Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

May 2011 be a good year for you!

Friday, December 24, 2010

21 from 2010

Here are some favorites from 2010. There is no particular theme or story, but I hope they convey something about the joys and sorrows of life in Bangladesh.

1. Menda tree (aka Sengfisla)

2. Hibiscus blossom (aka Hoilfa, or Chukka. Hat-tip Monowar and Maharufa)

3. A wildflower called Jhaoa.

4. Phayre's Lemur (Choshma Bador).

5. Squirrel caught in the act.

6. Koromcha fruit.

7. Maanja (the sharpening of kite strings for kite-fights).

8. Boishakhi girl (new year's).

9. World Cup Soccer painting.

10. Soccer game in Lalbagh Kella.

11. Mother reading to her children at book fair.

12. Rath Festival in Sylhet.

13. Someone get me out of this traffic!

14. Burnt motorcycles after Nimtoli fire.

15. Waiting for Launch before Eid.

16. Iftar in old Dhaka.

17. Chatpati stand.

18. Boxin man.

19. Woman in the bus.

20. Rose Pose.

21. Family on Victory Day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak everyone! May this Eid bring peace and blessings in your life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two New Tangents

Two more tangents that appeared the last two Saturdays.

Have you been Uncle'd?

Malcolm Gladwell and the Deshi Mother

I hope you enjoy reading them. Feedback and comments are always welcome!

Friday, October 08, 2010


Tangents, a weekly column of photo+text, starts on Page 2 today in the Daily Star. By yours truly. Enjoy, and of course feedback is always welcome!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Commendable Effort

I just got the second issue of Nature Quest magazine, published by the Daily Star. As far as I know, it is the only full-color magazine in Bangladesh devoted to wildlife and nature.

It has features on Hoolock Gibbons (the pride of Lawachhera Forest), Green Pigeons, a rare frog, native orchids and flowers, as well as other writing and photos on nature by some dedicated and hard-working wildlife experts from Bangladesh.

It is a very commendable effort. If you have children growing up in Bangladesh, it is a fantastic educational tool for them. And it is a great read for everyone else, specially if you are the type who enjoys National Geographic. Kudos to all those who worked so hard to get this magazine off the ground. Please keep up the good work.

The magazine costs Tk. 50 and is available from newsstands as well as the Star office in Kawran Bazar. Some places you can buy it are: Nandan Megashop, Pathak Shomabesh (Aziz Supermarket), GyanKosh, etc. Best Tk 50 you will spend this year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Deluge

This afternoon I was in Farm Gate and got caught in an unseasonable, heavy downpour. Along with about 2000 other people I found shelter in the porch of Anondo cinema. I had my camera with me and took some pictures. (Click on the photos for larger size.)

The skies darkened around 4pm...

... at first it pitter-pattered...

...and then, boy oh boy, it came down really hard.

Some were well-prepared...

...while others tried their best with what was on hand...

...and yet others gave up.

Meanwhile... in the bus, being close to the door spelt trouble...

...while those seated inside only had to worry about steamed up windows.

Kids got along famously with the rain...

... as did some adults!

Monday, September 06, 2010

At the Chawk Iftar Market

Chawk Bazar in old Dhaka is the largest wholesale market in Bangladesh. On a normal weekday it sees frenetic activity as trucks, pushcarts and people push, pull, pedal, and carry large quantities of merchandise ranging from shoes to candy to clothing to pots and pans against a backdrop of wheeling and dealing by the canny Dhakaiya businessmen.

During Ramzan, however, the commercial activity grinds to a halt each afternoon as Chawk hosts the largest Iftar market in Dhaka.

Having been here before, I know to get an early start. It is impossible to get all the way to Chawk by car (unless one wants to single-handedly cause a traffic jam) so I leave mine two kilometers away and walk. Passing the far corner of the Central Jail’s wall I turn right into Chawk square. The market is still a hundred feet away, but I can already smell the fusion of flavors – spicy, grilled, fried, pungent. I encounter the dates – a dozen sellers offering them in different states of congealment, from the deep-brown gooey Khejur oozing syrup to bone-dry Khormas and orange-yellow unripe dates. As I pass them, I feel something on the backside of my arm and discover a large bee making himself comfortable. The dates have attracted hundreds of bees who feast on the sticky syrup. This does not deter the shoppers, though, and one laughs when I manically shake my arm to dislodge the bee. I ask a seller where the bees come from. “They come from all over, the dates are like a gift of Allah to them,” he says.

Puzzling over where bees get their pollen in urban, almost treeless old Dhaka, I reach the police point of Chawk proper. The Iftar market stretches left from here, taking up the street’s breadth. The rows of tables on either side of the street holding the food run for three blocks.

