fear, wielded by persons claiming to speak on behalf of a god. Then there are people like myself, atheists. We don’t care for such shallow social constructs. Does being “godless” mean I am evil? I find I have actually become more open and accepting, far more understanding then I could be if I was guided by the tenets of various religions.

I understand not everyone is of the same opinion, and that’s fine. Because you can hold on to your beliefs and I can get on with my life. I don’t need you to agree, just accept they are mine, and that I respect your views but I don’t agree with them. We can agree to disagree!

No? We can’t? I must believe in what you hold as sacred, holy, and infallible? Are they? Says who? Who’s to say you are right, and I am wrong? For all I know, I know nothing. But you are convinced you know for sure…

There is nothing more tiresome then a conversation with someone desperate for affirmation. The conversation, if you can call it that, goes something like this: You don’t pray/fast? Why not, don’t you believe in God/Allah? Why not? How can you not? Where do human’s come from then, surely you know He made us?  What about the prophet? Are you Christian? So you believe in some god, don’t you? Even atheists must believe in something? Why not?? You don’t believe in Allah but you believe in a greater force? What is it called? Who made us? Who made the Universe? You MUST believe. You are confused. You must pray to Him? I will pray for you. Why not? What do you mean you don’t believe in anything? You must, you have to, how can you not believe? What about the Koran? It is the word of God, of course it is. Everything happens because He ordained it…what is the Universe if not God? What do you believe in then? Where does everything come from? It is God, of course! The Force? What do you mean by the force, you mean God? What did you say; if god existed it would be a she, a goddess? There see, I knew you believed all along. God is what you call a goddess. Everything is God! How do I know? I know, because the holy book says so, it can’t be a lie, it is God’s words written down… If such an exchange is not reason enough reason to abandon belief in any religion then I don’t know what is. I speak for myself when I say don’t tell me the universe is proof enough.

For believers, their first and foremost loyalty lies to their creed, and those belonging to it, they are cliquish. Anyone who criticises or tries to leave the clique is seen as an enemy of said creed, and he/she becomes the enemy off everyone who believes in that creed. In some cases it is even justifiable to kill the “other”, and circumstances can be stretched to suit the need of the moment. It is apparently every believer’s duty to kill an apostate, i.e., someone who is born to the religion but refutes it, such as myself.

A cleric in Syria decreed it was all right for rebels to rape Shia women, in the Maldives a young girl who was raped was found guilty and administered one hundred lashes; in the UK, the parents of a young girl murdered her because they thought she was too defiant. There are hundreds of stories. I won’t even go into the suicide bombs and mindless violence perpetuated in the name of religion by people. Many will say that is not religion, it is people, but to me it looks like one and the same.

Your belief doesn’t automatically make all others null and void; its existence does not mean the other (whatever it may be) is out to destroy your beliefs. You don’t have the right to attack anything or anyone because it is different. You do not have the right to kill someone because you do not agree with their point of view or they yours.

Not believing in a god means not believing in any god. It is not a substitute for one, or a deity with a different name or no name. Hard as it may be for a believer to accept, it is equally difficult for me to grasp why anyone continues to believe in any of it?

Naheed Kamal, Big Mouth Strikes Again, Weekend Tribune, Dhaka Tribune, Vol 1, Issue 3, May 3 2013

Behind the scenes of "New season, new trends!"

Lemony maxi dress: For a playful weekend party, this maxi dress is the perfect outfit of the season. Both comfortable and flattering, the dress will go perfectly with a pair of animal printed or golden shoes to give you a stylish look.

Cropped denim with t-shirt: Whether you’re heading to university, the office or a mall, slip on some navy-blue denim and an off-white, tangerine T-shirt. Follow the trend by cropping your denim and tucking in your T-shirt. Add wedges, a bag and a belt, and you’re good to go!

Halterneck dress with leggings: During a friendly get-together, wear this beautiful Monaco blue dress with yellow leggings to bring out your inner-child. Matching slippers and funky jewelry will give you a complete new look.

Model: Hridi
Photography: Rupsmania
Dress: Doors
Concept & Styling: Sabiha Akond Rupa

