Interview with Rais Bhuiyan

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Table of Contents 
    •  SHANNON KINTNER: Okay. We’re on. Okay.  
    •   REBECCA LORINS: So we’re here today on Saturday, April 26, 2013. I’m Rebecca Lorins interviewing for TAVP and Shannon Kintner is at the camera and doing sound. We’re here with Rais Bhuiyan in Dallas and where are we exactly, what neighborhood?  
    •  RAIS BHUIYAN: We’re in the Village apartment complex in—near the Southern Methodist University, Dallas Texas, close to five minutes drive - from close to downtown—five minutes drive from North Park Mall and maybe ten minutes from Dallas downtown.  
    •  LORINS: And, um, can you state your name?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, my name is Rais Bhuiyan, R-a-i-s, Rais and the last name is B as in boy, h-u-i-y-a-n, Bhuiyan.  
    •  LORINS: And, before we started I had you sign a consent form so you’ve consented to interview with TAVP  
    •  BHUIYAN: Yes, I did that. 
    •   LORINS: Okay, Thank you. And, actually, just to begin you mentioned we’re in – we’re near downtown Dallas, can you describe the neighborhood a little bit for people maybe who haven’t visited Texas and - 
    •   BHUIYAN: Well this is a great community, almost 10,000 people living here, and a director—Dr. Rick Halperin of SMU, that half of the SMU students live here, it’s a very well-maintained neighborhood, high security, a lot of outdoor activities, for example, a tennis court, jogging trail, many, many, swimming pools, almost a hundred swimming pools in this apartment complex, and this is a very secure neighborhood, and it’s lovely, lots of trees and a few lakes. I’ve been staying here for the last, almost eleven years so you can imagine definitely this is a secure neighborhood and very charming, a lot of outdoor activities. I like trees and natural beauty and everything is present in this apartment complex. This is a great place to live.  
    •  LORINS: So when did you move here? You said about eleven years ago, so what year was that?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Uh, in 2003. Actually I moved here in 2002 then again I went out and came back in 2009, because I went, I moved out to Colorado for six months then again I came back to this apartment complex, you know, from that you can tell that I really like this neighborhood very much and when I moved – when I came back from Colorado I moved again here and I’ve been living here for – from 2009 again.  
    •  LORINS: And I’m wondering, so 2003 what prompted you to—  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, I had – one of my friends used to live in this apartment complex, and it's very interesting how I came here, after the shooting incident, I was staying with one of my friends that time, I was sharing his couch, and it was a one bedroom apartment--apartment, and after staying with him for a couple of months and then he decided to keep me as his roommate so he had to move to a two-bedroom house, a two bedroom apartment. So, that gentleman, he was looking for a two-bedroom apartment and one of these friends told him that he can move here, this is a great place. So then we both moved into this apartment complex in 2002 actually and lived here for several years. And then he moved out but I stayed back. 
    •   LORINS: Okay – and you mentioned, of course one of the—that you moved here after the shooting incident, so, I'm actually gonna circle way back— 
    •   BHUIYAN: Sure -  
    •  LORINS: --to before you even moved to the United States and actually, your very early life and start to think about your early childhood and where you were born and before--before you made your move to Dallas. So I guess if you could tell us where you were born, when, what year, and start to describe a little bit--your early memories.  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, I was born in Bangladesh, the capitol city, in Dhaka and even though I was born in Dhaka but I mainly spend my childhood, my teenage life in the eastern part of the country when I chose to go to a military school when I was in my seventh grade, and that part of the country was mainly hilly and lots of natural beauty, it’s called Sylhet and I went to military school and graduated from there in 1992 and in my childhood I had a dream to be at first pilot and also join military and serve the country. So those military schools are the best schools in the country. They not only focus on education but they also focus on extracurricular activities so that they can build future leaders in the country. So, in my seventh grade I had to sit for an exam and several thousand kids there apply and only handful kids they get chance to go to that school. So I was lucky and I was excited when I got my final letter that I got the chance to go to that military school. There are total ten military school back home and nine for boys and one for girls and every school, they take fifty students every year in seventh grade and they stay there until they graduate from high school and then they decide where they will go, to military or to any other field they would like to.  
    •  BHUIYAN: So my goal was to join the Bangladeshi Air Force and be a pilot so the first dream came true at a very early age that I was admitted to that military school and I spent six years in that school and right after my graduation from that school I prepared myself physically, mentally, and psychologically to sit for several tests, to get admitted myself to Bangladeshi Air Force. It was in a tough process because Bangladesh is a very poor country and they cannot afford to have so many cadets enrolled every year and then, you know, try out, to graduate from air force academy or from military academy. So every year, they don’t take more than ten, fifteen, or maximum twenty cadets per year, and thousands of young people, they apply, and only ten, fifteen, twenty people get it, the final chance to go and you know, serve – join the air force. So there are several memories during that six years when I was in this military school. I mean, the first day I went to that school, my elder brother dropped me, and I was thinking that, now today onward I have to stay in this place for next six years, and I have to stay with my classmates and that teachers whom I don’t know at all – no brothers and sisters, no mom and dad, it’s just me with my forty-nine classmates and the teachers and two hundred plus seniors.  
