Sunday, November 25, 2012


I recently bought a copy of Lifelines, an anthology of short stories in English by Bangladeshi women. It is edited by Farah Ghuznavi and published by Zubaan, New Delhi.

Lifelines contains fifteen short stories of varied topic and length by Shabnam Nadiya, Sabrina Ahmad, Srabanti Ali, Sharbari Ahmed, Farah Ghuznavi, Abeer Hoque, Tisa Muhaddes, S. Bari, Munize Manzur, Lori S. Khan, Shazia Omar, Iffat Nawaz, Rubaiyat Khan, Sadaf Siddiqi and Alizeh Ahmed.

The book surprises, delights, provokes or saddens in every page. The protagonists - whether living here or overseas as non-resident Bangladeshis - inhabit a world with love and longing and loss and fulfillment, arranged marriages, coming of age, household maids and their wayward masters, spousal abuse, and male-female double standards.

I found all the stories, which have a uniquely Bangladeshi flavor and character, to be excellent. Here are a few that stayed in my mind:

The well-paced epistolary story "Bookends," by Munize Manzur has an older man looking for the lost love of his youth, while in "Mehendi Dreams," Lori Khan takes an unblinking look at the standards of beauty in this society with its fascination for fairness.

Sadaf Siddiqi's life-affirming "Daydreams" deals with premarital love in the village and its consequences and in "Wax Doll," Abeer Hoque examines the clash of traditional and modern mores among the well-to-do.

"Teacher Shortage," Shabnam Nadiya's story is a searing condemnation of physical abuse, while Ghuznavi's "Getting There" examines the tugs of family responsibilities on a successful single woman. Shazia Omar's "Table for Three" is a satisfying short story in the classical mold.

If you believe, as I do, that Bangladesh stands on the cusp of big change, then these stories form a  deft characterization of the lives of her people as they face this change.

The book is available in Dhaka at Aranya, Bookworm and other bookstores carrying English books. My warm congratulations to the editor, authors for this significant accomplishment. Zubaan has done well to publish this selection.

Friday, June 08, 2012

My Book on Sundarban

My photo book on Sundarban is now available from Blurb. The book is called Sundarban - A Photographic Journey. It shows some of the things you might see on a tour of Sundarban (Bangladesh) with a commercial tour company. Please check it out and let me know any comments and questions.

UPDATE Nov 2012: An expanded form of this book is now available in Dhaka. It can be purchased at Bookworm, Aranya and the Omni bookstore in the airport.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shubho NoboBorsho! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Bagerhat, a small town, is less than an hour's drive from Khulna, about two hours from Jessore. It was founded by the great sufi mystic and warrior Khan Jahan Ali. There are several old mosques in the area, the most famous being the Shait Gombuj Mosque (Mosque of Sixty Domes.) That is a misnomer - it actually has 77 domes, supported by 60 columns inside. There are several other mosques (9-dome mosque, 10-dome mosque, Shingair mosque, and Ronbijoypur mosque which has the largest dome of any mosque in Bangladesh.) The shrine of Khan Jahan Ali is also in this town. Definitely worth a visit.

I loved the inside of the Shait Gombuj which dates from 1450ish. Here are three photos.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RIP Eleanor Callahan

This has nothing to do with Bangladesh, but... Eleanor Callahan, wife, model and muse of the great photographer Harry Callahan, passed away today.

Callahan was an amazing photographer, up there among the best of the best. And Eleanor provided him inspiration and a subject.

Slide show of photos by Harry of Eleanor here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

SoftExpo Photos

SoftExpo, the annual trade fair of BASIS (Bangladesh Assoc. of Software and Information Services), took place last week. It was a comprehensive affair, with software developers, inventors, freelancers, hardware vendors, and of course customers - all meeting up for five tech-heavy days.

Here are some photos.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sundarban Again

Nypa palm (golpata) trees in Sundarban.

Not only is it a beautiful tree, but it provides livelihood for thousands of people who collect its leaf for making roof thatching.

This week my Tangents column is on the beauty of Sundarban.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21st

Taken at Shaheed Minar on Feb 21, 2012.

February 21, known as Ekushey February, is a special day in the history of this country. On this day in 1952, students at Dhaka University rose up against an edict (by West Pakistan) to impose Urdu as the national language on us, Bengali-speaking people. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ekushey has turned into a massive observance. Everyone brings flowers to remember the martyrs. I try to come here on this day, not the least because my father was among those who demonstrated - and was wounded - in 1952 when he was a student at Dhaka University.

As I was wandering there, I kept on thinking, is this the nation they would have liked to see? To be proud of?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sundarban 2012

Here are photos from a trip to Sundarban I took last week. Sundarban in southwestern Bangladesh (and a smaller fraction in India) is the largest contiguous mangrove forest and ecosystem in the world. It is the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger as well as countless varieties of flaura and fauna.

Sundarban can only be visited by boat. Several companies offer tours there. Boats start from Khulna, and you have to get there from Dhaka by train, bus or plane (or private car of course.) I have used Guide Tours twice. They are excellent. By the time you add up everything, a trip can run you between 20000 and 40000 Taka, depending on length, luxury of boat and whether you fly.

Osprey with fish. The Osprey is a legendary fish-eater bird.

Our boat, Guide Tours' MV Aboshar.

Flock of ducks near Mongla.

Common kingfisher.

We saw two crocodiles. This was the first.

Nypa palm (golpata), used for making thatched roofs.

Gewa trees on Kotka beach. Gewa is called Blinding Mangrove because its latex can blind.

Boroi tree whose bottom is "pruned" at the height the deer can reach.

Dome-shaped spider web in a canal.

Shikre, a bird of prey.

Otters crossing the canal. They were extremely shy.

Great Egret (Boro Bok.)

Water monitor, also known as Kalo Gui Shap.

Brahminy kite (shonkho chil.)

The road less traveled.

Boardwalk at Harbaria Visitor center.

Fiddler crab.

Fresh tiger pugmark on wet mud. Off the boardwalk at Harbaria.

Great Egrets.

Goodbye beautiful Sundarban.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Great Egret

Great Egret, known as Boro Bok in Bangla. In Sundarban.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Temporary Setup for a Religious Gathering

This is in Ashuganj, taken on January 8th.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

My Father's Tree

January 7 was my father's fourth death anniversary.

He is buried at the graveyard at Dargah near the mausoleum of Hajrat Shah Jalal, a Muslim saint from the thirteenth century.

My father spent many of his last days in Sylhet, his birthplace. He had an office up on a hill in Rainagar where he spent several hours a day. He was specially kind to the poor children around that neighborhood and often gave them food and gifts and took them around in his microbus.

On this day I go to Sylhet. Buying two goats, rice and other cooking material, I get the cooks at the Dargah to make a large pot of akhni polao, a Sylhet-style biriyani.

Then I divide the polao into packets and them distribute among the children of Rainagar. This is probably what would have made my father happy.

Forty years ago, my father's office was in Dhaka's Dilkusha, near the President House, which was closed to the public. Inside President House were these graceful, tall trees called Buddha Narikel (Pterygota Alata.)

One day my father paid a guard at President House ten taka to bring him some seeds that had dropped from the trees. He then planted them.

This is one of the trees he planted. The photo was taken on a stormy night. The tree is 6-7 stories tall now.

May you rest in peace, Mr. Ahmed Kabir Choudhury.

Friday, January 06, 2012


At Lalbagh Kella this afternoon. Although it was a grey day, the temperature was just right.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year

Happy new year! Hope that 2012 is a great year for you.