22 August 2008

Week 50: I went to Rangpur, but it is in Dhaka where you'll find the 'Rajdhanir Raja'

50th-1st in Dhaka 8/13

I bought more pineapples last night. I asked Moweena to cut them up this morning. But this time without using a chili! Last time she added a chili to my pineapple, as that is what is typically done in Bangladesh. Spicy!
Also had a discussion with her this morning about what the different words to describe fruits and vegetables are after she told me my pineapple was unripe. There were three words we were throwing around, and I was trying to find out which was which. One seemed to be for when it was on the tree and unripe, one for when its off the tree and unripe, and one when its rip. And for when its bad: she just said “throw it away” but never gave me a vocabulary word.

I then headed out to work, but first stopped by New Market to pick up my cuff links. I found the guy, and after waiting there about 5 minutes as they dealt with two other customers, he turns to me and says the didn’t make my cuff links. He told me he went to ten jewelers and no one wanted to make them. So he handed me my pearls back, and gave me my deposit back. I was frustrated.
Stormed upstairs to find that elusive jeweler who could help me. I had talked to another guy in the past and went to him. This guy said he could do it, with a confident voice, and I trusted him. We arranged a design, and even decided to add another pearl to the design, and he says it’ll be ready in a week. I’m paying him a bit more, new pearls excluded.

I then hopped on four bus routes on a bus I had never ever ridden before, the #36. I’d heard about it in fables: it only allows sitting, and is very strict about it, and provides very quick service. Nafisa used to ride it to work and back. It was my finally my turn. I boarded it in Azimpur, and was a bit confused about the boarding. There was a line, but not everyone was allowed to board. Confused. So I got in line. It only allowed 10 of us on. At the next stop, with 50 people waiting in line, only another 10. Same at the next! And at the last, 10 more, filling all 40 seats of the bus, no more no less. And we were off, straight to our destination, no stops mid-route.
I rode the route four times, and it wasn’t until the last time that the bus got caught in a jam. And what a jam! Took us one hour to go about 3 km. it was horrible. When I got off, instead of taking a bus home through the jam. I walked. It was faster. All the buses I passed walking never passed me back. I got home, grabbed my India travel book and brought it to dinner where Erin wanted to copy pages from it for her trip to India next week. In all, I must’ve power walked for 40 minutes!
Dinner with Erin was great. We haven’t seen each other in a long time. And thus could talk for hours catching up on stuff. We ate at Korai Gost, and she enjoyed their quality Bangladeshi food.

50th-2nd in Dhaka 8/14

Today was a successful day. I did a morning data collection at Tejgaon, standard curbside stuff. Then I waited for Shegufta and another guy who would help us collect survey data on passengers. I was nervous for this, wondered how it would go. I had only recently decided to go forward with this, thanks to some prodding by my dad.

Was out there doing a bus count before they arrived. Realized before they came that I really don't have the best Bengali to be asking these questions quickly to bus passengers rushing to get on the bus. So I figured if both of them came, I could ask them to take on the interviews, and I would be there collecting data on the buses passing and the rough male/female split of the survey group.
The site I chose for the surveying I realized was good for many reasons. One, the local and ticket bus crowds are separated by a distance, so we could survey them separately and know our survey groups. As well, the buses, due to traffic control, come in waves. So we had large time gaps to interview people without them being distracted by arriving buses.
I had crafted three questions that I felt could clearly help understand what passengers are thinking. Simply: Do crowded buses frustrate you? Do you try to avoid crowded buses? Would you pay more for no crowding?They arrived, we went over the questions, and I asked them to translate them into Bengali. I listened to see if I liked how it was being translated. Making sure they interpreted what I wanted correctly. I then told the boy to stand near the local bus riders and interview them, and I told Shegufta to take on the ticket bus riders.Shegfuta did amazing. She had no issue walking up to each person and demanding an interview. I thought being a girl would be detrimental, but instead, I think it helps her. The women will talk to her without worry, and the boys all take up the chance to talk to a girl! On the other hand, the guy she brought to help had a harder time, I can’t imagine what I’d experience. (pics: Shegufta interviewing passengers, Shihab interviewing passengers, Shegufta gets swarmed by young guys hoping she'll interview them, myself/Shegufta after collecting data)

We collected almost 300 responses to my questions! About 50/50 ticket and local. Incredible. I couldn't have done it without them, and told them that.

I then went and rode the #3 bus twice. Some jams. Nothing spectacular. Got a bit sleepy but didn’t nod off.
One old man who sat next to me talked to me about Michael Phelps and how impressive his gold medals are. That was cool. Glad Mr. Phelps is being a good ambassador for my country. The Bangladeshis have 6 athletes in the game, in shooting sports and swimming, but none performed very well. In fact, Bangladesh’s best shooter is currently in jail, and it was clearly disappointing to my friends.

