Cancer fighter, not patient!

Tuesday, February 4
World Cancer Day 2014

A dying cancer patient is the most common thing to watch in movies, dramas in Bangladesh. In music videos too. In those it’s shown as a romantic sentiment! No, nothing is wrong there. It’s very common that cancer patients die. But not everybody dies soon. Some may fight and live for 
years. Some may get cured. It’s very important to become fighters not patients. Positive thinking can give more time. May it be months, or years? Nobody knows when and how death will come. A cancer patient may die for totally other reason. So it is better be fighters, not patients. Being a patient, someone may very easily become depressed, which may bring more misery to themselves and close ones. It’s not only cancer fighters, but people around should also be aware of it. They need to change their mentality. Media, literature may play a positive role. Life means fighting. Cancer is a huge fight. Now is the time to show cancer patient as a fighter.

If I became a cancer patient in 2006 instead of a fighter, would I be able to write like this?Or would I be able to help to create many memories of a six and half years old child? Or could I be able to do things which I like/liked? The fight didn’t stop. So I keep fighting while time to time listening the knock on the door! Now I am waiting to see the fourteenth birthday of that six and a half!

Why do I talk?

November 28, 2013

Opened a Facebook account in 2009 after got a request from one of my very good friend. If I posted a status or upload a picture my very busy friends could get an update about me, which was the main reason! Gradually all of my childhood friends (I have regular connection with some of them, with some I didn’t), friends younger and older of the university campus where I was born and raised, engineering student life friends, relatives, people I know over the years living in three to four states and gradually unknown persons who sent me requests because of my writings and activism are being added! But I don’t accept everybody’s request. I do some background checking.

At the beginning I used to make comments to my friend’s status and wrote a few lines as my status if I wanted to. From the fall of 2009 to spring of 2010, wrote very few. I was taking some classes. My background is hardware and I was taking classes on software. Wanted to see what was in it! Past three years on being diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma on my left leg. Had the surgery and full dosage of radiation therapy. Was thinking of taking some classes and gradually get a job. The chances of getting cancer back is more in the first two years. I was told that my condition would be monitored for the next ten years. After one year very tiny one or two spots were found on my lungs in the CT ­Scan. But they were so tiny nothing could be told. I used to have regular CT­ Scan to monitor those. Also had regular MRI on my leg.

I took three classes in three semesters and got A in all. The only reason I am telling this is that my background is hardware and I knew nothing about software and I was forty plus with physical challenge (I had severe pain on my leg till just couple of years back), if I could do it anybody can do it. If someone wants he/she can study anything at any age.

In the summer of 2010 the CT scan showed that spots grew a little and they are more in numbers. I got the message! I stopped taking classes. Talked to the surgeon. If those spots grow once again, I had to go through surgery. Those were so tiny that if I had surgery then there was a possibility of damaging my lungs rather than taking those out properly. At that time I got regularly on writing on Facebook. Now these days people here are talking about cancer openly.

But not everybody. There is a chance of losing job if talk about it at work place! There is a chance of not getting hired in places! Yes people may be discriminated because of cancer in many places in this country too! And in Bangladesh people don’t talk about it! If someone gets it most of the people say “goodbye” without saying it! Does anyone use the word “cancer fighter”? Even though if caught early, timely it could be defeated by treatment in some types. And a fighter can live years by fighting it in many types. Why someone has to live those years like a dead person? Why not live like a living being?

Started talking about my own fight on Facebook. In personal life I started talking about it from the beginning of my fight. Only reason was it to make awareness of cancer, cancer fighters and their families (they are fighters too). There is no other reason to bring my personal fight to public. If at least one person benefits from it anyhow!

Cancer fighter doesn’t get a life full of roses because (s)he has cancer! Life itself means fighting. Different people have different ones. I have fought with Hepatitis B too. Fight with new fibroid tumor came back with severe pain. I grew up with this severe pain through my whole educational life. After I finished my bachelors in engineering I had the surgery. Now surgery for this again is not for me. How many major surgeries can someone have in a year?! I started writing about my cancer fight but didn’t leave other issues. What I wrote is a diary. Nothing more than that nothing less than that. I said so many things, shared personal thoughts and feelings with the thought that if the diary of a simple human being like me helps someone in any way! While writing I might have said many unpleasant things, because I write my feelings. If I would have thinking about writing only pleasant things, popular things it wouldn’t be a diary! And my characteristics are not to please someone by lying. I strongly believe in these lines.

