Shuvo shokal from Dhaka,
There’s nothing like sport to boost a nation’s self-confidence. The cricket World Cup has provided Bangladesh with a chance to prove themselves worthy. It’s the talk of the town (at least amongst the blokes).
Bangladesh’s fast bowler Rubel Hossain spent a night or two in gaol recently for reneging on a marriage promise (such breaches are against the law here !!!). I’d say he redeemed himself somewhat when he took the last two English wickets to allow his country to qualify for the quarter finals.
The euphoria on the streets was not really as histrionic as, say, the week-long celebrations in Sri Lanka when they won the whole event some years ago. Linda and I witnessed some of the street scenes during the crucial moment this week. I don’t think the photographs quite captured the scene, but here are a few anyway.
David vs Goliath
The exuberance of the crowd was actually quite short-lived. The crowd – which had blocked a lane of traffic on a busy arterial road – dispersed very smartly after the fall of the final wicket. The punches to the air were quickly replaced with the knowledge that there was commerce to attend to. The feeling was less: we, the minions, knocked off one of the A-listers; more: we always knew we were good enough – now the rest of you can see the evidence for yourselves. It was less David vs Goliath; more an overdue triumph to allow us to take our rightful place in the top echelon of the cricket firmament.
The cricket success has brought a tangible infusion of self-confidence in the local population. During the same week, we saw the government – trying desperately to deflect attention away from its own woes – announce a new campaign to attract tourists from abroad. At least, with a sporting event, the superiority of one nation over another is quantifiable. The imagined “beauty” of an ancient temple in a dirty city is more difficult to measure.
“the longest beach in the world”
We encountered this conundrum earlier in the year when we met Max Mohammed in Cox’s Bazar. Max is an unabashed patriot who can’t understand why international tourists are not flocking to his country. “We have the longest beach in the world. Why don’t international tourists want to come here to see it?” he complains. I don’t have the heart to invoke the comparison with thousands of beautiful beaches in Australia (not to mention the fact that 90-mile beach in the Koorong must also have a legitimate claim on that title).
a poverty tour
Enamul is a worldly young man from the Chittagong middle class. He says he’s travelled widely in his own country and has seen 66 sights worth categorising as tourist destinations in Bangladesh and wishes the rest of the world would want to come and see them, too (as much to dispel the Henry Kissinger ‘basket case’ tag as anything else). When we consider flying to Jessore for a long weekend, Linda flatly rules out “going and seeing another dirty city” whilst Greg muses that “a poverty tour is not near the top of my bucket list”.
Anyway, the national fervour for the cricket success is palpable. It’s been good to witness the upsurge in optimism and pride. Even the debilitating political unrest was called off for one day to recognise the achievement (or more likely to avoid being seen as churlish). Bangladesh can rightly claim a spot in the elite of the cricket world but they won’t be drawing too many tourists until they solve some of their other glaring problems. In the meantime, we’re having fun.
khoda hafez from Dhaka