Well, the trip to Bangladesh was exactly what I had expected it to be:
-I never got the chance the leave Dhaka (a city I dislike) and see the rest of the beautiful country,
-but on the plus side, I am in love with my extended family. They are inquisitive without malice and my well wishers without expectations. They treat you like royalty, get your every wish fulfilled and all you have done is shown up to live in their rooms for a month. Granted, some relatives were a disappointment, seen through a more mature eye. The rest might not understand how much I have changed in the last decade but they are proud of me nonetheless. I am reminded once again of the feeling that only relatives incite- that they are ‘your people’ who love you and are always concerned about your well being as if you had been living near them all along. I was also able to handle the inevitable 'when are you getting married' questions since they were not asked in mean spirit.
The unexpected parts were
- the discovery that the parlours in Bangladesh offer the most phenomenal 'facials'. Honestly, they are to die for and all for a measly $10.
- and a lesson in humility.
Yes yes everyone goes soul searching in the East- but I, in all honesty, figured it to be unlikely with there being no mountain tops with loinclothed gurus sitting cross legged offering you advice in Bangladesh.
This vacation was just me ticking off something I had planned to do for a while.
I didn't expect life lessons....much less spiritual peace.
Lesson 1: I understand now why people generally seem happier in Bangladesh compared to here.
Living in Canada, being a part of the post-baby boomer generation, we are given the opportunity to do anything and be anything. We have not personally experience the horror of a war or the evils of an oppressive government. A lot of us have not even had a health scare. Therefore we expect every aspect of our lives to be just right all at the same time- good job, great mate, healthy happy family, enviable body, a great car, a pension plan etc. If we don’t achieve even just one of them (face it, most of us don’t), we are unhappy.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, with its widespread diseases harsher than the common cold, gives a person very small window of opportunity to get a good job, live well and even then there is a constant fear for personal security (abeit lessened with the current interim government). What it means for its people I found is that, they expect some things to go badly and to not achieve every thing. As a result, they appear more content.
A lesson in humility came from a world traveling widow. She is blessed with financial security as well as a loving network of family and friends (the woman probably knows 2/3 of the population of the district of Khulna) whom she loves to bits, who adore her back and considers her the ultimate source for sound advice. However, she experiences continuous passive aggressive mistreatment from her only son and a daughter-in-law who pointedly waits for this 75+ old to die and vacate a portion of a room in their house. This grandmother accepts it as the only imperfection in her otherwise fulfilling life. It broke my heart every time to see her switch from being the worldly, active, friendly matron of the family while visiting members of the extended family; to a meek, quiet, old, invalid when she returns to her son and daughter-in-law’s place. She, however, is none too broken up about it and accepts the mistreatment since she doesn’t want to lose contact with any portion of her family no matter how horribly they behave.
Since they are the most important part of my extended family and I too can't afford to lose contact with them; I was forced to accept my inability to say or do anything to improve her situation no matter how much I love her. I could only lead them by the example of my own behaviour towards her. I was frustated intially as it felt like 'giving up' to me but she taught me that it was all about keeping peace at the least possible cost.
‘Keeping peace’ is what I want to strive for: peace with myself and with those around me.
It might seem like settling but I want to accept that some things are always going to be out of our control and irresponsive to a ‘got get it’ attitude. The price for getting some good things in life would be the sacrifice of something else. We just have to be sure that its nothing too costly.
It is definitely not a novel lesson, but for me, it has been an epiphany after being spoon fed on the bullshit that is the belief - “you can achieve anything and everything if you just put your mind to it or want it really badly”.