Woke up
on the shores of Rupnarayan,
Came to know this world
is not a dream.
Saw thyself
in bloody letters,
Recognized thyself
in traumas and traumas
sorrows and sorrows;
Truth is hard,
Loved the hard,
It never betrays.
Life is the meditation of sorrows till death,

To get the amazing value of truth,
To repay all debt to death.
(At the shore of Rupnarayan, Rabindranath Tagore)

Don’t know when can I be able to go Bangladesh again, don’t know if ever be able to. Never thought about that the poem I love so much since very early age would become so true! Each time I recite, each word makes me cry.

I will be reborn in Bangla someday, on the shores of the Dhansinri
Not as a human perhaps, but as a seagull, or a sturnidae,
or a crow of dawn, in this land of fall and harvesting feast
someday, I will descend, rest, in the shade of a jackfruit tree, all swathed in mist.
Or return, a timeless duck, floating idly in a pond, pungent with water spinach
anklet charms adorned by a girl, on my ruddy feet.
I will arrive with my love for the rivers, the pastures and fields
I will return to this green, dusky soil, wet with the foams of Jolangi.
You may behold a vulture in the twilight breeze, or perhaps,
a shrieking barn owl on a silk cotton tree.
You may glimpse a child drying husky rice on a courtyard full of grass.
A youth paddling his dinghy on grimy waves of the Rupsha with a ripped, white sail;
Or a silver egret eying scarlet clouds as they swim back home in the dark;
here is the place you will discover me.
Poet: Jibananda Das
Poem: Abar asibo phire
Translation: Anandamayee Majumdar


November 26, 2013
From 2007 almost every other day I learn about someone’s hardship, fight through the volunteer organization I am involved with. These are in addition to TV news, online news, and Facebook news. Different types of support are asked for. Most of those are cancer or kidney failure cases, or financial support needed for someone or some family for rehabilitation.

Yesterday got a different type of request. A young girl needs shelter to the orphanage which our organization supports and I am responsible for that project. The ten years old girl is deaf. Both parents are alive! The father doesn’t want the daughter. He wants to give her to an orphanage! I just glanced her picture once and didn’t look at it again! My mind is full of questions. Why this happen? Why were they born in those who don’t want them?! Why weren’t they born to those who are crying silently to have children every moment!? I can’t accept it, there are so many people desperately want to have children and on the other side children are suffering and dying in the streets! We look for fairness in everything. But life itself is an unfair thing!

When I had no thoughts of having a family in my teens, at that time I thought about adopting orphan children when I grew up. No it didn’t happen, won’t happen. I fight every day and think how old could I be able to raise my biological child! When Mizan started working immediately we started sponsoring a child through an international organization. Later added another one through our volunteering organization. I didn’t select those children. The organizations chose them. All of them are girls! The sponsorship organization always chooses girls for me in India. When they turn nineteen the sponsorship ends. Three times they chose girls! The other one at Dhaka is also a girl. Somehow I feel like they are the shadows of my unborn child!

Valerie Taylor’s country!

November 24, 2013

She started her career as divisional organizer (Rajshahi) of Girl Guides in 1969. Worked for women. Those women who were left at the Government hospitals, (there were families who left women who had gynecological problems), women prisoners etc. The office had to be open during the Liberation War in 1971 since it was an international N.G.O. It had nothing to do with Pakistani Government. Stopped rajakars (traitors) training in the field in front of the office building in 1971 (during the war) with amazing courage and smartness! How men could have physical training in front of women’s office, used this Islamic thinking! Worked there till 1973. Had break for some time because of my dad’s studying abroad and also my Mom finished her Masters in Sociology. She started again in 1980 with USAID projects for children and women. Family planning and childhood immunizations were starting projects. The work increased into six divisions with fourteen clinics. From childbirth to treatment of anybody are done there.

