20 March 2008

Week 28: An improvement in Bangladesh's cricket team might help Bengali's global future

28th-1st in Dhaka 3/12

Stopped by the stadium market to buy a new voice recorder. Mine is working just fine, but I needed another for my undergraduate assistants. Cost was pretty high, but I’m hoping I can sell it on EBay after we’re done with it. It also doesn’t have as many neat features as my Sony has. That’s a big downside. For example, it doesn’t have a clock, so it doesn’t record the time a track is recorded.

Then rushed up to Banani to drop off the payment and passport copies for my parents and my trip to the Sundarbans in two weeks. Grabbed some lunch at a fast food place, and boarded the Dibanishi bus for my second route of the day, from Banani to Dhanmondi.

This ended up being a very very interesting bus ride. About one third of the way into the route, the bus ran out of gas. I always had a fear of this happening during my studies. It means the route for my work is technically a throwaway since it wasn’t a finished route. But I’m already far from the start, and it’s a pain to start over. So that was annoying. Well the other people on the bus had more human concerns, such as “what a pain this is, I just paid good money for you to take me home, and now I have to buy another ticket” kind of concern.

Everyone got off the bus when we pulled over. Yelling ensued. I stayed on the bus not really sure if we’d get gas and go again. Finally I got off, and waited. Then people seemed to convince the driver to get back on the bus, so I did as well, to see what happens. The driver got in the seat but wouldn’t turn on the bus. A crowd of fifteen men have surrounded the drivers seat now, and they are all yelling at the driver, “Drive the bus, drive the bus!” It seems like the situation is reaching a breaking point. The driver finally turns on the bus, to all the yells and screams he is getting, shows everyone that it doesn’t have enough gas. More yelling ensures. At this point, lots of people have come on the bus thinking we might go if the crowd of men can convince the bus driver to drive regardless of gas level.

The bus is about half full, and I then see the driver turn off the bus and start to get out of his seat. Lots of yelling and screaming comes out of the crowd of men, and all of a sudden the crowd of men explodes. Punches are being thrown, people are being thrown, lots of yelling and cursing. The crowd of fighting men starts to move its way to the back of the bus, where most passengers are waiting. Girls and women start screaming, running to try and avoid the fight. One girl even hides behind me. Girls are banging on the back door from the inside of the bus begging someone to open it. They are crying and frantically screaming. The fight of men is quickly approaching us, and then the back door opens. The girls surge out, then the fight surges out following them, spilling literally onto the street.

Now on the street the fight continues, except now people have grabbed sticks and are beating a select few with them. The fight breaks free a bit and people start running down the street, yelling screaming and beating. All the while a highway’s worth of traffic is speeding (at slow Dhaka speeds) by. I get off the bus realizing not much is going to come of this tonight.

The bus is now sitting empty, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere the driver pops up, jumps on the bus, closes the door, turns the bus on, and takes off speeding away.

I just stand on the side of the road trying to grasp what just happened before me. It seems all the passengers have scattered except me, whether fighting or to escape the fight.

Overall, I guess the lesson learned tonight is always make sure you have enough gas, and hide the sticks if you don’t.
This is fight number 18.

Got a knock on the door soon after arriving home.
It was the girls from the family next door and they were asking to come in to see something (I couldn’t understand the vocabulary they were using.) Well they knew where to find what they were looking for, the circuit breaker!
Apparently my apartment has the circuit breaker for both my place and the place next door. Their power was out so they had flip some switches. This happened once more later on.
The reason I have their breakers is because we are actually in the same apartment, but the doorway between us was covered up, and now it’s two apartments.

28th-2nd in Dhaka 3/13

Met up in the morning with Arjun and Shegufta in Azimpur for bus riding research assistance. I gave them the instructions on what we were going to do today. I laid out the names of all the bus stops we would encounter on our first route, so that way they weren’t surprised by anything. We were going to each take the same company, one at a time. Meaning one of us would have to be the last to go and wait around for awhile. And one would have to be the first to arrive at our destination, and wait around while. Arjun went first, Shegufta second, and myself last so that I could ensure they all got on the right buses and were feeling ready. The ticket counter folks were baffled by why I bought three tickets but we all got on different buses. By the time I finally left on my bus, 20 minutes later, they understood because they talked to me the whole time.

