Sunday, January 28, 2007

Laptop Repair

One of our laptops had an, erm, accident. Water was spilled on the keyboard. It refused to power up after that. We tried to dry it out for several days; still it would not work.

My friend Bappu pointed me to a repair shop in Elephant Road called Imex. It is a down-to-earth place on the second floor near "Bata Intersection." It is run by one Asif who has HP/Compaq certification for supporting PC and laptop repairs. I knew I was in good hands when I entered because Asif glanced at my (closed) laptop and guessed the right model number (1700T.)

Well, they fixed it! Luckily the motherboard was ok, but Asif had said they could even replace that if need be. Charge was Tk 1000 (for labor and some minor cleaning up and PC board re-soldering.)


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Boroi Season

Boroi season is in full swing here in Dhaka. Kids are having a blast, with the vendors posted strategically outside school gates. I have tried at least four varieties, though I am sure there are many more. Prices are high. If you buy from the posh side of town, you can pay a ridiculous Tk 100/kg for the premium Oval and Aapel Borois. In other places, the minimum is still a high Tk 60/kg.

That said, the Borois I tried were absolutely delicious. The Aapel (Apple) Boroi was the sweetest, but the oval one was the best overall because of its extra crunchy texture. And the round deshi boroi had great flavor with just a little tartness.

Here are some pictures.

Aapel Borois

Oval Borois

Deshi Borois

Incidentally, I tried a Boroi off of a tree in Ayutthaya, Thailand, recently and it tasted just like our Deshi Borois.

Tokai in Trouble


Friday, January 19, 2007

A Visit to the Clinic

I crashed my racing bicycle the other day (entirely my fault.) One of the resulting wounds needed checking out. A doctor friend recommended another doctor, who happens to work in a "middle-class" clinic near Kolabagan (as opposed to, say, Apollo or United Hospitals.) When I called the doctor he asked me to come by his clinic.

I went with some trepidation. My past experiences with most Dhaka doctors and clinics, from the 1970s and 80s, had been dreadful (unless I went to my doctor friend or cousin for help.) There were nightmarish memories of obnoxious doctors, waiting forever and not getting to see them, and bad diagnoses. My worries were made worse as I walked into the second floor, where the doctors' chambers was. There were many many people milling around, some standing because there were not enough chairs. There appeared to be no way of keeping track of the order of patients.

I looked around to find the receptionist and tell them about my arrival, but none was there. Eventually I found a payment booth and talked to the man there. He in turn yelled "Jahangir! Jahangir!". Turned out Jahangir was the receptionist and gatekeeper to the doctor I wanted to see, and he was in constant motion, moving around the patients, then to the doctor chambers, and so on. I gave him my information and asked him to convey to the doctor. A little later he said the doctor had asked me to wait, since he was doing an emergency surgery.

I settled into a chair and watched the other patients. A nervous father and mother brought in a teenager daughter with a big burn covering her forehead. The girl was completely quiet. People freely talked to strangers about what was afflicting them. The man sitting next to me apparently had a very bad pain in his foot for no apparent reason - as I overheard him talking to another fellow he had just met.

Many men were in blazers or suits and ties. They held X-Rays and Lab Reports like medals of valor. There was a window behind my chair from where one could buy snacks - at very reasonable prices. Potato chips were a hit. I guess you get hungry waiting for the doctor. A patient bought two sets of soft-drink and chips and gave one set to the payment booth man - saying "You need to eat" - and walked off.

Another doctor walked through the hallway to his office. A small procession of patients followed him to the door of his office, at which point his gatekeeper decided whom he could see. Some of the patients stood up respectfully and offered their salams as he passed them beaming in a divine manner.

After about an hour of waiting, I asked Jahangir how much longer. He said the doctor was almost done with the surgery and would be here shortly. So I sat down again. Although I was running out of patience, I told myself it was really really important that I not lose this waiting-game. Then it would become a black-mark in my experiences here.

The doctor finally arrived, about an hour after my arrival. He saw several patients (mostly young children and women) before seeing me. I was very impressed at the way he examined my wound, listened to me, and pointed out the diagnosis (nothing serious.) My impression of Bangladeshi doctors improved considerably after this encounter.

As I came out of the office I saw the crowd had thinned. Many had already seen their doctor. One guy was wondering aloud if he could get a rickshaw to take him to Nakhalpara. Some had given up and left for the night. Once I had gotten past the fear of the crowd, I came away with a renewed respect for the patience and forbearance of the middle-class Bangladeshi.

Friday, January 12, 2007

People, Space, Privacy

I wrote this essay for the Daily Star Weekend Magazine as an ongoing exploration of my re-education as a Bangladeshi.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Burnt Bus

Yesterday morning, I overheard a bus conductor arguing about "trouble" near Wireless Gate in Mohakhali. Walking there, I found the remains of this burnt bus.

Stepping into it I was filled with sadness. I imagined all the passengers these seats had carried to and from work, or school, or friends and relatives' houses - even secret rendezvous. Some had gotten seats to sit, others had travelled standing, yet others maybe dangling from the door (don't see much of that these days.) How many Aamra and other Snack-wallahs had sold food inside here? And what about those small quarrels that passengers have with the conductors? Maybe a father had treated his son to Shishu Park on a Friday, sitting on that last row on the left? Maybe a beggar had sneaked past the conductor and sang sad songs to earn something? Had any pickpocket operated in this bus?

Well, there you have it. One less bus to take people where they need to go.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Procrastination and Resolutions

This time of the year is time for New Year's Resolutions. In this context, I think about an essay I read about procrastination.

The gist of the essay is that all procrastination is not bad. There is such a thing called "good procrastination". It is good to procrastinate (or put off) on the mundane chores of life if one is spending the time working on something really Important. This thought ties in nicely if we equate Resolutions with above Important things.

I always try to have only one or two Resolutions, but end up making too many, only to find them unmanageable. One year I tried breaking down into categories, and picking one from each. For example, health, family, religion, job, etc. That seemed to have worked better.

Of course, well-defined goals also work better. When I was working on my book on image processing (which took over a year) I had some clear things I wanted to accomplish - and it kept me on track.

I still believe the best resolutions are those which are ambitious (and planned.) For example, building a new software product, finishing that college degree, writing a book, learning a new language, etc. If one consistently works on a project for one year, it is bound to show some results one is proud of.

There is a danger to sticking to resolutions. New opportunities may be completely missed because of doggedly pursuing old resolutions. So maybe one of my resolutions should be "Execute on 'chance favors the prepared mind'?" Heh-heh :-)

Let's say that some of my most meaningful accomplishments from last year - such as reviving my interest in photography, bicycling the Bd countryside, or writing this blog - were not in any New Year's list. Nevertheless I am grateful for them.

So I have my resolutions. But I hold them close to my chest, and will look back December, Inshallah, to see what surprises life had in store.