In my conversations with returned migrant labourers, i find that their journeys are often complex and transient. They go with the expectation of carrying out their term but often find themselves headed for other destinations or coming back home before time. Many are fearless, and are utterly certain they will make good no matter what happens next or whatever terrain they find themselves in. Some, perhaps through experience, are more resigned and more ambivalent about what awaits them. And some, not suprisingly, dread what awaits them. I came across a handsome but timid 27 year old returnee. A total innocent he told me that after about a month of working on a construction site in Dubai he started stopping people on the way back to his sleeping compound and asking them the “direction home.” They would ask him where he lived, and he would reply “Narayanganj, Bangladesh.” He said just telling people - total strangers - the name of his home town and country was beautiful and gave him some sort of strength and hope, and it didn’t matter that those stopped seemed bewildered or mocked him.
He said he wanted people to know where he was from and after a day’s work, when his despair was acutest, he coped with his horizon by articulating these two beloved place names.
The winter light in dhaka is beautiful. Mellow and beautiful.
One of the main reasons for coming to Dhaka in winter is of course to eat winter specific grub. Check this dumpling - made of steamed crushed rice and with a filling of coconut and date sugar. Bengalis like to think its their winter morning dish….well the truth is that this dumpling is popular in many parts of South East Asia, and I wouldn’t be surprised - given its method of preparation - if it comes from China. One variation, Rahima tells me, is that you can spice up the inside mix with ginger. Delicious with a cuppa, I tell ya. (pics with Nokia N91)
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.
In 2004 alone, the embassies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh returned the bodies of 880 construction workers back to their home countries. Yet the Dubai emirate, the only emirate to keep a count of migrant worker deaths, recorded only 34 construction deaths that year, based on reports from only six companies. READ HERE.
pic of AH in Dhaka
So we are on the last leg of this garment worker film. With over sixty hours of footage in Bangladesh, we have now come to London to shoot some more. Heaven knows how we will sift through it all. Well we don’t need heaven to know…only Tanvir M needs to know. So if you don’t see any posts next week you will know what I am upto: running around like a headless chicken and giving up my wealth to London cabbies. Friends keep asking whether I am going to appear in the documentary. Let me put all my fans out of their misery: as there is no vulgar bollywood type dancing involved, which as you know is my forte, I will sadly not be making my debut. Sorry to disappoint you.
About an hour ago, a press release was issued by the European Parliament concerning a resolution the parliament has adopted on Bangladesh. I was having dinner when I read it on my phone.Â Given the events of the last couple of weeks, I almost choked on my lamb chop when the press release made mention of the dubious Shoaib Choudhury. I have not read the resolution itself - only the press release - but the violence and mayhem surrounding the caretaker government seems to come second place to issues about the media and journalists. I hope I am wrong.Â Nevertheless, and quite rightly, the resolution urges the authorities to “put an end to the climate of impunity and to bring to justice the perpetrators of violence and harassment directed towards journalists in Bangladesh”.Â
And they have a small suggestion for the EC back home:
“The Election Commission is urged, in cooperation with domestic and international experts, to improve the quality and accuracy of the voter register. Â According to the EU Commission, 13 million invalid names have been added to the register.”Â
Right…if only it were a matter of hitting the delete button.
The current political situation is awful. The advocacy and commission of violence by the main protagonists has been predictable. What is at stake is power: the capture of state power and all the loot that goes with it. It is quite disgusting to see the shedding of crocodile tears when activitsts die…and then through the tears another round of violence is promised. The only winners in this are those who despise democracy.
Anyway, here is a little xml/flash quiz for you with an analysis of your responses at the end. Don’t take the conclusions too seriously. Life is too short….you can always refresh the page and answer the questions differently to get a more positive evaluation if it makes you feel better…..?!
Susan Sontag and others have written about the ethical and professional problems inherent in taking photos of those who are powerless. I have encountered the “issues” before and the other day at the Mairie de Lilas metro in Paris, I encountered it again. And this time, the Bangladeshi flower seller put it to us eloquently and with dignity:
Which newspaper do you write for? Why do you want to take a photograph of me? That would not be right. You will portray me as a flower seller. What would my family and other people say? I have an MA but here in Paris I am just a hawker. Why should you portray me only as a hawker? In Bangladesh there are no jobs. The government puts money into defence and into the corrupt civil administration. We, both educated and non-educated, are forced to leave. Will people understand this? Will your picture show all that?
And as I pulled into Gare du Nord, the first thingÂ which catches my eye - yes, even before the girls - is a poster (below) for Auchan advertising cheap men’s trousers. Auchan is a big investor In the Bangladesh garment sector.
And tomorrow I meet the cool crowd. Yes indeedy. And I am going to try to spot the brands they will be sporting. And I will wonder if they know about some other fashion victims….girls working thousand of miles away in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh hails “messiah” Zidane: BBC storyÂ
credit: Focus Bangla
And the crowned messiah with the other crowned messiah Yunus.
Welcome to Dhaka Zizou! with Les Bleus in our hearts!
Struggling Biman has now stopped operating to Tokyo’s Narita. So the list of cancelled destinations is now New York, Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and Mumbai. Still it flies to 20 other foreign destinations in second/third hand aircraft bought in the early 90s.
Interestingly when struggling Shafiq Rehman, the editor of Jai Jai Din, tried to get out of the country the other day with four tickets from different airlines for the same day - none of the tickets were for Biman! Hilarious. They were for Malaysia, Qatar, Singapore and Emirates airlines.
And helping to develop an inclusive society for South Asians in New York is Eliot Spitzer - the Democratic candidate for New York Governor.