“One time I saw a tiny Joshua tree sapling growing not too far from the old tree. I wanted to dig it up and replant it near our house. I told Mom that I would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight. Mom frowned at me. “You’d be destroying what makes it special,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”

Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle

It is not just the Joshua tree that gets its beauty from its struggles. We humans are also elevated through our struggles. There is an old proverb- “What doesn’t kill makes you stronger”. Every day we face challenges some big and some small. We face those challenges in our own ways. Some people will bend or surrender to the slightest adversity; others will put up some resistance but will then quit if the going gets tough and then there are those individuals who have an indomitable spirit. A spirit of never say die. To keep going and persevere against all odds. To never surrender.

The Finns have a term for this character. It is called Sisu. In the English language there is no literal equivalent to the concept of Sisu. The Finns describe this concept as a stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery and hardiness. The Finns associate their national character to the concept of Sisu. In 1939 the Soviet Union attacked Finland with an army three time the size of the Finnish army. The war waged on for three months in the brutal winter with temperatures falling to -40deg celsius. But the Finns persevered and after massive losses by the Soviets the war ended with the Moscow Peace Treaty. This was a real life David and Goliath battle. The awe inspiring might of the Soviet army against tiny Finland. Though the Finns did not end up winning the war, the world suddenly looked at Finland with a new respect and recognition of their grit and bravery. The Finns explained their bravado as a natural national characteristic of Sisu. Sisu is more than grit and perseverance; it is what you call upon when you feel that you have nothing left.

Because Sisu is a Finnish term I have narrated the above anecdote of tiny Finland’s war against the mighty Soviet Union. Though we may not have a similar word in the Bangla lexicon our national character is no less admirable. Our struggle for freedom is a monumental testament to our grit and courage. Over centuries our people have remained undefeated by plagues, famines, floods, cyclones and just about every conceivable natural disaster. We have lived through subjugation, tyranny, torture and genocide but none has succeeded in subduing the relentless spirit of the Bangali. Today we stand tall as a prosperous independent nation respected by the entire world. It is important that we as citizens of this country recognize our achievements and our proud heritage and use it as our strength to fight against any adversity that we may face.

While those of us belonging to the Baby Boomers generation or Generation X have been hardened by the experience of our great war of independence, the genocide and the post independence turmoil, the Millennials and the Generation Z of our country have lived their lives in relative comfort and stability. Covid-19 is the first big challenge facing these generations. It is their baptism of character building. Like in so many adversities of the past where our indomitable spirit could not be subdued, this time too in sha Allah our nation will remain standing tall. Of course there will be casualties. Some of us will lose our near and dear ones but when the storm is over we will rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

History also gives us reasons for being hopeful. Apart from our own phenomenal recovery after the war of independence we can also draw encouragement from the progress of other countries which suffered disasters. After the second world war, Europe was virtually destroyed; yet within ten years it was back to its full glory. Japan had 66 major cities completely destroyed and 350,000 people were killed during the same war; within 15 years after the war Japan had completely recovered. During the Vietnam war, the country was subjected to the most intense bombing in history; it did not take Vietnam very long to become a prosperous nation. The fact is that economic rebound is a natural phenomenon after any catastrophe as long as the country has a functional institutionalized governance.

As a result of this pandemic many people will lose their jobs; many companies will become bankrupt and some will close down completely. There will be those who will lose hope but there will also be those who do not know how to quit. Battered and bruised they may be but never defeated. These exceptional people will pick up the pieces and redefine themselves and their businesses. It will be a new dawn which will see great prosperity for those whose vocabulary does not have the word “surrender”. Those who have the spirit and tenacity of the Bangali.

Comments (26)
  • Really encouraging especially for entrepreneurs.

    • Dear Arshi,
      Excellent piece of advice for the generations next, enkindling their spirit and enhancing their power of resilence in fighting adversaries of life.
      Unlike the veterans and baby boomers the millennials do lack the vigour and courage as they are more social media generation than taking up outdoor sports. Well, the cultural norms have changed so do the perceptions.
      Your suggestions are very valuable in establishing pro-activeness, harnessing energy and help them re-orient their cognitive and emotional capacities in responding to the changes around.
      Thank you for your insight and enlightment in rejuventing our spirits to adapt to the new normal, as Covid is going to stay and that one must understand to adjust to the mother nature’s demands. Thanks

      • ‘জীবনের গল্প’

        পরিস্থিতির বাস্তবিকতা স্বীকার করে তাকে লড়াই করে জয়ী হত্তয়া-এটাইতো জীবন !
        COVID-19 কারণে আমরা প্রত্যেকেই আমাদের জীবনযাপনে যে সংকটের সম্মুখীন হয়েছি তা সমাধান না হওয়া পর্যন্ত আমাদের সাধ্য অনুযায়ী লড়াই চালিয়ে যেতে হবে !
        স্যার, “জীবন – জীবিকার” লড়াইয়ে আপনার এই লেখা আমাদের এই যুদ্ধে অনুপ্রেরণার উৎস এবং মানসিকভাবে আমাদের আরও শক্তিশালী করবে, আমার বিশ্বাস !