I was real nervous to see them off, wished them luck. For me it was simply another data collection, for them it was their first alone.

When we met up at the end, they seemed pretty okay. We got lunch and talked a bit about how the process went. They both are novice bus riders, so also are adjusting to that.
We had lunch, they got briyani and I got fish. Took some photos at our lunch stop. (pic: Shegufta/Arjun, BUET four-years and my research assistants, at our lunch stop while data collecting)

Took our second bus of the day from Uttara to Motijheel. The headway between buses was real long, so they both had arrived when I was only halfway through my route, meaning they had to wait awhile.

The day took longer than I thought. Likely because of all the waiting involved for 3 buses to come and go.

28th-3rd in Dhaka 3/14

Today I finally get to see a cricket match live! South Africa vs Bangladesh at Sher-E-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur. I met up with Ayon, Opu, Annita, and her husband Auvi there at the stadium. (pics: front entrance to stadium where fans sitting in the Gallery enter, rear of the stadium where fans sitting in the Concourse enter, what else would be played behind a cricket stadium than cricket, Opu came unprepared and had to buy a headband at the stadium)

At the bus stop to board the bus to the stadium Mohan was actually boarding too, so we took the route together. I told him the story about our apartment being half painted in the stairway since he moved out and he was laughing really hard, had to wipe his eyes. He said our landlord is a miser, and that’s likely why.

We had seats in the clubhouse section, which was the middle price range of the three seating areas, and the price variation was huge. The gallery cost Tk80, the clubhouse Tk300, and the VVIP section (yes, that’s for very very important people) was Tk1500. If you are a VIP you’re out of luck, no section for you. You have to find a way to double your V status or sit with us commoners. All areas were covered with overhangs constructed of bamboo and sheets. The gallery area was laid out so that you just sat on the concrete seats. The clubhouse had plastic chairs, and the VVIP section had folding chairs.(pics: the scoreboard in the Gallery seating area, view of the field from the Concourse section, the bamboo and sheet structure covering the seats)

It was neat to see the teams come out. All the fans seemed to be cheering and screaming when South Africa came out, and I asked Ayon why we would cheer for them, and he said, “We are just letting them know that we are here, and that we will be loud.”

Bangladesh however, did not perform how we’d like them too. They did even worse in this match than they had in the last two matches the last few days. Really sad to see them go down. They were doing okay at scoring runs, but lost wickets early on and never could recover after that. They were out of wickets with more 7 overs remaining. (pics: Bangladesh batting, batting, and taking runs, South Africa getting bowled to by Bangladesh)

During the match, it was hot. We got ice cream 3 times! Sometime during the 25th over Megan finally showed up, so Ayon, Opu, and I went out to meet her at the gate to give her a ticket. It was neat to have her meet my friends for the first time after hearing about them so much.

For lunch, we went to Opu’s house. His mom served us a big meal to full us for cheering during the second inning when South Africa would be batting. Although we knew it was hopeless for Bangladesh, since South Africa could score that many runs in probably just 30 overs.

The second inning was a bit cooler as the sun wasn’t on us anymore. We sat in the lower level of the clubhouse section for a little bit, but soon left, as the fans were getting rowdy and rude there. They were cheering against Bangladesh because of the poor performance. They were booing the team captain and all the players who came near them.

The game ended in a loss, South Africa got a trophy, and we all left. Except for Opu, we boarded a bus and headed down to Baily Road for some fuchka. (pics: Ayon/Opu during the first inning, Auvi/Annita during the first inning, Annita/Megan/Ayon watching the second inning, myself after the conclusion of the match)

28th-4th in Dhaka 3/15

I spent almost the entire day in BUET’s lab today. Had a huge backlog of data processing to do. I tried my best not to browse the internet and just do my work.

For lunch I went to my favorite restaurant near the campus and got a burger and fries and brought it back to campus to eat. Got some ice cream from the ice cream cart which is front of our campus’ gates.
Went home at 9pm, very late. Bought some vegetables on the way home.