    •  BHUIYAN: I mean, I was crying that day, that I--up to this day I was preparing myself to come to this place and now I’m here I’m feeling bad, I’m feeling homesick, that the next six years I have to spend my life here. Am I really ready for it? And I was crying that day because I'll not see my family members anymore, that way I used to see them before. Life has changed that day. I was only eleven years old at that time. So my brother left and I walked back to my room and I still remember I was crying that day, May 1st, 1986. I was crying with my other classmates. Most of them were crying that day and one day I saw myself, wow, six years is gone, 1992. I thought, Wow, it went too fast. But there is lots of sweet memories during that six years. I remember one time in my seventh grade – actually my eighth grade, I had a classmate who was very funny and he used to make sound like, bad sound in the class to annoy the teacher. So one day the teacher was very upset and you know, he thought I made the sound in the class so he came and he kind of like gave me a slap on my back like, Don’t make sound in the class, and I feel so much insulted that I didn’t make the sound but I was the one who got – who got the punishment, right? And I was feeling very sad and I started crying, that I didn’t do that but the teacher wrongfully accused me and he slapped me in the back.  
    •  BHUIYAN: So when the class was over and the teacher came and Why are you still crying? I said, I didn’t do that, and you slapped me in the back and I feel so bad, the one who did it was sitting next to me but I didn’t feel like I could tell you that he did that, but I was wrongly punished, and then he said that, Think in this way, that if a house catch fire, the house next to it sometime gets burned, the house didn’t do anything, the house got burnt for no reason, it’s a natural fire that, you know, though the house didn’t have anything to do with the house next to it which catch the fire. So think in this way, that you got the fire for no reason. So he gave me very nice way, he explained the entire thing that, I’m sorry that I slapped you, but just think in that way. And that’s true, that if a house catch fire, the house next to it – or whatever is there next to that house sometimes they also catch fire and it spreads faster. So I stopped my crying and I said, Now I feel good, and I still remember that example, and it helped me to understand that, you know, sometime people get punished for no reason, because of someone’s mistake, and it happens. So if you think in that way, a lot of things can be resolved, you can find solution that, instead blaming someone, we can accept the responsibility and we can move on, that, Okay, it was wrong but he accepted that it was wrong, it was a mistake.  
    •  BHUIYAN: So that story touched me very profoundly from my eighth grade and many times students made, you know, teenage kids, they make fun of each other, so instead of being violent to them or responding with the same kind of bad behavior, I always thought, Let’s talk. If you make fun of me, why are you making fun of me, what did I do, how can we resolve this thing. So there’re many situations where people, kids, my classmates make fun of people and whatever the teenagers do. So we used to talk, Hey let’s not do that, it’s not good, it’s still hurting my feelings. So well, six years gone real quick and one day graduated from that military high school, in 1992. And the next dream was to prepare myself to go to the air force to be a pilot. So I started preparing myself and went to all the exams, physical – written exam, oral, medical, and then finally a presidential interview with the air chief and a few other member of the Air Force headquarter, and I did very good and finally got my love letter from the air force, that "Congratulations, Mr. Bhuiyan, join so-and-so date, and come with all these belongings and everything," and I was very excited that the first dream came true in 1986 I got admission into military school, then passed six years which was very tough, and then the next two dream was to join the air force, prepared myself and now I’m heading that direction, very excited, and spent there, two and a half years in military academy and graduated as a pilot officer and then I had another dream to come to US for higher education and to experience the American Dream and see the world. So I thought if I stay in Bangladeshi Air Force and serve there for next several years that the next dream will – may not--may never come true. So I thought just ask for release and see if I can get a release and then go to US as a student. So I asked a release and I was lucky I got released and then I applied for a student visa and I got the visa and I came to USA as a student.  
    •  LORINS: And what year was that?  
    •  BHUIYAN: It was in 1999.  
    •  LORINS: So, just before we leave this period, the earlier period of your life, you mentioned that, the way you described it to us, is that you chose to go to military school, that it was something you wanted. Why do you think, what was it that motivated you, because you were young.  
