Monday, December 19, 2011


I was at Suhrawardy Udyan on Victory day, 16th December, with thousands of other people. It was great fun.

At one point they brought out this hot-air balloon (with the requisite equipment - a pretty expensive setup) and inflated it.

But they never released it. People were waiting... and waiting... but eventually they deflated it.

Does anyone know the story on this? The weather seemed ok for a balloon flight.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Victory Day

Flag Seller in Old Dhaka.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

ebooks, Amazon, Apple

I wrote about the emergence of ebooks in this week's Tangents but there are some things I left out for various reasons.

One is the EU (and now US govt) investigation of whether Apple colluded with some top publishers on the ebooks front (price-fixing).

The issue here is, there is hardly any material cost involved, why do ebooks have to cost so much?

Anyways, the battle between Amazon and Apple on this front promises to be an epic one. Amazon, to their credit, have tried to keep prices down - for a long time most Kindle books were selling for $10. But when Apple introduced iPad, things changed, I think, because the publishers now had a choice and Apple was more amenable to their pricing schemes. Amazon, otoh, was apparently quite tough with publishers.

In the meantime, I understand that Barnes and Noble is betting their entire farm, so to speak, on the Nook.

I have not seen the new Kindle Fire yet, so do not know how good their graphic display is, but it is Amazon's volley against Apple in the ebooks wars. But ipad has a leg up on the b/w Kindle when it comes to illustrated and photo books. OTOH, the Kindle is great for reading text. Really great.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Narrative Non-fiction

I just re-read a speech on the long-form narrative that I find fascinating, because every time I read it I glean something new from it. Good stuff from the editor of the New York Times Magazine.

For example, having recently acquired a Kindle and an iPad, I read his observations about reading substantive things on electronic devices with renewed appreciation.

Incidentally, it is the New Yorker which excels (or maybe excelled) in this kind of journalism: in-depth and broad coverage of a particular issue by a journalist who spent several months digging in and writing about it. In the 90s, some of their reports of events in Africa, Balkans and parts of Asia, as well as those on health/medicine, innovation and technology, etc were astonishing.

I am thinking, in particular, of the non-fiction of Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers), Richard Preston (The Hot Zone), Atul Gawande (from the frontlines of medicine and surgery) and others. Just amazing stuff.

Speaking of which, there is plenty of raw material right here in Bangladesh for this kind of in-depth reporting (and it does not all have to be negative - there are many positive stories, too...) And while the NY Times Magazine spends over $40,000 for one of these stories, ours can be done on a much smaller budget.

Would the reading public pay for anything like this? Or, perhaps more relevant, would the advertisers see value in it?

(Thanks to Mahmud Rahman for pointing me to this article.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Critical Mass 3 Bicycle Ride

Riders of all sizes came, small ones...

...and big ones...

...some were excited...

... while others enjoyed the winter sunshine...

There were athletic riders...

... and relaxed ones...

... and others who needed no hand!

Expats joined in, including Australians...

... and this American girl who traveled in style...

Of course the local girl had her own style... the victory sign ruled the day...

... and while Dhak and Dhol played...

... the boys found time for dancing a quick jig...

So with thanks to all the organizers ...

... I say to the the riders who joined in the fun...

... until the next time my friends, ride safely!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Critical Mass #3

The third critical mass bicycle ride is tomorrow (25 Nov). There is a meetup at 7am at Gulshan 2 circle and the actual ride is from Manik Mia Ave in front of Parliament at 8am.

Should be fun and not too strenous!

Just to set expectations about timing... For CM #2, I could not find the Gulshan group at 7am and so rode by myself to Manik Mia Avenue. The group there did not start until about 9:30 (even though it was scheduled for 8 am I think.)

Lots of time to hang around and make friends. It was fun anyways.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Hay You!

There, now that I have your attention...

Two attractions for the Dhaka Hay festival tomorrow, Nov 21st:

a) Commonwealth Prize winning writer Tahmima Anam's second novel A Good Muslim will be launched in Bangladesh, published by Prothoma. She will be signing the books at 11:30 am tomorrow at British Council.

b) Writer's Block, a group of talented Bangladeshi writers, will launch What The Ink?, an anthology of shorts, extracts and poems. Writers are: Awrup Sanyal, Farah Ghuznavi, Saad Z Hussain, Munize Manzur, Masud Khan Shujon, Iffat Nawaz, Samir A Rahman, Lori Simpson, M K Aaref, Sabrina F Ahmad, Saadaf S Siddiqi, Srabonti N Ali, Sal Imam, Tisa Muhaddes and Shazia Omar.

Congratulations to all for their accomplishments!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hay Festival

The Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts is coming to Dhaka on 21 November. It is a one day program "bringing together writers and thinkers from Bangladesh and Britain to share stories and ideas in the spirit of Rabindranath Tagore in this his 150th anniversary year." Lots of luminaries will be taking part. More details at the festival website.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011


Here is a Bangladeshi writer who is active in the international fiction scene. Farah Ghuznavi's short stories have appeared in two consecutive volumes of Curbside Splendor, a literary magazine from Chicago.

