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.
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.
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.