She started from scrap. From renting the office to buying furniture, she did everything personally. A volunteering organization was there as directors council. Registration of N.G.O. bureau, manage to get fund, answer every questions of government and donor organizations, everything was her responsibility. She didn’t even know when she would come home! Frequent office tours to all the district sites, monthly meetings to Dhaka office for couple of times even in the same month, training in foreign countries were there. In that era very few women in Bangladesh had worked like that.

She was involved in many things along with the busy career! To serve others in society has been part of her whole life. If someone was in labor pain she would accompany her to the hospital in the middle of the night. Known or unknown person wasn’t a factor! Teenage girl left home because of a fight with her step mom and dad came to Rajshahi from different place, she brought her home. Kept her as a relative for months after months. Asked her to study. After a long time asked the dad to take the daughter back home. After some time helped that girl get admission to nurses training center. She is a nurse for many years now. She stood by countless women and children. She would run to help whenever come to know that someone is in trouble. She will do something to help that person. Does anything happen without paying a price?! She paid the price by her time and energy, her family and children paid it in another way! That story wouldn’t be told here. Maybe never!

Took off extra clothes from her child and gave it to clothless child. Her child watched it and learnt lessons from school of life! During her child’s very important exam she brought relatives to stay at her home, sometimes for childbirth of a relative, sometimes for admission tests to the university, sometimes for treatment. At those times the family was living in an apartment of the university housing. It was a moderate sized one and had just only two bedrooms. Her brother-­in­-laws and sisters stayed as family members to study in the university where the husband was a professor. Cousins and their children stayed for quite few times, some for months, some for a year or so. Always someone stayed in the house. She had bought a small house in Dhaka. Countless family members of her side (brothers and sisters with their family) stayed in case of their emergency time or struggling times for many years. It was very normal for the family. Nothing to mention about. The irony of her life when my dad was in ICU for nine days, nobody was there for her! No not even children! What kind of life is it!

She never did anything to be famous or for any kind of award. Her name isn’t anywhere. Was it meant to be? She started a school under trees by managing some land from some wealthy persons of a local area where there wasn’t any school for children. After that managed fund from Netherland government to build a building for the school. After all was done the government acknowledged it and made it a government school. There was a young girl who had a very nice voice but came from a poor family. She financially supported to get her music lessons. Now she sings for the radio program.

Very often her daughter from another part of the world asks to find someone in need. She manages to locate, contact those persons with her very busy schedule. She learnt it from her own dad. During the India­-Pakistan riots in 1964, her dad protected all Hindus from his locality by giving shelter in his house and guarded whole night by himself with just a rifle! He had many young daughters himself. He took the risk by endangering his family at the time of Hindu-­Muslim riots!

Her daughter is saying for a while, how long are you going to do it, now it’s time to leave and relax. But her worry is, if she quits what would happen to all those employees? What would happen to their families? So called governing body members started looking for money as a nowadays trend! They forgot that in volunteering there is no money! She thought if a university professor joins the governing body something good might come out of it. First male person was brought to the committee. She always trusts everybody so she didn’t realize whom she brought! That person started replacing and employing his own relatives, known persons. Replaced all suppliers by his own known businesses. At last he played the last card of age! Even though there is no age limit there. She already made her mind that when the current fund ends she would quit. He convinced other greedy committee members who with she worked for so many years! They left all kinds of ethics, rationality! The funding agency (USAID) was also surprised! But they couldn’t do anything! Because the governing body decides who would stay or not.

She left with disgust after building the whole thing from scratch for thirty-two years! Did she ever think that she lives in Valerie Taylor’s (C.R.P. Bangladesh) country?

(Forgive me mother! I didn’t protest against the wrongdoings to you! I don’t have any power to do that. Also didn’t even try because this era is for all wrongdoers! I don’t want to lose you in other ways.)

A teacher’s ideology!

November 21, 2013

He was supposed to study English literature. In those days teachers asked students to come and study in their departments. That’s how he ended up in Political Science instead of English literature in Dhaka University. In those days all bright students belonged to a particular progressive political party of students. He was a founding member of that student group. Whole day he had classes, in the late afternoon he tutored a student, in the evening there were meetings of the political group, finally from ten p.m. to two in the morning he studied! He graduated in 1959. Before his result was out he joined for a short period of time at Nasirabad College. Then joined the famous Anondomohon College in 1960. He was there till 1964. Right after he started his career he left the political party. Because of his job. He believed that teachers shouldn’t belong to any political party. He started teaching when he was twenty-one. Sometime right after he joined he expelled more than 100 students in an exam for cheating.