        বর্তমান সংকটকাল পরিবর্তনের জন্য প্রথমে যা করতে হবে – “ আমাদের শোককে শক্তিতে রুপান্তরিত করতে হবে” ! জিবনের জন্য নতুন নতুন সম্ভাবনা, জীবনধারণের উপায়, নতুন কর্মসংস্থান সৃষ্টি করতে হবে !
        সম্মিলিত উদ্যোগ এবং সমন্বিত সহযোগিতায় আমরা বর্তমান সংকটকাল পরিবর্তনে সক্ষম হব ইনশাআল্লাহ !
        দোয়া করবেন স্যার, আমার যেন খুব তাড়াতাড়ি আমাদের স্বাভাবিক জীবনে আবার ফিরে আসতে পারি !

        স্যার আপনাকে অনেক ধন্যবাদ, লেখার মাধ্যমে আমাদের এই অনুপ্রেরণা দেয়ার জন্য !

    • Excellent, feel much better after reading this . Thanks a lot A. Bhai , hope we all can pull this through.

  • Sir,
    May be I wrong. But I think traditionally we want someone to exploit us. We cannot get out of this mentality. For which anyone exploits us.

  • I also belief that Battered and bruised they may be but never defeated.

  • Your write up is very appropriate for the current situation that we are passing through but I fully agree with you that as a nation we are indeed very resilient and we have proved that umpteen times since independence. Sure lot is will die across the board but then again we know for certain that this is a test from Almighty Allah and after every dark night there will be a bright shiny morning. It has always been like that ever since the dawn of creation. This will also pass

    • Wonderfully crafted by a capable representative of a resilient Bangladeshi entrepreneurs. I am confident this will help embolden many young men and women in the uncertain and rough time.

    • Dear Arshi,
      I am really amazed not only by the content , the quality is highly appreciative.
      Are you by any chance a Gregorian?
      Great writing.

  • Another great piece of writing.

  • Superb write up and very timely indeed. We are bengalis. Resilience is in our blood. We have gone through many things not in our control throughout life, and yet we stood up from where we stumbled and fell. This should be our hope and give us the courage to seek the light at the end of the tunnel. All things pass and this too shall pass. I like to think that I have always adapted to adverse situations , force majeure or otherwise. Nevertheless, at times, I feel a little lost, a little helpless. Your article has rekindled my determination and faith. We shall overcome and come out of this together, stronger than before, InshaAllah.
    May Allah have Mercy on all of us.

    • Very inspiring write up.
      To me courage isn’t simply one of the virtues , but the form of every virtue at the testing points. We are natural survivor not sure about our ability to hold patients and remain focused on purpose for long Pandemic situations. We are yet to be good crisis manager, are habituated to make short-cut gain. I am skeptical of our ethical standards. I have seen that most people take undue advantages of the crisis to make their own fortunes at the cost of collective welfare. This Pandemic may creat topsy-turvy situations for many fortune seekers. Our major ethical challenge is to remain focus on moral responsibilities.
      Hope that Almighty Allah will guide us to the true path of eternal prosperity.
      All the best

  • Thanks for giving this opportunity to join this wonderful group. I am self motivated person and get tremendous motivated when I am with a courageous person. I love story like this. Please do let me in. Thanks.

  • Your example is very appropriate regarding Finland War with Russia and their determination not to surrender .
    Not to quit should be our determination .
    Hope after cloud and thunder Sun will come up with shine and brightness .

  • Great piece of writing.

  • Inspiring indeed!
    Yes, we will not quit rather face the pandemic and post pandemic situation dauntlessly and Insha’Allah we shall overcome and come out of this. This is obvious that the entire mankind on the world is facing the toughest time but nothing is endless, better days will certainly come, may be knocking at the door.………..If winter comes, can spring be far behind?
    May Allah shower His mercy upon us!

