Mushfiqur was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which he stated is “a country the size of New York, but unfortunately with ⅓ the population of the U.S.” In around 2006, at the age of 7, he moved to Brooklyn, New York. “Part of me wishes I moved to Australia instead, lived there for a few years, picked up that awesome accent and then moved to NYC so I can show off my Aussie accent. I grew up in a small conclave of East New York known as ‘Cityline’ since it’s at the border of the old Brooklyn City and Queens County.” He attended Brooklyn Tech High School and is currently a freshman attending Stony Brook University.
Mushfiqur grew up in Bangladesh until he was in the first grade. Both of his parents were teachers in Bangladesh, and he stated that this is the reason why he and his family were fairly well off there. One of his parents taught arts and crafts at a middle school and the other taught mechanical engineering at an university. Since his parents both had to tend to their jobs, Mushfiqur was mostly cared for by his aunts and cousins; he basically lived with them. He continued on to describe how his brother was raised by the maids at their house: “yeah, we had maids.”
Mushfiqur, though only attending school in Bangladesh until the first grade, recalls school being a challenge for him: “school was kind of my weakness there since the system is so regimented and doing anything outside of mindless memorizing usually leads to getting hit by a ruler or failing all together. Girls and boys were usually separated since the country is really religious; it’s a Muslim country. During monsoon seasons it would rain an insane amount to a point where we literally had to canoe to school and post roads weren’t paved and most people didn’t own cars, so when we weren’t canoeing we’d take rickshaws.” Dhaka, Bangladesh is prone to flooding because of its location near the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna Rivers. They receive a lot of run-off during times of heavy rainfall, and during monsoon seasons, flooding can be even worse. Mushfiqur also discussed, connecting back to his issues with school, how his grades were not the greatest, and he often got into trouble at school.
Mushfiqur’s journey to the United States was not really his choice, as he was only just a child. His parents got permission to come to the United States through a VISA lottery, and he had an uncle who already lived here. Mushfiqur cannot quite recall the exact motives for his parents final decision to come to the United States and the events that led them to moving because he was only seven at the time, but he states that “Bangladesh wasn’t really a nice place to live to begin with, so we took a chance in moving to someplace better….since we had the chance to move to a much much better country, why not take the chance.”
Mushfiqur talked about how it was easy for him to move from Bangladesh to the United States. He had stopped going to school and did not complete the first grade the year that he and his family moved. He discussed how he lost contact with his friends from his school in Bangladesh long before the move and even forgot their names, so they were actually easy to let go. His other friends that lived in his apartment building, however, he missed a lot, “but I was seven, so I got over them eventually.”
Coming to New York was the first time Mushfiqur had flown in a plane. He stated, “I was pretty ignorant of the world geography. So as far as I was concerned, in my seven year old head, I was going to this place called America. So when the pilot announced we were heading to New York, all sorts of alarms went off and I went ‘We’re going to the wrong country.’” He soon found out that he was going to New York, as in the city within the country of the United States of America. He recalls it being really cold when he landed. He also described how he was able to see snow for the first time that same week: “I was amazed.” Additionally, he discussed how he was not used to seeing a nice suburban place like Queens, the big individual houses, and how nice everything was laid out on a grid system.
When asked how it felt when he first arrived in the city, Mushfiqur responded that “everything felt so foreign and I was just taking it all in. Frankly it felt like a dream, like I was just waiting for someone to wake me up and I’ll be back in the sweltering heat of South Asia. Also, I was kind of dazed when I realized we weren’t just visiting someplace new but instead this new place will be my home for a very long time. That realization made everything feel even more surreal because everything felt like a fun trip until we set our new home up and I finally felt the permanence of everything.”
Mushfiqur discussed how his first impression of the city was that he was amazed by how organized and modern it was. He had pizza for the first time, though, unfortunately, it was from a “horrible place,” so his first impression of pizza was quite disappointing. “It took me a while to trust pizza again” and he eventually realized it was just that specific pizza place that apparently could not make pizza well, and that pizza was actually good. He talked about the snowfall once again and how beautiful he thought it was. “I didn’t play in it, but I kind of just stared at it fall for a long time when it first started snowing and just soaked in the experience and sight of the snow covered evergreens in my backyard.”
