Being Bengali

You’re Indian, right?”

It’s a question I am asked rather frequently, to which the answer is always “no.” I am actually Bengali, as in my parents immigrated to America from the country of Bangladesh. If you have never heard of the country before, I do not blame you, considering it is a place about the size of New York.

I have only ever been to Bangladesh twice in my life, though I only remember the more recent trip. The most unique aspect of the country I noticed was the fact that the streets were crowded with rickshaws, which are carriages attached to bikes. There is also the fact that most people in the country do not wear jeans and a T-shirt, but rather traditional Bengali clothes, which includes a long top called a salwar and loose bottoms called kameez for women and long punjabi tops for men. Throughout the trip, I remember thinking how strange (in a good way) it was to know that I was a part of this fascinating country.

I know very few people in general who are also Bengali and even fewer who live in Irvine. For this reason, I have always thought of my ethnicity as rather unique. I love the fact that I speak a language, Bangla, which not many other people understand. It makes gossiping about people with my relatives in public much easier. Just kidding. Mostly. Anyway, “speak” may actually be too strong of a word, since I really only know how to say a few phrases.  Nonetheless, I am glad to be part of a culture that not many people are familiar with, and I’m excited to learn new things about being Bengali every day.


Samiha Ali