I was born as a religious minority in a remote, highly disadvantaged rural area without electricity in Bangladesh, a place deprived of basic human conditions we take for granted. In fact, my Hindu village was surrounded by at least 20 Muslim communities, making it a long journey on foot to reach the nearest Hindu neighborhood. Such a position, however, was not without its value. On the contrary, the life of anomie and squalor led me to take on “double consciousness,” and, in turn, resilience.
I remained in this out-of-power outpost until I completed my first major public examination in the tenth grade. Most people in my rural village lived in “kaccha” houses made of bamboo, dried grass, and mud. And though I never regretted being born there, the opportunity for a meaningful education was all but non-existent. There was an elementary school in my village (Kamarkhal Primary School), which, having only one room for approximately 50 students from first to fifth grade, was in deplorable shape, to say the least. The school fell just below a 99 percent drop-out rate. What about high school (6th-10th grade)? I had to trek a few miles back and forth in order to attend. And in the rainy season, if I missed boarding the engine boat, I remember swimming across the murky river by my home just to make it to class. Studying had to be finished before sundown as there was no electricity and Kerosenes for lantern were in short supply.
My father was a hand-to-mouth schoolteacher who struggled to feed his four children, and I heard that before he was born, my father used to sell betel leaf door to door to keep rice on the table. But somehow he understood the importance of education, and he was determined to send his children to school. This is merely a fragment of his story. It would be an understatement to say I’m just a first-generation college degree or PhD holder. I endure my struggle with fortitude and feel incredible lucky to bridge my personal background with what I love to do, research and teaching.