    •  BHUIYAN: Right, that’s a very good question. What happened, my elder brother, he was a brilliant student, and my mom used to always talk to us, that my brother Sharif, he’s a brilliant student and he can do whatever he wants and that he will do very good in the future as a good student. So when my brother applied to this military school, he went up to the last stage but then he was not admitted. He was not successful at the last, in the medical interview he had some physical problems, something, I don’t remember exactly, and because of that, he couldn’t go to the military school. My mom was really, really sad that she had so much hope and trust on my elder brother, and he could not succeed. And as little boy I saw how my mom was sad and I told myself that day, Okay, when I come up to that stage, I will make my mom proud that my brother couldn’t do this but at least I could do that and I did it. So I – I promised myself that I would do the best to make my mom happy and also, since that was the best school in the country, who doesn’t want to go to that kind of school. So it was two, it was a promise to myself that I will make my mom proud and happy, and the second point was I would love to go to that kind of school where, it is not only focusing on education but also other curricular activities and they prepare students the best they can to lead the country or go to military or to become a – a good person. So, because of these two things I chose to go to this military school.  
    •  LORINS: And actually, so this idea, preparing to lead the country and to be a citizen in a way, since it sounds like what you’re saying, to be a good citizen, to be –  
    •   BHUIYAN: Right –  
    •  LORINS: — leader.  
    •  BHUIYAN: Right.  
    •  LORINS: So you were born in 1973 and Bangladesh won its independence in 1971 -  
    •  BHUIYAN: Yes.  
    •  LORINS: Right, so I mean that must have been significant for you, to sort of be living through those early years.  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well absolutely. I don’t remember anything, you know, what happened in, I mean, since ’71 because I was very, very young, I have no memory at the time, but so far I remember my childhood, I saw a lot of chaos of the country and a lot of the corruption, and you know, so many poor people in the country and whenever we used to, I used to see a lot of poor people come to our house for - begging for food and money, it touched me deeply that, why there are so many poor people in this world? Why there are so many people they cannot have their meal twice per day, and why they don’t live in a house, why they are so poor, you know, what can I do once I grow up, can I do something to make a change for these kind of people, not only in my neighborhood in the country all over the world. I mean those people they touch me deeply. There’re a lot of – a lot of memories, that, when people used to come to our house, sometimes I used to ask my mom, can you give them something, and if she was busy or too many people came within a short time, sometime she used to say, tell them I’m busy right now I cannot do anything and I used to go behind and give something, give them and my mom found a couple times and, Why did you do that, I said, Because you are busy, and they need something.  
    •  BHUIYAN: They came because this lady, one time I remember she came for, she was asking for sari, where they, the outfit women wear in Bangladesh and I knew my mom had a lot of saris so I grabbed one and I gave it to her, and she said, Why did you give my sari to her, and well, I said, Well, you have plenty of [them], if I give one to her then dad will be able to buy you another one. But she need that. And that lady was a, you know, mute person, she could not talk. So once I give that sari to her, I still remember that she – she rubbed my head and shoulder and she was pointing a finger towards up [pointing upwards]. What she was trying to say was, what I understood from that, that he saw what you do to me and one day he will take care of you. I think that’s what she was trying to say by pointing finger up and rubbing my head and shoulder and that day, I was thinking, I did not do anything, you know, huge, I just gave her a sari but definitely she’s praying from her heart that she wasn’t expecting from a little boy, you know, a sari or an outfit. So my mom asked me that, Do you often give these kind of thing, a sari and money to the people, and I said, Yes I do, What they say to you, They just rub my head and my shoulder and they pray for me. So I remember – I remember my mom telling me that the prayer of poor people are powerful and definitely these prayer will help you one day, and these prayer will definitely save you from something one day because what you did to them and them praying from their heart will help you one day.  
    •  BHUIYAN: I mean a lot of stories I remember is from my childhood and so I grew up seeing these kind of thing in my childhood and it touch me deeply that, Why there so much imbalance in our society, some people have so much, some people have too little you cannot even imagine and I’m not blaming the rich people, I’m saying what can we do to balance it out, you know that--so that at least people can live a respectful life. People can live a life where they can at least have two times meal per day, they can at least have a shelter above their head. So I think in my childhood I promise myself that if I ever get a chance to do something for people, if I ever get some money, if I ever become successful I will not forget these people. Yes I am staying in the US right now but I consider myself as a citizen of the world wherever there are people who need help I feel the need to go and help them but I believe one day that God will put me into that situation to do something for those people because it’s about human lives not about people in the USA people in Bangladesh people in Afghanistan or people in you know, in Africa. I think it’s all about human lives, that we all are interconnected somehow and we need to help each other. So in my childhood those things touch me deeply and it helped me, you know, see – those – their poverty, and their misery. It – it shaped my – it changed my mind in many different ways.  
