(Photo Class W/ 4 Yr Olds)
Lots of things have happened. I just had tea with the director of a lovely organisation that does participatory action research in Bangladesh and secretly teared up hearing about the low-cost community-based early-childhood-education model they created. I get involved with a lot of things I disagree with in order to eventually get access to gold like this. This guy was good and unfortunately (for me) it really is about interpersonal skills and charisma (I lack them at opportune moments). I’m visiting their projects in August so I can see for myself and return back to earth/be useful and comment with more than damn son, that’s near perfect.
A mixture of masochism and indecision keeps me here in Dhaka. I am interested in Drishtipat, the organistion I’m kind of doing stuff with. The imagined community is also a nice carrot tied to a rope. They’re hawt and attempt interesting things in the country. It would be really nice to crack open that scene for real. I think my utopian private school upbringing instilled in me a hyperactive longing for Community. Though I know that I will not find political peers if I stay here. What is the benefit of learning to live without? Honestly, I should just go home.**
Just as I wrote that (I’m at ‘the office’ right now) Guggenheim a really nice research/coordinator turned to me and we just talked for like 2 straight hours. WAW. It started with, “Hey, don’t mind me but what are your qualifications?” then attempting to drill me about development. Except 20 seconds in, we were both laughing about the BBC Hardtalk special on BRAC’s Dr. Abed. Hilarious!! Nanu came into the TV room when I was shouting to myself about him talking about hybrid seeds and the power dynamic between enormous development firms, Abed himself and the agency of marginal farmer. Anyhow, Guggenheim turned out to be awesomely fun to talk to about how NGOization has undermined social justice work and when that work is not participatory, it imports and imposes value systems. His particular argument was that NGOs have degraded social relations especially in the rural setting. Like he was talking about Mahajans like I’ve never heard before. Weird and interesting, and not full of shit like other talkative NGO heads. ALSO PLEASE NOTE THAT WE JUST TALKED IN BANGLA AND I USED WORDS LIKE PODOTHI AND ADHIKAR. Waw.
On reflection, I think I was conflating peers/community with the activist culture (as I know it in NYC). Of course I can’t find that culture of house parties and student mobilization, but I can probably find intelligent friends (who are sort of like peers) and flat-addas (equivalent of house parties). I just have to locate them better. Or I can import peers. I know there are other Bangladeshi Americans who’ve read Fannon and Friere and aren’t joining the academy. Any of them want to do something crazy like wear jeans and live in a flat without their elderly extended family for a while? Half serious proposition. I think one big factor in relocating to Dhaka is weighing just how much I’m willing to give up of my personal freedom. If I do this I need it to be an active decision, not just an experiment this time.