imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for August, 2006

Use sms to avoid arsenic!

  • Filed under: Health
Aug 31,2006

Damn good news for cell phone operators: arsenic in water is going to impact positively on your business!  The sad fact is that groundwater in Bangladesh is contaminated with arsenic. And drinking this arsenic will cause you a lot of grief in the way of skin lesions, breathing problems, cancers and other nasty things.

However it is apparently possible to dig to a certain depth where the water is relatively free of arsenic. The problem is how do you find that level? Well, Columbia university boffins have developed a database of about 300,000 wells in 17 districts in Bangladesh. The idea is that villagers will use text messaging to find out how deep to dig and the odds that the water will be safe at that depth. And as the mobile phone is a widely used piece of technology…the researchers are hoping that villagers will use texting to find out information about different locations.

Texting is also going to be used in Indonesa to get info out on bird flu as quickly as possible. And I thought texting was only good for sending saucy notes to people..??  Not that I have ever done that sort of thing….. ;-)

Check it out HERE but you will need a nature subscription.

Aug 31,2006

One is not used to reversals of this order. Reversals suffered by those in power and those who abuse power. Such a tearing up of an agreement with a foreign company about to engage in such a massive project surely indicates something very rotten?

And in case you have forgotten, there are other fresh examples in Bangladesh of this kind of environmental mayhem. I would point you to Tanvir’s documentary “Karnaphulir Kanna.”

Jhaal Muri guy

Aug 30,2006

Inspired by Rumi’s recent lament about the demise of jhal muri vendors in the streets of Dhaka (and their replacement by popcorn selling kids), I took a camera phone video (Nokia N91) of one such vendor on the way to Faridpur last week. Sadly the embedding code does not work and so i will need to post it HERE. Click the image when you get to that page.  And below is a top view of this tasty roadside snack.
jhaal muri

Muslim societies and nudity

Aug 29,2006

Well done to Syra Miah, a Bangladeshi-Britsh photographer, for exposing censorship aimed at perpetuating myths about ‘muslim societies’: Photographer protests at exhibition ‘censorship’

Dhaka school bus

  • Filed under: Health
Aug 27,2006

Take a gander at this. If you don’t have a Pajero to take your kids to school this thing below is another option. You can cram upto four or five kids into these cages and then peddle off into the busy, polluted and truck-filled streets of Dhaka. Each time I see one of these contraptions filled with kids and with their faces peering out of the bars, I keep telling myself that the accident rate on these things must be approaching zero.  Otherwise surely parents would not allow their children to use them….please someone tell me I am right??

School bus in Dhaka

Junk food in Dhaka

Aug 25,2006

Ah yes the big daddy of junk food - KFC -  is opening very soon! I won’t hear a bad word about them despite the grease and fat and low wages etc… was one of the very few things I enjoyed during my chemo days. Here is a picture of the work in progress. You will have to wait three or four weeks I should think judging by the state of play. In Gulshan 1 near Aarong and opposite Banglalink.

KFC in Dhaka


  • Filed under: Food
Aug 24,2006

I have just had the most amazing dessert on a British Airway’s flight to Dhaka. A fantastic creation by Vineet Bhatia ( the celebrated indian chef/restaurateur). What was it? Well it was the humble rice pudding but reincarnated in an unrecognisable form and floating in a mango coulis. It was bloody awesome. Club world only I think sadly.

If this dessert is anything to go by, I shall be making a bee-line to his restaurants in london. Anyone been?

The sex life of Rickshaw drivers

Aug 18,2006

Rickshaw guys

“Male-to-male sex is also common among certain professions in South Asia. For example, 49 percent of truck drivers surveyed in Lahore, Pakistan, reported having sex with other men, along with 22 percent of rickshaw drivers in Bangladesh. Access to information and condoms is also limited, with prevention programs available to only 2 percent of MSM (men who have sex with men)  in 16 Asia-Pacific countries.”