I kept meaning to mention this but Ethan Allen furniture gallery is in Bangladesh (and Thailand as well.) Why do I care, well my street name in which I spent most of my childhood is Ethan Allen Rd. So as kids, whenever we saw the famous furniture store in our area we’d giggle and joke that we really live at the store. And whenever people would ask our address, we would tell them, and they’d chuckle and ask, “Like the furniture store.” Sometimes when I felt like being smart I’d say in the return, “No, like the 18th century hero of the Revolutionary War who led the Green Mountain boys during the charge of Fort Ticonderoga.”
Anyway, here’s a photo of the store front in Thailand, and I still need to grab one from the one here in Dhaka. It’s in Gulshan-1, southwest of the intersection. I remember the first time I saw it I almost fell out of my rickshaw in surprise. (pic: Ethan Allen store in Bangkok)

28th-5th in Dhaka 3/16

Another day in the BUET computer lab again. Trying to plow through all this backlog of data processing I have to do. At one point I had to go to Arjun’s dorm room and grab the voice files he recorded last Thursday.

Realized today that the $75 voice recorder I bought for other people to help me on this project doesn’t connect to my computer. Tried it on Arjun’s computer, and it didn’t work there either. Tried a different cord, didn’t work. So it’s the actual recorder’s problem, not anything else. I think the USB jack is messed up. Returning it is near impossible as things bought from the stadium market stay bought (and are rarely exchanged for.) I might try bringing it to a repair guy and see what they can do since repairs are so cheap here.

Recently I’ve adapted the Bangladeshi meal pattern which is breakfast soon after you get up (for me that’s about 8 am), lunch around 2 or 3 pm, and dinner around 10:30 pm. I also have a second breakfast around 10 am before I head to BUET, and tea and snacks around 6-7pm. One of the reasons I don’t eat until 10:30 pm is that I come home from work tired, hot, and gross. And the idea of hot food at that point is unappetizing. Plus reheating it at the stove is a hot process and not what I want to do upon returning.
Another reason I’m eating this schedule is I’m eating more at home, since my cook makes a lot of food and I don’t want it to go to waste.

Recently temperatures have been 95+ daily, and we’re supposed to have 100+ later this week. That’s me talking Fahrenheit though…Bangladesh talks Celsius (but my readership is more than 50% from the USA.)

28th-6th in Dhaka 3/17

Stayed home and got things done. Did a few more routes on processing. Worked on doing my recordings from the recorder which won’t upload to the computer. After many failed ideas of how to do that, I ended up just letting all the tracks play while my good recorder recorded it. And then uploaded it all as one major track from the good recorder!

Midday I got my sandals repaired. I’d noticed that some of the stitches holding the straps to the sole had gotten undone or loose. So it was time to bring them to street side repairman.
Scattered around are many shoe repairmen. In my neighborhood, there’s about one every few hundred meters. They all look pretty much have the same setup. They sit on the sidewalk and people come by with shoe problems. I only got my shoes restitched, but it looks like they do polishing, reforming, and many other shoe things I wouldn’t know how to describe. Real fast too, to get my shoes restitched it took about 5 minutes.
Hope they hold up for a long time. (pic: shoe repairman and his equipment on the sidewalk)

In the evening I went to New Market to pick up my suit. But the tailor said it wasn’t ready, and said it’d be a few more days. Oh well, no rush. Since I had some cash to pay for the suit in my pocket, I headed across the street to buy a knife for my boua, and ended up buying four t-shirts I liked as well, as part of my “buy stuff here because it is cheap but don’t wear it until I get back to the US” plan.

28th-7th in Dhaka 3/18

Gas fire at the stove today. I heard Moweena scream, and when I came to see what was up, I saw water all over my kitchen. She told me how there was a gas leak at the back of the stove, and a huge flame had gone up while she was cooking. She had thrown a pot of water on it to put it out. She seemed rattled. The problem seemed to be that the gas connection from the wall was not done properly (and I knew this but there hadn’t been a problem yet) and today just happened today where it deteriorated enough to burst.
She tried forming a new seal out of soap, but it didn’t work. She told me to talk to the landlord to tell him of the problem. Or get a repairman myself to come check it out.

