Sunday, November 25, 2012


I recently bought a copy of Lifelines, an anthology of short stories in English by Bangladeshi women. It is edited by Farah Ghuznavi and published by Zubaan, New Delhi.

Lifelines contains fifteen short stories of varied topic and length by Shabnam Nadiya, Sabrina Ahmad, Srabanti Ali, Sharbari Ahmed, Farah Ghuznavi, Abeer Hoque, Tisa Muhaddes, S. Bari, Munize Manzur, Lori S. Khan, Shazia Omar, Iffat Nawaz, Rubaiyat Khan, Sadaf Siddiqi and Alizeh Ahmed.

The book surprises, delights, provokes or saddens in every page. The protagonists - whether living here or overseas as non-resident Bangladeshis - inhabit a world with love and longing and loss and fulfillment, arranged marriages, coming of age, household maids and their wayward masters, spousal abuse, and male-female double standards.

I found all the stories, which have a uniquely Bangladeshi flavor and character, to be excellent. Here are a few that stayed in my mind:

The well-paced epistolary story "Bookends," by Munize Manzur has an older man looking for the lost love of his youth, while in "Mehendi Dreams," Lori Khan takes an unblinking look at the standards of beauty in this society with its fascination for fairness.

Sadaf Siddiqi's life-affirming "Daydreams" deals with premarital love in the village and its consequences and in "Wax Doll," Abeer Hoque examines the clash of traditional and modern mores among the well-to-do.

"Teacher Shortage," Shabnam Nadiya's story is a searing condemnation of physical abuse, while Ghuznavi's "Getting There" examines the tugs of family responsibilities on a successful single woman. Shazia Omar's "Table for Three" is a satisfying short story in the classical mold.

If you believe, as I do, that Bangladesh stands on the cusp of big change, then these stories form a  deft characterization of the lives of her people as they face this change.

The book is available in Dhaka at Aranya, Bookworm and other bookstores carrying English books. My warm congratulations to the editor, authors for this significant accomplishment. Zubaan has done well to publish this selection.

Friday, June 08, 2012

My Book on Sundarban

My photo book on Sundarban is now available from Blurb. The book is called Sundarban - A Photographic Journey. It shows some of the things you might see on a tour of Sundarban (Bangladesh) with a commercial tour company. Please check it out and let me know any comments and questions.

UPDATE Nov 2012: An expanded form of this book is now available in Dhaka. It can be purchased at Bookworm, Aranya and the Omni bookstore in the airport.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shubho NoboBorsho! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Bagerhat, a small town, is less than an hour's drive from Khulna, about two hours from Jessore. It was founded by the great sufi mystic and warrior Khan Jahan Ali. There are several old mosques in the area, the most famous being the Shait Gombuj Mosque (Mosque of Sixty Domes.) That is a misnomer - it actually has 77 domes, supported by 60 columns inside. There are several other mosques (9-dome mosque, 10-dome mosque, Shingair mosque, and Ronbijoypur mosque which has the largest dome of any mosque in Bangladesh.) The shrine of Khan Jahan Ali is also in this town. Definitely worth a visit.

I loved the inside of the Shait Gombuj which dates from 1450ish. Here are three photos.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RIP Eleanor Callahan

This has nothing to do with Bangladesh, but... Eleanor Callahan, wife, model and muse of the great photographer Harry Callahan, passed away today.

Callahan was an amazing photographer, up there among the best of the best. And Eleanor provided him inspiration and a subject.

Slide show of photos by Harry of Eleanor here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

SoftExpo Photos

SoftExpo, the annual trade fair of BASIS (Bangladesh Assoc. of Software and Information Services), took place last week. It was a comprehensive affair, with software developers, inventors, freelancers, hardware vendors, and of course customers - all meeting up for five tech-heavy days.

Here are some photos.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sundarban Again

Nypa palm (golpata) trees in Sundarban.

Not only is it a beautiful tree, but it provides livelihood for thousands of people who collect its leaf for making roof thatching.

This week my Tangents column is on the beauty of Sundarban.