    •  LORINS: So to help us understand a little bit even more about your perspective, where was your family in this social structure, because you’re saying that the poor people came to your house so what was—yeah, can you describe it?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, what I consider about my family is we are upper middle class family and my dad used to work as an engineer in Abu Dhabi and he was a government service holder in Bangladesh (excuse me), and later on in 1978 he was transferred to UAE [United Arab Emirates] to build UA’s telephone infrastructure. Several other engineers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh they went as a team to build United Arab Emirates’ telephone infrastructure and my dad served there for sixteen years and my mom sacrificed her time, she stayed with us so that she can take care of the kids and you know, raise them in a good way. So we all kids owe a big time to our mother, that she sacrificed her time instead of going and staying with my dad, and also my dad sacrificed a lot. So people knew that they would get some help if they come to our house and Bangladesh is such a country, you know, a lot of people they live under poverty line and their poverty line is way different than our poverty line is, totally different.  
    •  BHUIYAN: You can’t imagine what – how those people live with so little. So poor people used to come to our house and a lot of our poor relatives who knew that my dad was working in [inaudible], at least we’re in good shape. [They] used to come to our house and ask for financial help, if there was daughters waiting or all sorts of other situations where they need some help, they used to come with a big hope to our house and ask my mom that if she could help in any way. So helping people, I mean it was something I learn in my childhood from my parents and also I think people know of Bangladesh, people are used to in this kind of situation there are a lot of poor people and we used to see a lot of beggars. I’m not saying this word in a negative way but I’m saying that you know, so many poor people used to come and beg for money and food. So if you ask any person from Bangladesh they’re used to this kind of thing. People come to their house for money and food. It’s a normal thing back in Bangladesh.  
    •  LORINS: And your father, his migration to the United Arab Emirates, as an engineer, I guess, trying to take an historical perspective, was that a typical trajectory for a Bangladeshi man? Were there many men going at the time or was it--?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Right.  
    •  LORINS: Or was he unusual?  
    •   BHUIYAN: No at that time it was a trend a lot of people were going abroad for you know, job and business so it was not unusual for my dad to go. It was an opportunity for him to go and serve in a foreign country. He was transferred by the Bangladesh government which was, you know, good in this case. He had a government service background and now he’s going to serve another government. So in this case it was very good that it was secure job and government jobs are more or less secure than the private sector and he did very good in his – when he was working at UAE. When his terms were expired, terms was expired, it was renewed a few times because they love my dad so much and he was a very dedicated worker and he did a really good job so they renewed his work permit few times.  
    •  LORINS: I’m also curious about like, this is kind of a very specific question, but about your home – the home you’re talking about in Bangladesh. I mean, can you describe a little bit its physical- in terms of security. Was it—  
    •  BHUIYAN: It was a gated house.  
    •  LORINS: It was gated, okay.  
    •  BHUIYAN: There’s a wall, four feet to five feet wall, you know, it’s very common back in Bangladesh that you have a wall around your house and a main gate and then you have another another gate. So our house, there was wall in four sides, two gates, one of them the main, and another one. It is a two-storied house, there were five bedrooms on the ground floor and three bathroom. We also have second floor, same thing, but we – we did not live on the second floor, it was mainly for rental purposes. So we had few tenants living upstair but we were in the downstair.  
    •  LORINS: And how many brothers and sisters did you have?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, we were five brothers and three sisters, and when the house was built, it was not built two, it was built as one story but later it was built two story but then when my brother and sister got married they moved out so then we used the second floor for renting purpose. Before we used to use the second floor and the first floor. And lots of trees as well, we had an open front area. We had a lot of mango trees, coconut trees, different kinds of seasonal fruits and my mom was—used to love gardening, and we also follow her path. We used to help her, you know, in different season she used to grow different kinds of vegetables and also flowers. So there’s always something was there, in every season but the coconut was throughout the year. We have guava tree, mango tree we have at most, six to eight mango trees. You know it was fun because during mango season, I used to climb the tree and shake it a little bit, and my nephew and nieces would be under the tree and they would be running around picking up those ripe mangos from the ground. It was fun. Or even when there was a big rain or storm, we used to just wait until the storm was over and run with a bucket and just pick up all the mango from the ground. It was very interesting, all the sweet memories. Now all the nephews and nieces are grown up, they’re in the college, university, and I can imagine going back and doing the same thing with those kids.  
    •  LORINS: Where did your parents meet? How did they meet?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, It was an arranged, arranged marriage. Well, matter of fact I know it was arranged by one of my father’s colleague, and my uncle, they used to work in the same company, so they kind of talked and arranged the marriage.  
    •  LORINS: I’m also curious about, because I know--about your early experiences with your religion and any kind of religious education you had or religious –- yeah, just describe that for us.  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, I grew up in a practicing Muslim family and my mom’s side, my grandfather, he was a very spiritual person and he used to come to our house almost every weekend and arrange a religious gathering and pray together and every Thursday, my mom used cook something and feed the poor people, or sometime cook something and give it to people as a part of charity. So I grew up seeing the charity work, that it is not only about you and your family, you also do something for others, whom you may not know or you may know them. So Thursday, Thursday was considered as a good day out of all the days of the week. So Thursday was to have this religious gathering in our house and pray, and you know, cook food and give it to the poor people. 
