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Hi, my name is Popy Chowdhury, and I am a senior student at Queens College majoring in Fine Arts. My short-term goal is to earn my bachelor’s degree. My long-term goal is to get my Master of Social Work and work for the community. I was born and raised in Bangladesh. Education has been my passion since my childhood. As a South Asian woman my personal experience has influenced me to be sympathetic to other women like myself. That's why I founded the organization South Asian Creative Women with some immigrant women in 2017. The organization is working for Women's Empowerment and developing their skills in creative sectors. I have been publishing a quarterly magazine named 'NARI' since November 2015. The magazine focuses on women's creative works and publishes their writings. Literature and painting are my passions. I enjoy travelling, writing, reading, and working for women.
Last night I dreamed about my foster mother. She was wearing a white sari with a blue border, and she looked sad. She passed away in 2008. It has been almost 15 years; I have not forgotten her for a moment. I lost my biological mother when I was only nine months old. My mother's stepmother, Mariyam, took me in her care and became my foster mother. Ten children were born in my foster mother's womb, but unfortunately not a single child survived. After my mother passed away, my maternal grandfather took me from my father, and then gave her the responsibility of raising me. When I was a child, I used to call her ‘mom,' later, due to everyone's continuous reminder, I began to call her "Didi". I did not see my maternal grandmother. Because she died before I was born. So, Didi was my mother and grandmother both at the same time. Didi was medium tall and an incredibly beautiful woman with a pair of deep-black eyes, and thick eyebrows. She had wavy-long hair, a pointed nose, thin lips, fair skin, and a betel leaf shaped small face. She always wore light colored cotton saris. She was used to chewing paan (betel leaves) with lime, betel nut, and tobacco leaves. Her lips were always red because of betel leaves juice. A sweet smell came out from her mouth when she spoke. She was kind and generous, and always tried to make others smile, even when she was sad. I get upset all day when I see Didi in my dreams. Didi's life story was full of sorrows. Her parents died when she was young, but she had a sister. Her sister got married at an incredibly early age, just like other Bangladeshi girls were married in 1940. Two years later, Didi's sister was killed by her husband for his second marriage. Didi's father had a huge land, but her cousins possessed all of those. As a result, Didi was mentally depressed all the time. Didi has brought me up with utmost love and care. Her love was unconditional. When I was young, I was often sick, and Didi had to face a lot of suffering for me. When I was nine years old, my father took me to him for my bright feature. At that time Didi always cried for me and became almost mad. After my marriage, most of the time Didi stayed with us and took care of my children. She raised my children in the same way she raised me. Didi always looked stunned and upset because of losing her parents, sisters, so many children, and finally her husband. There were also various age-related diseases. As a result, Didi became very weak and could not remember anything. She could not walk properly. Her arms and legs were shaking always. After the age 60th, she became anxious for death. She wanted to die in her husband's house. She did not want to stay with us anymore and moved to her husband's village home. There she lived with her husband's youngest son Altaf, whom she raised. She lived almost 70 years. But her death was very tragic. One night there was load shedding at home. A cup lamp was flaming on the floor. Didi got down from the bed to go to the bathroom. It was winter. A shawl was wrapped around her body. Maybe a part of the shawl was hanging inadvertently, and suddenly the hanging shawl attached to the fire. She did not understand anything at first. At one point, the fire started blazing. Didi's whole body was burnt in the fire, and she died on the way to the hospital. The next morning, my aunt gave me the news of Didi's death over the phone. My uncle's house is about 15/16 hours' drive from Dhaka. It was not possible to keep Didi's half-decomposed body in the village environment for so long, moreover, I did not want to see her burnt face. I wanted to keep Didi's acquainted face in my mind. So, I did not go. But I went with my family to make her exequy's program after forty days. Before that, when I went to my uncle's house, Didi was always busy taking care of me. Although recently she could not do it herself, she gave instructions to my aunties. The house, without Didi, reminded me more of her. My heart was crying for her. In my life, there are lots of memories of Didi and I will never forget those! Didi passed away in 2008. It has been almost 13 years; I have not forgotten her for a moment. She is present throughout my being. When I think about the sufferings of her whole life, my eyes fill with tears. God seems very one-eyed then. He floats someone in the sea of happiness, and floats someone in the tears from birth to death. Why did not make Didi's life a little happier! I believe Didi is living in a better place than before. God, please... please keep my Didi always happier in heaven.
