Rainbow Head Scarf

Sinthia Zaman


In Bangladesh, Sinthia Zaman is given a rainbow-coloured headscarf. It goes to university with her when she studies pharmacy. Her husband carries it with him when they are apart, and when they drive to the airport for their flight to Regina in 2018, she drapes it over her baby bump to link her past to her future.


One evening in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, I dropped in on my dearest cousin’s home. I was in university studying pharmacy, and her home was nearby. During this visit, she was cleaning her closet. She held out a rainbow-coloured head scarf and said, “You can take this if you want.” I said, “Sure, why not?” At the time, I did not know it would become part of my life.

In Bangladesh, ladies usually wear a scarf with our traditional dress called salwar kamiz. They wear the scarf on their head mainly for religious purposes and sometimes for protecting themselves from sun and rain. The day after visiting my cousin, I went to university wearing the rainbow scarf. My boyfriend (now husband), Saeed, liked the scarf as well. 

Saeed had to travel a lot for his job. We missed each other. One day he returned to Dhaka from a trip and said, “Can I have your rainbow scarf?” I was surprised and replied, “What will you do with that?” He said, “I will carry it with me while travelling.” Later I came to know that he would put the scarf to his face at night and think of me. Saeed and I were married in 2014. I moved out of the university dormitory and into our new home. When we were organizing, I found the scarf among his things. I put it safely away, like a treasure.

One of my relatives who had made the move to Toronto had insulted my mom by saying that we were not smart enough to enter Canada. She said we should not even bother trying. Right then, my mom decided that I would move to Canada. She said she would allow Saeed to marry me only if we moved to Canada. So, after our marriage, Saeed spent countless sleepless nights dealing with the immigration process to fulfill his promise. 

Finally, we got our visas. That day I saw my mom smiling for the first time in two years, since before my father died. Moving to Canada was also my dream, but I was especially happy to be fulfilling my mom’s dream, too. We decided to bring the rainbow scarf to Canada. Like our sweet memories, it was made in Bangladesh. While driving to the airport, I draped it over my baby bump. At the airport, I wiped my mom’s farewell tears with it.

We landed in Regina, Saskatchewan, in August 2018. One afternoon, I was regretting being here. I had left my mom alone in Bangladesh. I was alone because Saeed was at work. Then I got a craving for rice cakes! Perhaps the pregnancy hormones were playing with my mind. I was sure that I would not find Bangladeshi rice cakes in stores. So I used a recipe from the Internet. The recipe seemed easy — except that I needed a piece of thin cloth. I brought out the rainbow scarf, and without a second thought, I cut a piece out of it for straining the rice flour. 

The rice cakes turned out horribly. I had used brown rice flour instead of white rice flour. I was so upset with myself for cutting the scarf. I wanted to rip out my hair.

Now, in retrospect, I understand that the rice cake episode was because of stress. Leaving everyone behind and restarting my life in a completely different environment created wounds in my mind.

Thankfully, I feel the wounds are healing day by day. And the scarf is still usable if I fold it carefully.

My daughter is one year old now. I recently brought out the rainbow scarf and wrapped her in it to take pictures. I want to include her in its ongoing story of how our family was “Made in Bangladesh” and exported to Canada!

SINTHIA ZAMAN was a pharmacist in Bangladesh and is studying for her license in Canada. She came to Canada in 2018 and has dreams of publishing novels someday.

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