I collected data in the evening at Kakoli bus stand. It started raining a bit, and it made it a bit uncomfortable for awhile. but it stopped after a bit, and the crowd under the overhang I was at dispersed, and then counting became a bit easier. After my work I went to a nearby stall to get some popcorn. One of the guys selling recognized me from another time I’d been working at Kakoli, and asked how I was. This prompted another guy to ask me if I had popcorn in my country. I said of course. And he explained how popcorn only came to Bangladesh just two years ago. I confirmed this later with a friend. Popcorn in Bangladesh for only two years! (pic: Kakoli bus stand at night...the bright light in front is the popcorn stall)

50th-3rd in Dhaka 8/15

Found this article this morning through one of the blogs I read, The City Fix. It touches on so many topics that I had wanted to cover in my initial project: the analysis of the Jatrabari flyover. But due to its cancellation because of corruption, I switched to the bus project. But the article also talks about the pedestrian issue, which had been my second project choice to the crowded bus study. It’s so cool that the issues I’m interested in are written up in one article! I feel like I would’ve been able to write this, I should be the expert by now!
It talks about pedestrians not using over bridges or tunnels, but I’ve seen police easily solve this problem at several locations, namely Kakoli and Bangla Motor. Although there is still some non-usage, the police have really gotten people onto the bridge. The bridges though don’t seem ready for it though. The Bangla motor bridge for example ALWAYS has lines to get up the stairs, because the pathway isn’t large enough to handle the volumes.

Went to see a movie at Bolaka Cinema tonight. Toma and I had talked about going to see a Bangladeshi movie for a few months, and finally we upped and did it. We arrived at 6:45, and the ticket seller said the movie had started at 6:30. But knowing that I wouldn’t understand much anyway, that most Bangladeshi movies’ plots really don’t need much to understand, and we were just going for pure entertainment, we didn’t mind being 15 minutes late. Actually, we walked in and the movie was just starting, perfect timing.
The only other time I’ve seen a movie was Pirates of the Caribbean 3 at the nice theater at Bashundara City. Bolaka’s actual theater was bigger and much older. It had three seating sections separated by price: those closest to the screen were the cheapest, in back were the middle range seats, and the balcony had the most expensive seats. The cheap seats were packed, Toma said with rickshaw wallahs (others have told me this too.) but I was also told this theater is popular with Dhaka University students (but they are out of session right now.)
The movie was a riot. I’d seen Bangladeshi movies before, but live was much better. At least 12 characters with speaking parts were killed in the in same scene in which they were introduced, and of course scores of cronies of the bad and good guys were killed off in every scene. So much blood. If this was real life, Bangladesh would be the least densely populated country in the world in less than a year.
The movie itself was blurry at points, and the whole time had scratches on the film.
People got up to pee continuously, and it seemed people walked out to pee more often during the movie’s songs. People could be heard talking somewhere in the theater the entire time. Phones rang frequently and people always picked up. People cheered when the hero did something great, and roared with laughter at parts (at some parts why they laughed Toma didn’t even know.)
The movie had so many characters! I couldn’t keep track with who was who, who was bad, who was good, who loved who. It felt the many plot lines wouldn’t even connect, but apparently they did…and I don’t know how. The hero was in the first scene of the movie, and I swear he then didn’t show up for another 35 minutes while a million other things happened which I didn’t understand how they related to the hero.
After the unannounced intermission, placed at the end of a random scene, there were more previews for more movies coming soon, some English.
Toma said most people come just to see the movies’ actresses, or starlettes, because of the slightly revealing clothing they wear.
Although an action movie, the movie is clearly intentionally a bit silly. The reactions and facial expressions are priceless. The bloodshed unstoppable. The songs full of love amidst falling bodies. fun to dance to. The best part was the crowd who cheered and booed and laughed, and I only wished they did it more!
Oh and the movie was called “Rajdhanir Raja” or “King of the Capital.” The plot was roughly about our hero who decides to leave one side of a city’s rivaling big wigs to the other side. He cuts his wild hair and falls in love with his new boss’ daughter. In the end he kills off everyone from his old side. There were so many other fighting parts and mini plots that I don’t even understand, but this was the gist of it. Swords and guns should really be given the leading roles. (pics: Bolaka theater's advertisement for 'Rajdhanir Raja', Bolaka's main lobby, Bolaka's theater during intermission, movie poster for 'Rajdhanir Raja')

50th-4th in Rangpur 8/16

This morning I headed to the Hanif bus station to meet Ayon and his Dhaka University friend Turzo. We were heading up to Turzo’s home in Rangpur to spend a few days relaxing and hanging out. Turzo had invited me about two months prior, and I was glad to come along.

