Growing up as Bangladeshi Muslims, we were told by Bengalis and non-Bengalis alike that we shouldn't practice many aspects of our culture because they "belong to Hindus." "Be Desi, but don't be Deshi," they implied as if sharing cultural traditions with Hindus was shameful or even a sin. These microaggressions caused the denunciation of my beautifully rongeen heritage and provoked the assimilation to dominating and "religiously acceptable" Desi cultures.
This experience is not unique to me. Enough with the pitiful attempts to belittle us with the fish jokes when we or any Bengali person is in sight, the "Hindu-wannabe" labels when we wear teeps/bindis, and the holier-than-thou remarks about how a Bangla word like "shari" should be pronounced "sari". These are highly offensive and after years of hearing them, extremely annoying. If you delve deeper, you'll find that these stereotypes were the cause or effect of dehumanizing my people, which was the foundation of the 1971 genocide.
Identity can be and has been painfully complex, yet we are here in America...dressing like khaati Bengalis, hosting our first bhorta utshob for Pohela Boishakh, and accepting that we don't have to choose to be either Muslim OR Bangladeshi. We are proudly and unequivocally both. Taalis for my darling co-hosts. May we become shobarche beshi badmash Bangladeshi bhabis on the block. Shuvo Noboborsho 1424। শুভ নববর্ষ ১৪২৪। 🇧🇩 #boishakhi #bangladesh #badmashbhabis #deshi #noboborsho
(Bengali is an ethnicity that refers to people from the area of Bengal. Bangladeshi is a nationality unique to people from Bangladesh. They don't mean the same thing.)