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16 September, 2020 07:51:42 PM
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Jamaica Kincaid's ‘Girl’ and a cricket-loving Bangladeshi mother

Apart from some successful examples, women in Bangladesh are not socially and ideologically secured yet. Laws are strict, but sometimes they are misinterpreted, politicised, diverted, or even misused
Hasan Al-Mahmud
Jamaica Kincaid's ‘Girl’ and a cricket-loving Bangladeshi mother

While playing, a cricket-loving mother and her son got clicked by a journalist, and their pictures spread through social media since Saturday morning. The discussion started with a lovely playing scene, and it, soon, turned to the dress of that woman. Although a plethora of people appreciated this, at the same time, some people have criticised the woman for wearing the burqa, saying that they don’t find her as "Bangladeshi mother"; rather, they mentioned that she looks like someone from Pakistan or Afghanistan.

During my participation in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, I had to read Jamaica Kincaid's short story ‘Girl’, where a bossy character advises another one to wear modest dresses and behave like a girl. Full of mystery, a bunch of confusions, a dozen contradictions in the story keep readers involved reminiscing about the context, background, and real indication of the theme. If I reread the story and analyse it from the Bangladeshi perspective, this cricket-loving mother will appear for sure.

Girls’ right in Bangladesh is somehow praiseworthy; throughout the last decade, in some way, it has improved, but still, it needs to be better. Apart from some successful examples, women are not socially and ideologically secured yet. Laws are strict, but sometimes they are misinterpreted, politicised, diverted, or even misused. In these situations, how Kincaid's ‘Girl’ can be interpreted for Bangladeshi girls, is still a question, but I am trying to make an addition to this beautiful flash fiction and this exceptional cricket match. 

In the story, the bossy character advises a girl considering almost all aspects of life; the girl is probably her daughter. The controlling woman gives lessons to her daughter to deal with life from all angles. If I take it positively, a mom gives instructions to her daughter to be a real woman in both ways: either she cares for her daughter’s safety, or she is angrily rude at her, although the way it is delivered, it is likely harsh and contradictory. In Bangladesh, girls face the same situations, even in this 21st century. In social media, they’re still uncomfortable in many ways nowadays.

Every girl gets going with different variations of the same behavioural conditioning; in the same way, the daughter does in the story. In Bangladesh, mothers are usually more touchy, emotional, and careful considering the external obstacles and challenges. Here, a caring and loving mother tried to play with her son in a public place, but the situation is going to attack her from different angles. God knows, what’s going to happen now?

Probably the daughter doesn’t like control over her in every step, in the story. When the mother taught her some formalities and responsibilities regarding the basic needs like cooking, setting up tables, etc., I can feel how the daughter dislikes doing that in the story. I got mesmerised to know that this cricket-loving mother was an athlete a few years back, but now she has changed her dress. She is smart in her way, what’s wrong here?

However, in the story, when it comes to a lesson, ‘how to behave,’ young people like the girl in the story don’t want to tolerate it. Her mother teaches her about how to behave with outsiders and people she doesn’t know. The mother reminds her that she is not a boy; also warns her to behave with men thoughtfully and carefully. But, this cricket-loving mother mentioned that her father would be happier if he were alive.

The indication goes to contradiction when the mother tries to teach her daughter how to take actions regarding abortion. At the same time, she suggests her daughter not to look like slut, and in the end, she tells her daughter how to love men. ‘What to do’ and ‘what not to do’—the way it goes in a western country, it does not go in the same way here in Bangladesh. Girls are somehow bound to listen to their moms. So, it won’t be wrong to say that yet, Bangladeshi girls are under the control of their mothers, but this cricket-loving woman is different. Still, why don’t we appreciate it?

Most importantly, mothers don’t allow this because girls still do not get the same favour in society. For example, if something happens between a girl and a boy, the girl will be blamed first and the most. It sometimes comes up that Girls’ short and open dresses are responsible for any rape case. How strange! In this regard, moving outside alone is not safe yet. The way the mother asks her daughter to use a blouse in the story, it altogether ties with the Bangladeshi point of view.

In the story, the mother wants her daughter to know about sexuality and how to stand up straight; also, how to walk like a lady. All these perhaps bring a subtheme of womanhood or specification. It aims to pick up the probable mistakes and surrounding obstacles to reduce a girl’s weakness, which would be inadequate. Still, Kincaid’s brilliantly used the final line, a question about the girl's incapability to use her sexuality as an instrument with the baker or men, is another dizzying element that pushes a mother to teach her daughter all these fundamental trainings in her ways.

Based on a traditional theory and pleasing the realistic society, it is impossible to be perfect in the competitive world. Indeed, following all rules may not bring success for girls as there is no scope of thinking, working, and believing independently. Without all these, women’s improvement is almost inconceivable. However, whether we take it positively or negatively, this one sentence flash fiction and the behaviour with this cricket-loving mother are enough to make us think about how to behave tomorrow.

The writer was a chaperone for the International Writing Program (BTL2020) at the University of Iowa, USA. He writes on contemporary issues, education, and literature.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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