I finished watching Sunetra’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are, not knowing it’ll be taken back to her Bengali heritage because I’m a rebel and I don’t read the summary before pressing play.
Firstly, I cried in 3 places and didn’t understand how much this episode would move me. I resonated with Sunetra in so many levels, the disassociation to my heritage was even more heightened because the lack of knowledge I had about Bengalis was saddening. I’ve spent my entire life proudly being a British Asian, born and bred in a wonderful city like London. Finally, artists now are able to show such topics on the big screens – I felt exactly the same when I watched “Lion”, Garth Davis done such a wonderful job with that one.
This year I’m going to put in more effort to learn more about my rich Bengali heritage.
I grew up listening to my dad talk about the troubles with the war and what went on but I used to never completely immerse myself in that conversation because I couldn’t relate to it. Now I realise how important it is to understand your past because it can reveal a lot about you – I’ve been lucky enough to be raised by really strong, independent women figures in my life, my mother, sister and sister-in law. They all came from different walks in life, sharing different experiences but the fundamental foundation that tied them all together was that they were related to me and knew that women should be treated as human beings, they should be educated and have opinions and never let gender be an excuse or reason to stop you from doing anything in life. I just want to thank you all for the imprints you’ve left in my life because now I try my best to spread the same awareness, be outspoken and never apologise to talk about taboo subjects. In reality it’s those subjects that instigate freedom in this world.
I will drive myself to learn about all these great Bengali figures we’ve had including Rabindranath Tagore (my favourite human being to have ever lived) – his radical thinking and feminists’ views in a time where majority of topics discussed were classed as taboo. I knew the national anthem for India was written by Tagore but I didn’t know it was written in Bengali and then translated (I should’ve put two and two together). I also wasn’t aware about the incredible atrocities Bengalis had to go through when they were at war with West Pakistan. There was a bit in this episode that killed me. West Pakistani officials were told to rape/violate Bengali women and keep them, in hopes that they become pregnant and have a child who is a “Pure Pakistani” – they wanted to completely wipe out Bengalis all together. The sheer thought of this disgusts me and makes me question the absence of humanity at that time (Bangladesh Independence was found in December, 1971 – all of this only occurred couple decades ago!) absolutely amazed and petrified. However, it gives me a lot of hope in how far these nations have come and how Bengali families stopped coating sectors of nations and realised that their ancestors may have hurt us but everything after, isn’t them!
I’m extremely grateful and wholeheartedly love that my partner has both, Pakistani and Indian heritage and I couldn’t love this man more. Even though it is extremely important to know your heritage or faith, in the journey of identifying yourself, the most fundamental aspect of this entire life is that we are all skin and bones first, we are all human beings FIRST.