  • Thanks a lot Sir,Obviously We should continue to try even in difficult times . as well as , looking ahead and seeing the light of hope.

  • I like your bringing in the example of the war between Finland and Russia and the term “Sisu”. Resilience is a trait that is inherently inbuilt amongst us, the Bangladeshis. Our land has been devastated by natural calamities, people have lost their land, their homes have been washed away along with their crops, but the dogged determination with a smile on the face never left them. They picked up the shattered and broken pieces of whatever was left and retarted their journey for survival. The father of the nation aptly summarised this trait of ours is his words “amader dabaye rakhte parba na”. In Sha Allah, we, collectively, will also face this pandemic with equal might just like the Finns did and come out on the winning side. Keep writing Arshi Bhai. Regards, Asif Ibrahim.

  • All nice sir, specially I like this part “the Millennials and the Generation Z of our country have lived their lives in relative comfort and stability. Covid-19 is the first big challenge facing these generations. It is their baptism of character building.”

  • Do we have a functional institutionalized governance, obviously not. Even at this critical time people are involved in corruption, people are roaming around showing thumb to the danger of Corona virus and getting infected. The branding , the reputation, the ownership of our motherland, our everyday function which compromises with vast corruption, the trend of business what we have established both in government and private sector for the last 50 years does not give the minimum hope that we will be able to do well even like Vietnam in near future. Covid 19 will be over someday sure leaving a huge daunt in the face of whole world and Bangladesh as usual. And it seems the last chance for both public and private sector of Bangladesh to rectify oneself, to come out of set mindset and reprogram, restart with a commitment a better future for our next generations. Overnight we wont be able to do anything but we can do a foundation or rather prepare a blueprint for future. Otherwise some will overcome the situation smartly with their individual capacity, some will struggle but we will not be able to catch the dream bus which every kid of us possess in their heart till they are 25. Lets give a try by sacrificing something by us for our upcoming generations. Stay safe Arshi bhai. Regards, Riad

  • All the good piece of advice are only for good human beings. We have to be “Good Human Being” first to deliver the best for ourselves or for the country. And to make a good human being, a country must have proper education system not to earn degrees but to make better human beings. And this is one major thing, we are lagging behind day by day. From the day one of schooling, we should teach our students how to work together, share other feelings, how to be helpful to other peoples need, should teach them the values of serving the society and a lot of such things. And when we will be capable of doing these things; then we will have a fresh generation who will be able to think positively and will learn that life is not all about earning money; its something more.
    What I see is that, we may be able to turn back to our normal life and resume the rat race again but will remain the same bad ranked human being compared to the Japanese after 2nd world war or the Europeans as you mentioned.

  • The write-up provides a vivid picture of hardships and difficulties both natural and manmade including the great Liberation War that came in the way of Bengali people and the shimmering history of winning all the adversities. Therefore, the note is an immense encouragement for us to endure the Covid- 19 oriented difficulties and then turn around taking the lessons of the past calamities. We must be courageous to face any difficulty in order to win finally.

    From the article we learn afresh that in every difficulty there are always new opportunities. There is always light at the end of a tunnel. Devastation of World War II across Japan provided the opportunities to the Japanese to become one of the richest economies of the world. Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 did not drag the Japan’s economic backward rather provided the impetus to advance further.

    I owe to the author for his time-drive research works and outstanding contributions in energizing the authorities, corporate bodies and the individuals to understand and evaluate the present situation to take appropriate course of actions to win.

  • Very inspiring and timely words of inspiration, encouragement and mostly HOPE!

  • Dear Mr. Haider,
    I have been most impressed by reading two of your recent articles, including this one on Courage. I love your writing style and flair for connecting your topic to historical incidences and facts make the story richer, more meaningful and enjoyable for the reader. I had known of your skill in golf (I am an avid golfer and a KGC member), but your competence in writing extraordinary essays is a new discovery for me. Congratulations!
    Best wishes.
    Sadiq Bhuiyan .

  • At this moment when people are suffering from depression, some are afraid of losing their jobs, some are afraid of losing their lives, some are afraid of losing their loved ones,
    Just at this time I read your content and became very brave and confident.
    Thank you very much, Sir.
    For your timely content

    ANZ-Properties ltd

  • “Courage” is an inspiring and well-argued essay. Once again, examples from different times and places have been brought together to make the case – this time for courage under adversity. As you point out, the older generations have seen other times of adversity, but for many young people all over the world this is their first big challenge in life. May we all persist, persevere and win this war. Thank you and keep writing.

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