Illinois Central College
Through the Clouds to a New Life
I was the Great Nazmus Khandaker! I ruled my people, made things happen, challenged the law, was looked up to, respected, and loved. I would have it my way, get comfort when I needed it, and insured that my people obeyed me. When I was challenged, I fought. If I was winning, I was sure to put my opponent in great shame; however, when I was losing, I would take the beatings like a man but would never submit to failure. It was almost perfect; almost like being a heroic king. Unfortunately, two obstacles lay before me; obstacles I feared were impossible to overcome. They were my parents. It was they who prevented me from becoming the absolute ruler I wanted to become.
At least, that’s how I felt. In reality, though, I was a spoiled, annoying, little brat! You know…the kind of kids that are raised with so much love that they are over their heads; those rascals that are around six years old but acts like they are the ones paying your paycheck? You know…the type of child you would never want to babysit? Yeah, that kind of brat!
My father had three brothers and two sisters. My mother had two sisters and two brothers. My grandpa and grandma from both sides were still alive. Not to mention, during that time, I was blessed to be raised with the love of my great grandparents! It’s not over yet…no! My mom and her aunt and cousins were very close. All this meant that I was raised by dozens close relatives, and since I was the first child in a new generation, I got all the love that I could get from everybody! How could I not become spoiled and hungry for attention? For me, the world revolved around me!
I can clearly remember that day. The sky was clear, and the sun stood right above our heads, beating its heat on everyone that stood below it. The laughs and shouts of kids playing on the streets surrounded the neighborhood. I was walking back from school, and just as I was about to enter into our brick apartment complex, I saw several kids playing. These kids were young and looked so happy. In fact, they were too happy for my taste!
One of the kids was short, fat, and had a skin whiter than the rest. He was wearing a red shirt and brown shorts. As he was running around with his playmates, I launched myself like a tiger would against its prey. I beat him, and threw one of his red sandals in the dirty drain that surrounded the apartment. I watched his face cover with tears and his cry turn the playful environment into a gloomy scenario. All kids scrambled with fear, leaving the poor, crying, boy to slowly walk towards his apartment.
I did regret my actions soon afterwards, and this regret and pain haunts me to this day. But this isn’t the only thing I regret doing. I clearly remember the horrible things I did just to get attention. I always had full attention and love, and when there was a single day where this attention was reduced by even a fraction, I would have my ways of getting it back.
It was one night when I felt that people were too busy to pay attention to me. I decided to change that by dumping an entire gallon of soybean oil in a drum of uncooked rice. There went our month of food storage! We depended on rice at least twice a day, and a drum of rice gone wasn’t going to make mom and dad happy! I wanted all the attention I could get, except when the attention came from my parents. I ran off that night. I ran off to a neighbor’s house where I was bound to be protected and loved!
I remember breaking a glass table to seek attention. I remember pulling the hair…literally…out of my aunt’s head. I remember kicking and punching at the servants when they would not do what I told them to do. I remember leading my pack of second grade classmates to our mischiefs. I was the oldest of all of my tens and dozens of cousins from both sides of my parents. I would lead them all to wherever I wanted to go or whatever I wanted to do. They would follow.
Do you hate me yet? If you don’t, I applaud you for having such a big heart! Do you ever feel the need, when confronted with a kid like me, to just push the mute button? I wouldn’t be surprised if you did, for such a thing did happen to me. Fate finally got back to me and pressed the mute button on me.
I continued with my attention seeking and annoyance creating activities. But in the later years, I would hear my parents talk about Canada. I didn’t know such a country even existed. I would hear about my dad’s friend who went away to Canada. But it was always them; they would be gone; not us! I wouldn’t believe that it could be us that would ever go away to Canada. But that which was beyond my beliefs became a reality sooner than I would expect. I was going to move to Canada. Mom, dad, my sister, and I would be leaving Bangladesh forever.
I sat by the British Airways’ window, watching the ground become smaller and smaller. Clouds soon covered my view of the world as I knew it. I had always been excited to see what a first world country, like Canada, would be like. And it was only my dream to get on a plane. But I was also confronting two of my greatest fears. One would be to have to face English. The other, well, would be to have nowhere to run to get the attention I needed and to hide from my parents for my misbehaviors.
We would land in Canada, and, soon, get a small, one-bedroom, apartment. I would start my first day of school. I could not even speak one sentence of English. I had run from it all my life. I, like my classmates, would fear learning English at school in Bangladesh. Teachers, in Bangladesh, would give us tough, useless, English homework and beat us with a stick if we got even one answer wrong! But now, English surrounded me. Everyone spoke it while I could not.
I was mute. I had lost all of my ability to lead a pact of classmates; in fact, I had no friends! Attention? Pft! Forget about it! The only one who actually bothered to pay attention to me was my sister, parents, and my teacher. I felt like I went from being the man on a gold pedestal to a beggar eating garbage for a living.
That was the death of me. At the same time, it was the birth of me. I would relearn the strange, but fantastic, ways of living in a developed nation. My teacher would guide me and teach me to speak English. I would watch kids’ TV shows like, Elmo’s World, Dora, Teletubbies, etc., and through these shows, I would learn the true meaning of friendship.
Because I would not be able to speak well, I wasn’t such a big mouth as I was in Bangladesh. I would follow the teacher, as she would be there to help me in every step. I was labeled the smart and goody good guy. I didn’t mind being the good, lovable, person for a change. Moving to Canada had started me from scratch and created for me a new foundation from which I would build my character.