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Mostaq Haider Oral History Interview

Oral history interview with Mostaq Haider on July 16th, 2022, conducted by Subat Matin. Haider was born in Sandwip, Bangladesh and came to the United States in 1996. He lived in Brooklyn with his wife and three kids and in 2021 bought a house and moved to Long Island. When he first came to New York he went to a two-year college to get his associate degree and then went to Brooklyn college to earn his accounting degree. Since then, he had different roles in several banks and eventually became a bank manager. He says understanding the language was challenging and even though he could read English he could not speak it. He talks about how some neighborhoods in Brooklyn were accepting of new immigrants while others were not. Before coming to the U.S., he thought that New York was only America. He explains that he knew about the other states but believed that because everyone always went to New York first, that New York was essentially America. He thought that the city was the best place for newcomers, since it was very easy to commute and find jobs. At the end he thanks America and believes that it really is a country of opportunity and that it is possible to achieve your dreams.

Date: July 16, 2022
Type: Oral History
Creator: Subat Matin
Location: Long Island, NY


MATIN: Today is July 16th, 2022, so tell me your life story.

HAIDER: My name is Mostaq Haider, I am 52 years old, from Bangladesh. I was born in 1969. I came to the U.S. in 1986 and since then I was living in New York. I got married in 1997 and my wife came in 2003. Since then, we were living in New York, Brooklyn with my first daughter, then my second daughter born in 2006. When I was in Brooklyn, then I had my third child was born in 2013, while also I was living in Brooklyn, then recently in 2021 I moved to Long Island. So since then, I'm leaving here, and just like to go back a little bit, where when I came to the U.S., I started to study, I went to college, first I went to a two-year college. Then I finished my two years. Then I went to Brooklyn College, and I finished my four years, I got an accounting degree. Then I started a job actually, I started my job in banking, in 2003. Right after I finished my associates, then while I was working in the bank, I finished my bachelor's. So since then, I'm working in the bank. I was working different role in the bank now I’m the branch manager. With three kids and my wife, five of us this is my family, I'm here now.

MATIN: Tell me a little bit about your childhood in Bangladesh.

HAIDER: My childhood in Bangladesh wasn't that pleasant in words, then wasn't that bad. The reason why it wasn't that pleasant because I lost my mother while I was only seven years old. So, I had to grow up with my stepmother and the good thing is that my father was always supportive. He was always very supportive. My stepmother wasn't bad, but sometimes if she was misbehaving with us my father always on our side, so it wasn't great, but it was good. For my part, I have my childhood like was a little bit restricted, kind of because…I was until… I finish… after I finished my elementary school in fifth grade, then I went to boarding school, which is a religious school. That was restricted, I was like there in boarding school almost three or four years, almost 4 years. So that part was a little bit better suited, like I was departed from my parents, my father. But at same time I was far from my stepmother, living with a friend in the dorm was kind of living kind of a bittersweet.

Then after I studied four years in religious school, then my grandmother took me over to her house which is in the city. It's called Chittagong. I was born in Sandwip though it is a small island, part of Chittagong, the port city of Bangladesh. So, then my grandmother bought me with her then I was living with my grandmother, my uncle and until my 10th grade and I studied in another religious school. Then I finished my tenure there, then my two-year college, first two years college I finished in Chittagong it’s called Chittagong City College. Then I was admitted to Chittagong Commerce College for my accounting degree, but I couldn't finish there before that my before that my U.S. immigrant visa was almost ready. So, I studied there for two years before I finished my school there before migrating to the U.S. So, then I had a dream that to finish my degree so I was looking for opportunity to go to school here. So, a friend of mine helped me find a school here which was BMCC. I finished my two-year secondary degree there. Then I had opportunity after I had a job in the bank. My job sponsored me to get my BA degree. So, they paid me and I got my BA degree from Brooklyn College. So, that’s all about my childhood and my life.

MATIN: How many siblings did you have? And what was the school experience like for you?

