Thoughts at 5am

Thoughts at 5am RAW..

Listening to : State of Bengal+Paban Das Baul

I haven’t written anything of value (All thoughts are precious) for the last few days.  I have sat down numerous times to bang out a personal statement for applications for masters.

In reflection of my two months in Bangladesh: the intensity of the trip was too much for my soul.  It was too much and still is, and I need to spend the next few weeks developing these strands of thoughts and ideas.  At the same time, I need to focus on the matter at hand.  Employment, staying focussed and in the present, giving myself the time needed to do the all the writing and reading required.

With an impending prospectus of no income, being holed up in Darlington was the perfect solution, only for me to realise how limited Darlington is.  An access to a library that has enough books for a scholar interested in how trains were put together… books on international development, Bangladesh, urban policy and architecture are hard to come by.  So although I am content, I feel like I am being starved.  Darlington, as much as any northern town, has the ability to make me realise the important things in life.  Namely, My life.  Newcastle is only 45 minutes away though, so once holidays are over maybe I can get over there and use their library..

Last year I read the Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. A messed up little book about architects, ego’s, selfish objectivity and mediocre socialism that is apparently to blame for the failings of modern society.  This little note has nothing to do with that.  Rather, the idea that I, as a young architect in the making, can sculpt, or design a future that is socially viable and beneficial to the greater human cause.  I remember a teacher saying in University that although one may have social intentions, it does not necessarily mean that one can be a good social architect.  It got me thinking in all these crazy ways and ensured that I would not become the ‘social’ architect until I knew I was good enough.  When you set the bar high, its easy to miss, but baby steps is and always will be the way forward.

The realisation from the R&D trip this time round is simple, that Bangladesh, in order for one to implement a change within it, one has to draw energy from the very ground that Bangladesh is built on.  In order to draw energy from the ground, a selfish act, one has to be able to give back energy, a selfless act, namely to love the country for what it is.  This is me balancing my scales.

I’ve seen architects stemmed deep in history, in nostalgia about the great Bengal, about the Tagores’ and the Islams’,  Modernity holds a strong bond with the architects today like it is an escape into a realm of a great and fruitful Bengal.  It is going to happen even more this year, with a celebration of 150 years of the great Rabindranath Tagore, the 40 years of Bangladesh is a whimper in comparison.  How one man can outweigh the greatness of a whole nation is beyond me.

In a bid to bridge a gap between those who do not know, and do know the history of Bangladesh, its important, not to watch Ntv and Channel S all day, but rather to provoke questions and seek answers in books (one will argue that books on Bangladesh are limited, the next best thing is to go for yourself..not to your village. But to those nooks and crannies and places that you’ve been told has demons and evil people, stay safe though so always take somebody with you 🙂 )

The stories of a liberation war lost in translation, lost, in mother tongues and also being lost to a generation, its complex political corruptions and goings on keeping the bright kids at bay and the ones interested in power to flex their muscle and cash.  It is easier to celebrate Tagore than it is to understand what 40 years means to a country called Bangladesh.

The question that I have always asked myself is that, can, if their parents haven’t played a role in the build up to liberation, can those children respect and love a country the same?  It feels to me that we are so disconnected, living in England, visiting Bangladesh every so often and being part of the diaspora that is happily brit-bangladeshi.

Adaptation of both cultures means that we are neither subservient to the total culture in England, nor the culture in Bangladesh and this has created a generation of Asians that hold so much potential but perhaps not all of them live up to it.  Ours is a young society, time, as many keep screaming at me is something that we dont, is still on our side.. The thought comes to mind as I think about the complexities involved in going ‘back’ in order to go forward.  People have criticised my intentions, and my ideas about going back to Bangladesh for the last two years.

I have never defended devoutly my reasons for doing so.  It didn’t seem right; I was going with gut feelings and ideas that were floating in my mind, all I knew was that I had to go back for myself, for my soul to understand and then to teach me.    80% of the world is still classed as ‘developing’.  Civilised society has a long way to go.  But. When you live in a small town and everything is local and everybody that matters is here, then the rest of the world is just numbers and stats.

Again the question I put forward to myself is that, I know I love architecture, and I know that all I want to do is dedicate my self in the role of improving architecture in Bangladesh, what gives me the right to walk in to an alien country, namely the country of my birth, (so maybe not so alien) but alien to my cultural upbringing.  A small portion of it, I can relate to, the rest, was just a big question mark.  I knew from the beginning that I would have to fall in love with the country.  The very essence of what Bangladesh is.  For someone who has been detaching himself from it all, to then go and connect is a huge HUGE step.

Several conversations with a friend, Juleka, that we met on our trip, about love, its values, her story, her struggle, finally made the pin drop.  Does that mean that I now amorously love Bangladesh? Not so much, but it made me realise what I was doing wrong.  My approach from way back had been to be ‘specific’ about what I wanted to love, and am sure everyone will scream and shout and say ‘you cant put a boundary on love’.. I love architecture in its entirety, and this is perhaps an ode to architecture more than anything else, but the love for Bangladesh had to come from my deeper self, from my very childhood.  Time spent in the village on this trip was very limited (just 2days) and we questioned the idea of where is home for artists that travel.  For some of us the answer was ‘nowhere’ the travelling had made us nomads.  For others it was a specific place.  For me it was also a specific place.  The village.  Does that mean I want to retire in the village and become a farmer? Not so much, rather it means that I know where my home is.  Being fortunate enough to travel one can see and appreciate the wider world and bring in other ideas.

The poet in me knows that the idealisation of being a farmer in this day and age is probably beyond my modernist self, but in an ideal world who knows..

So, the way I see it, I have reclaimed my birth-right as it were, and can say that I love a country that is rightfully a part of who I am.  It was my pilgrimage. An epic one at that.  I know I haven’t uploaded images etc. But in time.

So then why do I feel I have to go back? I am sure its a question that has been on peoples’ mind, for a just and egalitarian world, we all have to do our little bit.  I have long ago forsaken the idea of becoming rich for the sake of being rich, or an architect so that I can earn ‘big’ money.  But am sure that was there, am sure that when I was speaking to the careers counsellor in school all those years back, I was thinking about how much architects earn. The beauty of this is that not everybody has to struggle.  Not because they don’t, every body struggles, its the ‘de facto’ of life.  But not everybody chooses to struggle for a higher purpose, or aspires beyond themselves. Your question would be what makes me think that I am? I have allowed my gut and instinct to guide me as much as I have allowed my mind.  Level headed thinking comprises of both heart and mind and I have always followed both.  At times one can outweigh the other, its only the natural order of things.  Perhaps its all the literature I have read growing up, the personal experiences, the ideals embedded in me by my parents, the ideals of my friends.  My environment has definitely played a strong role in what I want to do and what I am becoming.  Taking time out to figure things out is important for the soul.



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