Just the other day, I got into the elevator of my hostel block, going downstairs.
Some background here: I study in an engineering college in the southern part of the country. So you could say that chances of coming across a Bengali are sort of low in here.
So when I enter the elevator and overhear the two other guys already in there, speaking in Bengali, I think of striking up a conversation. But- and I still don’t know why- I decide to keep overhearing what their conversation and give myself some voyeuristic pleasure.
Then, this happened.
Person A: “Shamner chhele ta ke dekh (referring to me). Ki lomba chul, na?” (Check out this guy. Doesn’t he have such long hair?)
B: “Hyan.” (Yes.)
A: “Oije chhoto belaye ekta cartoon chhilo na? Sharakkhon chokhe chul pore jeto?” (Remember that cartoon whose hair kept falling on his face?)
B: “Bekaar bokish na toh. Chup thaak.” (STFU, bro)
The lift stops at the ground floor. As they begin to shuffle out, I tap Person A on his back. The two of them turn to look back. I smile awkwardly and say, “Amio Bangali”.
They stopped dead for a moment. And then, A’s face went full red. B started laughing hysterically.
The Amio Bangali Syndrome (noun) is the biggest problem of globalization and cosmopolitanism in the world today. Amio Bangali literally means, “I am Bengali too.” It is that awful moment when someone unexpectedly sees through your shit.
The good and the bad thing about a rapidly globalizing world is that language barriers are coming down. And your chances, of meeting someone who speaks your tongue in a place you weren’t born, have increased.
We human beings are inherently hopeful creatures.
When we cheat, we expect not to get caught.
When we speak ill, we hope to not be heard.
When we turn on Incognito on Chrome, we hope to God that all those rumours about government surveillance are false. This hope is exactly what the Amio Bangali Syndrome thrives on.
-What do we expect?
That we go to a mall in a city we’ve never been before. We see a very attractive person up ahead in the queue. We overhear him/her speaking sweetly on the phone in Bangla. So, we muster up courage and say, “Ahem, apni ki Bangali?” (Are you a Bengali?)
The attractive person turns around and gives us an endearing smile, “Hyan, amio Bangali.” (Yep)
-But how does it actually go?
You are with your friend in some other city, and you see someone who makes you feel an intense urge to judge. You say to your friend, “Lokta’r ki bishal bhuri. Mone hochhe ebar phetei jabe.” (Look at that guy’s belly, bro. He’s defo gonna explode)
The unattractive person turns around and with a sigh of resignation, informs, “Amio Bangali.”
This is the great misfortune of life.
As is the reality of government surveillance on our browser histories.
[Arunava Basak is the genius behind the artwork that you just saw]
Have you ever had such an experience? Would love to know that I’m not the only one.
Find out more about my hostel life on this link.