HAIDER: Okay, so siblings, as I said, my mother was died when I was seven years old and my father remarried. So, before my father remarried from my mother, we were two brothers and a sister. So, after my father remarried, we had three half-brothers and one half-sister. So, all together, we are seven. Two different mothers, but same father. So, my, my school life was, as I said, I was most of the most of my early life, I was in boarding school, it was restricted life. When I get out for boarding school, at that time, I was almost a teenager, I was like, 17, 15,16, at that age. That time, I was growing up with my grandmother, so I was feeling like more like I had more responsibility, rather than having any other friends or going to my friend’s house. So mostly, I was still in my grandmother's family, grew up with them, and helping them with their family, family things like any, but whatever they needed sometimes I helped them. So, it was a very family, close family life for me not like hanging out with friends going out so many times the friends, stay outside from the family. That didn’t happen that much for me, I was most coming from the boarding school, I spent the close family ties my grandmother and my uncle's family.

MATIN: When you were Bangladesh what did you know about American culture?

HAIDER: So, I didn't know that much. But a few things I knew that attracted me. First of all, I knew this country was a very rich country and also, I knew that here education system is much updated, and worldly accepted, if you had American education, it could go anywhere in the world, and you can prove yourself as a skilled or educated individual. Also, because my uncle in his earlier age he was he came to the U.S. So, a lot of things we knew from him. I knew that… this is the… he used to call this the country of opportunity. He always told me that this country has more opportunity if you have any education and if you do hard work, you could have a good life in the U.S. Beside that we didn't know that much about it so this is a few things we know that education is very high level and there are rich people here. After… if you become a resident or of the U.S. you could have your own car, you could have your house if you want a car that's basically, all I knew about this country.

MATIN: What was your opinion about America and the American people?

HAIDER: Now or when I first came?

MATIN: When you first came.

HAIDER: When I first came in, it was a little bit challenging because the language. The language was a little bit we were like the education system we had in Bangladesh it wasn't that worthless education. There was basically just very basics. English, we could read English, but we couldn't speak English. That's funny thing, right? They never… they never taught you how to speak in English. They always ask you to read paragraph, read essay, write essay we could read and write, but it we couldn’t speak. The accent was a little bit different, Bangladesh English accent it’s mixed. It’s not British accent, but not American accent it’s mixed up. So, when first time I came to the U.S., I couldn't understand their accent. Like I had… the very first day actually the second day morning my uncle took me to show the city. He took me around the Brooklyn so he was in the car there was no parking, he double parked. He just told me to go to the store and bring a bottle of water. So, I went to the store I believe this that was in Brooklyn, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Italian neighborhood that I remember so far. So, the storeowner there, I asked him to give me a bottle of water. But he didn't understand my accent. I was… I was talking in Bangladeshi accent water, water, water, Bangladesh is like, that's how they pronounce water. So, I was asking him to give me a bottle of water, bottle of water. He didn't understand the five times I said it. Then I was looking and I see the water was in the refrigerator, I said these things I need this and he said oh bottle of water, you are talking about water.

Then I realized this is different accent and I had to follow this accent and I said yes, I need that. So, the language is very challenging. A lot of places we go we go, I couldn't understand their accent. Even I couldn't express myself because I didn't know how to speak English. Even though I can read everything. I see on the streets or the newspaper I could read. But I couldn't speak. So that part was challenging. I had to like, every year since day one, I had to learn how to speak English, then I was everywhere I go, if I heard any new sentence, new words, I could I always memorize myself, these words that’s how they are pronounced. Then after a couple of months or a year, like it became very normal. Also, the people I found it's a mix, you know, New York and Brooklyn are a mixed neighborhood. Some neighbors were very accepting to the new people, like I said I’m a newcomer, they can appreciate you. Some neighborhoods they'll feel offended, their conservative and they wouldn’t say anything, they wouldn’t congratulate to come here. So, it's a mix… fairly. I found very easy because if you know express yourself, if you will know how to express yourself, I think most of the people accept you. But at the beginning I couldn’t express myself I couldn't say something to be part of their community or be part of the like residents of this country. I was like a foreigner at that time. Yeah.

MATIN: Why did you want to immigrate to New York specifically?

HAIDER: So, New York… the funny thing you’ll laugh at this time. We knew before came to America, I knew that New York is America. I didn't know any other states. New York… I think the other states that I knew of California, maybe New Jersey, these two… maybe Texas, we heard. I thought New York is America, New York means America. Even though we knew there are 50 states I thought that New York means America, nothing else. Nothing… after… besides New York, the other states, there's nothing those are like suburban everybody lives in New York. So, that was my understanding about this country. So why I choose to be in U.S. because my… the people I knew they already settled in New York. In the after coming here, I realized that I found that New York is the best for the newcomers because here the communication is very easy. You can… the bus and train it is very easy to commute anywhere in New York, to finding work like odd job I used to work for a painting company. That was easy, you don't need that much skills. You just… if you need to work you find somebody and you work for them and it is easy. Also, the community was here, the Bangladesh people… community most of them from my, my neighborhood from Bangladesh people are here. So that's why I feel like comfortable to be here from the beginning.

