In my experience 'Thank you'is a response that does not seem to easily roll-off Bangladeshi tongues. They say it with their head, with their eyes, perhaps even their heart, but not with their tongue.
During the past 17-years, I've visited many schools and villages and handed out countless items to children and adults and presented prizes of different values and descriptions on sports days and so on.
On most occasions the recipients shook my hand, blessed me with a smile, but 'thanks' was missing. In the beginning I assumed they felt a 'dhonnobad (thank you) would be wasted - I wouldn't understand the Bengali language, but after the first 500 or so similar responses I questioned this.
Sure, 'thank you' was expressed by some, but this was rare
so rare in fact, it was like someone sneaking up from behind and bursting a paper bagnearmy ear!
Most would approach somewhat coy, their eyes transfixed on the item and as soon as it was handed to them, they would turn on the balls of their feet and depart
without uttering a word. I found that rather strange and considered it not good for them.
Sometime later my charity co-ordinator, Ali Akbar, and I decided to make a rule that if the recipient did not say 'thanks', we would take back the item!
I know that sounds cruel, nasty and mean, but the lesson itself would be a lesson for life, not just a single occasion, and exceedingly far more valuable than the actual item they would have received.
As they lined up to receive their prize/present, they were told loud and clear in Bengali of this rule. Fortunately, only on two occasions was this rule exercised and on subsequent prize-giving occasions these same people expressed thanks without prompting. One thing that can be said favourably about Bangladeshis is that they are quick learners!
Oddly enough, the beggar children I encounter in Gulshan always express their thanks. May be they are graduates from a beggars' finishing school or suchlike!
'Sorry', 'Please', 'Thank you' and 'I love you,' although tiny, have incredible power to change a person's entire attitude, behaviour, and generate happiness, but they are dismally underused.
One of the saddest regrets anybody can have is not expressing their feelings to those they love, admire and appreciate, while they had the opportunity. God only knows: you could die or they could die and the opportunity lost forever.
Saying nice things about people after they are dead is not of much value and certainly of no benefit to them. Whereas, a kind word, an expression of admiration or one of encouragement can be priceless to the living.
Irish author Oscar Wilde once said: "you do not regret the things you do in life, it's only the things you don't do".
It's taken 40-years for the Government of Bangladesh to thank 'foreign friends' who gave invaluable assistance during the 1971 War of Independence. Some benefactors during this long period became old, weak and infirm while others have died. To the great credit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the present government, a wrong has been righted, but taking so many decades to express thanks is not an example we should follow in our private lives.
There are things in life far greater in value than money. I'm of the belief if you can put a monetary value on anything, it's of no real value. Only what you can take with you when you die or what you leave in the hearts of people is, but not all would agree in a dog-eat-dog, take-what-you-can-get world like this.
The greatest craving of mankind is to be appreciated and the ability is within all of us to show our appreciation generously without it costing us a single taka. Parents are notoriously short-changed by their children in the 'I Love you' department.
Despite the fact for years they have shown their children unconditional love, attended to all their welfare needs and made all kinds of personal sacrifices; uttering the simple expression of 'I love you' in part acknowledgment is beyond most children. They will retort: "they know I love them".
And they're right,of course, but there is no amount of money or gifts at Eid that can match the value of 'I love you' to the ears of loving parents. There is no logical reason why this gift shouldn't be given frequently, without it being a special occasion like Eid, Christmas, birthday or whatever. It costs nothing
a smile is the only gift-wrapping required and the pleasure it gives is immeasurable.
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There is afamily in Dhaka I know that has the right recipe for happy living. Tanveer Hossain (father), Farzana (mother), and sons Aaquib (17) and Hafiz Adib (15)in Farmgate is the only family I know in Bangladesh to be totally honest, decent and flawless in every respect, and impeccable ambassadors for the Islamic faith
and how business should be performed with the highest integrity.
Tanveer is the owner of Mac Solutions, a computer sales and repairs concern in Bijoy Nagar. Every year he shows his appreciation to his employees by taking not only them, but also their entire families, on all-expenses paid vacation to Nepal, India, or somewhere exotic.
What I've written above will embarrass them, I know, but they're also full of the virtue forgiveness and I'm counting on that!
Telling someone you love, admire, or appreciate him or her needs no special occasion. If you feel it does, you have been brainwashed and lead by marketing forces and not by your heart. Do yourself a favour, break the spell, assert your individuality, and just do it
today. Remember: today is never too soon
tomorrow might be too late (and then you'll regret it).
Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, a humanitarian, and a special foreign friend of Bangladesh.