Had to head out quickly after the morning’s excitement to Baridhara. I had been invited my former class to go attend a lecture by Dr. William Radice (wiki and personal site), the author of the Teach Yourself Bengali book we used in all my courses. It was being sponsored by the university through which we had our Bengali course, and I was excited to meet the man behind my entire Bengali education.

I’m very excited to give the highlights and my thoughts on the lecture, as one of my favorite bloggers, Saket Vora, does week after week on his blog. In fact, the number of cool speakers who he goes to see at Stanford made me include that as criteria in my graduate school search: neat lectures by important people in the industry or who have neat things to say.
Well I was glad I finally got to hear someone who is at the top of their field in Bangladesh. William Radice is one of the premier writers and translators for Bengali, producing many texts including great translations of Bengali’s most famous writer Rabindranath Tagore and the book I used in my Bengali classes. He currently is a professor at the University of London. (pic: Dr. Radice giving his lecture on "Bengali's Global Future")

He was lecturing on “Bengali’s Global Future”, and in his talk he talked on a number of interesting topics. As Saket usually precedes such writings in his blog with a disclaimer like thing, I’ll do the same, copying it word for word…because he says it so well!
“I’ll note some salient thoughts I took away from the talk. Anything I attribute to [Radice] is a paraphrase, not to be taken verbatim.”

*He immediately started his speech about the difference in Bengali and Bangla. This was covered because he had submitted the topic of his talk as “Bengali’s Global Future”, but without asking him, the organizers of the lecture changed it to “Bangla’s Global Future.” He seemed displeased by this, but understands it, since Bangladeshis refer to their language as Bangla, as if it was a different from Bengali, which they would consider people in Kolkata and East Bengal speaking.

Radice says he resists calling Bengali as “Bangla”. His reasoning was well said. When speaking in any language, you always say the names of other languages in the language you are speaking, not in the way the other language calls itself. Thus when speaking in English, one says “French” and “Spanish”, not “Francais” or “Espanol”. When talking in Bengali, one refers to English as “Ingreji”. However, Bengali seems to be resisting this norm. Why should one make the exception for Bengali and call it “Bangla” when we don’t do that for any other language? He ultimately resisted going on about it, no reason to keep harping on it he said. He has no objection to it being called “Bangla”, but he said he would try to say that throughout his lecture, but to excuse him if he slipped back into saying Bengali (which he ultimately did by about the fifth time he had to mention the language’s name.) [On a personal note, I agree with him fully, and have tried to keep the norm of referring to the language as Bengali in blog as much as possible. However, when talking, I almost always refer to it as Bangla out of habit from hearing it said all the time.]

*He mentioned how Bengali was the most studied language in South Asian studies departments in England before World War II. After the war, however, when Britain’s worldwide empire was dissolved and Pakistan and India were founded with the national languages of Urdu and Hindi respectively, Bengali seemed to “miss the boat” and fall out of the international realm and was not perceived as important without a national language status. Although it is the fifth largest language in the world (5th to 7th depending on the source), Bengali was lacking posts in most Western universities, with as few as just two posts at one point. Its growth in the last few decades came after Bangladesh emerged as an independent nation in 1971, and Bengali was the national language.

*He gave five reasons why he thinks Bengali will grow as a studied language in the future, most pertaining to Bangladesh as a country emerging more and more into the international spotlight. They included:
-global warming: Bangladesh starts to go under the seas as they rise
-significant migration of Bengalis to other countries (especially when the seas rise)
-the increased importance of the growth of cities (Dhaka second fastest growing in the world)
-enhanced opportunities worldwide for leisure activities. By this he meant people using the internet to explore educational interests that they like, and thus Bengali could be more understood by curious individuals.
-a move from actual travel to virtual travel. Due to a desire to lower carbon emissions and a disappointment in the tourism industry, people will “travel” virtually more often. Thus Bangladesh, which is hard to reach, will be explored and accessed more frequently.

