||Youth Category – 1st Prize
Counting the Uncountable
(Age 21, Bangladesh)
University of Dhaka
When I was born, my complexion was quite dark and that made my parents worried. In Bangladesh, everyone prefers girls having fair skin color. Relatives and neighbors used to tell that my father would need to pay a large dowry in my marriage. I grew up hearing such comments. I felt sad, worried, and even ashamed. From a very young age I was desperate to make up for my not-so-beautiful look through my works. I studied hard; I tried singing, dancing, painting, and what not. I tried frantically to be the best, so that no one can look down on me because I lack beauty.
Eventually, all those hard works started to pay off. Successes rushed in my life, one after another. When I was 18, I got admitted into the most prestigious business school in my country, which made me even more desperate for achievements. However, things started to change gradually. Earlier my world was very small; school, home, family and a few friends. In university, I met hundreds of people, who were hankering after achievements, jobs, money and social status. I talked with many of my school alumni whose lives were full of pride, status and prestige. I observed their so-called “successful” lives. Surprisingly, successes could not make them happy. Deep inside, they were depressed. They cursed their bosses, felt dissatisfied with work and could not spend quality time with their families.
I was confused. What do we really expect from life? What should we do today to build our future tomorrow? I observed carefully and sensed a lack of positivity in the air. Dissatisfaction, intolerance, and cynicism were whimsically growing everywhere. I felt something was wrong. Statistics says our country is progressing, but what is about our people? Are we happier than before? Or, are we happy at all?
I talked with more people and tried to discover the exceptional things, events and people around me who are different from the crowd. I looked for people who were living happily, working hard to fulfill their dreams, helping others and contributing to the society. Gradually I realized what kind of future I want.
Nowadays, we are driven by material pleasure in life. Money, property, salary, luxury – these things matter most to us. We often forget the value of little things; small gifts that have made our lives truly blessed. Things like health, relationships and family, that we consider as given and never consciously think about, are the most important things in our life. We need to think beyond numbers and objects, care about numerous intangible gifts that are surrounding us. Our values, thoughts, dreams and beloved ones are taking our lives forward, not the food we eat or the money we spend.
I was a typical business student, waiting to work in giant multinational corporations, earn a fat paycheck at the end of month and live a luxurious life. But when I realized what really matter in life, I choose not to follow the crowd and design my own destiny. I decided to be a social entrepreneur and established a startup that provides rural poor with safe sanitation.
When I learned to acknowledge the small blessings in life, I understood that to achieve true success, we should cooperate, not compete. So I started motivating my classmates and juniors. I shared my thoughts with my teachers. At first everyone considered my wish to work for the poor a short term fantasy. They advised, forbade and even ridiculed me. But I followed my heart. As I set my priorities right and gave importance to the small things that matter, nothing could discourage me. The idea of following one’s heart is not new, but I have learnt through my experience why so many people fail to do that. We often forget to acknowledge value of the most precious things and crave for the not-so-valued ones. Small things matter, but we often ignore those.
Now I am 21 years old. My heart is full of passion, my eyes sparkle with confidence. No more confusion, no more inferiority complexes, no worries for not being a beauty queen. I am ready to do something for my country and the world through what I love- social business. Every social business aligns people, planet and profit simultaneously. I love to work in my social business, but I love even more to help other entrepreneurs to establish their own ones! That’s how happiness is created in a community and spreads itself. I inspire young girls to come out of their cocoons and see the world, as I am doing now. I am a free bird and now I am encouraging other birds to break their cages!
Future is nowhere, but in our own hands. Enough running after petty material things; let’s start counting the uncountable!