    •  BHUIYAN: So it was put into my system that this, these are the good works: you pray, you take care of yourself, you take care of your family, at the same time you do the best you can for others, and also prayer was mandatory in our house. I mean I would not beaten up--not because I did not pray but we used to always be encouraged by our parents that you are supposed to pray you know, five times. Once you are twelve, after that you’re supposed to pray. Up to twelve, you’re excused because you are under the age, but as soon as you hit age twelve, there’s no excuse for it, you’re supposed to pray five times and do the best you can, follow all of the religious teachings and tradition. So we were taught all these thing and I left my house at age of eleven so that was in the military school and in the military school the prayer was compulsory, at least one prayer per day was compulsory, evening prayer and the rest I used to do on my own, early morning prayer, before the sun rises, was to wake up because I had to prepare myself to go running one day, and the other day was military practice. So we all kids still, you know, get together, five thirty or maybe six o'clock in the morning, go for one mile run and then some physical training.  
    •  BHUIYAN: So I had to wake up no matter what, six days a week, five o’clock, so it was a good thing that, you know, waking up early, and then pray, and then go for the morning short run or the parade. So this is how I grew up and also when I used to come back home, my dad used to talk to us about religious practice and what we were supposed to do, how a Muslim should lead a life. All the good things we were taught by our parents, by the grandfather, and those charity works, and every year there is some, you know, holy months and holy dates, when you practice some specific prayer and this and that. So it was always practiced in our house. There was special day when you, you make food only for the poor people and you feed them. So it was strictly maintained in our family that you prepare food and give them, there was holy nights, you were supposed to pray entire night to get blessings.  
    •  BHUIYAN: So at early age, I used to pray with my other brothers and sisters, or with our parents, stay up all night, and the next day, pray again and you know, follow the ritual. So I grew up in a practicing Islamic family, and I think I was never pushed to do that but I was asked that, this is what you’re supposed to do, and I also accepted--thought that, why I am supposed to do that, any time I had a question, I used to ask my mom and dad, or my other friends in my military school that, Why we do that, why do us told to do like this, not like that. So totally make sense to me, why I’m praying all night, how it was, how it came to practice, all these kinds of thing, and they help me to understand my faith better, that I’m not just blindly following something, there’s a logic and how it came and why people practice it this way. So it makes more sense when I discuss these thing with my friends and family members.  
    •  LORINS: So your grandfather was an influence in your life?  
    •  BHUIYAN: I can say yeah, absolutely, because as a very young child, I saw that how my grandfather used to wake up very early in the morning when he used to come and stay with us and he started praying and you know, do a lot of early morning rituals, and actually that, he’s an old man but still he has this strength to you know, wake up so early, and then do all this thing at age of sixty plus. I used to admire in him, that at this age he should be sleeping more, waking up ten o’clock or eleven o’clock then have breakfast and do, you know, slow stuff. But instead of doing that he has such a power in his heart, such a peaceful man, and so much energy. That really attracted me that if you pray maybe you get the power from your prayer, that if you do these thing maybe you get some holy, you know, spirit, something you know, from somewhere else – that drives you to do all this work. So I thought about, I used to found that, I used to pray, wake up before the sun rise, go to bathroom, wash my hands and feet and come and stand on a rug and keep my eyes closed and then pray for one, you know, pray.  
    •  BHUIYAN: After the prayer I used to feel a heavenly peace in my heart that the day’s about to start and I just thank the Almighty God, and I ask for his guidance, I ask him to help me so that I don’t commit any sin today and I’m going to start my day. That really help me in many, many ways and it is a beautiful way to start a day, and my grandfather showed me that path that, if you do this in the morning, the peace you will find in your heart is heavenly. You get the courage and the strength to spend the day in a positive way and if you pray five times every few hours, then where’s the time to do something bad? So every few hours you are standing in front of God and asking for guidance, asking for, Have mercy on me, if I’ve done any mistake in the last three hours please forgive me, and please help me. Give me the courage to do the right thing and he was asking for guidance and mercy, when is there time to go bombing and killing people and do harm to others? If you’re really a practicing Muslim, there’s no point of, you know, even thinking, forget about doing that stuff. So yes, my grandfather had a powerful influence on me and also my mom and dad. Because my mom was a copy of my grandfather and still you know, I mean people talk about my mom, that she’s one in a million, that the type of person she is. So she learn from my grandfather and I learn from both of them and also from my dad.  
