“Really? Well… I wonder what life was like for you. I mean… I don’t know much about the place, but I haven’t heard the best of things….”
This was the umpteenth time I had heard that same response. Always the same message, just said with a different combination of words each time. The same hesitation in their voice, the same uncertainty, the same condescending tone, as if I was somehow “less than”.
I too, respond the same way each time, smiling and saying, “It was great. I had a fantastic childhood and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world”.
I grew up playing sport at school, running between the bright green and purple, uneven, concrete basketball courts lined with palm trees, and the soccer field that was riddled with patches of grass and mud, under the scorching 40-degree heat of the sun. I grew up sitting through traffic jams where you’d be lucky to move an inch every hour. I grew up sneaking out of the house to ride rickshaws without the hood up, to ride paddleboats a day before exams, on a lake so murky you couldn’t see through the surface, eating ‘phuchka’ doused in tamarind juice that was almost certainly mixed with water from sewage drains. I grew up learning to love the stars, as I would be lucky to spot even one through the smog that veiled the night sky. I grew up leaving the house in my pyjamas with my best friend at 10 pm because she felt like hot chocolate and weed. I grew up eating the ripest and freshest of mangoes, lychees, starfruit, and oranges sold by that one fruit vendor who sat next to the tailoring shop my grandmother knew. I grew up running around the school halls asking for lunch money, and claiming I would pay them the 20 taka (30 cents) back the next day. I grew up shivering and throwing on every sweater, scarf, and beanie I had every time the temperature dropped below a “chilly” 20 degrees. I grew up having four plates of sweets being shoved in my mouth every time I visited a relative. I grew up wearing the brightest, most extravagant sarees, dancing and eating at weddings where I knew neither the bride nor the groom. I grew up getting soaked in acid rain on my friend’s rooftop and laughing as our parents berated us for catching colds from our childish ways.
I grew up in a loving household, surrounded by the best family, the best friends, the best food, and the best teachers, in the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. I grew up in the most beautiful place on Earth, and the place that will forever have my heart – it’s home.