Happily ever after?

After four years of long distance romancing over the phone, parental disapproval and a secret marriage in Dhaka, Jahangir and Shumi are now officially husband and wife. We flew in to Dhaka and made our way down to Manikganj for their wedding ceremony some two days later. The wedding they had been waiting for. 

 For me, it was a very special moment as well. From the first time we got acquainted in Singapore, Jahangir shared that he had a lady waiting for him back home. Someone special he would speak with over the phone almost every night. Someone he couldn’t wait to go home to, to be with. But his being on a Special Pass meant that he had to wait in Singapore for an unknown period of time. For as long as it took for the Ministry of Manpower to settle his case and award him the deserved compensation for his workplace injury. This also translated into him not knowing when he would be able to return home. Neither did Shumi. It took a painful seven months of being in limbo, before he was finally allowed to return home. 

 The wedding was a very simple affair. A trip to the bazaar in the morning to get the freshest ingredients for lunch, relatives arriving with metal pots and cooking ware as wedding gifts; kids dancing and playing with the music system; an impromptu arm wrestling competition between the Singapore and Bangladeshi contingent; eating the best Briyani in town courtesy of Shumi’s dad; a short ceremony where relatives, and us too, took turns to bless the couple; and a night of song and merry making. We all had good fun. 

Definitely a moment to remember. Jahangir is still pretty much the same old joker from back then. The playful fella I remember him to be. Yet other than the few pounds he had lost, I can’t help but notice something slightly different about him. I can’t quite place a finger to it. Maybe it was the way he teased Shumi in the most childlike manner? Or those moments when he would throw cheeky glances at her just to get her attention? Whatever it is, I already imagine him to be a great father.

Going back.

Going back, nine months later, to a familiar environment and seeing the same faces stirred something inside of me. From hearing the loud exclamation of “Barnisshh” (that’s my name being mangled, by the way) in the middle of the night when we first arrived, to the incessant teasing and jokes bounced around, to the news of “my wife…baby have”, and all the ‘asho’s (come), ‘boshan’s (sit) and ‘kao’s (eat)..you can say that there were lots of love and joy in the house, existing friendships cemented, new friendships forged and a little humble reminder of why I do what I do. We had a very busy five days in Bangladesh conducting interviews, getting footages, preparing for Jahangir and Shumi’s wedding, and…networking/socializing/house-visiting, which also meant a lot of eating. It feels a little surreal to be back home to all the creature comforts - hot shower, nice bed, clean home - but those nights of cockroach spotting, talks of jinn (evil spirit) sighting, fighting the cold at night with an extremely thin blanket, cobra charmer whose ruse we quickly saw through, and the hospitality and love will never be forgotten.

Also very blessed to have worked with such a wonderful crew - my good friend and fixer, Rasel, whom I knew back when he was still a Special Pass holder in Singapore; Habib, our translator and great guy, who got along really well with us and the family too; my buddy Wilson (aka modu), who joined us and charmed many xiao mei meis (small girls); and of course, Yiqin, who has been working alongside me in this migrant worker cause.

My Guardian

It must have been some twenty years already since she left home, and well, found another home. She has two daughters, who coincidentally are the same age as my younger brother and I. It must have been very difficult for her to leave them behind at such a tender age. And I know, it will definitely be very difficult for us too, when she finally returns home where she belongs.

Let’s go.

Overseas assignments thrill me. I love meeting new people and exploring places. I also like that I live life on the edge, very often. I don’t want to romanticize danger though. I think it is more about taking calculated (though still very much unpredictable) risks. Because I believe, if you push and dig deeper, if you step out of your comfort zone, you will be rewarded with a whole new world to explore. 

 There were a couple of times during our trip to the South islands of Thailand when we had to make decisions. Should we take the 4 hour long tail boat out to sea, so that we can go together with the Moken people, or opt for the easier and faster route via speed boat? What about rowing out to sea before sunset just to grab a shot, knowing that it would be really dark and difficult to navigate once the sun sets.? Do I go closer to the kids frolicking in the sea and risk my camera getting wet? Being invited to a home with a bunch of inebriated women – stay or go? 

 But, I trust my intuition. It has never failed me, and hopefully would never. So decisions are made pretty dark quickly, and usually it’s “COME ON, LET’S GO!” I’m gungho like that :P 

 This trip to the South has been too damn rad, anyway. It’s been a week since we’ve completed the shoot, but I find myself looking at the photos a lot. And harbouring thoughts of returning soon.

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