    •  LORINS: Did your family attend mosque, or was that something that-  
    •  BHUIYAN: Yes, I mean we had a mosque in our neighborhood, I think we had two mosques. Mainly I used to go to the mosque during weekly prayer but even though I was asked to go to the mosque, because you get more reward once you go to the mosque and prayer as a community. There a lot of reasons behind it, that once you go in public and pray together, it builds a rapport amongst everybody. If you pray at your house, you’re just isolated, isolating yourself from others. So--and if you go to the mosque, you can get more reward. But sometime I used to go, sometime--it was not mandatory that you have to go but it is encouraged, it is better to go pray in a mosque. So whenever I could go to the mosque, but weekly prayer was compulsory, then you had to go to the mosque and pray together.  
    •  LORINS: And your mom?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Do my prayer on Friday, yes.  
    •  LORINS: And you said there were two mosques in the area -  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, in the neighborhood there were two mosques and one was little far, so when I used to get, when I become lazy or I don’t want to walk that much, because back home it's not like you go by car, you just go by walk, ten minutes walk and the other one was five minutes walk. So sometime, you know, depending on the mood, if you take ten minutes walk go to the farthest one, but if you are not in the mood to take a long walk then, they say the more steps you take towards the mosque, the more rewards you get. So sometimes I choose not to get more reward and go to the closest one.  
    •  LORINS: And you said that it was compulsory to have a prayer, one prayer a day when you were in military school  
    •  BHUIYAN: Right, the evening prayer, right after the sunset. That prayer was mandatory for everyone.  
    •  LORINS: And was that a group prayer?  
    •  BHUIYAN: It was, we used to go to the mosque and all pray together and the teachers used to come and pray with us and all the students. So that was compulsory, that you were not supposed to miss it. And anyways, we were praying but there were students that were not Muslims that were Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, so it was not for them. They can stay at the dorm and they can use that time for whatever they want but for the Muslim students, it was mandatory that you have to go and pray and then come back and do the rest of the evening tasks according to the plan. But it was good that we used to play in the late afternoon, go for games and sports, activities, and once you’re done, go back to your dorm and take shower, clean up and then get ready for the prayer. The life was totally scheduled, I mean there was nothing like, you do whatever you want, it was not like that.  
    •  BHUIYAN: It was perfect discipline that every day, we knew what we were supposed to do at what time. Like wake up in the morning, go for a mile, one mile run then physical training and then you come back to your dorm and take a shower, get ready for breakfast, we used to all go together, have your breakfast together, go in a single line altogether to the dining hall, all 300 students eating together and then after the breakfast you go to your classroom all again, same single line or sometime used to form like a platoon and then march and go to the academy building. And then there is a meal break after, for--after half of the class was over around eleven o’clock then you go for meal break, you get some snacks and some tea, this and that, and then you go back to your classroom and then up until two o’clock is your class. And then same thing again, you all go together, get your lunch in the same dining hall, eat together, go back to your dorm and half an hour quiet time, just relax a little bit and if it is the winter time, the day is shorter and you go for games and sports. But if it is summer time, the day is longer and you go for a one hour prep class for next day, whatever you were taught in the class today for homework, this and that.  
    •  BHUIYAN: Then after that class, then you go for games and sports activities. You play, go and get, take shower, and then go for the prayer, after the prayer you go back to your dorm, change up, and go for the evening class mainly it is the prep class for the classes tomorrow. Then by ten o’clock, dinner and everything is done by eight o’clock - dinner is done by eight o’clock, and then go back to your dorm, lights out by ten thirty. You go to bed by ten thirty. And if you’re caught after ten thirty your lights are on, and then you go for high jump, means you go for punishment. So within this, all this activities, there is also punishment system like military environment. If you are found breaking some discipline, doing something which you are not supposed to do, that after the lunch break--then during the lunch, during the lunch time--they announce, These cadets are found guilty of this crime, and there is a punishment awarded to them. So after lunch break, these cadets go to this area with their uniform and there would be extra parade or some extra physical activities for you conducted by the army, by the military personnel. 
    •  BHUIYAN: Then you go, instead of going back to your dorm and have a quiet time, you go for some noisy time, you do all those physical activities and then you’re exhausted, go back to your dorm. So those punishment system was there to give you a lesson not to break the discipline or whatever you did, you will learn from that. And I did not, I never got a punishment within the six years, my record was that I never got any punishment like that. Only a handful of people can say that they never awarded, they were never awarded these kind of extra curriculum activities after lunch break. And I was given one but it was excused later on so I never had to go and really perform that kind of physical activities after lunch break. But even that discipline really helped a lot and that fellow feelings, that you help each other no matter what, who is your classmate, who is your senior, junior, you would try and help and each other and grow up together.  