MATIN: What kinds of experiences did you have in New York?

HAIDER: As I said bitter and sweet experience, first of all, before I started my school, I had to work an odd job. I had to work in a construction company… painting and it is a very challenging job. At that point before I finished my associates, I couldn't find any job in other places. I tried a couple of times. There was like challenges, as I said my language wasn't so fluent. I couldn't speak them much. So, any other places I went for job, they didn't listen to me, or they didn’t give me an opportunity. So, there's an opportunity in this country, but you have to find it to go for it, you have to fight for it. That was kind of challenging. At the beginning, I feel so nervous, what I should do? should I go to school? Or should I go straight for the work? looking for money and making money. So, the decision making was really challenging because most of people that I knew they weren't making money at that time, most of people they work for a construction industry, construction field they weren't making money. I'm the one… I didn't have the money so should they go for money? Or should they go for education? So that was a little bit challenging, but my uncle was always supportive…supportive to me, and whatever I want to do, he did just go for it, I’ll back you up, and he did so. So that's how I was able to finish my school and get a job in banking.

MATIN: What surprised you most about New York and American culture?

HAIDER: The American culture is very open…very open society. The culture we grew up is like, I will say is restricted, religious, it’s a religious environment. But here he it’s very open society that I couldn’t think of before I came to U.S. The good thing is people are more open minded here, people think more broad. Most of the time, they don't stop you from what you like to do, what you want to do, or what you want to be. There's an opportunity, the… it took a little bit of time to be adaptive to this culture, because very open society, because if you go to this shopping place, if you go to the beach, if you go to the sometime, I feel like there's not a place you can go to your family, with your kids, with your wife, is like… that's kind of surprising. But other than that, I found like, this is a country of opportunity, and here if you work hard, if you have wisdom, you could be whatever you want to be.

MATIN: Did you ever face any discrimination?

HAIDER: Yes and no. Yes, maybe at the beginning? Well, as I said, when I couldn't speak English, sometimes people ignore you. People think… they thought like, you are nobody and yes. But it’s everywhere. You know, it doesn't have to be black and white. It doesn't have to be like Muslim, non-Muslim and Christian, but it's every culture has similar thing. But here sometimes some neighborhood if you go you feel like you're a stranger, you feel like really you don't want to be part of that community sometimes. So, I would say it's yes and no, it's both.

MATIN: How did you adjust to the American lifestyle?

HAIDER: Oh, that's a challenging question. How did I adjust, it took time, I’m like almost 26-27 years now, in this country. As I said at the beginning was a little challenging and day by day, I also… my thought level changed… my thinking also changed, because the culture, the education we have back in Bangladesh, it was like one way. But after coming here, I found like, we should think more broadly or openly. And since then, I feel like this culture has so many things good, we can adopt it and I’m still adopting whatever good. I take it and accept it, whatever I feel like in my religious way or cultural way or my principle… my own principle… I think that this is bad I reject that. Whatever positive, whatever I feel like this is a good thing to follow, this is a good thing to behave like that, I do accept it. So now as I said New York or U.S. is mixed culture. If you want to be, whatever you want to be, you could be, if you follow the rules and regulation and you follow the good thing.

MATIN: What do you like about New York the most?

HAIDER: The most I like the communication in New York it’s very easy. And the diversity… the diversity is very big in New York. Any community, anywhere you go, most likely you'll be accepted, you're not going to be… you're not going to feel like a stranger here anymore that much. But it's a diverse and also an opportunity, here's more opportunity and believe that any other states in the U.S. I visited a couple of the states, but I feel like New York gave me more opportunity for newcomers and people from all over the world, to be skilled and to be whatever they want to be. New York gives more opportunity. They don't stop, they don't stop you. So that's the beauty of… that’s the good of New York.

MATIN: What was the hardest part of coming to New York and leaving your family in Bangladesh?

