I left Rangamati on Friday. In tears. Which is so totally, unbelievably uncategorically Not Me.
My good bye ‘speech’ also involved tears. A speech because that is what a leaving function involves here, complete with podium, microphone and of course a banner. Nothing happens here in Bangladesh without a banner. I often wonder, if a function is held in Bangladesh but there is no banner, does the function really exist? It’s hard to say, because there is ALWAYS a banner.
The good byes kicked off with Moanoghar’s Executive Director in tears. Which in turn set me off. By the time it was my turn, the taps were well and truly turned on. The first person I thanked was Buddha Datta. When I turned to look at him I was somehow, magically and mysteriously, transported back to the very first time I walked through the Moanoghar gates. Transported back to a time when it all seemed so foreign, so unfamiliar, so bewildering. Back to first few days and weeks, when questions ranging from ‘did I really think this move to Bangladesh decision all the way through?’ to ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ where running through my head. Back to those first days in the office, where I had NO idea where to start. Back to the days when 1000 school kids milling around frightened the bejesus out of me (only because kids can be cruel, you know. What if they didn’t like me?).
Somehow, standing up there about to thank Buddha Datta, this all ran through my mind. It was like having my life flash before my eyes, except this was my placement flashing before my eyes. This incredibly journey I’ve been on playing like a little video in my mind. How what started off as so foreign, filled with so many strangers, became so familiar, filled with so many friends. All filtered through the reality of the political situation being faced by the indigenous people here. I’m sure that leaving any placement is sad, but here there is the added sadness of the situation. If I came back to the CHT in 10 years time, what would I find? What will be left of the amazing cultural diversity of this area, what will become of the people here? What does the future hold for my friends, and for the communities here? The government has recently issued an order that the use of the term ‘indigenous’ is no longer allowed in Bangladesh. And the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the CHT Regional Council Act is illegal and unconstitutional, threatening the existence of the special administrative structure in place in the CHT since the signing of the Peace Accord (http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=134324). And various players are also petitioning to have the CHT Peace Accord declared illegal and unconstitutional. I really just don’t know what the future will hold for the next generation.
But, for me, I can leave. I can swan back into my 1st world life, and enjoy all my human and constitutional rights. I can walk away from this all. I have a future filled with a range of choices that are unimaginable to people here. I can do anything, go anywhere, and be anything. And why am I so lucky, so blessed? Why was I born in the right place, at the right time, with the right skin colour? Why did MY life unfold before me with so much opportunity, comfort and security?
Ok, now add all of that THAT into the emotion of a good bye speech. Tears were inevitable.