Thursday, December 17, 2009

Victory Day 2009 Photos

Photos from on or near Suhrawardy Udyan on Bijoy Dibosh (Victory Day) 2009:

Victory Day Fun:

Victory Day Games:

Victory Day Tea:

Victory Day Meetup:

Victory Day Couple:

Victory Day Cutie:

Victory Day Umbrella Man:

Victory Day Bangles:

Victory Day Outfit:

Victory Day Nap:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Dinajpur Trip

The day after Eid I went to Dinajpur and neighboring areas with friends. The driving time in Eid's rarified traffic was 7.5 hours from Dhaka.

Along the way we ran into some people rushing home - I guess they had missed Eid.

Dinajpur is a pretty town, specially in the morning...

People were having breakfast next to the "Boro Maath" (Big Field)...

...and the barbershop had opened early for business.

The town had a string of Rajas in its history and has grace. It is also famous for fragrant Chinigura rice. Even the Pouroshobha building (City Council) is over 100 years old and elegant.

But the best part of the town is the Rajbari (King's palace) dating from 1890s. It is in two parts: the temple and the actual palace.

The temple is in good shape...

...and very pretty.

The palace, on the other hand, has seen better days :-(

In the afternoon we drove to Kantajir Mondir, built between 1722-1752 and famous for terra-cotta architecture. It was absolutely gorgeous...

... with stunning arches...

...and details like this - telling stories - carved over the entire exterior!

As an added bonus, we participated in the Kantajir Mela where people from all over Bangladesh show up. This woman was local, though.

Near the Mandir was an old Masjid, called Noyabad Masjid, built around the same time. While it was not as ornate, it was dignified and reminded me of Khan Mohammed Masjid in Dhaka.

We decided to spend the night in Syedpur. At night it seemed dusty and ugly, but morning revealed a town with character and atmosphere...

...colorful shopfronts...

...and an ancient "Joinak" tree.

Syedpur is the only Urdu-speaking town in Bangladesh with a large concentration of Biharis many of whom work in the railway workshop. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed to have an air of a vanquished city about it, even though the war has been over for 38 years. But in 1971 it was the scene of much butchery. As I walked past a row of empty butcher shops, the irony was grim.

But today people are friendly, like this morning girl...

... and the streetside barber who spoke reasonable English.

On our way back, we stopped at Mahasthan Gar near Bogra. It is an ancient city (over 2000 years old) still being excavated. However, we did not have enough time to explore this amazing place. If you visit, plan on spending most of the day exploring.

Practical Details: Lunch at the Aristocrat (20 minutes west of Jamuna Bridge) was superb, including Hilsa steak, prawns and several bhortas. We stayed at Parjatan Motel in Dinajpur (Tk 1600/night/double) and Hotel Arafat in Syedpur (Tk. 650/night/double). Snacks at the New Hotel in Dinajpur near the station included a heavenly Mughlai Paratha but watery tea (the kitchen in the back is open for all to see.) Bogra has some nice hotels including Naz Garden and Siesta. We ate chicken sandwiches at the Naz and were pleasantly surprised by the well-kept grounds and the mini-lake with boats. Many thanks to my travelling companions Mickey, Ranjit and particularly Milu for driving us in his comfortable SUV.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Eid Mubarak!

Girl at Tangail Bus Stand waiting to go home for Eid on Nov. 26, 2009.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RIP Noazesh Ahmed

Just got word that Dr. Noazesh Ahmed passed away last night. I will always remember him for his book from 1985 Portrait of Bangladesh. He understood color photography really well and to this day I find myself returning to that book for learning and inspiration. Thank you Dr. Ahmed. May Allah grant you peace.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Traffic Jam Bestsellers

If you ride in a car in any of Dhaka's major roads, they are bound to run into your window glass: the booksellers selling photocopied versions of English books at traffic signals. If you look like someone who reads English, and your car is stopped at the light (or a traffic jam) they will wander over and show you their stuff.

For the past few weeks the "top three" that they always show off first are: Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, Khushwant Singh's Jinnah and Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice. While they fan these three from their right hand, their left supports a stack of another dozen including the two Obama books and an assortment of self-help, business and fiction titles.

In the past I have seen other Dan Brown books, Adiga's White Tiger, and a motley assortment of past and present bestsellers including Jeffrey Archer, Sydney Sheldon. Oh, and a version of Lonely Planet's Bangladesh Guidebook including color copies of the color photos. I wonder why Mikey Leung's Bradt Bangladesh Guidebook has not received the honor yet.

How much does one pay? About Tk 200, less than USD 3.

But here is the thing I puzzle about most: how are the books picked? I mean, who picked Sen's philosophical and dense treatise? I only read a review and it made my head hurt. Now imagine you are stuck in the heat in Dhaka's traffic jam, temples throbbing, unenviably late for that important customer meeting at Motijheel. Are you sure reading this book is going be the right thing for you to do at this moment?