HAIDER: So, the hardest part is leaving the family you know, first part I said I lost my mother a very young age, I was very close to my father. And then I had my sister, my brother and I also grew up my uncle, my grandmother, so I had to leave all of them there. Being here without any education from this country, a U.S. education, and no other skill so it was very nervousness. At the beginning I was very nervous. I missed my family all the time. You know, after I came in this country three months after I left. Three months after I went back to Bangladesh, especially for my… specially to see my sister, my father, my other friends and family members. So, I stayed there two and a half months the first time and then I came back again. Since that the second time I came back, then I started to look for opportunity. But at that time, I found like little difference between here and there. I was able to compare real reality between these two countries. Then I decided to stay here and I started to build up my career and life here.

MATIN: How did you keep in contact with your family in Bangladesh?

HAIDER: That time telephone was very expensive. There was no Facebook, there's no other communication. Email was kind of not that available like now. It was mostly telephone I used to call every weekend on Saturday and Sunday where I did the day off, mostly Saturday I had a day off. So, I used to call every Saturday, call them talk to them and even during the weekdays so whenever I had the time, I called them all the time. Yeah.

MATIN: What do your relatives back home think of you now?

HAIDER: So now they… I believe they feel like I’m most successful person among here now. And they feel like I reach up to the position that I deserve or I desire. So, they feel like very successful and I’m very much happy thank God. They think I'm most happiest among them. And time to time they ask for help to support them and I do whatever I can. I help them especially during holidays, during their… if any weddings come among their family members and relatives, friends even when they call I support them, help them and they are always happy about it.

MATIN: Do you consider America or Bangladesh your home now?

HAIDER: America.

MATIN: You said earlier that your wife came in 2003.

HAIDER: Right.

MATIN: So, what kinds of experiences did she have? Did she stay at home or did she go to work?

HAIDER: So, I think for her it was also very challenging at the beginning because of up when she came here and that time my older daughter was already born. She was four months and that time I also was in school I didn't finish my associates that time and I was in school so it was very challenging for us, for her to leave the baby at home and go to work. So, she didn't work she… even though we still lived there with my uncle for a couple of years she stayed home. But it was challenging for her to stay home all the time for the baby, not going out that much, I didn't have a car at the time. So, it was depressing the first couple years was very depressing, very challenging for her.

MATIN: How do you think your role as a husband and father have changed over the course of your marriage and being in America?

HAIDER: It changed a lot it's much different. I feel like compared to my father, compared to fathers in Bangladesh, my friends and family, I am a father here with three kids much different role we play. So here we are much more open with our kids, which in Bangladesh is not that much. In Bangladesh they're more conservative, there the father and family are like two different worlds. Father stays at the top of the family he was always like, he's like, he still is like king of the family in Bangladesh. But here more… we are more friendly with the family wife, kids, we are more friendly, more open. We… I believe we are more friendly to each other here than in Bangladesh culture, Bangladesh family.

MATIN: What kinds of traditions and customs did you keep?

HAIDER: So, as I said, I always I found so many good things in U.S. culture and American culture. Like be open minded, be communicating with the family, the friends and thinking positively. So, I think that’s… I became more American father or family member or had a family than Bangladesh family members. As I said, we are more open now, more communicative to each other, the more career oriented, I believe I would say.

MATIN: In 96’?

HAIDER: No, what was the question again?

MATIN: What kinds of traditions and customs did you keep?

HAIDER: Right. Okay, so yeah, so tradition. As you as you know we are Muslims, were a Muslim family. We have a very strict Muslim rule and regulation. I follow my Islamic tradition here, religiously. But I also follow American culture, which is like being more open minded, being more communicative, more diverse thinking, those kinds of things. So, it’s a mixed culture, we follow a religiously restrictive Islam and the community with other cultural activities. We also share with them, like we follow most of American holidays except the religious ones, we follow most American holidays, American culture. Yeah.

MATIN: What kinds of traditions do you want to pass down to your children? Bangladeshi traditions?
HAIDER: So, as I said in the U.S. culture there is a lot of good positive things. So, I want my kids to be Muslim culture… follow Muslim culture with the American traditional culture. Muslim with the American, open minded and traditional American.

MATIN: Is there any challenges you face in trying to preserve Bangladeshi culture within your family?

HAIDER: No, I don't feel any pressure or anything. My family also adapted and they also know and learning, good thing from bad thing, the positives to the negative things, because every culture they say every culture has a positive and negative things. So, we always accept the positive we just avoid the negatives.

MATIN: When you first came to America, where did you find halal and Bengali food?

