Friday, June 20, 2008

UWB - Unidentified Walking Bideshi

What would it be like to see the first foreigner of your life? How many of those firsts have we been the privileged recipients of?

In Canada we come from a multicultural society. A society where people from around the world live in relative harmony. Our frame of reference is not limited to those identical to us. But how would we react if suddenly Tintin the lime green, pink haired alien showed up speaking some wild language? Sometimes here I feel like Tintin. Here I am an Unidentified Walking Bideshi- a white skinned, blond haired stranger who happens to speak a little Bangla.

Where are you from? The most common question received by guests to Bangladesh is where they come from. To the highly educated in the country Canada is a country in Europe, or Africa, or America. To the less educated in the country, Canada might as well be Venus, outside of their immediate reality is in many ways nothing more than a dream. Sometimes, as a joke, when people ask me where I am from, I will first tell people I am from another district of Bangladesh, and the number of people who believed me is astounding. Where I am from is really not what's important other than the fact that I am different. I am novel and I am different.

I don't think we, from Canada, could understand the concept of standing for 15 minutes staring at someone without moving. The idea of having someone from another place walk by you and being entirely awestruck by them. In the villages I am (and we were) the attraction. We provided the entertainment for everyone we passed, people gather from the surrounding villages just to stare at us.

I am the unidentified Walking Bideshi.


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