imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Oct 18,2008

Calling Beebs of Asherville

Mar 13,2008

If there is a remote chance that you read this blog ( sadly not as entertaining as that other one written with the benefit of cancer) -  I have an urgent and desperate message for you. Sorry to be so public about this request but i have no other means of contact and I hope the disguised version of your name is sufficient to minimise the distress that this difficult and direct request will no doubt cause. Could I please have the recipe for your mum’s garam masala powder??? I have had that stuff for 8 years now…and I am about to run out of it.  You could post the recipe for the world to see in the comments box or you can use the contact page to send me the instructions. Gracias companera.

Saifuddin Ahmed Manik

Feb 3,2008

Saifuddin Ahmed Manik

Former communist party leader and latterly Gono Forum general secretary Saifuddin Ahmed Manik died today after a long battle with cancer. In the last two years I saw him several times in Singapore and Dhaka. He defied the usual image of a chemotherapy patient. He was always exuberant and jocular. Having undergone a six month course of chemotherapy myself, I was simply bowled over by how utterly dismissive Manik bhai was about the day to day awfulness of it. He was a picture of tenacity. But this disease is equally tenacious and in the end Manik bhai succumbed. I shan’t write a political obituary here. Others are better qualified to do that. Instead I wish my comrade farewell. Peace to you Manik bhai.

Imperfect World 2008

Dec 31,2007

Honourable / Respected / Dear citizen of the world,

the point of living and of being an optimist, is to be foolish enough to believe the best is yet to come…here’s cheers to take the lead from Peter Ustinov and be fools in 2008!…if we wish to that is!!! Warmest greetings for the season and for 2008!

(Thanks P and N!)


Oct 14,2007


Autumn 2

No not Dhaka but outside my parent’s place in Glasgow, Scotland. I am back home for a week before I fly back to Dhaka. Taken with my Nokia n95. Incidentally, I upgraded the firmware on my n95 to the latest v12. It takes away bloody everything including the Gmail application. Thankfully I backed up properly. So proceed with care if you have one of these delightful machines.

Dhaka is empty

Oct 12,2007

Launch and ferry tickets are getting impossible to acquire as people rush home in time for eid. The roads in Dhaka are however an absolute delight. Gulshan to Dhanmondi in a mere 15 minutes instead of the usual 55. The shops are nowhere near as busy as they were only a few days ago. And the road side stall holders have pretty much packed up. The fruit selling shops are looking decidedly sad.

The heat wave we went through only a couple of weeks ago seems to have gone. Today its not only cool but there’s a lovely mellow ‘holiday feeling’ light out there. All this means I am going home with a suitcase full of pitha, women’s clothing and books. See you in Scotland and Eid Mubarak.

Titas madness

Mar 20,2007

Bangladesh’s largest gas field, Titas, is about to blow but there is not much hullabaloo about it. Maybe if we ignore it, the problem will go away?

And more madness in March with the release of Amazing Grace on 23rd - a film about William Wilberforce the ’social reformer’ and anti-slavery campaigner. What is mad about it? That people can get away with producing an abstracted indeed distorted and highly skewed take on the whole matter and then make money and careers out of it all. Read Peter Linebaugh’s trenchant critique of the thing HERE.

And anything but madness from Havi Carel writing about her medical death sentence. I have gone through the same emotions.  And she writes what I have said over and over to my family and friends:

The first rule I made for myself is never to ask “Why?” Never say, “if only”. Never think that things could have been different.

And though the loneliness is overwhelming, I desperately hope she is able to hold on to this in the years to come:

Illness breaks down the neutrality and transparency of our bodily existence. But it has also given me perspicuity. I observe my life and the lives of others and see them for what they are: brief, full of emotion and agony, activity and joy. I see people arguing over nothing, worrying about wrinkles and careers. Illness makes you immune to that. From the loneliness into which my illness forced me, I became able to see the world anew. My horizons and expectations shifted. I was made aware of the many healthy years I enjoyed. I cherish the things I can still do, like cycling along a canal in summer, the visceral joy of fresh smells and colours.

A national malaise

Dec 17,2006

GMG Airlines took off late from Kolkata. It is always annoying to hear such an extended islamic prayer being offered before the crew address the issue of safety and other flight information. I mean what the hell? I was cold, hungry and exhausted. And those same words escaped my lips when I saw my friend’s car come to pick me up at Zia International. I know she has a wicked sense of humour but what the hell was that Bangladeshi flag doing on the car bonnet. She is a bureaucrat but this was her private car. And she knows very well my views about nationalist symbols. And then her sms text registered on my phone:

sur jodayeo tumi, sur jateo tumi O amar Bangladesh prio janmovumi. Amader muktijudhher shapnogulo purno hoak, purno hoak.