HAIDER: That was kind of challenging because the neighborhood that I used to live… that neighborhood has kind of halal foods and one or two stores, a couple. But if you go outside of that neighborhood, there was not that much. Nowadays it’s available, everywhere you go there is halal foods and you can search with your phone where it's been. Now this doesn’t matter everywhere in the U.S. there is halal food. But back then it was a little bit challenging to find halal food besides your community.

MATIN: So, what do you think makes a Bangladeshi? What do you think are considered to be Bangladeshi cultural traits or identity?

HAIDER: What I think? I think America is still... I think, best part of America no matter what culture you're from, what country you're from, you can follow your culture, you can adopt and you can hold your culture without being transformed to completely U.S. culture. So, I believe that the best thing for American culture one of the best thing in American culture to be... you could be an American but still you can follow your tradition on any religious culture. There's... I don't see any barrier for there.

MATIN: Do you see any problems with Bangladeshi culture?

HAIDER: Somewhat? Yes. Bangladeshi culture we are... we are mentally and educationally... we are grow up like with a very I would say one way minded. If I said narrow minded it is kind of a negative word and I don't use that. It's like a very one-way thinking it’s straightforward... one way thinking not diverse or not being open that much. I've said religiously and also traditionally both ways in Bangladeshi culture is so conservative. Very conservative that needs to be a little bit open minded and to see the world with an open mind. So that's what I try to implement in my family that one way, take all the positive culture from my own culture and take all positive culture from U.S. culture, so be a good Muslim family with American traditions.

MATIN: How do you see your identity? Do you consider yourself a Bangladeshi or an American?

HAIDER: I feel… I say Bangladeshi-American. I always say I’m Bangladeshi-American.

MATIN: What is the difference between being a Bangladeshi-American and just Bangladeshi?

HAIDER: So, if you just be a Bangladeshi, I feel like you're not accepting U.S. culture, you're not being fair with the U.S. or America because here like, half of my life, I... this country gave me so much. I learned so much from this country. But I'm not... it's like not being appreciative. Just to be a Bangladeshi, just to be conservative. As I said, I want to be a positive, positive Bangladeshi. I want to be Bangladeshi because I was born there, my very childhood, my memories are there. Then why I want to be an American because this country gave me an opportunity to build myself, to establish myself, to having a happy life. Here, I think this country gave me a lot of opportunity. So, I don’t want to give my boyhood memories, but at the same time I don’t want to give up my adulthood, success days or all those opportunity that I achieved from I get from this country. So, I'm Bangladeshi and I'm an American.

MATIN: How do your children and family see their identity?

HAIDER: So, my family, my wife, she's still like more Bangladeshi than American but my kids they are more American than Bangladeshi because they’re here, their childhood, their boyhood, everything's here and they didn't have any memories in Bangladesh. They don't know that much about Bangladesh, even though we went a couple of times, but there was a short period of time. They didn't know exactly the flavor of their boyhood in Bangladesh. I have that flavor. But they have flavor here so they're more American than Bangladeshi. But I feel they're still proud to be Bangladeshi-American.

MATIN: Where did you meet other Bangladeshi people when you first immigrated here?

HAIDER: Where did I meet? I think very first day. Yeah, because a lot of I knew a couple of people, a lot of people went to the airport to pick me up from there. Also, the day after, as I said, my uncle took me to the neighborhood that Bangladeshi people lives, especially the Church and McDonald Avenue in Brooklyn. He took me to all those stores there... there was like three or four stores that he took me there, he introduced me to the people and there was a mosque, he took me to the mosque. So, I met a lot of people that I knew in Bangladesh. So, everybody like congratulated me accepted me, the community and a lot of people give me a lot of gifts. Yeah, but a lot of people give me some money. Some people gave me $100, some people gave me $50, I got a couple of hundred dollars.

MATIN: What is the Bangladeshi community like in Brooklyn, New York?

HAIDER: So, in Brooklyn the Bangladeshi community I think they are still surviving to be part of American culture, being part of being an American, they still are learning and also education still is a big issue in the community. They need to be more focused in the education. Good thing is the new generations I think, they get into them, they focus on the education, but the older generation a little bit they are still conservative and not focusing them much about being part of American culture.

MATIN: Are you part of any organizations in Brooklyn?