Mushfiqur was surprised how peaceful and nice the city is: “Just a heads up I live in East New York, one of the worst neighborhoods in the city, yet it still was 100 times better than anything in Bangladesh.” He later described how “my neighborhood is weird in a way that a highway separates the worst from the best.” He discussed how across the highway, on the side opposite of his neighborhood, danger lurks everywhere. He continued, “stay on my side and it’s white picket fences and a really diverse neighborhood with friendly, close knit people. Which is why when asked where I live I say ‘Cityline’ [rather] than ‘East New York,’ because Cityline as a whole is so different than the bigger neighborhood it’s located in. Overall, it’s a nice and cheap place to live in and that’s why I’ve been living there for eleven years.” Mushfiqur continued to comment on how he really noticed the mixture of so many different cultures as well as how much more organized the schools were: “I was instantly blown away by all the different people from so many cultures in my class and on my block. Bangladesh is mostly a homogenous culture and usually [in Bangladesh] cultural ‘diversity’ just meant there were a spatter of Hindu kids in a swarm of Muslim kids at school.” Mushfiqur went into more detail about the diversity in his neighborhood and talked about how his neighbor is Egyption, his best friend’s parents are from China, there are lots of Latin American flags in countless houses, and “lots of Bengalis like me. People are from all over in a small span of a few blocks.”
In continuation of the differences Mushfiqur noticed between Bangladesh and the United States, Mushfiqur discussed a common luxury in the United States that many might take for granted far too often. Mushfiqur stated that the “first difference that I appreciate a lot are the mattresses. The U.S. actually uses mattresses while in Bangladesh we slept on rock hard beds with a small layer of a blanket or something keeping me from the the wooden skeleton of the bed. I’m so used to mattresses now that when I went back to visit one summer I’d wake up with the worst back pain every night from sleeping on the oversized bricks they call beds.” A second difference Mushfiqur discussed had to do with the differences in socialization. “Another big difference is the open mindedness of Americans compared to Bengalis. [In Bangladesh,] girls and boys don’t really talk much and are usually kept separate since elementary [school], so as they get older they don’t interact with each other much.” Additionally, Mushfiqur mentioned that another huge difference was power outages occurring daily in Bangladesh: “it’s such a pain. If we had it [a power outage] daily [in America] there would be panic and hysteria and broken snap streaks.” One thing Mushfiqur mentioned as better in Bangladesh compared to New York is specialized restroom and plumbing features for better sanitation and personal hygiene.
During Mushfiqur’s first week in New York, he lived in his uncle’s house for a while in Queens which he thought was really nice. Then he and his family moved to the basement of a house in Brooklyn which he describes as “not so nice.” Despite that, however, “the landlord was really nice and she had two little kids I’d play with all the time like they were my little sister and brother.” When it came to school, he was completely lost and everytime someone approached him, “they sounded like gibberish and I responded with the only two things I knew: ‘Hello’ or ‘I don’t understand.’” Mushfiqur would “wake up at the ungodly hour of 6 AM” and he commented in frustration, “literally everywhere else [other than America] they start school later.” He would brush his teeth after he and his brother fought for who would get to use the bathroom first: “I was bigger so I’d usually win.” Then he would put on his uniform. He added, “Okay, our school had uniforms but no one wore them, but obviously I did because I was new and had no clue uniforms were optional. Then, as a new kid who couldn’t speak the language, most of school the first year was a blur. Literally nothing mattered in what I did in class because I joined so late and had no idea what was going on. So everything was a blur till lunch…where I sat alone…and then blur till school ended.” After school finished, Mushfiqur’s parents would pick him up and they would head home where his father would assist him in finishing all of his homework: “Honestly bless him for putting [in] so much time to help me.” After completing his assignments, Mushfiqur would watch Power Rangers and then sleep. His days often were spent similar to this.