Bloody hell. I had forg otten of course. It was 16th December - well about one hour left of it. Our victory day. It is so easy to forget. A national malaise sadly.

Kolkata bandh

Dec 14,2006

Ah you can’t escape strikes and the like in Bangladom. We have a situation here, folks, and it is going to last 24 hours. It is a government called strike and so there is absolutely no transport. Even planes have been cancelled etc.  Last night we found that we are at a very critical stage of our work. So I face the prospect of an 11km walk with my computer from my hotel to Anwar Shah Road where our team is. Should be fun. They say cricket matches break out like a rash in the streets during strike days. I think I can cope with the walk there but will I have the energy to get back to my hotel tonight? Watch this space and you will find out.

Winter sunlight

Nov 30,2006

The winter light in dhaka is beautiful. Mellow and beautiful.

And to dhaka…

Nov 25,2006


I will be in dhaka for a few days. And so I leave you with this melancholic picture - one of a series done by Anwar Hossain. I first saw the series in his flat in Paris. It was getting dark outside and beethoven was playing softly from the cd player. The series was taken in rapid succession around his room. He has a contact sheet of it, and to see it in his flat is incredibly emotional as it depicts both change and stasis.

East Timor and Bangladesh

Sep 6,2006

I am going to indulge myself today and reminisce about the old days and talk about personal things. About 14 years ago I set up the Oxford university East Timor society with the encouragement of my East Timorese mate, Joao Boavida. (Joao -where the f… are you?) Noam Chomsky even agreed to be our patron when we approached him at a presentation he was giving. Anyway, a couple of weeks back I was introduced to a certain Wing Commander of the Bangladesh airforce. All he talked about was East Timor or Timor-Leste ( its official name) and its many connections with Bangladesh. Everything from portugese traders to present day Bangladeshi entrepreneurs making a living out there to the shared experience of genocide at the hands of a state bent on imposing its will.

My airforce contact has some amazing shots of Timor-Leste from the sky ( he was a copter pilot with the UN peace keeping force) and equally amazing tales to tell - some of which I shall recount here another day. He even argued, though a little unconvincingly, that the people there look like us Bengalis (how unfortunate that would be…). To prove his point he apparently persuaded a group of East Timorese women to wear saris, and took a snap of them. He now challenges bengali friends and colleagues to tell the group apart from bengali women, and he insists that that those taking the test don’t manage to detect any difference!

I am co-producing a documentary film ( more on this later too!) and it is apt that I should be re-connecting with East Timor. It was a documentary about the massacre in Dili by the Indonesian forces in the early nineties which made me realise the power of film making. As always I am looking to my south african mates to point the way ahead, and I have already received essential tips from them. For which, thanks. As always.

Airport blues

Aug 13,2006

I board a plane everyweek these days. So this present crisis has affected me quite a bit to say the least. Forget the delays, separation from my Sony Vaio and my ipaq 6965 is just too painful. Anyway, today’s papers have a large number of stories about the suspects and the alleged plot, and as Kate Adie put it, one is not sure whether this is a jigsaw coming together or just confetti. Of course the government is not averse to dishing out big dollops of fear-mongering and scapegoating, and so its in everyone’s interests for some hard evidence to emerge very soon. What worries me is that a minster like John Reid is at the helm of things these days. An ex-communist, he has like many other ex-communists become rabid. A rabid dog of a minister bent on sniffing out arabs in the attic. The bookies are slashing the odds on him becoming the next labour leader. Can you imagine? And I am sure he is hoping to re-introduce the 90 day without charge detention law on the back of all this. And another point which Kate mentioned and is worth repeating is this: yesterday’s open letter to Blair has been universally labelled as the Muslim MPs’ letter to Blair. Since when are MPs defined by their religion? Or is this religious identity reserved for only those MPs who subscribe to islam? Why don’t we talk about Blair the almost-catholic PM? As I keep saying to people, go see V for Vendetta. That is where we are headed.

And Lebanon is off the radar if you read the front pages….convenient no?

A view from a Gulshan window

Jul 14,2006

Best Westin, Gulshan 2

This is a shaky phone camera view from our flat in Gulshan 2. The ugly excrescence on the left is the Best Westin hotel. It is apparently going to be 5 star rated, and they plan to open around December 2006. To the right of this 5 star wonder you can see garment factories housed in rather dilapidated buildings. The workers stay late into the night.

And inside the view is better. Alpana and her works!

Alpana in flat