Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eid Portraits

Here are some photos of Eid children, taken within the last week. This is a happy time for most kids because they get new clothes, shoes, toys, ornaments, etc. Besides, everyone else is also in a happy mood.

On the way to Mohakhali bus station.

Waiting around to board the launch at Sadarghat.

"Care to join me for a drink at the Bus Terminal?"

For this boy who carries luggage and goods in Sadarghat, it was an exhausting day.

In the Chittagong train at Kamalapur.

Twins Saad and Sadat wait for their bus in Mohakhali.

This girl has decorated her hands with Mehndi (henna).

Photo-apprehensive sisters at Sadarghat launch terminal.

How do you like my new blue bangles?

Cheeky fellow waiting for the bus.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Budget Airlines

Seeing a newspaper story about Air Asia given permission to fly in/out of Bangladesh, I was thrilled by the headline. But when I read the article, I discovered that they will be given permission to fly only to Chittagong, not Dhaka.

This really sucks. Between Thai, Singapore, Emirates and British Airways (plus a few others) the higher-priced airlines have the Bangladesh market locked up. I have heard, for example, the DAC->BKK->DAC route is the most profitable route in the world for Thai Airways. At USD 660 Roundtrip, this route and similar ones for SQ, etc, are juicy juicy plums. I am sure mainstream airlines are lobbying hard to keep the budget airlines out.

The fact that not a single budget airline serves ZIA says a lot, doesn't it? GMG was offering some good prices on their two or three overseas routes, but then they took a hit and shut down their foreign operations. It just seems like Dhaka passengers are destined to keep paying high prices for their overseas flights :-(

UPDATE Oct 29, 2008: GMG announced yesterday they are resuming flights to KL and Kathmandu. Hopefully lower fuel prices will help them along.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Mahmud Rahman has a poignant yet funny short story in the Eid Issue of New Age, with an NRB protagonist, set in the Bay Area. I understand a collection of his short stories will be published soon by Penguin India. Way to go!

If you like the story you can read more at his website.

(btw, NRB stands for Non Resident Bangladeshi, although some perma-deshis say it also stands for Non Reliable Bangladeshi :-). )

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Iftar Colors

Something happens on the streets as Iftar, the end of the fast, draws near every day during Ramadan.

Trying to get home in time for Iftar (6:16pm today, for example), the city's working people stop along the way to pick up Iftar food from street vendors. The vendors in turn set up shops colorfully to entice not just the tastebuds but also the eyes of their customers.

Here are some Iftar colors from the streets of Dhaka.


Muri or puffed rice (like Rice Krispies) is a perennial favorite at Iftar. Throw in chopped green chilis and shallots with a dash of mustard oil and lemon juice to make a delicious snack that does not sit too heavy in the stomach.

Dates are also very popular for breaking fast.

When the vendors start setting up shop, they don't have many customers....

...however, as the hour draws near, the crowds move in and money changes hands.

Haleem, a thick soup made from seven varieties of lentils and mutton or chicken, also sells well (though I find it a bit too heavy right after the fast.) These are the containers it is sold in, with prices attached...

...Haleem makers at work...

...and serving it up.

Meanwhile, back in the shop, this shopkeeper preps his own Muri fixings.

Many restaurants stay open during the day, but they cover the entrance with yellow or red curtain, so people dining inside do not offend the fasting people outside.

Near the Iftar stores, these kids were selling Ramadan and Eid greeting cards...

... and this man peddled religious paraphernalia.

At the end of a long day, Iftar shopping done, this man goes home with the booty.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How to Foil a Tree Thief

In rural Bangladesh, your iPod, laptop, or fancy digital camera is usually not a target of thieves. After all, what will a poor villager, driven to theft by sheer poverty, do with one of these gadgets? There is no market for them. (Cellphones are a different matter - you must keep them carefully wherever you go.)

Turns out the two things that village thieves go after most are trees and cows.

Although punishment meted out to cow-thieves is more severe, I think tree-thieves are the worse by far. Think about it. You plant a tree, spend years watching it grow, and one night it is gone. It will take years to grow it back, no matter how much money you throw at it.

My father had to deal with many tree-thieves all his life in his farm. About ten years ago thieves took one of his prized Teak (segun) trees. This was a tree he had planted three or four decades ago. It had weathered many storms and droughts and achieved an impressive girth. Then one morning it was no more.

My father was so upset and enraged that he got his men to dig up the stump, roots and all, and replanted it closer to his bungalow where the thieves would not dare touch it. Lo and behold, after ten years, two shoots from the stump are 20-30 feet tall. Two new shoots emerged this year. The tree has new life.

So there you have it - adapt to a new timescale and you too can foil a tree thief!