He joined Rajshahi University in 1964. Retired in 2001. In his long career he taught hundreds and hundreds of students. In his classes the classroom was flooded with students. One of classmates came to know about that he is my dad, his sister was my dad’s student, said that students mentioned him as “Prince” among themselves! I came to know that he was not only a strict principled person among students but also a famous teacher.

When he married my mother, she was a student of first year of the same department. Her education came on a hold. Because she can’t study in the same department! My mom was doing really well. She took a job when I was two. She graduated from a different department after a break. In that time period many teachers’ wives studied at the same departments of these husbands. They got a job there. Because of my dad’s ideology my mother had to sacrifice!

He was liked and disliked because of his ultimate straightforwardness. May be the second one is more. Everybody reads about truthfulness, everybody is asked to become a truthful person but not everybody likes a truthful person always. Only likes until it benefits them. Whenever it goes against them they start disliking those. People search their own shadow in others. It took me some time to understand that not everybody always speaks the truth! The teaching, the conscience was passed from him! It was as hard for him to accept as me!

He never wrote any book, to my mother’s sorrow. My dad used to say, “I don’t write notebooks.” Want to know why he said that. Even though I have some ideas. All of his books of his subject were donated to the library of the Political Science department of Rajshahi University. All of his writings (papers) which were published in foreign countries were put together and published as a small book. My mom did that as for my request. Thinking, if his M.S. thesis could have been published! 

It could be understandable how much he believed in women’s equal rights if think about my mom’s career and life. My mom used to work in N.G.O. She had a very busy life. Her office hour wasn’t like eight to five. She had to work for long hours. Almost every day she used to come home in the evenings. She had to travel a lot. It was her regular thing. She also visited many foreign countries. My mom had a carrier of around forty years. Dad was always in support of my mom’s carrier. I have seen many people who talk like progressive. Many of them are like saints in the society, maybe because of their intellect. But I know and understand that how many of them are really believe in women’s equal rights and dignity. As for the need of new era now they don’t speak, stand against their daughters or even daughter-­in-­law’s careers. But when looking at their wives’ lives and thinking, I can feel that there are many untold stories! Maybe even their wives don’t think like that! Many women don’t think of their own rights. Specially women in male dominated societies and countries. And wives of many renowned, famous people live in a world of fantasy! They are so much overwhelmed by their husbands’ intellectualism that they don’t see their husbands’ male chauvinism! Because of my dad’s truthfulness, protest against all wrong doings and believing in women’s equal rights, I respect him. Know that many famous people don’t have these qualities.

Those women who wore Niqab (you could only see the eyes) and if they were students, he asked them to show their faces to make sure that the right person was taking the viva exam. He never allowed any student at home. Everybody should meet him in the department office. That was the rule. In few cases his Ph.D. or M.Phil. students came at home who were part-time students and couldn’t come other times. He caught the evil eyes of pro-­Pakistani colleagues long before 1971. The result was that he lost several scholarships abroad for higher studies. The scholarship he got was given to pro-­Pakistani people. Later he went to Queens University in Ontario Canada in 1973. He did his M.S. under the supervision of a Urdu speaking professor and the topic was related to Bangladesh’s Liberation War! The teacher of course didn’t like the subject! When he was returning to Bangladesh so many people asked “what are you doing?” There was a famine happening in Bangladesh and many suggested staying back. He didn’t.

He got the spirit of teaching to protest any wrong doing from his dad. My grandfather arrested a white British man with opium (illegal) while serving as an anti-corruption inspector under British Government in then British India! Got the transfer order to a remote jungle area as a reward!


