When it comes to choosing a life partner based on love, how much freedom do Bangladeshi girls have?
Love is the only power which can change a life like a miracle. Only love can motivate people to leave their home, caste, and creed behind, and move to an unknown place only to be with their desired person.
In the Symposium, Plato told Aristophanes that "the search for a lover is driven by a search to find part of oneself."
Love is like opium which makes one indulge in an uninterrupted obsession with one's soulmate.
Andreas Capellanus wrote in his 12th-century book De Amore that "love was inborn suffering that proceeded from the sight of, and excessive thought on, the form of the opposite sex".
Eighth century BCE Greek writer Hesiod discussed the deeper meanings of love as "the essential creative urge that brought the universe into being".
I know a lady named Emma (pseudonym) who came to Bangladesh from the US, and is now working at a private organisation. One day, she came across a Bangladeshi gentleman, who is a cinematographer by profession. Gradually, a friendship grew between them and after some dramatic events, they entered each other's life as romantic partners.
In the Western world, love is usually practised as an act of choosing one's mate based on personal preference rather than societal obligations. Emma did so, too.
She has been enjoying great freedom in her family and the society since her early life, and that is why she could embark on such an adventurous journey of love in an unknown land and finally found her soulmate.
"Nationality plays no role in the potential of a life partner. Independence is key. Without it, I would not have been able to choose to marry whoever I wanted," Emma told me.
I also know a French woman, Deborah Cukirman, who is a translator and a former Yoga teacher. She turned up at the three-day Lalon Festival at the Lalon Shah shrine at Chheuria in Kushtia in 2018.
She changed her name to Deborah Zannat after getting married to Rajon, a pupil of Nahir Shaha, a renowned Baul Fakir. She became a devotee of mystic legend Lalon Fakir and started living in Daulatpur of Kushtia with her Bangladeshi husband.
She said in an interview on the 128th death anniversary of Lalon, "I came here to research on the life philosophy of Fakir Lalon Shah in 2016 and fell in love with Lalon Saiji. This love influenced me to stay here with a local Fakir".
Now, when it comes to choosing a life partner based on love, how much freedom do Bangladeshi girls have? Are they as bold as Emma and Deborah to leave their own country for the sake of love and marriage to a foreigner?
Generally, a Bangladeshi girl does not dare to love and marry a foreigner, let alone leave her own country to unite with a person she desires. This is because society does not make her bold enough to be self-dependent like a Western girl, who lives by her own choice.
The social norms learned from parents and teachers also scare them from leading an adventurous life like Emma or Deborah.
But there are some exceptions also.
I talked to Jannat (pseudonym), who is doing a private job in Dhaka city after completing her graduation from the University of Dhaka. When asked about love and marriage with a foreigner and living with him overseas, she said, "Look, I encountered no such foreigner with whom I could interact and fall in love."
"You know, Western girls, unlike us, enjoy so much freedom in life. So, they have huge opportunities to discover and experience life," she added.
I also had a conversation with Taposhi (pseudonym), a single woman who is doing a corporate job. She said with a smile, "I have no problem marrying a foreigner if I fall in love with him. I do not believe in judging people by their race, culture, or nationality. Instead, I do so by individual personalities."
"Exploring diverse cultures and people from different backgrounds through books and socialisation has perhaps made me capable of making decisions of my own life myself, while taking full responsibility for that decision," said Taposhi.
She went on, "But yes, I have to admit at the same time there are crimes and lack of security in some foreign lands like our country. Sometimes, the situation in those places is worse than ours. So, this will force me to think twice before trusting someone from a different culture with an entirely unknown background."
Two persons from two different cultures, ethnicities and nationalities living a conjugal life is not a common phenomenon in a country like Bangladesh, where a mere romantic relationship before marriage is highly disapproved of from religious perspectives.
Then, how did Emma and Deborah make it happen? It is love. Only love can turn impossible into possible. Nothing is impossible in love.
There is a very famous dialogue of the lead character, John Forbes Nash Jr, in the award-winning film A Beautiful Mind, "I have made the most important discovery of my life. It is only in the mysterious equation of love that any logical reasons can be found."
The kind of love discussed above reminds me of two phrases – the power of love and love for power. The latter is practised in many countries of the globe just to cling to power for the long term. But in the long-run, love for power brings dire consequences for them, and there have been many such events in recent history.
Jimi Hendrix, American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter, rightly said, "When the power of love overcomes the love for power, the world will know peace."