One of the biggest challenges Mushfiqur faced was having a language barrier: “Before even coming to America my worst grades were in English, so it was ironic that I moved to an English speaking country. It’s like if I failed Chinese and then my parents go ‘Hey, we’re moving to China!’” In addition to academics already being a challenge for him, Mushfiqur was also bullied a lot too when he first came here, “and that was new. I realized kids here were just made from salt and nothing else. I had a pink sweatshirt I really liked as a kid, and I wore it to class once and I got flamed pretty badly about it. Also, surprisingly, the bullies were other Bengali kids who grew up in the states. Later on, some of them ended up being my friends that I’ve know for more than ten years. It’s weird what kind of random trips life takes you.”
Mushfiqur had more negative sentiments upon his initial arrival in the United States, and he faced many obstacles: “as much as I loved this city, that period of my life felt like a daily grind between bullies, unsympathetic teachers, and everything else. I felt like I was stranded on an island and it felt suffocating. So that period of my time felt pretty negative. Totally random, but I used to watch Elmo’s world a lot around that time and I hated that period so much that I kind of started hating Elmo a lot [too] because it was connected to that period.”
There are plenty of stories Mushfiqur can tell that only built upon his negative feelings about living in New York City. “There are so many to choose from in the bad experiences category.” Mushfiqur discussed a lot during the interview about how he was picked on in school, which seems to have played a major role in his initial impressions of the city. He tells one of those stories in more detail: “This one time I was eating a burger and really enjoying it. Again, I sat alone since no one talked to me. However, this one girl came up to me and told me the sesame seeds on the burger bread are poisonous and I’d die if I ate them. So the whole day I was just waiting for my inevitable doom to come because I ate the sesame seeds. Little moments like that and my time as a YMCA camp counselor taught me that kids really put a lot of craft and effort into being total horrible midget beings. I still love kids, but, yeah, they’re little gremlins.”
Despite having more negative memories in his childhood experiences here, Mushfiqur has some positive memories from when he first moved to the United States as well. His family’s house and their neighbor’s house shared a backyard. He recalls that “the kids next door would play a lot in that backyard. So, one day, I finally had the courage to go outside and say hi to them. I thought they’d be mean like everyone else, but they were super chill and I think they were the first new friends I made in New York.”
The longer Mushfiqur lived in the city, the more things gradually started to become better, and he became more adjusted to his new home: “I didn’t feel like I was actually a New Yorker and not an outsider until third grade. First grade was horrible, second grade a little worse. However, by third grade I was fluent in English and also [third grade was] when I started making genuine friends.”
Mushfiqur remembers one person who helped him transition into and become more comfortable with his new life: “The person that had the biggest positive impact on me, and part of the reason why I broke out of whatever shell I was in at that time, was my teacher Mrs. Hepburn. She really understood my struggles and pushed me to work on them. Other teachers didn’t bother dealing [with and helping me with my problems] but Mrs. Hepburn constantly helped me improve and push my comfort zones. My English skills improved by miles and that was the year I actually got fours on my report card instead of twos. Honestly, if I saw her again now I’d probably hug her even though she definitely forgot about me.”
Within his first few years in New York City, Mushfiqur began to feel like he was part of a community: “Lucky for me there were a lot of boys my age in my neighborhood. So I always felt like I was surrounded by lifelong friends.” Mushfiqur has been living in that same neighborhood for about eleven years now, as mentioned earlier, and has over fifteen friends he has known during that time period. He expresses how “it’s amazing because it feels like I have more than fifteen brothers and sets of aunts and uncles (not blood related) who saw me grow up since moving here. The Cityline community – my mini neighborhood in East New York/Ozone Park – means everything to me. All the boys in the neighborhood knew each other and we would all get together in a parking lot and play different sports depending on the season….Every second I’m at Stony I miss those guys in the neighborhood because it feels like a crucial part of me is missing and I can’t just walk two blocks and run into everyone I’ve known for more than half my life.”