The bus ride up was 6 hours long, and Turzo and I sat together. We chatted almost the whole way, getting to know each other. Turzo’s mother was also on the bus with us, as she had been in Dhaka for the wedding of two of Turzo’s cousins (I am told it is legal in Islam for two cousins to marry.) The girl cousin, the new bride, was on the way back to Rangpur for a few days before coming back to be with her new husband.
I asked Turzo on the way up how many brothers and sisters he had. One younger brother and one younger sister he told me. I asked their ages, and he said his brother was 13, and in fact, his sister was a twin. I laughed that he calls her his younger sister, not his twin. He told me he is 30 minutes older than his sister, but purposely refers to her as a younger sister! I asked if it is just to tease her that he came out first, and he said of course. And he insisted in childhood that she call him the respectful title of “paiya” and not by his name, because he was older.

We arrived in the late afternoon, and after freshening up at his home, we headed over to Carmichael College. This was very close by to Turzo’s home. It is a large expanse of land that has a prominent college in Bangladesh, from which Turzo’s father graduated.. The buildings are from the early 1900s. We roamed the grounds a bit, but it was already getting dark, so we didn’t stay long. Instead we headed into town, ate some chotputi, sat on the steps of a Shahid Minar and chatted. Took some tea which Turzo was proud to say was made with fresh milk. (pics: Ayon walking by Carmichael College, Ayon/Turzo in front of Carmichael College's main building)

We enjoy a lot of guavas from Turzo’s guava tree behind his house. After not having guava my whole life up until last week, I’ve now eaten a bunch in just a few short days. (pics: Turzo climbing his guava tree to find some good guavas, a mostly-eaten guava)

Got to play carrom today for the first time. I have the game on my phone, and although I’ve seen people playing it in storefronts, I’ve never gotten the chance to play. The game is played on a board covered in a bit of sand. You flick disks at each other in a fashion similar to billiards. The goal is to get the smaller disks into the holes for points. It was hard to get used to, and I never really was having much luck in aiming by the end. Flicking the disks with the fingers was incredibly hard. Turzo showed us two different types of games that can be played, they both were enjoyable. (pics: Ayon/Turzo/Turzo's brother playing carrom, myself playing carrom)

50th-5th in Rangpur 8/17

Today is a major holiday, Shab-e-Bara'at. Also known as Mid-Sha’ban in most of the Muslim world, one is to spend all night praying. On this day Allah is chooses the destiny of all people on earth for the coming year. It earns its name in South Asia from this, the night of emancipation. When I got up to use the toilet in the middle of the night, I could hear people nearby reciting prayers. Kids like to pop firecrackers on this holiday too says Turzo, and I heard a few pop in the evening and one in the morning.

After breakfast, we headed first to a cold storage building, that his father has a part in owning. We were given a tour of the refrigeration equipment, power supply, and then actually into the storage holds where 110,000 bags of potatoes are being held. It was pretty cold in there, but not unbearable. There were five floors of potatoes, all sitting there staying fresh.
We then climbed up some rickety metal ladders to the roof and took a view of the surrounding landscape. (pics: cold storage employee/Ayon/Turzo roaming the cold storage and stacks of potatoes, myself amongst the potatoes in cold storage, Turzo climbing on the ladder of the cold storage facility, the view over the land from the top of the cold storage facility)

From there Turzo took us to a rajbari called Tajhat Palace, built during the 19th century. Today the museum inside just happened to be closed. We walked around it, looked at its exterior, played around, and took pictures. After we sat under a tree in the grass. Was a bit hot out. (pics: Ayon/Turzo in front of Tajhat Palace, Ayon so upset over the museum being closed that he takes it out on me while I was napping)

We headed home for lunch. His mom made some excellent hilsa fish. We showered and then headed out to Carmichael College again. We wandered the grounds until it started pouring. We sat under the main hall’s overhang for about 45 minutes, meanwhile we played Shollo Guti. (pic: myself/Ayon playing shollo guti)

We headed over to the weekly market, known as a “hat [hot]” in Bengali. We were planning to buy a duck for dinner. We thought to explore the rest of the market, but due to the rain, the area was flooded, so we skipped it, but I got this shot of the cow part of the market. Then headed to the ducks. There was a giant basket of baby ducks. We looked at the ducks, and chose the one we wanted. Turzo had me carry it, grasping it tightly by its wings pulled behind its back. It didn’t squirm at all; it’s feet were tied already by the man whole sold it to us. (pics: the cows at the weekly market, baby ducks in a basket, Turzo choosing our duck for dinner, myself carrying the duck home)

At home, we had to slaughter the duck for his mother so she could cook dinner. I held the neck and body while Turzo held the head, and sliced the neck’s main vein. He explained we were slaughtering it in a prescribed way to ensure the food was halal under Islamic law. This is the first time in my life I have played a role in preparing meat beyond the cooking. (pic: Turzo/myself slaughtering the duck for dinner)

We went after this to go buy my bus ticket for tomorrow. As well, we headed by rickshaw across town to see the gate of Turzo’s old school. We couldn’t go inside as it was night, but even in the day, random visitors aren’t allowed. So he just pointed to things over the fence.

