August 05, 2007

Millionaires, Amartya Sen and NRBs

The New York Times has a different twist on the American Dream: millionaires who do not feel rich. Read about it here.

Reminded me of Amartya Sen's thoughts on poverty and inequality. That these things were determined in part by the ability of the individual to "take part in the life of the community" and to "appear in public without shame".

Poverty and inequality thus become subjective, dependent on time and place and the individual. A million dollars might not be a lot in Silicon Valley. But it sure is a lot in Oregon. Or for that matter Dhaka. But it might mean a lot more to an independent woman in America than to a woman who has no control over her own income in Dhaka. And so on and so forth.

I wonder how such considerations factors into NRB decisions to move back or not.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dhakashohor, the articles raise probing questions but I wondered at your remark at the end.. do you really think NRBs don't return to BD because of financial reasons? As somebody who grew up in South Asia I sometimes are in a real dilemma over returning to settle there or staying in the UK and having my freedom respected. The intrusion in one's personal life, especially if one is young, unmarried or female, are very difficult to put up with on a daily basis.. *sigh*

asif said...

Hi anonymous,

Trust me, I know the non-financial reasons you've outlined a lot better than you may think I do. Intrusion into one's personal life, a lack of private space and sometimes the sheer lack of etiquette towards the young and towards women really get me down. Some of those factors have actually had an effect on my decision to not move back to Dhaka. (Ohhh, might I just be a woman hiding behind the manly facade of "asif"? If I were, would my readership dwindle or double? Joke folks!)

So to answer your questions, I don't think financial reasons are the only reasons. But let us not forget the interconnectedness of things here: if a woman has control over her finances and social freedom, then she can erect sturdier barriers against the intrustion you speak of, say by living independently of her family. That will lead to greater "utility"/taka for her and might even lead to greater income with greater peace of mind.

All of which is to re-iterate once again that it's never income/resources alone that make a human being. It's what you do with it and what you are allowed by others to do with it. Sad to say, a young, unmarried woman living alone in Dhaka is frowned upon.

I'd planned on writing a lot more about feminism and women's issues than I actually have. I would love to hear more from you (and others) about women's experiences of Dhaka. Who knows, it might just provide some spark to my brain cells!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response - in a months' time I'll be a single woman living in Dhaka all by herself and yes I'll be frowned upon and considered 'loose' even if i stick to the etiquettes of last century's bhadramohila behaviour.. i keep being told i should stick to the 'bhalo paras' of Gulshan or Bonani but frankly I feel completely stifled in those sorts of places.
Will be travelling to Banglar buk too and that should be fun - man, the comments i always get in small-towns are just to die for!!
Will keep you guys posted!
Bonbibi (sorry i forgot to sign my earlier post)