HAIDER: Yes, I do. So, there is a couple. I’m part of a couple of member boards in mosques... there is couple of mosques. They are also part of their small community they organized here, but they are helping people back in Bangladesh so there is a couple of them.

MATIN: What do you like about these organizations and what are some benefits of being part of these organizations?

HAIDER: So, benefits, to be organized is always good. Benefits is we always share our experience or thoughts we really share to each other. And the other benefit, we do... those organizations help a lot of... as you know Bangladesh is a third world country and it is very small and economically still undeveloped. So, people are still surviving their education, the food, the housing. So, the organization we have here, we support them through these organizations, most of the... that's what we do over there. Like I have... one of the organization I have, we just help orphanage girls to get married, the orphanage girls who doesn't have a father or mother, their having a problem to get married. So, with that organization, a couple of us we help every year. We help like 10-15 girls to get married, we give them financial support from here.

MATIN: What are these organizations called?

HAIDER: So, one of them... the biggest is called Sandwip Society. That organization here, mostly we help people here for their funeral. When they die, we arrange their funeral. If their financially good, they if they can pay for the funeral, they paid. Otherwise, we pay for the whole funeral it is a couple thousand dollars. During this pandemic, we arrange almost 45 funerals in last two years in 2021.

MATIN: What are some struggles or challenges Bangladeshi’s face Brooklyn?

HAIDER: Challenges as I said is education. They are not part of the community still. They don't know what opportunity, what kinds of benefits they could get from the community, from the local government from the federal government. Most people don’t know it. So individually, a lot of people are getting supportive or help, but as a community as a whole community we are still far behind to be part of the local government or local community. Yeah, so the involvement as I said need to be more involved with the local community.

MATIN: Growing up, were you told of any stories of the time when Britain still had control over the Bengal region?

HAIDER: I did a little bit from my father and we also study the school a little bit My father used to tell me, he told me and my grandfather, my father's uncle told me some stories when the British was here controlling the Indian subcontinent.

MATIN: What kinds of stories?

HAIDER: Like what they do, what kind of administrative they had, how, like, local people how they had to go through their judicial systems, those kind of things.

MATIN: Were you told any stories about the partition?

HAIDER: You mean India, Bangladesh from Pakistan? Yes, those in Bangladeshi education system those stories are very aggressively implemented into the curriculum and the education system. So yes, we learn and we study and also my father shared a lot of experience during the war, his experience he shared with me.

In 1971 a lot of my friends and family members they went to war to fight against Pakistan. They went to “muktijoddha” (Liberation War) and the fought to become liberated from Pakistan. My father’s uncle he went to fight and never came back. We still don’t know whether he is alive. Some people say he’s still in Pakistan, some say he’s in India, or Myanmar and he just hid there and became a citizen of that country. That’s the kind of history we learned. My father didn’t go to war he just supported local freedom fighters financially, sometimes they would come to our house, they would feed them at night and hide them. The next day they would disappear and go for war, that’s how he was supportive. That’s all basically he told us. After that there are a lot of community members and relatives that went to war, how they came back, what they did we heard and learned.