    •  LORINS: Could you tell us more about that? I guess if, let me just add one thing, you talked about how competitive it was to get into the military school and I’m wondering, the composition of the students, did they come from various social classes?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Absolutely, there were people, kids came from different part of the country, different classes as well, poor, very poor, very rich, and filthy rich, you cannot imagine. Let’s put it this way, and if there were some, some students they couldn’t even afford the tuition fee, per year, and the school was such that if you cannot afford the government will take care of the bill because you reached up to that level, that you know, government, that you could learn yourself into this school system, definitely you have some quality, and government wants to, I mean, treat you, take care of you so that one day you can do something for the country. And those schools are run by the taxpayers’ money, or the government’s money, the people’s money. So kids came from different backgrounds all over the world and I mean it was so beautiful to see that kids from different backgrounds coming to one place and lived six years together and the bond we build with each other is kind of like we’re all brothers and sisters – there - see there are no females but all kind of like brothers, and that way we feel for each other that we were fifty brothers in one classroom, not just fifty kids from different parts of the world. So that school helped us build a bond like that and I wish we could do the same thing in our world as well that, you come from a different background, that doesn’t mean that I have to ignore you and we just tell you that you are the other, I don’t care for you. 
    •  BHUIYAN: I think that school system helped a lot, that why it is important to help each other and why it is so important to take care of each other so that we all can be successful and we all can live in a peaceful world and we can do something good in the future. And now my classmates are doing very good and some of them are serving the military, some of them are in the private sector, heading some departments, some of them are in the prime minister’s--working for the prime ministers back in their country. Lots of kids are in the USA, being doctor, IT specialist. So when I look back, it really you know, I mean, makes me feel good that we grew up together helping each other. Now we all are doing very good and when I look back the school I attended before I went to the military school, a lot of kids are not really doing, you know, whatever they dreamed of doing in the future because the lack of cooperation, a lot of things, what we had in those school system, they didn’t have outside. And I feel for those, that we were classmates, and we had the same kind of dream to do something good in the future but they couldn’t because of the lack of I mean, support, lack of supervision, a lot of things were not there, that’s why they couldn’t be successful the way my classmates became successful. So it’s all about proper education, guidance, and if kids can have that, I mean, anybody can do whatever is possible in their mind. That can be possible with the right education and the proper guidance and the proper tools.  
    •  LORINS: The teachers at this school, were they all from Bangladesh?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Yes, same thing, the teachers from different, diverse backgrounds and they all are from Bangladesh. That school money actually come from the British private boarding school because you know, Bangladesh was a part of British colony up to 1947 so this school system is actually was established in west Pakistan and since Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan before 1971. So you know, we also got this school system, a copy of those private boarding school in west Pakistan and the UK and the teachers were all from Bangladesh and they dedicated their life to raise these kids as their own kids. And whenever I talk about my teachers I always thank them from my heart that they really did their best to raise these students, the best they could not only as good students in academics but also to raise them so they can do something bigger, better once they go into their, start their own – own career. And besides their family life, they used to come in and do a lot for the kids, stay in the dorm for, used to come in the evenings, at night time to make sure the discipline is okay, all the kids are okay and they, I mean, they – besides teaching the students, they also have a lot of responsibilities. And, which was very important to have this kind of connection, teacher and students, it’s not only just, Okay, I’m done with the class, I’m done - not like that. They used to come in and also take care of the kids’ games and sports. Then stage events, speaking this and that, they used to do all kinds of things.  
    •  LORINS: So you talked - you’ve talked about noticing inequality in terms of income and poverty early in your life and I’m wondering--because I know later it becomes important to your life. Did you know early on, in this early childhood period and in the military school and maybe into the air force, what other forms of discrimination did you notice? And if you could tell us in story form, you know, like examples. Were there other forms of discrimination that you noticed?  
    •  BHUIYAN: Well, yes, definitely, you know because where there lot of people - are not educated or very less educated, and one third of the people live under poverty line, then definitely there is a ground for ignorance and hatred. When growing up I – I saw, you know, people used to be beaten up for stealing something very little, very, very little thing and as a child, when I used to saw – when I used to see that, I mean, I could not go and tell the people, Why are you beating this guy? He just stole maybe very little thing but what you’re doing in return is causing too much pain and destruction for this, Why are you beating him, you know, try to find out why he was stealing this thing, why he was in this situation. What can we do to resolve that instead of you know, beating him up, it’s not really helping him. But since I was very little and I had no voice at that time to tell this, you know, elder people, but I never liked that, you know, seeing that one human being is beaten up by others for stealing something very little. 