American Foundation for Aids Research report as reported HERE.

Shamsur Rahman

Aug 17,2006

Shamsur Rahman

Farewell and rest in peace, comrade.

Some worrying links

  • Filed under: Misc
Aug 16,2006

The Awami League web site report a “Bid to foil mourning day program” where a chap wearing “punjabi, pajama and a tupi” was apprehended cutting cables. The same story becomes “Police foil plot to kill Bangladesh opposition leader” in Gulf news and “Bangladesh police foil bomb attack plan on Hasina” in India News. Of course it doesn’t hurt the Awami League leader’s cause to have the story make her a victim. Maybe the AL webmaster will sex-up, to use a british phrase, the title of the story later…?

Is this article in Haaretz (israeli newspaper) a joke or is it an indication of how far removed Israelis are from reality? Haifa zoo animals stressed and ill after 34 days of guerilla rocket fire.

There used to be a time when I would thank god that I was living in a liberal democracy like Brtain. But news like this story in The Times which claims that in the future certain types of travellers - READ MUSLIM TRAVELLERS - will face selective assessments certainly doesn’t do anything for my onions.

There also used to be a time when I would dabble in philosophy of various hues. No seriously I did. It was the done thing for pseuds like me to have some philosophy book peeping out of a coat pocket with the title just visible. Except in my case it wasn’t to impress some beautiful English lit undergrad…no I had already done that by other means…. And so it came as a bit of a shock to read that Mr George Bush, a man who has difficulty eating pretzels, has just finished reading The Stranger by Albert Camus at his Texas ranch. Who is this monkey chump trying to impress? And according to this article he made quick work of this book. Hmmm. I wonder if the aide who suggested this book sees some connection between Mr Bush and the main character of the book? And I wonder if George ever even suspected that whilst he was reading it?

Aug 14,2006

Sheikh Mujib death anniversary

31 years ago my family and I were in Narayanganj. Early in the morning I could hear the radio from my room. As I came downstairs to complain about the loud volume, all became clear. Sheikh Mujib had been assasinated. And not just Mujib but many others too, young and old - indeed there was a veritable bloodbath at Mujib’s house in Dhanmondi. The words washed over me but I could read the look of horror and disbelief on my dad’s face.

Over the years the commemoration of this event has become a very contested thing, and the cheapness of some of it is quite staggering. The attempt to bring the killers of Mujib to justice in itself is a saga and a half.

So tomorrow, August 15th, we will have a replay of all that is cheap and all that divides the country - not least Sheikh Hasina’s speech to the Bongobondhu society which does no justice to the memory of her father with her repugnant taunts about the deceased members of Khaleda’s family. And of course no commemoration, however solemn and painful, is complete without the obligatory hartal. And Khaleda Zia, having stripped this day from the national calendar and aided and abetted the killers, will be celebrating and tucking into her 61st “birthday” cake.

And yes the poster above….many rational people will tell you that the country needs these hangings for the nation to get over that day. I kid you not.

Aug 13,2006

Difficult, dirty and dangerous is what 3D stands for - in case you were thinking that it was some kind of digital stuff…

Illegal immigrant workers in Korea number upto 180,000 and include Bangladeshis. Abuse and exploitation is commonplace, and new legislation may curb some of these excesses but at the same time create other problems.

John (not his real name) came to Korea from Bangladesh six years ago. Today, he works at a small textile mill in Ssangmun-dong in northern Seoul. He works 14 hours a day, seven days a week.

“My workload is much larger compared with regular Korean workers,” he told The Korea Herald. “The troubling thing is that I get paid far less than them as well.

Read the article HERE. This story echoes the news which broke earlier this year about the trafficking and exploitation of Bangladeshi and other workers in Jordan.

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?

The Singapore method….again

Aug 11,2006

Rehman Sobhan  et al
Sue your opponents in the courts, bankrupt them and make them history…..but Bangladesh ain’t Singapore….Click the picture for the full story.