Coming and going

My first impres­sion of Dha­ka is a riot of colours. Paint­ed walls and tall office build­ings with large bill­boards. In between rick­shaws and cars wring their way to their des­ti­na­tion. Just out­side the city cen­tre you can find the cloth­ing fac­to­ries. The women who walk to work, con­tribute to the colour­ful scene. I will write a post about the gar­ment fac­to­ries lat­er. Dha­ka in the sum­mer means heat, rain, and a lot of man­goes. There are many ele­ments that remind me of Mada­gas­car, like the rick­shaws, the lychees and the rice. Many old build­ings date from the time of the Mughal empire.

I have spent a lot of time in cars and air con­di­tioned rooms, so my expe­ri­ence was less intense than dur­ing our pre­vi­ous trips. To com­pen­sate, I have read books by Tah­mi­ma Anam and Mon­i­ca Ali, who tell a live­ly tale about the recent his­to­ry of Bangladesh. After the col­o­niza­tion, it start­ed as a part of Pak­istan when that coun­try was sep­a­rat­ed from India in 1947. It seems weird that two areas which were so far apart formed one coun­try, but the idea was a sep­a­rate state for Mus­lims. The coun­try was ruled from West Pak­istan. The gov­ern­ment did not real­ly care about the wel­fare of their cit­i­zens in East Pak­istan and even want­ed to ban Ben­gali as a lan­guage. Bangladesh became inde­pen­dent in 1971 after a bloody lib­er­a­tion war. Trou­ble was not over then. Polit­i­cal vio­lence is still tak­ing place in the country.

Migrant route

In this dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed coun­try, it’s a chal­lenge to give every­one a chance to a good life. Many of the ille­gal immi­grants who take the boat to Malaysia come from Bangladesh. They are try­ing to go to Thai­land to make mon­ey there. The boy at the hotel recep­tion also wants to live abroad. He has an Eng­lish degree. For res­i­dents of Bangladesh it is very dif­fi­cult to trav­el to Europe. The col­league that I work with here, could not get a visa to go to a meet­ing in the UK. That is sim­ply high­ly impractical.

Sadarghat, Dhaka
Last week­end I stood on the deck of one of the large pas­sen­ger ships in the har­bour of Dha­ka. The crowds dis­solved briefly in the wide space of the riv­er. A soft breeze made the heat a lit­tle less oppres­sive. Just watch­ing the water was refresh­ing. I would love to step on a boat and explore Bangladesh from the riv­er. Instead, I am tak­ing a plane to Lon­don tomor­row. I am glad that I had the chance to get a taste of this beau­ti­ful country.

Zainul Rebel Cow

Zain­ul Abedin’s ‘Rebel Cow’ on a wall at the Fac­ul­ty of Fine Art in Dhaka.