Mushfiqur has found some of his favorite spots here at home, most of those favorite spots being related to sports: “My THE most favorite place is Pier 40. It has lacrosse nets there all year and I just like going there alone or with friends and practicing till sundown. The cool part is since it’s the only place with lacrosse nets, I was able to meet so many cool lacrosse players in the city. I’ve met pro players countless times and I’ve even met international players and it’s really fun chatting with them and hearing their stories. Plus, the view from the rooftop field at night is amazing.”
His least favorite place is the second house he moved to: “just the overall unpleasant and private memories made that house a horrible spot. I just avoid that house now since we moved.”
Mushfiqur says that if he could go back in time, of course he would make the same decision to come to New York City: “This city means everything to me and I wouldn’t be who I was if I didn’t live here. I wasn’t born here but I was certainly raised here and that’s a part of me that I am super proud to own up to.” He even has stickers of the city skyline on his lacrosse helmet.
For someone who is starting the same process of arriving in New York city for the first time, Mushfiqur advises: “It’s gonna be hard at first, but that’s what happens when you go to any place new. However, this city is beautiful and the skyline will take your breath away everytime. The subway will be terrible all the time, yet when you’re away from it all you’ll still miss it. It’s an unforgiving place but very rewarding at the same time. People have each other’s backs no matter how ‘rude’ we are rumored to be. The people and the city has a certain grit and hustle to it. Even if you hate the city at first, it grows on you eventually. You might not have been born here but you’ll proudly exclaim you’re from the city that never sleeps.”
Mushfiqur discussed his life ahead of him with optimism, and looks forward to what his future holds. He said that hopefully he will get to live here after college. He wants a career in mechanical engineering or to become a firefighter. He added, “or who knows, I might end up in some place completely different after college but I’ll always find ways to get back to the city when I can. I love this city and I have nothing but optimism for my future here. If all ends well, it would be awesome if I could just settle in Downtown Brooklyn or the Rockaways and just chill there for the rest of my life.”
Mushfiqur has become quite fond of New York City, despite his early challenges and feelings about being here: “N.Y.C. is awesome because if you like something, you’ll probably find it somewhere in the city and find tons of others with the same interest as you. I love lacrosse. It’s a small sport but there are so many spots to play it here in the city and the lacrosse community in N.Y.C. is so tight knit. Likewise the food here is amazing and [if you] look hard enough you’ll find something you’re craving from any country.”
One thing that is a persistent challenge for him currently though is the subway. “The subway is responsible for a lot of my joys but also the majority of my headaches. It only gets worse every year. If I have to get somewhere a.s.a.p., it is guaranteed that [the] train will be delayed. [I] don’t think it’s gonna get fixed in my lifetime at this rate.” However, on the brighter side, Mushfiqur says that “the subway makes it awesome to explore the city and sometimes I just close my eyes, pick a stop, and do whatever I need to to get to that stop and see what that part of the city looks like….This city does a great job in making everything accessible. In my opinion it is one of the most convenient places on the planet.”
Though Mushfiqur recognizes that “the city does badly in some parts, meaning some neighborhoods can be amazing while others like mine are severely underfunded and just overall horrible, having a positive attitude and not letting some of the daily grind stop me from appreciating the amazing city I live in helps me cope with whatever frustrations I might have to deal with in the city. Being impatient doesn’t work in this city and will make you miserable because as much as things are convenient, in a city this big a lot more things are broken and you just have to accept it as what it is.”
Once again, Mushfiqur mentioned how he likes the culture of the city. “Its diverse and people are used to seeing other people from all over, so I feel like I belong here. Even though I’m an immigrant, I never felt out of place because there is no such thing as the typical New Yorker. The people here are strong willed and independent and those characteristics are what it takes to thrive here and I like that about our culture as well.” Mushfiqur really loves this city and is grateful that he had the opportunity to grow up here most of his life: “I don’t know how my life would have been different if I never moved here and I don’t care about that alternate world because I wouldn’t want a do-over even if I had the chance….My New York is lively, gritty, and sometimes rough but it’s an amazing place to live in.”
Creative Commons, creativecommons.org/.
“Why so Flooded?” Dhaka Tribune, 26 Aug. 2017,