50th-6th in Rangpur 8/18

We headed out this morning to visit the birthplace of Begum Rokeya, famous for her works for getting women’s education accepted in Bengal, and pioneering many women’s rights ideas. She is a native of Rangpur, and her place of birth was relatively close to Turzo’s home. The house is now just a foundation, but it’s also an ornamented garden. Since there was no information about the woman there, I asked Turzo to tell me more about her. He told me a detailed history of her life and the struggles she went through. It is incredible the effort she had to put into convincing women themselves they deserved an education. He explained how many Bengali women were superstitious about even talking to her, and would shut the door on her, and then pour water over her from an upstairs window as she turned to leave. She was also an accomplished writer having many of her essays, poems, and stories published. Her biggest impacts may have been her fight against the injustices she saw for Muslim women in Bengal, fighting against the restrictions that hurt their physical and emotional growth. (pic: Ayon at the home in which Begum Rokeya was born)

After lunch, I headed home. The bus ride home was fun. I started reading “Freedom at Midnight” and was flying through the pages. Another book which my father left behind for me. Very thankful he did. Once it got dark, I put on my CDs. Despite all my traveling in Bangladesh, this is only my second bus ride alone. Guess I’ll have a lot more in India next month.

The ride was fine, but as usual, after the snack break, I had to pee. Yes I peed at the stop, and I had not been drinking any water. But suddenly at the Jamuna Bridge, 2 hours at least from Dhaka, I had to go. It just got worse and worse. I decided that I would get off the bus outside of Dhaka when they let off some passengers, but close enough that I could still board a Dhaka city bus to finish the journey in. Then it stared raining, and everyone shut the windows. So now it was hot and stuffy, we were going slower because of the rain, and I had to pee still. We hit the stretch of road where I could get off the next time the bus stopped and then a miracle happened. We hit a really bad traffic jam. Our bus stopped, and it looked like we wouldn’t move for an hour. I got off the bus and went to the side of the road and had the most relieving pee of my recent memory.

The jam was bad. We didn’t move at all. Then to make things worse, cars and buses behind us decided they’d use the opposing traffics lane to scoot to the front of the line when no vehicles were coming. Then that lane got backed up! This made things worse obviously, because the opposing traffic now had nowhere to move, and thus whatever was causing the jam ahead was not being solved. (pic: stuck in a jam in the rain at night coming back to Dhaka)

50th-7th in Dhaka 8/19

Erin called me this morning. She had denied an Indian visa, and although I couldn’t do anything to help, she was just calling to express her anger and annoyance. Why, they wouldn’t say. But now all her travel plans to India have to be scrapped. It’s such a shame. I can’t see why she would be denied. Everyone seems to leave the Indian Embassy in Dhaka with a horror story of some sort. She waited there to get an answer but as given none. She tried calling, and was hung up on several times and until she was screamed at for repeatedly calling.

I rode four buses today, the jams were incredible, especially on the first route. An hour just to go a few blocks. It rained pretty bad today, and that’s what was causing the jams I guess. In front of my house it was flooded, meaning I had to wade through ankle deep gray water. Gross, but what else can you do. Long after the rain was gone, the jams persisted. I said it before, I think the traffic has gotten worse since I’ve arrived.

People always seem to point out that I have a few “red dots” on my face. They comment saying that I have mosquito bites. Nope, sorry I have to say, they are called pimples, and only because of my fair skin they stand out as opposed to someone with a darker complexion. It’s a bit embarrassing since they are pointing out pimples I have, but not so much since they don’t realize that is what it is. They seem quite concerned that I’m getting too many mosquito bites. This has happened over ten times at least.

Tonight I went to get my hair cut. I went to a new place that I’d seen recently open up. It looked really nice inside. I walked in, and they were playing a song by the Bangladeshi rock band Artcell, one of my favorites. So I figured the place was perfect: great music, great d├ęcor, and that would surely translate to a great haircut. Well the great haircut was good, but I had to backtrack on my statement of good music. I should just say “good song.” They played that same song almost the entire time I had a haircut. On the sixth play, I asked if they had anything else. They let the song play once more before they changed it.

1 comment:

Saket said...

Wow you are keeping busy! I'm impressed you are continuing and even *expanding* your data collection.

Carrom! I used to play that whenever I visited relatives in India. It's hard to flick the pieces at first, but the game gets really fun. We were even thinking about getting a carrom board for home, but it's rather bulky as you know!