I sat at the Ghats in Varanasi in 2007. I was a Financial Product Analyst on holiday. At home, I spent most of my time making old white rich men richer. Correct to seven decimal places.
I sat at the Ghats, and noticed a shift inside me. I listened to this shift.
I payed attention.
I recognised that my materialistic life was devoid of any tangible meaning. I chased money and pleasure and expensive handbags. That day in Varanasi, I saw myself and I saw my life, and I was not satisfied.
I eventually came home from that trip to India, and changed the direction of my life. I stopped spending my days making rich old men richer, and steered my career into Philanthropy, and then charity.
It’s important to listen to these moments. And to be brave, and act on them. It’s far easier to push aside uncomfortable realisations and carry on as before.
I had one of these moments in Istanbul last month.
I walked into the gate-lounge for my flight from Istanbul to Dhaka, and I felt a shift. I sat down and I reflected.
I didn’t want to get on that plane.
During the flight, the man next to me didn’t understand what the crew was saying to him. It would have been so easy for me to lean over and assist with my very poor Bengali.
But I didn’t want to.
I didn’t want to help a stranger. I didn’t want to do one small thing that required no effort on my part.
I looked at myself and saw coldness. Is this who I am now? I don’t want to be this person.
I don’t recognise this person.
I resigned three days after I returned to Dhaka. Emotionally I had checked out the moment I walked into the gate-lounge at the Istanbul airport.
As an incentive to stay, I was offered another high profile project.
But I just want to go home
It took four days for my resignation to be accepted, and for me to be released.
I have done good work here. I have pushed a big project through at a critical stage, I have written solid strategy, I have connected on a meaningful level with some fearless people. I am humbled and proud that the leaders of The Sex Workers Network and Hijra (transgender) groups accepted me with warmth and trust.
I have done well. But now it’s time for me to be kind to myself.
A number of people commented on how different I looked after I had resigned.
That’s because I’m happy.
This place isn’t crushing me anymore.
I’m going home.
I had a feeling that there would be something from my life here that I will miss when I leave, I just didn’t know what it was at first.
I will miss something. I will miss people.
Masuma and Aneeqa – strong, intelligent women of substance who both work so hard, with such ferocious integrity. Masuma, who championed me from the start, and Aneeqa who stepped up the instant she walked into the office.
Monja, James, Aline, Vivian, Leo (and occasionally Mike) – the Zoo House household. Supportive, understanding, and all in this strange place together.
My partner in crime and drunkenness, Lisa. Surreptitiously pouring booze from make-up remover bottles into cups of tea at Jatra. Or anywhere there was a beverage.
And Fahad, the friendship that was cut short just as it was getting really interesting.