The Cathedral Post Office, Uptown, Manhattan. I was walking along with others on the 2nd floor. Each of us was carrying one or more large boxes. We are all mail processing clerks. Our duty was shorting, scanning, and preparing mail for distribution. Job started at 3am, but I always came at 12am. Because my home was too far away. The outbreak of the pandemic has just calmed. Many offices and companies were still closed, and people were facing an extreme financial crisis. My husband recently got a job, but the salary was low. Before this job, he got an unemployment allowance. I didn't, because I was a student. I earned money by working at a study job before COVID 19, but that opportunity has closed. All colleges are online now. It was hard to continue education with only my husband's income, so I joined the postal job. I worked at night and attended online classes during the day. “Are you okay?” Someone asked to see me standing. “I couldn't walk,” I said in a scared voice. “What's wrong?” “I had a terrible car accident last week. Everything was fine, but today I'm feeling a lot of pain in my knees." She helped me to sit down on a chair. After two hours my older son (28 years old) took me home. My doctor told me, “It happened because you didn't get enough rest." After the car accident, I should have taken a rest for a month, but I continued my job because it would become permanent after three months. Eventually, I lost my job and we had to move out of our apartment due to financial difficulties. Then my husband became sick and needed surgery. Despite all this, I didn't give up on my studies, but I was always worried about how I would continue them. After that, I managed to get through three more semesters through various struggles. I'm just on the verge of graduation now. But my misfortunes haven't left me. New critical problems have arisen in my life. I got an urgent call from my doctor before the Fall-2022 semester. She told me that I have heart blockages and that she has scheduled for an angioplasty at Mount Sinai Hospital on August 25. I was extremely disappointed to hear that. My classes will start on August 25. If I die or become sicker from this treatment, my dream of earning my degree will not come true. I only have one more semester left to graduate. So, I didn't want to go through with the procedure. My doctor told me, "Your life is more important than your studies." I couldn't tell my doctor how important studying is to me. When I was nine months old, I lost my mother. My stepmother stopped my studies in the middle, and it took me more than two decades to struggle. In 2015, I moved to the United States and started my studies through the GED program. It wasn't easy for me because I had been out of studies for a long time and English was not my first language. On the first day of class, my teacher asked me some questions and I couldn't understand or answer anything. My eyes filled with tears, and I told myself that I wouldn't come back to class the next day. But I did. Within a week, my doctor called me again. She gave me some medical tests a few days before. After receiving the reports, she immediately deemed my angioplasty as urgent. She said that I could have a stroke at any moment. When the doctor confirmed that I would be able to go back to my classes within two or three days, I agreed to the procedure. After the angioplasty, I had various health problems. In addition to the blocked arteries, the doctor found blood clots. It was a little complicated. When I got my senses, I saw the nurse holding a part of my right arm tightly because the bleeding was not stopping. I left the hospital holding my right hand tightly because I had class the next day. But I was so sick that I couldn't go to class the next day. After three days, I started attending classes regularly and doing class assignments along with household chores. At that time, I had to take so many medicines that I always fell asleep and forgot everything. I felt a lot of pain in my right hand. I often forgot to take medicine on time and became sick quickly. My whole body was filled with big blue and black spots that looked like injury marks. But I was happy when I received my final grades. I got four "A" in four subjects (two were A-)." I am thankful to my kind professors for considering my hard work. My bad luck still hasn't spared me. Right after the fall 2022 semester, my husband twice contracted COVID-19. He was extremely sick and quit his job. I have faced so many difficulties since starting my studies that I am now afraid "will I be able to finish my last semester of graduation!" But I feel that someone is constantly helping me from behind. He brought me back from death's door five times and protected me many times from the conspiracies of my stepmother and dishonest people. So, I believe that he will help me fulfill my dream this time too!