    •  BHUIYAN: And I told myself that definitely once I grow up, I will not do that thing, you know, hurt people for some, you know for their mistake. And it hurt – it hurt me very badly that, how a lot of people used to gather together and they were so happy that they caught someone for stealing. Looks like they found some gold mine or something and people used to take turn and beat that guy and I could not tolerate that. I said that well, this is not the right thing to do and when he was released he did the same thing again after maybe few months, a couple of years. And again they caught him and they did the same thing and then sometime you know, after beating up they used to hand over that guy to the law enforcement agency. And law enforcement agency took some money from him and let him go. So I saw this kind of thing, you know, this kind of huge, bad behavior of human, and it touched me deeply that, Why people do that? He’s a very poor guy and he stole something because maybe he had to feed some mouth. Why don’t you help this guy? You beat him up badly, then you handed him over to the law enforcement and instead of rectify him, law enforcement agency took some money from him as a bribe and let him go.  
    •  BHUIYAN: So it – it disturbed me very much and I mean, I never took part in any action like that and I used to ask my elder brother that, [coughs] (excuse me), Why did you beat him? And sometimes they used to feed him before they used to beat him, that okay, we’re gonna beat you, but you know here’s some food for you first. And I never, you know, could justify that kind of human bad behavior that you’re going to beat someone but you’re feeding him first. Then you’re beating him? And I saw this kind of thing, you know, in my own eyes and I never could understand why people did that and in many places I have seen how poor people, you know--they lived on the street in the--behind the five star hotel, here’s a huge building, five star and if you go to the back end – back here you see there is a slum. And I know, I’ve visited many, many slums in our neighborhood there was a slum as well and I could not believe how people could live in that kind of you know, lifestyle. And the footpath during the daytime you don’t see any people but if you go at nighttime, you see nothing but a plastic curve, maybe few sticks, some people are spending the night in there.  
    •  BHUIYAN: And they’re having kids in that place and the kids are playing during the daytime in the footpath in the nearest park. And I never could, you know, understand that, why people could not help these people? Why cannot government help these people? Because government is to serve people. People that are in power, people who are rich, they are supposed to do something to make a change in our society so we all can live with dignity and respect and at least a human life. Those are not human lives. I mean, how could I live in a nice house whereas some people they’re being born in a footpath and then they’re being raised in that place and then they die one day. That’s not the definition of a human life. It touched me very deeply and it still, when I go back to my birth country, Bangladesh, and I see the same thing. And it’s getting worse. So those thing, you know, in my childhood touch me very deeply and I always told myself that if I ever get any chance to do something, I will definitely do something. I did not go back to Bangladesh for last five—four years, but I’m preparing myself maybe one day, once I get more you know, I mean, better prepared then definitely because I have bindings for the people in USA and people of Bangladesh as well.  
    •  LORINS: How long were you in the air force?  
    •  KITNER: I might need to change the tape.  
    •  LORINS: Sure. Please, thank you.  
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    Title:Interview with Rais Bhuiyan
    Abstract:Rais Bhuiyan is an immigrant who moved to the United States from Bangladesh in 1999 for school. On September 21st, 2001, one week after the attacks on 9/11, he was shot in the face by Mark Stroman as part of a string of shootings Stroman claimed were revenge for the 9/11 attacks. Bhuiyan was the only survivor. Stroman received the death penalty and was on Death Row for eleven years. During the last years of Stroman’s life, Bhuiyan was a vocal opponent of the death penalty and headed a campaign to save Mark Stroman from execution. In tape 1, Bhuiyan discusses his life in Bangladesh and experiences in military school. In tape 2, he discusses joining the Bangladesh Air Force, meeting his fiancée, and the process of applying for a visa to come to the United States to study. In Tape 3, Bhuiyan talks about traveling from Bangladesh to the United States, his life in New York and then in Dallas, and describes what it was like working in a gas station. In tape 4, Bhuiyan describes the shooting incident and its immediate impact on his life as he sought medical care and support during recovery. In tape 5, Bhuiyan discusses the trial, overcoming his fear of people who looked like Mark Stroman, and his 2009 pilgrimage to Mecca. In Tape 6, Bhuiyan discusses his campaign to save Mark Stroman, his desire for a reconciliation meeting Stroman, and the phone conversation they had just before Stroman was executed. In Tape 7, Bhuiyan discusses forgiveness and overcoming ignorance. In tape 8, Bhuiyan discusses his relationship with Mark Stroman’s family. This interview was filmed on April 26th and 27th, 2013, at Rais Bhuiyan’s home in Dallas, Texas.
    Sequence:1 of 8
    • Rais BhuiyanRole: Narrator
    • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
    • Rebecca LorinsRole: Interviewer
    • Shannon KintnerRole: Videographer
    • Tu-Uyen NguyenRole: Transcriber
    • Ilana SmirinRole: Transcriber
    • Jane FieldRole: Transcriber
    Publishers:Texas After Violence Project
    University of Texas Libraries
    Date Created:2013/04
    Geographic Focus:
    Type of Resource:Moving image
      This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.

    Source Metadata

    Analog/Digital Flag:physDigital
    Carrier Number:1 of 8
    Signal Format:NTSC

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