Two of these points seem to point to the internet as important for Bengali’s growth and two others point to natural disasters!
[see blog title for my opinion on #6]

*Lastly he covered what he thought should be done to help Bengali grow as an institutional language. This included a widely published and well written Bengali to English/English to Bengali dictionary, better Bengali teaching materials, increased literary scholarship and translations, and having educated Bangladeshis pursue Bengali as a university subject instead of the sciences.

I thought he took this talk as a real lecture, and not a speech. He definitely traveled his fair share of tangents, but listening to him talk was like being back in a classroom. Really enjoyed listening to him.

One aspect about events like this, and other performances, is they always seem to have television coverage. And when there is television coverage, there is one thing the cameras love to focus on: foreigners in the crowd. And many times, it is the shots of foreigners enjoying something Bangladeshi that makes the newscast. Common thought seems to feel that if a foreigner came to hear a talk, watch a play, or listen to a musical performance it affirms the importance of the event (for the same reasons, many billboards here feature foreigners modeling a product.)
To get these shots of the foreigners the cameramen aren’t bashful. They walk right in front and aim the camera right at you, a big bright light sometimes aimed at your face. Right in the middle of the performance! This goes on the entire time, I had the camera pointed my way six times during the one hour lecture. And if they’re not aiming the camera at the foreigners, the cameramen love to be right up in front of the speaker filming the audience or the speake, many times obscuring the view of the speaker, or just being generally distracting.
Well sure enough, tonight I got a text from my friend who saw me on the evening news, as the foreigner who was watching the lecture. (pics: cameramen during the lecture obscuring the crowds view of Dr. Radice by standing directly in front of him, cameraman aiming a camera at me while I listen to the lecture)

After, all the teachers and students of my language had the chance to have a private discussion with Dr. Radice. It was hear more of what he had to say, and field questions from students who use his book every day. He had interesting answers for almost all our questions. My favorite part was hearing his reasons to include or exclude different things from our text. (pic: AIBS teachers and students with Dr. Radice after his lecture [myself, Rafat, Erin, Farrah, Laurel, Santa, Jen, Megan, Shakil])

On the way home from the bus stand tonight I stopped by a store which I saw had pipes and the like. Asked them if they had materials that I could use to repair my stove’s gas leak. Said they could come with me to check it out and repair. I asked how much and the price didn’t seem too much. One came back with me to my home, and he checked out the pipe connection. Tried to reconnect it and finally decided I’d need new parts, included in the repair price. I didn’t mind, he left to go back to the store, got some parts and another repairman, and together they fixed it. Checked it out, no more flames bursting out! I feel safe again.

But not for long! When we first walked in this evening I saw ants all over the floors. Hundreds, going every which way. I have no clue why they were inside, couldn’t find the source. I tried sweeping them up and stomping on the swept up pile, but there were still so many. Finally I went and bought bug killing spray, and then did the same process of sweeping but sprayed the pile instead of stomping. Ants were all dead quickly. Swept them all up and threw them out. Had a few more random ones, but nothing a quick stomp couldn’t solve. Still not sure what attracted them all.

Lastly want to mention my friends’ blog. Jen and Ben Lamm’s blog has been posted to my blogroll. Jen is a fellow Fulbright here and Ben is her husband who is along for the ride. Just found out about their blog this week when I saw them, and I’ve found it very enjoyable.


Saket said...

Wow man, pretty gripping account about that bus fight. stay safe...

i've never seen a cricket match myself....i do remember watching cricket on TV. pretty cool that it was South Africa -- the other place you've been to!

cool lecture, no need to give me undue credit. i just call it as i see it. i recognize that i'm in a unique situation to hear from some cool people, so i want to do my best to have other people get a taste of it. that's why i like reading this blog. :)

what else can bangladesh do to get into the international spotlight? it's an interesting question.

Reaz Mehdi said...

Donny, great to read your blog! Quick question: when you applied for Fulbright, when did you receive final word about your scholarship?

I've applied for the 2008-09 cycle and am awaiting word after making it past the first round.

Best wishes for great adventures during the rest of your trip!

Bhalo theko,

Donny said...

I received word of my scholarship towards the end of April. I remember because it was while I was training for my last regatta!