Amie B: Amar Desh Bangladesh

Hello readers! I know it has been a while. In our time apart, I took my finals, applied to journals and tried out for moot court. Days later, I moved back to Bangladesh and began my summer work. Now with finals over, move complete, and internship commenced, I am back to being able to share my musings and adventures.

First I would like to welcome you to my country; “Amar desh Bangladesh” (My country is Bangladesh). Bangla, the national language, is written using the Sanskrit alphabet so what you are seeing here is my personal transliteration. Bangla is central to the country’s identity, as you can see Bangladesh literally means “Bangla-country.”Bangladesh Flag

Today’s Bangladesh was part of the British Indian Empire. Once the British pulled out in the mid-20th century, the Muslims migrated to the north and the Hindus moved south and the two states of Pakistan and India were formed. Originally, Pakistan was two pieces of land split by India, Pakistan and East Pakistan (modern day Bangladesh). Though united through Islam, the split country had many conflicts, particularly over the use of Bangla and Urdu.

Eventually the issues lead to civil war and in 1971 Bangladesh became its own state with Bangla as the defining national identity. On the flag, the green represents the plush country and the red represents the blood that was shed to gain independence during the Liberation War. Consequently, the country is immensely proud of their language and it has been internationally recognized for its beautiful prose.  Most notably, Rabindranath Tagore won a Noble Prize in literature for his Bangla poetry.

So in a land where the language is sacred, how much Bangla do I know? Well, I would say a two-year old and I could have a pretty decent conversation. No, it’s a little better than that but the language I know is very practical for life in The ‘Desh (a little term of endearment). Because it is written Sanskrit, I can’t read or write it. Consequently, I learn through conversation and necessity. I can give directions to a rickshaw wallah, haggle over the price of fruit, and ask if it is going to rain. However, when the conversation elevates to sentences with more than three or four words, I am out. Despite my limited vocabulary, Deshies (Bangladeshi people) always appreciate attempts and love that I am making an effort to honor their language.

Today, Bangladesh is probably most famous for its overcrowding and poverty, as it is the most densely populated country in the world. It is about the size of Iowa but has 160 million people. To put that into perspective, Chicago has about 2.7 million in the city proper. So imagine about 60 Chicagos in Iowa! Bangladesh-physical-mapTo complicate its population issues, Bangladesh is a delta located at the bottom of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna rivers. So while it may be about the size of Iowa, it has significantly less landmass because so much of the country is comprised of rivers and lakes or is too saturated to be habitable. Beyond the already large amount of water, every year during the monsoon season the floods further take up more of the land forcing the millions of people into even less square footage. Check out this great article that discusses the climate change and its impact on Bangladesh: Will Climate Change Spark Conflict in Bangladesh?

Despite its challenges, Bangladesh was home to my first job out of college and always seems to draw me back in. The many people make the city buzz with excitement and diversity. As I walk to work, I share the road with CNGs, rickshaws, goats, cows, trucks, cart pullers and vehicles. Everyday is always an adventure and constantly challenges me to grow and adapt.

Questions for Amie? Email law-admissions [at] luc [dot] edu with the subject “Ask Amie” and she will make sure to answer them.

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