MATIN: Do you know anyone who took refuge in India during the war? Do you know anyone who fought in the war?
HAIDER: As I said my father’s uncle he never came back and we still know whether he took refuge in India or. But from my other community, the village we grew up I don’t know anyone who went to war or took refuge in India. I know a couple of people that went for training in India. They didn’t take refuge, but they trained in India and then came back.
MATIN: What do you personally remember how things were like during the war?
HAIDER: No, I was very young. I remember… no I don’t have any memories I was very young.
MATIN: What are your thoughts or opinions about the 1971 Bangladesh genocide?
HAIDER: The education and history that I learned from my father; I believe what I learned my father was the best knowledge because studying history in school in Bangladesh is diverted. World history is mixed now, it’s diverted because of the political parties they make up their own history. Whatever goes on their side, if anything is bad on their side, they just eliminate it from the history, they rewrite history. But I believe whatever I learned from my father and family members those were the real experiences, real histories of the world.
I believe the Pakistani’s were brutal to Bangladeshi people, Bangladeshi people didn’t get much opportunity, they were like bad ruler. They didn’t give the same treatment to Bangladeshi people and Pakistani people so there was a lot of unfairness and misjudgment of Bangladeshi people. That’s why they had to be liberated and be a separate part. But at the same time India helped Bangladesh. I believe India had their own interests to separate Bangladesh from Pakistan. India didn’t do it for the benefit of Bangladeshi people, they had their own benefits. There is a lot of political issues. My learning experience was that Bangladesh becoming independent was a blessing for Bangladesh, but at the same time becoming independent is kind of a disaster for Bangladesh to be a neighbor country of India. Now India is doing the same thing Pakistan did to Bangladesh.
MATIN: What did you think about the famine that occurred in Bangladesh in 1974? What do you remember about it?
HAIDER: That time I witnessed a little bit… I saw people suffer a lot at that time. Thank God my father had a small business, we had a little bit of land. We weren’t in a great situation, but we didn’t go through that much suffering as other people did. I saw a family, next to our home it’s still in my memory. During the sunny daylight, afternoon time they were just sitting in the open field. They were digging for nothing; they didn’t go home because they don’t have any food at home. Everybody was crying there was five or six people in the family. 3 of the adult kids and their father just sitting in the open field on a sunny day.
My mother saw them, we knew them because they lived next to our house. My mother cooked the rice and she put some rice and the liquid of the rice that we call “maar” she put it in a bowel, in a jar with maar put some rice in there and salt, she gave me the bowl and told me to go give it to them. I gave it to them and those people having that thing was shocking. They seemed like they didn’t expect it. Four of them ate it, gave thanks to my mom, thanked me and were hugging and kissing me. I was a 5- or 6-year-old boy. That memory reminds me how people suffered. That family had two smaller children and they gave them to other people; some rich people adopted them.

MATIN: What was important about Bangladesh’s history?

HAIDER: What is important… I think Bangladesh’s history everything is important the 70’ and 74’ the war. The killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the killing of Ziaur Rahman those are I think most important element in Bangladesh’s history. If they didn’t kill Sheikh Mujib, I think Bangladesh would be a different kind of country. I don't know which would be better, good way most people see it could be worse if they would kill Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But my family, my relatives most of them I see were happy because Bangabandhu was killed otherwise it will be worse for the country. But I found out a lot of people they would cry for Bangabandhu and they would say Bangabandhu if he wasn’t dead the country would be much better. So, I was young and I don’t know that much but I heard both narratives but most of my family members, most of my relatives, most of my community members I saw they were much happier.

When they killed Ziaur Rahman I found like whole country was mourning for him, the whole country was crying for him. They would say if Ziaur Rahman would be alive Bangladesh would be a much different country, in the good way. I found very few people also they will say he was better for Bangladesh. So, it's a mix…. Bangladesh community, Bangladesh politically is more divided now than so back then it was not much divided but now it's much more divided politically. So, people who was… who is anti-Sheikh Mujibur Rahman party and other people like another party of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman so it's mixed. In history I've seen like wars and before 74’, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman. All are very important elements for Bangladesh’s history.

MATIN: Have you ever heard of any Bangladeshis’ going to the Middle East in order to look for jobs?

HAIDER: Oh, there's a lot. Yeah, but I think Bangladesh is running Bangladesh is whatever financially they're doing now is the everything shows that they are doing good financially, because of the people from Middle East today sending money. They are sending remittance. I believe every family has someone in Middle East who work jobs there. Bangladesh, I think… I would say 60%-70% of family has someone in the Middle East, working and sending money to Bangladesh.

MATIN: Do you know what kinds of jobs they worked and how they were treated?

HAIDER: So, that’s a very nice question the job mostly they do were odd jobs, Bangladeshi people is not as skilled people when they go to the Middle East. Those are mostly uneducated people, and mostly unskilled. So, they do basically the cleaning and construction job. The supermarket maybe, but so and they treated very badly. In the Middle East, you know, the human rights there is not that great. So, Bangladeshi people their treated like… sometimes I will say, some people, they shared their experience and they feel they've been treated like animals. I visited a couple of countries in Middle East. I won’t mention the need, but I spoke to a couple of Bangladeshi people how they were doing and said they were living like animals, they’re not treated like human beings. Like the opportunity, the benefits, they don’t get any benefits there. They just work and they’re just the laborers and they just earn a couple of money and send it to Bangladesh. Those are very hardworking people.

MATIN: Did you ever learn about New York or United States history in school in Bangladesh?

HAIDER: In Bangladesh no. I think in Bangladesh we all only I have learned about the Niagara Falls and I think one of the states Pennsylvania or something that had a lot of coals. But I was reading I think in third grade, fourth grade, we're learning about geography. That’s when we learned in Pennsylvania, they said the book, there's a lot of coals. Yeah.

