Pride in Your Roots: The Life of a Bengali-American Teenager

Pride in Your Roots: The Life of a Bengali-American Teenager
Photo from when I lived in Chittagong, Bangladesh

Hi, my name's Raeed, I am a Bangladeshi who has lived in America for more than 5 years. I was born in Japan as a Bangladeshi citizen, where I lived until I was 2. Following this I spent 1 year in Bangladesh before moving to the United States. Here I was in an area with very few Bangladeshis around, but I was lucky enough to have 2 Bengali parents, who always reminded me of my roots and immersed me in my culture. I was taught from a young age to only speak Bangla at home and eat like a Bangla.

One good thing that came out of this was that I never hesitate to tell someone where I am from, because I love my country and was taught to love it by my parents. From the extensive history to the amazing food, I know and have constantly been fascinated by Bangladesh. Oftentimes, I don't get to enjoy many things over there as I've spent a lot of time away. Most of the time at school and in public I do not get the opportunity to speak my native tongue or enjoy Bengali foods and culture.

But when I get home, I can quickly be met with amazing foods such as chicken curry, beef curry, red spinach, okras, and many more! One of my favorite foods is actually a snack we call "chanachur", which is a spicy delicacy most often eaten during the afternoon or at odd times. After removing the packaging, it is quickly put into a large bowl and prepared with onions, spinach, mustard oil, lemons, and love. The outcome is a delicious taste that will stay with you (and burn) for a few minutes.

"Jhal Muri" is a meal based on Chanachur

Actually, among my friends, I always like to explain my culture and tell them about foods, tasty items, and many other things. When inviting them to our house for a meal, oftentimes we feed them traditional foods cooked by my parents, which are always a hit. I often get surprised when hearing that other people don't want people to see this part of them which is their home country. But I think it is very important to welcome your friends into your culture and show them what it's like because your country and culture are always a part of you. This is something I feel should be shown to your friends and people you value.  

Here is a picture of red spinach which is one of my favorite dishes.

"Laal Shak" or Red Spinach

Although at first, the food looks like cooked leaves, once you taste it, you will know it's a lot more than leaves. There is a rich flavor inside, and often there is shrimp added. Shrimp is one of the most commonly seen seafood in Bengali cuisine, along with various types of fish.

"Goru" or Beef Curry

This is another commonly seen thing in Bangladeshi cuisine and its beef or chicken curry mixed with potatoes. This one is commonly eaten with a side of rice just like like laal shak.

Now another thing I'd like to discuss is Chittagong, which is the region of Bangladesh I am from. The capital city of the division is "Chittagong" or modern-day Chottogram. It's a seaside city known as a key point of trade and business within Bangladesh. Although you may know Bangla, it's a different thing to know the Chittagong dialect, which is called "Chatgaya" or Chittagonian. This dialect is among the hardest to learn in Bangladesh but is spoken by 13 million people. In addition to this, the Chittagonian language is said to be more mutually intelligible with the Rohingya language than standard Bengali. This dialect is spoken by most of my extended family living in the Chittagong division. It is an important part of our culture and although it's a bit hard for me to understand, I try my hardest, and I am working on understanding all parts of the language.

In fact, there are 5 major dialects of Bengali among which the Eastern Bengali Dialect group is the most widely spoken language. It is spoken mostly throughout Bangladesh and Tripura. But even within this group, there are several individual dialects that make up the Bengali language and culture. It's important to know that although we have a lot in common with our neighboring country of India, we have a rich history and a lot of unique things to see.

Thanks for taking the time to read my story and learn about my culture, I hope you enjoyed this story and learning Bangladeshi culture and I hope you get to try some of the foods I featured on this post.

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