Digging Dhaka

a slightly shocked chap...

So Dhaka is quite big, you know. Its about the size of London. It has roughly the same number of inhabitants too. It would be force to be reckoned with if it weren’t for the horrible fact that 82% of people are living on less than 2 US dollars a day. (That's in Bangladesh, not just Dhaka.) 
 (Another appalling statistic: the female adult literacy rate is 30%.)

It’s a hard place. Yesterday we saw a man whose leg was bigger than the entire rest of his body all together. He was using it as a mattress.

rickshaws are an uncomfortable way to travel, but they look good.

sugar cane sellers, but look behind them...

... I'd say the sight of us freaked her a bit.

Having said all that, it’s a very vibrant, soul-full place. Everyone waves and smiles. Happy-faced kids stop us in the street to chat. People should hate us for our advantages, but no one does. People should rip us off and take full advantage of us, but no one does. (Its tempting to let them in on the Indian hawkers’ treatment of foreign tourists, just to give them a headstart, but I suppose that would ruin it for future tourists a bit.)

Anyway, we have been touristing it up big-time; I don’t think we will be back all that soon, so we have to make the most of it. We are now touristically zonked out.

Our first stop was the War Museum. It was an upsetting place. Bangladesh has only been itself for 40 years, and boy was it a bloody battle for independence. There was photo after photo of raped and murdered women, children with bullets in their stomachs, boy soldiers with mutilated features.

A tiny t-shirt hung on the wall, with the caption ‘…’s 4-month daughter was crushed to death deliberately under a soldier’s boot. This is her shirt.’

There was a beat poem by Allen Ginsberg that made me very sad. Especially as even after independence, when the manmade atrocities abated, the Bangladeshis had to contend with hideous famines and natural disasters.

To cheer ourselves up we took a boat out onto the ghats and watched the boatmen doing their thing. Everyone smiled and waved, occasional mouths dropped open at the sight of us. The usual, then.

We accidentally visited the home of the most famous rickshaw artist in Bangladesh (possibly the world), Mr Ahmed.

Mr Ahmed

a famous Ahmed painting on tin

He has had his artwork exhibited throughout the world, and we sat in his front room looking through them- brightly painted stylized Bangladeshi scenes and movie art. He was friendly and modest.

starfruits look pretty; they taste foul.

We took a cycle rickshaw to the modern end of town- all high-rise hotels with swanky lobbies and uniformed doormen, plush restaurants with neon signs and air conditioning: Pizza Hut, Nando’s, KFC. The streets were very empty.

At the Pink Palace there were huge numbers of locals visiting on their Friday holiday. People were very interested in us, and followed us around the exhibits. Outside, we were surrounded by a sea of friendly faces as we met a friendly couple of lads from Comilla. Everyone posed for photos.

Adam, Ahsan and Saiful

...and the crowd we gathered.

Now we are readying ourselves for the paddle-wheel boat downriver for a few days. I have some slight trepidation. It is causing my knees to knock. There are only 6 boat sinkings a year though apparently. On the way back we will be getting a bus.  This is even more worrying.  Also we will be without our trusty steed for the first time so far- there will be no means of escape.  Wish us luck.

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