MATIN: Do you hear of any Bengalis immigrating to different countries other than America?

HAIDER: Yes, I know of a lot of Bangladeshi people that immigrated to the UK and Canada. Now in Europe like Italy, Germany, France, Spain. France and Greece also have a lot of Bangladeshi people that has migrated. Yup.

MATIN: What was it like working with other groups of people, once you came to New York?

HAIDER: You mean other groups from different countries? The beginning, as I said, I work with the construction company some time, most of the time I work with the Spanish people and the people from Russia and Ukraine. I found like Spanish people was more friendly with us more cooperative than the Russians. But Russian people also, we were I had a couple of friends that may do the work. But I feel like it's Spanish from Mexico, from Guatemala, those people are, were more friendly with us, with me, especially to say and then Ukrainians. Yeah, but I didn't have any bad experience with the Ukrainians, but this is like in general… like a general feeling that I had.

MATIN: Do you have anyone who would have contract marriages in order to get their citizenship?

HAIDER: Yes, I know a lot of people.

MATIN: Do you know what kinds of experiences it was like for them?

HAIDER: So, I could tell you one of my relatives, right. A couple of them they married a woman with a contract basis. Actually, one of them actually, after he got married, couple months after they became real husband (and wife). They have their family, they have their kids. Even though at the beginning couple months do like contract marriage he I think he gave her $5,000 cash that time I'm talking about like even before I came 90’, 91’,92’. I came in 96’ right. In 1992 they get married they get $5,000-6,000 cash just to become a U.S. resident right. So, one of them after a couple of months after the woman offered him like listen, in America you have to stay with me so and he's still with her. Still, they're together, have a good family and have a couple of kids. Now he became a citizen and the whole family are citizens. They feel like… both of them retired now. But they have a happy family, and now they're happy. But I also know that people that just give money like $5,000-6,000 cash to the girls, and after they became citizens, they just became apart. So, I think… I think they just to the benefits of the legal systems, the way it works, they just took the benefits of legal systems. I had a lot of people. But nowadays I think that system doesn't work anymore here.
MATIN: Do you still reminisce about your life in Bangladesh?
HAIDER: Only my boyhoods, I feel like if I could go back to my elementary school life, that was my best life I wish I could go back which is not possible. But in general no.
MATIN: What is your favorite memory of Bangladesh or your life there?
HAIDER: My favorite memory, my first two years of college after I finished my high school, the first two years in college was the best time in my life because I was more outgoing with friends and I moved to the city. I think I had more freedom that time. I did a lot of things with my friends, go out and visited a lot of places in Bangladesh. I visited almost all places in Bangladesh that time and I was able to drive so that was kind of the best time in my young life, young age in Bangladesh, that was my best time.
MATIN: What do you miss about living in Bangladesh?
HAIDER: I feel like food mostly. Bangladesh food, I feel like still the taste is much better and food is the best thing that I miss.

MATIN: How do you keep track of events that took place in Bangladesh after you left?

HAIDER: Mostly the communication with the phone and communication with your friends and family.

MATIN: Is there anything you would change about your life or your immigration journey?

HAIDER: Anything I would change? no I think my immigration journey was very easy. It wasn’t complicated, very easy. You know my aim was perfect.

MATIN: Do you have any regrets?


MATIN: What accomplishments are you most proud of?

HAIDER: The most accomplishments I’m most proud of now I'm having my family here. I had my which was my dream to have an education from a U. S. school. I was able to go four years before the school finished my four years. Now I'm having my kids going. Having an U.S. education, world class education and my kids go to private schools here and they will have a skills and be better educated person. I believe financially and career wise, I feel my dream I reached where I want to be. There was my like working the bank to becoming like a bank officer, bank manager there was my boyhood dream. So, I'm there now. I own house here. I have a couple of cars. My kids they're growing up with having a better life a better education and having a happy family. That's accomplishment that's made me happy every day.

MATIN: Is there anything else you would like to share or say?

HAIDER: I just want to say thank you America. This is really a country of opportunity and if you follow the rules, if you follow the laws, and if you have a dream and you work to pursue your dream you can achieve your dream, so thank you America.

Collection: Subat Matin Oral History Interviews
Donor: Subat Matin
Item History: 2023-04-07 (created); 2023-04-07 (modified)

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