Friday, September 12, 2008

Bangladesh Birthday

in 100 years i would have never imagined celebrating a birthday in Bangladesh (well actually working), but that's what i did.
i had to go back to Dhaka, so off to the consulate again to get my hand-written visa. i enjoy going to the Bangladesh consulate here in Hong Kong only because there is a little cafe nearby which does a good coffee (so hard to find good coffee here!). the only bad part is having to deal with the extremely rude and unfriendly lady at the consulate office...hope she's reading this!

anyway, i was going alone to Dhaka this time and had a driver waiting to pick me up at Zia International Airport when i arrived. well, my flight was late landing due to a big thunder storm over Dhaka...after circulating overhead for an hour we finally touched down.
immigration was just as slow as last time. i then made my way to the totally pitch-black car park area (no lights on at night) to hopefully find my driver (who's face i had forgotten...)
the general public are not allowed into the airport, only those with an air ticket, so there are hordes of people standing behind a high prison-like fence outside the airport. when i walked into this crowd pretending to know what i was doing they parted like the ocean in one of those religious flicks. very strange feeling!! my driver was nowhere to be seen and i was beginning to wonder if he had gone without me when i saw a somewhat familiar grinning face in the darkness - my driver. now i could finally relax!

although i was here for work, i had some free time the following day so i was given a tour around Dhaka
from a very generous man in our company.
before leaving on my tour the cook came up to me and said "do you want mum?".....
i was thinking "did i really look so sad in the morning!?" but instead i could only stare at him blankly not knowing how to answer. then he had me worried when he said "she in there" while pointing to the fridge!!
only now did my brain click when i remembered the name of the bottled water here..."mum".
wonder if it means something else here??.
on the bottle it says:

"mum. pure trusted taste"

i followed the cook into the kitchen to see what he was creating. he was in the throws of cutting up all the vegetables (onion, potatoes, okra, beans, garlic, carrot) and chicken (which i'm sure i saw running outside a few hours ago) using this knife-like instrument called a "boti" or "bothi"; a long curved blade on a platform held down by foot; both hands are used to hold whatever is being cut and move it against the blade. This method apparently gives excellent control over the cutting process, and can be used to cut anything.

the "boti"

first stop was Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban
(জাতীয় সংসদ ভবন) or the National Assembly Building of Bangladesh. it is here that all the parliamentary activities are held. built by the late architect Louis Kahn it is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world.
in the park in front of this building where lots of couples holding hands and gazing into each others eyes... obviously "the" date spot in Dhaka.

Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban

then it was onto see a national monument called
Shaheed Minar (শহীদ মিনার) which was created to commemorate those killed in the 1952 language movement demonstrations. dozens of students and political activists were killed when the Pakistani police force opened fire on Bengali protesters who were demanding equal status to their native tongue, Bangla. there is too much information to mention here regarding this, but if you are interested you can check it out here for more details. quite interesting.

Shaheed Minar

after a delicious lunch (curry; and yup, i ate with my right hand! i had to sit on my left hand as it's so natural to want to use both hands!) we then drove around the old area of town, which to me is the real Bangladesh. the backwards-ness of this area reminded me a bit of places in China, but unlike the China it was all so alive with color! from the ornately decorated rickshaws to the beautiful bright colors of women in saris, it was all too much to take in at once. again i would have loved to get out of the car in disguise (i think only a berka could disguise me!) and really have a good explore around. but instead i have great memories and a few shaky low-quality videos to share.

finally i spent my birthday working (on a sunday too!) but did manage to go out for a nice dinner (curry; naturally) and a birthday cake! well... it wasn't cake but "Mahlabia"; a sweet milk pudding infused with cardamom, and rose water and dusted with pistachios. definitely a birthday to remember!


pascale said...

Oh my goodness! you seem to travel a lot to the south-east! (am I right?).
I loved reading the post through your eyes. It just amazes me the difference of culture and everything around it is over there.

Hope you always have enough MUM in the fridge.

Happy belated birthday too!

world of sekimachihato said...

yes, Dhaka was a real eye-opener... sometimes hard to believe that a half-day flight from HK there can be a place so culturally different and so behind in terms of infastructure.

hehehe, i keep my MUM at home!

mandy said...

hehehe~ a special birthday, isn't it? You ate with the right hand, then... did u try to ... with your left hand? well... i m just wondering... my friend said some of the new generation do not use hand to eat anymore, did u see that? (i mean using a fork/spoon...)

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