Mahmood Hossain talks Raba Khan, on her new book, a role with UNICEF and her career.
You are quite a busy individual with your book tour for Bandhobi. The moment I saw those teasers on social media, I knew it was a book.
Did you really believe that I was writing a book?
I was convinced. All those things in front of the camera, checking things off your to-do list, I thought – “she has to be writing a book”. That’s the next box checked off.
People assumed I was doing my homework when they saw the word count. Aar kichu? Of course I was doing my homework because that’s my priority. As if. But honestly, did you not think, “why is this girl writing a book?”
Well, you’re a fantastic storyteller, you’d do well.
Aww. My aspirations and desires to be like Zoya Akhter are definitely made evident through this book. The book is written in the simplest way where the most difficult words you’ll find are either ‘regret’ or ‘insecurity’. It’s a no-plot, Piku film type of book. But it has love, it’s sensitive, empathetic, sort of funny and it can get really deep.
What drove you to write a book?
Back in June 2018 I went to Kolkata with my dad – who hadn’t been there for 10 years. It was a special visit with my family and we went into the beautiful Oxford Bookstore. Amongst the English Language books, there were a few very colourful ones that caught my eye. The typography was half-English, half-Hindi, and it wasn’t really serious literature. Alongside the serious authors, I also saw books by YouTubers. That’s when I thought why don’t I take a shot at this? I have so much to say! So when I came back to Dhaka and spoke to some publishers. Bandhobi is nine different stories about nine significant women in my life. You’ll never guess who is who, but each chapter comes from real life experiences. More importantly, this is extremely relatable even though it is a very personal book.
On the subject of significant women, your new role with UNICEF, as Bangladesh’s first ever Youth Advocate. How did that come about?
This actually happened a while back, in August 2018, but I was only recently allowed to discuss it publicly. At the time on Children’s Day, they elected Millie Bobby Brown (from Stranger Things) as their international representative for the youth. But they realised there was a position vacant for Bangladesh. We had Moushumi, Jewel Aich and Shakib Al Hasan, but there was no one as the youth representative so they chose me.
Given that title, you are now a legitimate youth icon. Do you think, at your age, it’s sort of a burden on you?
Absolutely not…because people don’t believe my age.
You’re going to be 20 soon, but people are still in disbelief.
And you know what? I don’t blame them. I was also the youngest RJ in the country at 16. But no one believed me then either. Now that there’s UNICEF making my position official, don’t you think they did their research and confirmed I’m actually 19?! So now that an established organization has verified my age, people might start to believe me.
I think, from the public’s perspective, it’s not credible that a young girl can do so much in such a short span of time. For most girls your age, they’re just stressing over their studies and wanting to do well at university.
Yes, and in that process, there are things I’ve had to sacrifice, like my love life. I have none. Don’t you think I would like to have a connection with someone or a companion? I just can’t, I have so much to do.
And because you’ve done so much, what’s next? Because many have said that this can only last for so long until you have milked it completely.
Oh, I am completely aware of that. I knew from the beginning, this is how it would pan out. I mean you have to be honest, how long can I actually charm people with my nose, you know?
Oh, shut up. I love your nose.
Thank you, I know you do, and you’re the only one that says that. The thing is, it’s rare to see a person in the digital space who continues to be relevant. I have no delusions at all. For the last couple of years. I’ve trained myself, with the assistance of Fahad, my brother, of course, to do so many things in the field that I’m in. I also just started by own production company, and just recently, Fahad and I started our very own brand marketing consultancy with Jhakanaka Digital. I’ve worked with over 130 brands in the past 5 years – thanks mom – and realised we were always giving free advice to these brands. So we have a backup plan. We’re good and blessed, thank you.