November 21, 2013

Tonight I am having nostalgia! Sleep took vacation! From Ozaki sensei’s memory to life in Japan, then life at Purdue so many things are coming! Seems like baskets are coming like waves! Till today I used say I store each one’s story in boxes. Tonight it seems like baskets, not boxes! Last time brought bamboo baskets, different types of grass baskets with other things from Bangladesh. Like previous times. I cans see baskets are floating towards me! Each bears someone’s name! Very dearest ones very close ones, relatives, favorite friends, many known people, slightly known people, unseen people who I know names!

If I don’t open a particular basket at 3 AM now it would be wrong! My mother-­in-­law. She is almost eighty now. Got hurt so many times! In Bangladesh an honest police officer’s wife must have fights in her life! She suddenly became widow with six children while her husband died in a car accident. Her eldest son just got a job as a teacher in a university. He also got married just some time ago. Second son just started medical school. Eldest daughter was busy with her own family. She had three younger children who were very young then. Mizan was twelve. Youngest one was nine! Very hard life started! Second son left Dhaka medical college. Got Russian scholarship to a medical school there. Eldest son took in charge of raising three younger ones. After finishing study second son returned and took responsibility of the study of two younger brothers at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Then came Mizan’s turn. Life became harder and harder of this struggling woman’s life!

Children finished their studying, got established in their carrier, have their own families. Now her life should be at least a bit full of happiness! No those things happen in stories! There are some untold stories which won’t be told! The stories to share are, my cancer fight. Before that the elder daughter was diagnosed with heart problem. Had open heart surgery. But just after ten years he suddenly went to the place of no return! Youngest daughter also have a different type of heart disease. Meanwhile the eldest son suddenly had a massive brain stroke and left for the place of no return. She watched her two children’s untimed death! Whenever Mizan calls her she asks, “When are you coming?” Each time Mizan reminds her of my fight. She forgets and next time same thing! Mizan calls her late at night or early in the morning when Deepto and I are sleeping or goes to another room if I am there.

Because he has to answer the same question each time I understood this! I have to live with this guilt, Mizan can’t go to Bangladesh to visit her because of me! A son can’t go to visit his old mother because that son’s son who just started teen age can have her mother for some more years!

Black person!

November 17, 2013

Deepto was going to preschool at that time, one day started crying while talking about what happened at school. Said that someone called him “Brown”. I told him very normally that we are brown. Still he was crying! I asked him that if the person said it in a mean tone? He said yes while crying. I told him that if someone calls him brown in a mean tone that’s wrong. Then showed him a book of his. That was a book of human body. Told him, “See every human being has flesh, blood, skeleton, eyes, nose etc. The only difference is the skin color because of pigmentation. Because of it, people look different. When his dad returned home in the evening three of us put our hands side by side. I told him, see three of us in the same family have three shades of same color. There is no reason to talk mean about anybody’s color and also no need to feel ashamed of own color. After several days same story! Understood that the child who was doing that had no idea of any other race except white. And also have negative impression of others.

While he was in kindergarten or first grade said that one of his classmates said that he is light brown. The girl was black. I immediately told him that brown is always brown. There is no dark brown, light brown. Then gave him a lecture on colors! Told him, if someone says you are brown reply, “Yes I am brown”. If the person says it with a mean attitude, ask, “Does it bother you?” He had friendship with a boy at school. Other children didn’t want to play with that boy. He might had some challenges. Deepto used to give him company, played with him. After certain time he was very upset. Said, that boy said such thing about Deepto’s dad that it hurt his feelings. I asked and came to know that the boy said about his color! I told him, “You have to figure it out what to do.” The friendship kept on for some days. Later it went away. I think, at the boy’s house dark skinned people aren’t viewed respectfully! When people see more person of different race, know them, their tolerance increases, misconceptions go away, they learn to respect others.