Digging deeper, I discover that Ms. Ghuznavi's stories have also appeared in several other anthologies including "Woman's Work: Short Stories" (USA), "The Rainbow Feast" (Singapore) and "Journeys"(UK). Another short story recently won a "Highly Commended" honor in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition.

I think of Ms. Ghuznavi as the writer of "Food for Thought", the long-running column in the Star magazine (The Daily Star.) While she still writes that, Ms. Ghuznavi is now focused on writing fiction and thinks of herself primarily as a fiction writer.

The transition came about in 2005, when she was enraged upon reading about the abuse of a maid in a well-off home. She thought about writing a column attacking such abuses but realized it would not be effective in reaching those she wanted to target. So, on the advice of her editor (the inimitable Aasha Ameen), she decided to write a story, her first. It was about a young girl who comes to work in a home in the city. The poignant, powerful story is here.

This opened the floodgates of her story-writing, many based on her experiences as a development worker, and she has never looked back.

Curbside Splendor is available from the publisher and also from Amazon, both in paper and Kindle form. The publisher has a special offer on the two volumes in which Ms. Ghuznavi's stories are featured. Go get them while they last!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Touring Old Dhaka

During Eid, Dhaka's streets empty out as people head home to their village for Eid. So it is a good time to explore Dhaka without the traffic madness.

I have a route that I often follow when friends and relatives ask me to take them on a tour of old Dhaka. This route takes 3-4 hours and covers several highlights. Note that you should call ahead to find the timing of gated places, such as Lalbagh or the Church.

Anyways... the route is described in my Tangents column today.

If you have a car, you can get dropped off in front of the Court and get picked up in front of Dhakeswari Temple at the end of your tour.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Critical Mass Bicycle Ride

I went for the second Critical Mass ride last Friday. There were over 200 bicyclists! The ride started from the Parliament Building and went towards Dhanmandi where a group photo was taken at the Amphitheatre near the Road 8 bridge. Then we rode towards Panthopath, in front of Sonargaon hotel, and towards Tejgaon Industrial area, all the way to Gulshan 1 and 2. At Gulshan 2, it turned left and headed back towards the Parliament building.

It was great fun. Unfortunately I did not have a camera. But here is a video that someone posted on YouTube (Hat Tip: Anwar)

A few weeks ago, I was out bicycling during a hartal. I ran into a group of bicyclists in front of the National Museum and rode with them to Shahid Minar. Here are some photos from that day (this is much smaller than the Critical Mass ride):

There is an active and thriving recreational bicycling community in Dhaka. I know of at least two clubs, Royal Bengal Riders and BDCyclists, who organize rides on weekends. Some rides are short, others are longer and tougher. Both groups have Facebook pages where you can get more information.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sarail Hounds

I first heard about the Sarail hound - a genuine Bangladeshi product - from Mahboob Zaman, the president of BASIS. We were driving to Sylhet in 2006 for a talk at SUST, and as we passed the road to Sarail, Mahboob Bhai mentioned "Shorail-er kukur," and we had a short discussion.

Later I met Kaiser Amin and learned that he has Sarail hounds. At the prodding of a few other people I decided to dig into it. Kaiser was very hospitable and allowed me ample time and patience with the dogs. His knowledge of the matter is encyclopedic.

Anyways, Sarail hound was the topic of my Tangents column yesterday in the Daily Star.

Here are a couple more photos that did not make it to the newspaper.

btw, if you are looking for past issues of Tangents, all the columns (55) are archived at

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tangents Updates

There is now a FaceBook page for Tangents, my weekly column in the Daily Star. You will find all links to all past columns there. Please check it out!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

All Tangents

List of all my Tangents columns so far in the Daily Star:

Mar 19, 2011 Spring in Baldha Garden
Mar 12, 2011 Vehicle Signs
Mar 5, 2011 Larger Than Life
Feb 26, 2011 Praising Brevity
Feb 19, 2011 A Slippery Remedy
Feb 12, 2011 A Day to Remember
Feb 5, 2011 A Passion for Pigeons
Jan 29, 2011 Boi Mela 2010
Jan 22, 2011 Columns from Istanbul
Jan 15, 2011 Renewal at Nimtoli
Jan 8, 2011 Stocks, Alchemy and Sir Isaac Newton
Jan 1, 2010 A Winter's Morning
Dec 25, 2010 My Favourite Trees
Dec 11, 2010 One Morning in Victoria Park
Dec 4, 2010 The Colour of Jhal-Muri
Nov 27, 2010 Manipuri Raash Mela
Nov 20, 2010 The Pleasure of Reading
Nov 13, 2010 My Bhutti Adventure
Nov 6, 2010 Dressmaker to Royalty
Oct 30, 2010 Autumn? Really?
Oct 23, 2010 Have you been Uncle'd?
Oct 16, 2010 Malcolm Gladwell and the Deshi Mother
Oct 9, 2010 Village Rain