By M Riaz Hamidullah and Ahmed Fahad
Dhaka, April 17 (Prothom Alo): Bangladesh turned fifty, defying apprehensions of many naysayers. We firmly and decisively wronged the thesis of ‘Test Case in Development’ of a few in the West.
Bangladesh was born to defend values. A people, led by its most charismatic leader, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, made supreme sacrifices aspiring for ‘Sonar Bangla’, standing up for freedom, rights and democracy. A people now led by his able daughter, a visionary leader, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, continue to champion women and girls across policy and politics.
The ‘Idea of Bangladesh’ keeps shaping but in the world’s information glut, Bangladesh often features for wrong reasons. The fact that here is a nation which continues to champion empathy, harmony and inclusion, that here are people who celebrate culture of peace not culture of religion, remains missed out in the constant construction (or deconstruction) in international print or the wider mediascape.
The fact is that the ‘Bangladesh story’ is so much beyond US$ 40+ bn exports or US$ 43+ bn forex reserves or the 43rd largest economy globally. The depth of stories from Bangladesh merit to sync in much further. Many miss out that Bangladesh’s journey, often labelled as a ‘development surprise,’ is much beyond shirt-to-ship manufacturing within the global supply chain.
The recent report of a floriculture enthusiast in Gazipur (central Bangladesh) growing Dutch tulips in Bangladesh soil is surely a case in point. His persistent efforts over a span of two years even took his Dutch suppliers of tulip bulbs by surprise. He disproved the presumption that tulips are unlikely to bloom in Bangladesh’s agro-ecological conditions. Such tales of individual enterprises abound.
Whatever the headlines or reports or gaps in the systems may be, contemporary Bangladesh presents a remarkable human story of resilience, innovation, enterprise of millions of ordinary women and men. They continue to battle existential challenges of floods, cyclones, climate change, resource insufficiency, in their own ways. Almost on a daily basis, they navigate ways to meet the challenges in their lives and livelihoods – with an attitude of “never give up!” Here are a people who refuse to accept devastation as ‘destiny’. Against the most telling circumstances, limitations or constraints, ordinary Bangladeshi women and men defeat despair and hopelessness, come what may.
Over the past decades, many tales of innovation quietly dotted Bangladesh’s development landscape – from farms to factories. Some of the transformative ideas and initiatives have even been replicated across faraway lands and communities.
Presenting the real narrative of Bangladeshi women and men is thus a felt need. Foremost, the need is about projecting a just and fair view of a population as large as 170 million, not merely as a matter of correcting the myths or misperceptions, and increasingly so as people’s mindsets are shaped or opinions formed across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is especially so, as the infinite virtual space we roam about is so much about narratives being set or shaped through ‘posts’ rather than news reports.
This is when the idea emerged to create a curated platform, BDUnplugged.com. It was born as a portal that aggregates the tales of Bangladeshi people’s ideas, enterprises or innovation hubs. We realised, everyday numerous (apparently ordinary) ideas, enterprises and innovation that quietly shape our economy, society, culture, development, go unnoticed, even by the Bangladeshis. Yet, such are the tales that not only can present the strengths of Bangladeshi people and society for many right reasons, but also attract societies or economies for reasons or circumstances unique to them and not merely as anecdotal reference.
Simply put, this portal, through curated content, spread across diverse areas of Bangladeshi lives – living – livelihood, is a modest response to plug the void. And to unplug the facets of Bangladesh to our friends across the wider world e.g. of our award-winning films, Bangladesh Art, wider design heritage, elements of popular culture et al — not merely in respect of conventional building a positive standing of Bangladesh abroad.
Looking afar, the portal promises to gradually offer a basket to anyone who wishes to delve deeper and learn about Bangladesh. This is a platform for those not just considering Bangladesh for a specific business venture but also an ordinary person who is simply curious about Bangladesh.
At the turn of fifty, Bangladesh and its people rightfully deserve attention. That is where and how the Bangladesh Embassy to The Netherlands consciously chooses to step in.
Riaz Hamidullah, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands (@hamidullah_riaz), and Ahmed Fahad, Sr. Vice-President of Pathao (@amdfad_), are collaborating on www.BDunplugged.com