Shuvo shokal from Dhaka,
Bangladesh is certainly proving to be a multi-dimensional experience for us. Whilst the work has us in a kind of cocoon, we are sufficiently intrepid to make some reliable observations, even if they are somewhat based on limited perspectives thus far.
measures of development
Bangladesh is unquestionably a 3rd World country. Like a lot of countries of the South it is yet to fully conquer the fundamentals. A basic measure of a nation’s level of development is how well it deals with matters such as sewerage, garbage collection, water reticulation and power generation. But there is tangible evidence that things are on the way up. They are doing quite well on all of these fronts but face some substantial obstacles.
arsenic in the water
Because Dhaka is so flat, it’s impossible to build dams to harness some of the stupendous monsoon rains. Water from the taps is drawn from underground sources and contains arsenic (naturally). We are warned not to drink the water and the school arranges delivery of bottled water to satisfy our cooking and drinking needs.
There is no visible evidence of untreated sewerage anywhere in the open, except for some primitive toilets on the banks of the Buriganga River.
recycling by necessity
Like many impoverished nations, Bangladesh recycles much more than the average western nation. This is of course a necessity in a place where so many people are subsisting on meagre means. It’s fair to say that cleanliness is a high priority for many people here and it’s very common to see people sweeping the streets with straw brooms. Dhaka is unquestionably tidier than many comparable cities (and not merely because the monsoon rains wash refuse away). That’s been a pleasant surprise for both of us.
brown outs and black outs
The government has a plan for an atomic energy plant to be completed by 2018. This will end the reasonably frequent ‘brown outs’ and ‘black outs’. (Kids at school don’t blink or stop what they are doing when the power fails; they’re so used to the circumstance.)
hot soup going cold
Like in Turkey, the government is ostensibly a secular one, even though 90% of the population is Islamic. Despite this, Sharia Law does have a role at least in traditional settings in which the state plays no role viz. marriage. It is usual for marriages to be arranged. One of Linda’s students opined that – in comparison to the western model – “It’s better to have cold soup warm up over time than hot soup go cold.” The Prime Minister is a woman (and so are the leaders of the two opposition parties). The father of the nation was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and holds a special place in the memories of the majority. (The current Prime Minister is his daughter.) He was murdered in 1975 by members of the armed forces (trials for the murder are ongoing) and is known by the epithet Bangabandhu (friend of the people). This epithet – another parallel with Turkey – is reserved for Mr Rahman alone in perpetuity.
The internet connections here are cheap and readily accessible. We had Wi-Fi connected within a few days of our request. The unsightly tangle of black wiring above the streets is principally the ad hoc internet connections which are burgeoning in every nook and cranny.
I’ve been a bit surprised to find not too many locals terribly interested in cricket. One local chap commented that cricket is big in India partly because the government there allocates resources to the sport. Here in Bangladesh the government’s emphasis is on education. Whilst there is a huge amount of poverty, the people are optimistic and well-fed. There aren’t too many shanty towns that we’ve seen and most people appear to be honest and decent. Bangladesh might be a 3rd World country, but they are getting a lot right and facing in the right direction. More anon . . . after we’ve been here a bit longer and had a chance to learn more. We’re both keen to do just that because it’s an enthralling place.