I was worried last week because I thought I accidently asked out a Bangladeshi man on a date. Pure accident, I swear.
I have been growing close with these local young men working at the restaurant I eat at. I asked them about their favourite movies and mentioned how I’d love to see a Bangla movie. We all said we’d go to the movies the next Friday and I should invite my friends. The Sunday before the movie, I ask one the boys, the accountant, and he said Friday was no good because it was Ramadan – Thursday will be better. But he did not tell anyone else, and asked for my number.
"Uh oh," I thought as I refused to give out my number, "I hope this isn’t a date date." It’s not entirely appropriate for men and women to go out in public together if they aren’t married (though it happens, it’s not at all common. I stress, not at all.) So I’m sure it’s worse if he’s out with a foreigner. Did I just break a cultural rule? I show up on Thursday to find both Sumor and Gia are taking me to the movies.
We catch a CNG (baby taxi/auto-rickshaw - see picture) and head to the Star Cineplex inside Bangaldesh’s biggest mall, Bashundhara City Mall. They said this is the nicest and biggest theatre, with cushion seats and three theatres -- I didn’t have the heart to tell them that all seats in the US are cushioned and one standard theatre has at least 20 theatres in your average suburban Cineplex. Squeezed between Sumor and Gia, they reveal that this is the first time that they are going to the movies “with a lady.” Sumor, 25, is dressed up in nice black slacks with a sand-coloured shirt that has a black-and-white imprint of an eagle perched on a tree with snakes for roots. Gia, 23, also in nice black slacks in a beige shirt with light blue trim that traces the collar, back and wide cuffs. I ask why and they said, “Oh, I feel shame if I take a lady out alone. If I take her out, a guardian must come along.” Well, now I’m embarrassed, I ask, “Do you feel shame in taking me out?” They jump, “No, no, no, you are our sister, it is no problem.”
We wind through Dhaka traffic around 5 pm. The boys point out important momuments and buildings and tell me the history of each and it’s effect on Bangladesh. I cannot echo their deep love for their country through cyberspace. As we pass a memorial for the citizens and students who were killed during the Liberation War, Gia turns to me and says, “I would fight and die for my country. Would Americans do the same?” As I think of my close friend and her fiancé in Afghanistan, I respond, “Of course, there are many soliders who are putting their lives on their line for American right now.” (In my head, I question whether the choices of war are for ‘Americas protection’ but regardless, I fully respect the soldiers – who must take orders, as sketchy and imperialist as they may be.) But Gia then said, “No not soldiers, I mean the everyday American – would they die for their country?”
I didn’t know the answer. Do you?
stay tuned for Part II: Shakespeare - Bangladeshi Style