Don’t want to talk about racism of other race’s people! Among Bangladeshi the color issue “fair” and “dark” is in such a level that they have no right to talk about other race’s racism. In 
Bangladesh the color of the skin varies from as white as a white person to as dark as a black person. It’s a variety of so many shades. Bangladesh is a mosaic of many different colors, looks, religions. But they belong to the same culture, Bengali culture. This has a long history of pride. People came from many countries of different colors for many years, starting many hundreds years ago. All of them mixed together under the umbrella of the same culture, same language. Also there were Natives of the land from thousands years back. All are Bengali of Bangladesh. There are also many groups of tribal people who have different language and their own culture. Now these days they are being called Native people. Others (majority) are Bengali. I think the color issue became more obvious during the colonial period. Bangladesh was part of Indian subcontinent (Now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). It was a huge country which was called “Bharat.” British came and made their colony for two hundred years. I think they incorporated the “Farsha (fair)” and “Kalo (Black)” thinking and made the light-skinned people of India boast of their color and put down the dark-skinned. For hundreds of years this thing went on. Thousands years back Aryans came to the subcontinent of majority dark-skinned people and dominated them, the seed of color issue was planted! Most of the people fail the color test! Even if that person is highly educated and have progressive mentality. They can spare everything except “black (dark) skin”. Still the culture of arranged marriage of Indian subcontinent is there. A dark mom would look for his dark-skinned son a fair-skinned daughter-­in-­law even though she also has dark-skinned daughter!

The conception of beauty is in the brain. Nobody knows who would look beautiful to someone’s eyes. But the so-called conception of beauty started thousands of thousands years back when someone or some group of people decided it and that conception was accepted by majority and kept passing on the thinking generations after generations. If that first person or group of people chose black instead of white, then today people would prefer black instead of white as the symbol of beauty! These days almost everybody knows that human being’s root is in Africa. Our ancestor came from Africa. Can watch the documentary “Journey of Man” by Spencer Wales in YouTube.

Pain anniversary!

November 11, 2013

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the first lung surgery. Was occupied for the whole day a particular thing so just remembered it the evening. That surgery was extremely painful. It’s not common to have surgery on both lungs at the same time. Later came to know that in the history of that big hospital I was the first to have that kind of surgery! It was eight hours long. The lung which had the first operation was shut down. After that when it started functioning second one was shut down and the operation was done on it. It was very risky. At that time had to depend on the wounded first one! And can’t hurry to operate. My surgeon checked and felt every tiny nodules locate and operate! On CT scan there were ten nodules. My surgeon took out 22/23 nodules! Among those eleven were positive for sarcoma.

That surgery was the beginning of long painful journey. Even though the long painful life was already started when I had the surgery on my leg for sarcoma! Modern medical science has developed a lot. But treatment depends a lot on statistics. Which medicine, how effective, what types of possible side effects are there etc. depends on statistics. Most of the studies are done on White, Black and Hispanic people. Asians (Indian subcontinent) are few in the study cases. While I was complaining about drugs to my pain management team, they were saying, “It shouldn’t happen.” Because the study doesn’t say so! My surgeon was on odd duty for three days right after my surgery day. That was the main problem! The head of the pain management team was a senior professor. Think it was hard for him to agree with a patient like me! After my surgeon came back he took over the control and appointed his partner to deal everything. But it took eight days to control my severe pain! Didn’t sleep for eight days! And also the body went through such horrible experience along with surgery’s effect! Had the hallucination effect for couple of months! Had pretty nasty experience even though never took drugs, opium or any substances in my life! Told Deepto at the hospital, “Why do people take drugs?”

If I had the surgery a year ago, my rib cage would have to be opened! There was a new technique in 2011. They opened my back. Since I had surgery on both of my lungs, I have big cuts on right and left of the back. I had to lay down on my back with those big cuts! In the hospital for eleven days I was in a position between laying and sitting! For at least three months I had the dream to lay down on my sides! I couldn’t turn on my sides! Both sides had big cuts! Still think that I am lucky to get surgery with the new technique! Otherwise would it be possible to had the surgery again just after fifteen months!

After just two and a half month I was asked to recite a poem in the Bangla cultural program. It was even hard for me to just go and watch the program. At that time I couldn’t even talk for two minutes! Get out of breath, start wheezing, coughing. That I recited Rabindranath Tagore’s poem for five minutes without coughing! Nobody understood my exact condition, people told me later! From this September I started taking Yoga class for one hour on Saturday’s. I can do everything except exercise! I will try to do everything except this one! A couch potato like me is doing Yoga! The substitute teacher in the last class told me, “You are very flexible.” Later said again, “You are too flexible.” I almost said, “A couch potato like me?” Wish I could start taking Indian classical dance classes!