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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing the photos, Nashima is a beautiful woman, and you are right it reminds me of the women in the biblical stories..

Mrs. Santos said...

Thank you for sharing this, Ruth. How true it is that one thing in this culture would mean something else in another culture.

Last year, when Mr. Santos and I travelled to El Salvador it seemed like all the women and girls did was wash clothes and wash dishes and cook food.

When I tried to play a game with some of the children on paper, I learned that some of them (age nine and up) had never NEVER drawn a circle or anything before. How much I take for granted the free time I have to read, or draw or write down my thoughts. I believe this is truly a privilege.

Indrani said...

Love the details you presented. A slice of daily life so normal to them yet so strange to others.

Arija said...

Yes, it is important to 'do in Rome as the Romans', it is the little habits that are important.
Nashima was very kind to let you watch her at her work.

Genie said...

What a wonderful story you have shared with us, and the pictures add so much. They bring the story alive...or is it the story brings the pictures alive. Either way, this was a post I thoroughly enjoyed this evening. genie

Vernz said...

ayan.. amazed lang sa nakasanayan nila... although nothing far from the situation of women back home... thanks for sharing Ruth.. thanks also for the drop.. late visit here :) see you again.

It'sSteph said...

Ruth, I've thought of you often and have stopped by your blogs on occassion. My own computer seems to be acting up and I've had difficulty leaving comments. I love this post- there truly is a whole world out there that God loves deeply. I pray you have a wonderful holiday season.