The fresh fruits and vegetables come first as several types of melons, papayas, cucumbers, oranges, apples, and tomatoes all sell briskly. Next up are the meat items: there are whole roast chicken and quails, roast legs of lamb, giant cauldrons of Haleem, a beef stew made with seven types of lentils, and various kababs. Among the specialties of old Dhaka is the Shutli Kabab (Shutli means “in a thread.”) It is a large cylindrical patty of meat tied together by a thread running through its middle. It is cooked over coal, then sold in slices.

I overhear one Shutli vendor grumbling after an unfruitful haggling session with a customer. “Where do these cheap people come from? He wants to eat old Dhaka Shutli Kabab but pay only Tk 300 for a kg. Well, if he wants to eat my Shutli Kabab, it is going to cost him Tk 500. That’s because it is the best,” he snorts.

At 4pm Iftar is still two hours away but the crowd is thick. When not stopping to buy, people walk on their left, but there is no way to avoid the pushing and shoving, and every time I stop to take a picture I am acutely aware that a dozen people walking in file behind me have also stopped mid-stride. Crowd, heat, flavors, and humidity push me into sensory overload. Sweat drenches my shirt and my head feels light. Once in a while a harried looking woman comes by braving the crowds of mostly men. I spy a little girl, perhaps 7 or 8, who has come here wearing a Burkha. She waits patiently, eyeing the goodies, as her father buys some Peyajus.

A little further up are three or four tables selling a concoction called “Boro Baper Polai Khai.” (Roughly translated, “Older father’s son eats” and I suspect the strange name contributes to its popularity.) This is a mixture of several items including puffed rice (muri), chick peas (chhola), pieces of boneless chicken roast, boiled eggs, spices (particularly cumin), curried liver, chunks of Shutli kabab. The master mixer stands at the middle of the table as his assistants debone whole roast chickens and cut the other meats into bite size pieces. When everything is ready, the master makes the final mix into yet another batch that will satisfy the customers waiting eagerly in line. At least three different vendors offer this dish, each claiming to be the original inventor.

Large deep-fryers have been set up sporadically on the road and are frying Jilapis, Peyajus, Pakoras, while Sheek and Boti Kababs grill away at open barbecues, cooks patiently fanning the coals with a hand-fan. A Chawk specialty is the giant Jilapi weighing one whole kilogram. As I watch a cook squeeze the Jilapi dough into a fryer, I hear voices from below: under a nearby table three men with rolling pins are rolling out tiny round breads to be fried and eaten with Ghughni, a salad of chick peas. As I watch, one of them pops a chunk of fried bread into his mouth. I blink in disbelief. Is he secretly munching away during his fast? But he repeats, quite openly, and with it goes another of my stereotypes. In conservative old Dhaka, I thought, openly eating during Ramzan would be a big no-no.

I run into a man sitting next to an empty basket, watching the hustle and bustle. "Did you sell everything?" I ask. "Yes, sold all my Bangi's," he said, beaming contentedly, "started at noon today." A Bangi is a type of melon with a coarse sandy texture.

After some more wandering among the market and its devotees I decide I have had enough. The Chawk market is a memorable if intense experience, but like enjoying other good things in life, I decide moderation is key and leave with the million flavors tickling my nostrils.

[Note: The photos below -and the story - are from multiple visits to the Market.}

Old Dhaka Style Jilapi

Endless Row of Tables

Checking Out Them Papayas

Frying Some Goodies

Shutli Kabab Salesman (not the unhappy one)

Rolling the Small Breads

Mixing up Boro Baper Polai Khai

A Small Argument

A Shared Joke


Little Burkha Girl

View From Overhead

Delivering the Goods While Helper Boy Looks On

Happy Seller Who Sold All His Melons

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Distinctive Istanbul

Photos of Istanbul from a recent trip.

Where else would a 400-year mosque be considered "new?"

The same mosque from a distance. All the mosques follow basically the same beautiful pattern (invented by architect Mimar Sinan who got his first big break when he built a bridge in record time so the impatient Sultan could go conquer a neighboring nation quickly). Number of minars and domes vary from mosque to mosque.

Inside the Aya Sofia, which started as a Church (2000 years ago), becoming a Mosque after the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, and then became a Museum during Ataturk. I found the face (lower left) most curious - was it there during the time it was a Mosque? Only this face remains, but the other three in each corner of the dome have been erased. Hmmm.

Istanbul Cemeteries have lots of roses.

Istanbul skyline from Galata Bridge (on the Bosphorus.)

Inside an off-campus building of Istanbul University in Beyoglu.

Clothing is big business in Istanbul. They use lots of mannequins, sultry...


...and you could easily lose your head over them!

Oh, here is how the Turks do World Cup flags...

... and other things.

Inside the Topkapi Palace, this was essentially the Sultan's bedroom...

...and the toilet.

Many cafes in Istanbul offer board games to entice customers.

I was expecting Turkish coffee, but found the Turks like to drink tea, like our "Rong Cha".

What can I say, one of the great cities of the world. Hope I can go again someday.