November 14, 2011

There's Another World Out There!

I was enjoying my milk tea and roti in the living room when I saw Nashima came in from the kitchen and was ready to leave the house through the main door. "Wait!" I grabbed my camera and, with hand gestures, asked her to pose for me.

Nashima, though shy, was kind enough to pose for me.
When I'm in a foreign land I tend to get too excited taking pictures of everything that appears different from my own culture. I have to remind myself to be careful not to be too aggressive with my camera. I don't want people to feel violated and harassed so I would always ask permission before I take photos of people.
But I think I got too excited when I saw Nashima with that jar. She was like one of the women I saw in Bible stories! I felt being transported back in time.
Nashima preparing the coconut for a curry dish.

But Nashima is a woman of today. She is not wearing a costume or acting a role of a woman in the Bible story. She is living out her normal life. A kind of life most women in Bangladesh lived.

Nashima using boti in the kitchen.
Nashima is my friend's neighbor. My friend asked Nashima to come to help her prepare food for me and another friend. I watched her skillfully worked with both hands peeling onions with that boti, a unique tool she used to cut and slice vegetables. Her hands moved so fast against the blade that I had to take several shots to get a clear picture. Her foot kept the tool stood still on the floor. I was fascinated. Bengali kitchen is very different from mine.

I sat beside Nashima and as I watched her work, I was beginning to wonder.... Is she happy with her life? Her life, seem to me, is bound in the kitchen. No wonder why Bengali dishes taste very delicious. It's a lot of work to prepare each dish.

She worked quietly and at few times threw a glance toward me. I smiled each time our eyes met. She never smiled back. How I hoped she would show me a sign of happiness in her countenance. She didn't. I thought she also didn't approve of me watching her every move.

It was only after she left that I realized that she would tilt her head each time I smile at her. Oh, how I forgot I was in another culture!

Just like in India, a subtle tilt of the head could mean a thousand words in Bangladesh. It's a way to connect to people. And when I started doing the same instead of the usual smile I learned in my culture, I felt more locally attuned and that made a big difference.