And Singh's Jinnah??? Do many people here really care? I think they'd prefer to read Tahmima Anam's A Golden Age instead, don't you?

Do people buy these books because there is nothing else affordable? Or do they really read these books? I don't know. (Well, I read The Lost Symbol though I wish I had not, but that's another story.)

So, to the powers-that-be of the sidewalk bookseller world, here is my wishlist of real and imagined books that could actually be helpful in a traffic jam:

a) Randy Pausch's Last Lecture for inspiring reading
b) Anything by my favorite "trashy" authors: Connelly and Crichton
c) Maybe a couple of "serious" novels: Cairo Trilogy or some Booker winner
d) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez
e) One Hundred Crossword Puzzles to Work on While in a Traffic Jam by Anon.
f) One Hundred Magic Tricks in Sixty Easy Steps While in Your Car by Jadukor
g) Teach Yourself Sign Language on the Mohakhali to Dhanmondi Stretch
h) IPCC Reports on climate change so Bangladeshis can really figure out if/when they will sink (on second thoughts, maybe not a good idea)
i) The Difficult Art of Owning Up, Or, How to Fix Our Khaislot by Shotyobadi
j) The Art of Moving a Government File: The Who/When/Where/HowMuch of Palm-Greasing

In case you are wondering why a) is on the top of the list: I like this book a lot, but I found (when I was in the US this summer) that it was unreasonably priced, which meant that after Dr. Pausch's untimely death, someone was trying to cash in quickly.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Never Twice Same Light

Back in my days doing Imaging and Video engineering at Sun, we had a joke about the three global television systems: NTSC, SECAM and PAL. NTSC, we claimed, stood for Never Twice Same Color. SECAM, a French system, was Something Essentially Contradictory to American Methods, and PAL coming from the UK was Peace At Last.

Well, every time I try to do landscape photography I run into nature's equivalent of NTSC, which is NTSL (Never Twice Same Light.) Any photography with naturally available light (ie, not using flash or artificial light) is subject to NTSL, but since landscapes depend so utterly on the lighting, it becomes crucial to pay attention to the light.

One can wax philosophical about this whole notion. I mean, isn't life a long series of never-twice experiences? The great Bengali poet Tagore got it - like many other mysteries of life - and expressed the idea beautifully:

Aar ki kokhono kobey
Emoni shondha hobey?
Jonomer moto, hai, hoye gelo hara

Will there ever be another
Twilight like this one?
Gone for good... (Bengalis forgive me for butchered translation)

Back to photography... I was wandering looking for a good picture when the ground turned velvety due to some funny clouds. I knew it would not last, and took a picture right away.

About a minute later I had set up my tripod and composed a better organized scene. But by then the light was... never twice!

PS, the NTSC/PAL/SECAM jokes originally appeared in Anil Jain's Fundamentals of Digital Image Processing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Strange Eid

Eid is supposed to be a special day. But today was strange.

Got up at 4:30, could not go back to sleep. After Eid prayers, got rained on while walking home. In the afternoon, I was working with my son on his studies (big exam coming up so no break for Eid). I was sitting on his bed, and suddenly the post stuck at a corner for the mosquito net lurched and fell on my hand. I know this, I thought, I used to live in the Bay Area! So... what's shaking, Bangladesh :-)

There are scary statistics about how many people would die from a severe earthquake in Dhaka. But, truth be told, I worry more about adulterated food than any other issue facing Bd. We need to institute capital punishment for that. I mean, isn't it slow-motion murder after all? As a friend said, "Dui ektarey loktaia diley shob thik hoia jaibo" (After one or two adulterers are hanged, it will be alright.)

Oh well, Eid is almost over. A precious, special day turned strange. Eid mubarak everyone!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Eid Mubarak!

Enjoy the food :-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Acacias in Bloom

Acacia flowers are in full-bloom. Here are some acacia trees in the Sylhet-Fenchuganj road.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Bringing Home the Iftar

Here we are well into another Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. At day's close, people go to the local markets to buy food with which to break their fast. They select their Iftar and pay the vendors who pack it up. Then they bring the Iftar home.

Some vendors have the packets ready, looking for customers...

...while other vendors get mobbed.

"What!? You want just one tiny fried thingy in this here packet?"

Nonetheless, the packets get filled...

... money changes hands...

... and soon we are good to go.

But wait... not everyone wants that fried stuff. Some like bananas...

... others are happy with their melon...

... yet others admire their Iftar pineapple...

...and the occasional jambura is lugged along.

Cold water is a must, carried sometimes from a place with a fridge...

...while others wish the pesky phone would stop ringing so they can get home!

As the hour draws closer, people hurry along one way...

...or another.

Some pack a variety of Iftar goodies...

but others, such as these Tokais (scavenger kids) have to scavenge for leftovers...

...luckily most vendors are generous to Tokais.

However, for the most part, kids end up having their Iftar...

...and eating it too!