Thursday, October 26, 2006

NRBs Deciding to Return to Bangladesh

Many NRBs (non-resident Bangladeshis) dream of returning to live in Bangladesh: it's a basic human instinct. For some, the dream keeps getting postponed. Reasons come up: financial security, kids' education, occupation upon return, spousal support or lack thereof etc etc. Others decide and take the plunge.

While living in the US, my wife and I also wanted to return to Bangladesh, mostly for parental reasons. But our wishes did not synchronise often. We both loved the US (and still do) and were chasing our goals one way or another. The first time both of us simultaneously wanted to return, in 2005, we did it. Lock stock and barrel.

That's right. We really believe that it is such a big jump (specially if you have lived abroad for long) that the only way to make the change is to be totally committed to it. For us at least, "let's give it a try for 6 months" approach was not going to work.

Events proved we were right in our thinking. Three weeks after returning here, 500+ bombs went off (Aug 17, 2005) all over Bangladesh. Do you think if we had been in "trying out" mode we would have stayed here after that? But we stuck it out, because our firm decision gave us the courage to face the uncertainty.

One immense help in deciding was the general encouragement and prayers of our friends in Silicon Valley (as well as our elder relatives everywhere.) I recall that through the nerve-wracking process of decision-making - and the consequences of that decision such as putting up our house for sale - the encouragement of elders and well-wishing friends were like a calm, steadying force.

It was therefore with disappointment that I heard a story this morning of another NRB family who had decided to return home. When they announced the decision to their (NRB) friends, the reaction was more like "Have you gone mad?" No, this talented, brave, energetic and skillful family has not gone mad. They have made a sane but big decision about where to spend their time and effort on this planet, and need all the support they can get from his friends.

After all, isn't Time really all we have in this world? So isn't it important how and where we decide to spend it?

Bangladesh needs NRBs back here - specially those with skills that are in short supply. Businesses, universities and organizations here need talent in so many areas: management, IT, teaching, banking, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, etc etc.

Many organizations in Bangladesh hire non-Bangladeshis because Bangladeshis are simply not available. I heard - unconfirmed - there are 100,000 expat Indians working in Dhaka firms and organizations, not to mention other Asian and European expats. Don't get me wrong - I do not begrudge them one bit. On the contrary, I believe they contribute a lot to this country and economy, train our people, and help us become more cosmopolitan. However, the numbers show the need for skilled talent in this country.

Lest you think I am painting a rosy picture, let me also say that if you do make the jump, only you can decide your and your family's future and well-being here. This means looking for a job or starting a business or deciding in some other way how to a) support your family and b) put your talent to good use.

Of course, you would have to fight the usual battles: kids education, commute, healthcare, security, food-bhejal, etc etc. But others living here also fight those battles every day, don't they?

And if all goes well, and Bangladesh grows like she is predicted to, then your lot will also improve with that.

It takes courage to make the decision. If someone you know decides, please give them your support and pray for them. If you decide, I wish you all the best and hope your dreams come true beyond your wildest expectations.


mezba said...

was reading your blog with great interest. What you said makes sense, and you raise some great points, but also at times I think sometimes people are too idealistic. Many families, particularly the father who remembers a nostalgic view of bdesh thinks he can go back and 'make a difference' when all he can do is nothing but put his kids through misery. In those times and those cases I think people nearby should sit down and try to talk sense into the couple.

ulysses said...

Hi Mezba,

Well, ok, there are some who are unrealistic. But one never knows for sure, right (usually one finds out after the fact.) If friends are seriously concerned, they can always try the Socratic method, ie, ask some probing questions to validate the reality. Instead of coming out and accusing the couple of losing their head.

FERDAUS said...

অাপনাকে অভিনন্দন।
অামিও মাইক্রো ইলেক্ট্রনিক কারখানা স্থাপনের ইচ্ছা নিয়ে বাংলাদেশে ফিরে অাসার চেষ্টা করছি, বাকি অাল্লাহ তা'লার কৃপা।

Sonnet said...

Great article. I dont know how i missed these "NRB" articles. Bangladesh has great opportunities & jobs in any skilled areas. But it's not the job market that would scare an NRB. It's the corruption, violence,& pollution among many other things, that really hampers anyone to return and settle in Bangladesh. You have nerves. I have to admire what you are trying to do for this country. Hat's off to you brother!