“Gônoprojatontri Bangladesh” – The People’s Republic of Bangladesh is a total misnomer…the country is unapologetically autocratic and has been for years through the various regimes that have ruled the country be it military or otherwise. It’s always been a single party or person ruling this Bengal delta dominated space on earth.
Bangladesh is never on anyone’s bucket list and truly so considering “the nothing” that this country has to offer in terms of touristy stuff. An extremely young country with almost no history and a total lack of freedom of expression explains the non existent literature online and offline, and this probably further explains the “not on anyone’s bucket list” statement!
But if pictures tell a story, then literature lies in every corner of this country, there seems to be an extraordinary in every ordinary, routine happening on the streets of Dhaka and Chittagong…..
#OparBangla – Art of the Rickshaws
A million rickshaws on the roads of the country, and each beautifully decorated with hand painted motifs depicting movie scenes, flowers, animals, landscape, the “Allah” and much more. Colloquially referred to as a “riksa” these three wheeled vehicles are not only the major modes of transportation in Bangladesh, it’s a folk art form which is unique to the Bangladeshi culture. Every inch of the rickshaw from the hood to the seat and spokes of the wheel are painted in garish, bright colours and motifs. This art form is not taught but the rickshaw painters learn from their “ustaads” as hand overs.
Dhaka’s Bangshal Road is completely dedicated to the manufacture, repairs and painting of these rickshaws. However with the city growing into an urban hub, the rickshaws are a diminishing means of transportation and rickshaw art seems to be dying a natural death. A few art buffs have started some establishments to save this folk art from heading towards extinction, one such artist is Biskut from “Biskut Factory” which is a style and label statement working towards preservation of the traditional rickshaw art by reproducing similar hand painted designs on mobile covers, bags, tee shirt, decorative items etc. He says that when you buy from Biskut Factory you don’t just buy a product, you actually buy a story and live it!
#OparBangla – Half a Dollar Meals
In the year 2019 can you even imagine a meal for a dollar… well in Bangladesh you can for even less! Half a dollar gives you a satisfying fill on the streets of Chittagong or Dhaka, the main cities of the country.
“Tele Bhaja” (Oil Fried):
Pieces of aubergines, chillies, pumpkin slices and mashed boiled potatoes with a dollop of gram flour or besan batter and deep fried in oil, fritters of all shapes and sizes, a bag full of puffed rice (Muri) and a bowl of chickpea curry (Ghugni) with grated fresh cucumber sprinkled on top!
Price – Rs. 20 Taka
Falooda – (Iced Delight)
A layered dessert served in a long glass or a bowl with layers of fresh fruit pieces, milk, vermicelli, grated nuts, sabja seeds, rose syrup and ice cream. The ones served in tall glasses with the long stemmed dessert spoons in the elite food courts or restaurants are generally served with dollops of ice cream while the ones served at the roadside eateries in large ceramic bowls have a generous serving of crushed ice on top…. the ones with the crushed ice though always tastes better as it neutralises the extra saccharine taste of the milk and rose syrup!
Price – Rs. 25 Taka
Dhoom Cola – The Local Coke
Same colour, same taste, same packaging and same fizz – the refreshing cola a desi Coke!
Price – Rs. 10 Taka
#OparBangla – Dhaka Ganesha
Bangladesh was created out of the Muslim country of East Pakistan in the year 1971, since then the country is almost always associated with the Muslim Bengalis. A smattering of Hindus were left behind or choose to stay back in the country of their origin, they still do and with pride and dignity.
The “Shankari Bazaar”along the bye lanes of old Dhaka is one such area where everything remains opens on the day of “Jhumma” when the rest of the country remains closed down.
Old Bengali houses with round long pillars, a courtyard with the ubiquitous “tulsi math” at the centre lines this bazar where most residents are jewellers by profession, making gold jewellery along with the world famous “shaka” bangles that all Bengali married women wear on their wrists.
Others make kites, the Bengali bridegrooms head gear, musical instruments and long beaded Rudraksha malas. Pujas are still performed with great fervour and zest be it the Ganesha or other Hindu deities!
#OparBangla – Subodh’s Graffiti
……subodh sitting on his haunches, hands on head, despondent,…..subodh picking up the cage….subodh breaking into a run…..the sun…..the lone constant…..sometimes golden yellow…sometimes the shape of a beating heart…..but always, always in a cage…..the messages are plaintive, insistent…..subodh must leave, the times are not in his favour, because people have forgotten to love…..run…subodh…run….#hobeki #willithappen
In the year 2017 the walls of many public institutions in Dhaka were haunted by Subodh’s graffiti, overnight these would appear in the most mysterious manner and no one knew who the artists were! The Subodh character in these graffiti art seemed to be passing a subtle message on the lack of basic freedom of speech and expression in the country. A crackdown by the government on this mysterious art form did not garner any leads to any organisation or person, but the walls on the Dhaka institutions can still be seen as blackened blotches, a grim reminder of the truth behind the graffiti tales of Subodh!
…..there is no subodh….only the sun and the cage….the cage door ajar and the sun has almost floated out….some birds in flight….spread out subodh, fan out….running away is not your dharma….#hochche #itisalreadyhappening
#OparBangla – No Time To Think Brands
Almost all clothing brands in the country is sold under the brand name of “dorji”(tailor), so you have a “Dorjibari” shop in each district selling high end clothes ranging from shirts, trousers and the works! Then there are other clothing brands like “Barcode”, “Bibah Sarees”, “Jannat Sherwanis”, “Jamindar Lungis” and it goes on….if it is cakes or biscuits then it a straight “Mr. Baker” and a design house goes by the name “Biskut Factory” – when asked why the name, the owner simply answers, “No time to think!”
#OparBangla – Selfie in a Hijab
The picture says it all!!!!