June 13, 2010

Ten things I now know about Bangladesh:
  1. Bengali's are a ridiculously laid back people. They remind me of the quintessential tortoise (and given that they're higher than us on the HDI, I suspect the tortoise analogy may be very apt). It's difficult for our impatient, Pakistani souls to bear the  slow, placidity we see around us. Our bags take almost an hour to get off the plane and make it to the runway. Everyone, aside from us is patiently waiting for their bags. We're seething at the bit, wondering if there's anyone we can complain to. Time seems to have even less meaning for them than it does for us. And we're notoriously non-punctual.

  2. I understand Bengali very well. Well enough to follow nearly all conversations around me. I also manage to speak it a tiny little bit. Enough to negotiate my way around a shopping mall (which, you will agree, is possibly the most important bit). But I also find that being surrounded by so much Bengali makes me incredibly sad. It's almost like - at the back of my head - I can hear my father speaking. It's disturbing how many childhood memories this fluid, beautiful language seems to evoke.

  3. The fashion in this country is all wrong. Everywhere around me women (depending on their age) are wearing Kurtas that finish at mid-thigh with an tight ‘chus’ pajamas underneath. All decked out in a long-long Kurta with lose pants I look like a bit of a fashion disaster. *sigh*

  4. I’ve been to India many times, and each time – despite all the differences – I’ve felt at home. Almost like everything around me – although different – is also very familiar. Bangladesh is strangely not-familiar. In fact, the country feels incredibly different, despite all the commonalities.

  5. There are a lot of Chinese floating around B-desh. I wonder what they’re up to…
  6. The water in this country is great for my hair and my skin. After fruitlessly fighting Islamabad’s paani and associated hair-fall, it’s wonderful to finally experience hair-as-it-should-be. I wonder if I can import water from Dakka for future use? :P

  7. BRAC is impressive. Fazle Hasan Abed, the social entrepreneur who began it all, is even more impressive. I love meeting super-cool people! *yay*Did you know, because I just – rather embarrassingly – found out, that the last five countries in the Global Gender Equality Index is Pakistan, Benin, Chad, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. What distinguished company we keep. *sigh* And an entire room filled with Bengolis took great pleasure reinforcing (rather rudely, I felt) that they were in the third quartile whereas both Indian and Pakistan were in the fourth, Pakistan being way below. I'm a little annoyed at the motherland for putting me in the position where I have to look around me and say "there 'are' some empowered women in Pakistan who can step out of the house without being covered up in the big-black-burka. there ARE. I promise" :S

  8. I like spending Takka's. I suspect its like the back of my head I'm treating it like monopoly currency. One note, two note, three note okay gimme the asset now! :P But this country has some really great shopping. I got some curtains for my room which are incredible! :D

  9. The relatives have grown old and unrecognizable. The uncle with the fiancee is married-with-kids-now and I have no idea if the wife is the one from the story or another one altogether. I suspect its prudent not to  ask. There are a lot of kids floating around (one of whom does nothing but scream a lot). Cousins who seemed (when I was twelve) too young to ever really matter are in their teens and early twenties and a lot more fun to get to know than the uncles (who sport scary-long beards) and the aunts (who are kind-off boring).

  10. Bangoli food is, err, well Bangoli food. I've been told that the seafood allergy meant I missed out on the  best out there, but I suppose I'll have to live with that. Of what I did try, here's an abbreviated report. Mota bhat definitely needs salt, but coupled with this absolutely delicious thin daal thing they have going it's very much in the must-eat-food list. Bharta (aloo and baingan) I was not a fan of. Primarily, because the one we tried was made with sarso (mustard?) oil, which I discover I absolutely do not like the taste of. The lassi in this country is different too, slightly sourer but very nice :) Bhuna Chicken (a specialty) would not be on my to-order list: too much oil for my taste. But the sweets are DIVINE! There is a Bengali dahi which is to-die-for, and so many different types of yummy-sandesh. And some other assorted things we were served (cham-cham etc) were honestly brilliant. Pakistani kababs (bbq) is definitely better. However, all this aside what I LOVED was the assortment served by roadside vendors. There's this yummy creation made out of dried rice, a really pungent but really good paneer (cheese) that I tried. There's carts after carts of sweet coconuts and after you're through with the water he gives you the softest, yummiest malai to eat. There's pineapples (oh-my-love-for-pineapples-endures) freshly cut with masala on top. All-in-all, it was three great days food-wise :) I be happy! 


Deepak Iyer said...

How many languages do you know?
And why?

Xeb said...

Haha not as many as I'd like. I speak fluently only three: English, Urdu and Gujarati. Thanks to exposure to Hindi film plus exposure to hard-core hindi dramas (Ramayana, Mahabharat etc) means I have better than average grasp of Hindi. I understand Sindhi (lived my life in Karachi), Punjabi (undergrad in Lahore) and off late Pushto (thanks to many Pushto colleagues plus a project in NWFP). I understand Bangoli thanks to a childhood spent listening to the language.

I think that's about it. Ideally, I'd have liked to know a few more, but my capacity to absorb a new language seems fairly limited.

Deepak Iyer said...

So that's like 8 languages. Yeah, you're such a total loser.

Btw, what's your native tongue?
Is your Gujarati same as the one in India (interspersed with dhoklas and other snakes) ?

Xeb said...

Gujarati. It's the first language I learned. Then I learned English. A little belatedly, I learned Urdu :)

Deepak Iyer said...

1. Alright, thanks for answering. You can go now [:)]

2. I'm surprised that you use "learned" instead of "learnt".

3. I know of people who watch Pushto videos *ahem* on YouTube. I don't think they can speak it fluently though.

Xeb said...


Anj said...

How's the food in Bangladesh?

Jenneth said...

SL is number 15 in the index ;)

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can beat them in teledensity??? *fingers crossed*

Aneela Z said...

we have to exchange emails one day...as you are the only person i know who got the Apno mein may Begana analogy...how come India (even West Bengal) seem so familiar and Bangladesh sooo strange.
with you on the food though I love the aloo and raw banana barta. Jhaal moori is Arhaan fav as well though minus the chillies.