Me and my black-eyed dog

As Lewis Carrol wrote: “We are all mad here. I am mad. You are mad.” Recently, a friend said he went to a doctor because he was finding it difficult to deal with life’s stresses, the doctor who specialised in psychotherapy lectured my friend for his “unwillingness” to listen to him, prescribed sedatives and other meds, and told him once he took the meds my friend would be “more susceptible” to what the doctor had to tell him about his problems! My friend took the meds but they left him disoriented, it was impractical for him to continue, so he approached me. He said with a laugh: “I just wanted to talk, but the doctor wanted to do all the talking!” So we talked through the night - mostly he talking and I asking for clarifications occasionally. Mental health issues are on the rise across the globe with life becoming more stressful, resulting in various mental and physical disorders. In Bangladesh, people struggle to find help because we lack trained mental health professionals. Lets get one thing cleared - mental disorders have biological and neurological basis, they are not due to character flaws or mental weakness. There is also the misconception that they are triggered by isolated events, when we all know how stresses can easily build up over time. The stigma associated with mental “illness” makes it harder to address. I have heard so many stories, and experienced instances myself, when professionals - call clients/patients “emotionally unbalanced” and “crazy”, and insist on medications, when we know meds don’t help – they are far from helpful. Lack of awareness, stigma and absence of affordable care means people with anxiety, depression and stress struggle. Some self-medicate, others turn to drugs and alcohol. Many will end up reaching the point of no return and give up, so many take their lives. The lack of understanding means people fail those in need just when they need help most. It is a vicious cycle. I know a number of people who’ve been caught up since teenage years in a cycle of addiction and rehab, which don’t address issues and provide temporary solutions. It is harder to accept when you have always prided yourself for being strong to suddenly find yourself swinging between extreme highs and lows, being excited to being depressed, and worse yet when it manifests as a physical illness. At times, it’s hard to envision that things will ever improve, though I know they will, eventually. I deal with life on a day to day to basis, relying on friends instead of meds. I know I am shocking people by being so honest about this subject, we are not supposed to mention such topics in polite company. Well, I am not polite. Mental health issues make people uncomfortable, I understand that. People’s reactions have ranged from horror to abruptly changing the topic to moving away as if it is contagious to pretending something very important came up, or laughing. I recall talking to a friend who happens to be a trained therapist, and she ended our conversation abruptly after saying to me: “You sound suicidal, you need help” and hung up! Such reactions are to be expected, because people lack awareness, which is why I refuse to cater to their ignorance. If people lack empathy and the subject makes them uncomfortable; they need to deal with it. It is not uncommon to hear people say it is all in your head. Yes, it is but that doesn’t make it any less real. For example, when stress causes stomach pains - chemical reactions in the body occur when we think about what we find stressful. It is not due to an infection or virus, but due to the process of thinking about the stressful event, which triggers chemical and biological reactions that cause pain in the stomach. It doesn’t make the pain less real, nor does it mean the pain is imagined. It is natural for the body to have psychosomatic responses to certain situations. We have emotional reactions that can and do manifest physically when we are stressed. Mental processes - not a virus, bacteria, injury, etc. – can bring on physical reactions as well. People have different emotional and physical reactions to stress and trauma; usually it manifests as an emotional disorder, such as depression and anxiety, but can also result in real illnesses. Research shows men are more susceptible to alcoholism and antisocial personality disorders, but they are more likely to seek help. Women tend to suffer from depression and PTSD. Gender differences are partly due to biological factors, and partly due to social factors, including trauma and violence, low socioeconomic and income inequalities, subordinate social status and the stress of multiple roles including work and childcare responsibilities for instance. Women are however less likely then men to seek help. Therapy – if we can find a therapist in Bangladesh - is expensive, but when a therapist lacks empathy, then it is an expensive waste of time. Here in Dhaka it can be difficult to separate professional and personal lives - because we have one and half degrees of separation if we are lucky. Plus people love to talk about other people’s troubles gleefully, and professionals are less then professional - I know of one professional who often talks about his clients at social gatherings, and clients hear about it because this is Dhaka! An ex in London is a psychotherapist with a practice at the East London NHS. He balked at the thought of ever divulging any of his clients’ case details, but he broached the subject with me because I was from Bangladesh, when he found no other way of understanding some of the topics that came up during his sessions with his British Bangladeshi clients, but he didn’t share any details and would ask for clarifications by mentioning the bare minimum. Counselling requires trust between therapist and client that they won’t divulge anything. The counsellor builds a rapport with a client through empathy - it is a big part of the process, and research shows if clients feel the counsellor is empathetic they are more likely to benefit. However, the biggest barrier to addressing mental health issues is still stigma, because if you seek professional help people assume you’re admitting to being “crazy”. The absence of affordable care and therapists anywhere in Bangladesh - I know of just one person who is not a psychotherapist but has helped those who can afford her, and she’s beyond the reach of most - makes for a dangerous situation because people are less likely to seek help when they need it most. Only 2 out of every 5 persons with a mood, anxiety or substance abuse disorder will ever seek any help. Given the enormous impact mental disorders have on society, the significant human and economic costs might make it worth our while to address the issue, instead of ignoring it or laughing at the “cray-crays”. The prevalence of anxiety disorders and personality disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder, eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia, addictive disorders such as alcoholism, in Bangladesh, makes the degree of ignorance, even among professionals, appalling. People with mental disorders would be able to better cope with their lives before reaching an extreme point of distress if there was access to the right kind of help, not meds but someone who will listen, not lecture. The first step would be to understand what contributes to mental disorders, thus education is vital. The second is to break down stigmas associated with mental disorders by having honest conversations about our experiences. May be if all of us talk honestly and openly we will make it easier for others dealing with mental health challenges - to ask for help, and receive it - before its too late.

Naheed Kamal, Big Mouth Strikes Again, Weekend Tribune, Vol 1, Issue 38, January 17, 2014, Dhaka Tribune.