imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for January, 2007

The state of things

Jan 30,2007

outside Razmoni cinema

A chap taking a leak outside Razmoni cinema.

Runa Khan and her ‘angel’

Jan 29,2007

I flew back on an Emirates flight yesterday. I always like to make small talk on these long flights with my fellow passengers, and make it a point to do so even if they are not female and pretty. However I was stumped yesterday. The two chaps next to me sat down and immediately grabbed magazines on golf and Formula 1 motor racing. For me there can never be a stronger conversation stopper than people expressing an interest in golf and motor racing. I mean what the hell man…?

Anyway, all that is a long preamble to tell you that I was forced to switch on the inflight radio as a result and found out about an amazing initiative. Emirates is doing quite a few charitable projects in bangladesh but this one is particularly interesting: it concerns the work Runa Khan is doing, supported by Emirates Airlines, in remote parts of north-west Bangladesh. I had vaguely heard about it but listening to Runa explain the way the whole hospital ship thing started was fascinating. Locals call her ship the “angel.” Read about it below. Another hospital ship is on its way mid-2007.

Runa Khan
Runa Khan is not from an NGO background, and that is very telling in the way she speaks. Whilst one has to be careful about the whole business of charity this one is certainly pushing the boundaries in more ways than one including capacity development and skills transfer.
I searched on the web for more information and found something HERE.

Jan 27,2007

Our domestic workers are sourced from my dad’s village home - Bhanga. Lately, unlike the middle classes in town, they have had a lot to complain about concerning the new dispensation in Bangladesh. The way things have impinged on them is not welcome one bit. Here are the stories:

1. Rahima’s husband’s roadside cafe (or hotel as it is referred to) has just been pulled down as part of a clean up operation of unregulated shacks. Apart from her own income as my domestic her household (ie her hubbie and two kids) now have no source of income.

2. Televisions have been destroyed when owners have not produced licenses. Not impounded. Simply destroyed.

3. Kids have been picked up if found wandering around in a group or possessing mobiles. A few questions are asked as to why they are not engaged in worthwhile activity ( presumably work), and if “satisfactory” answers are not produced their mobiles are smashed. B recounts that some are made to wade out to the river until the water reaches their neck and made to stand there in the cold water and swear that they will not repeat their “offence.”

4. B’s mates are disappointed about the restrictions on cinema in Faridpur. It seems cinema hall operators and producers of, shall we say…salacious films have not been pushing the boundaries since last week. Despite the regulations that came in in 2004 and last year, so-called “obscene” films still get around the censor. However in this emergency the hall operators are not showing these films in case they get picked up and thrown in jail. And the producers are not keen on producing same given the market conditions.

And we bloggers and internet nuts are now included in the emergency guidelines for the media, and need to avoid making provocative statements, protests etc in the “electronic media including internet.”

In case of violation of the restrictions, the offerenders will face a maximum of five years or a minimum of two years rigorous imprisonment along with fines.

Ooooh i like the sound of “rigorous imprisonment.” I wonder if its anything like that in the picture above? Original from the DS.

Jan 23,2007

Late in november last year I was reading about Rome and discussing my trip to the great city for a forthcoming project. One of the issues I came across was housing, and how difficult it is for immigrant workers. Having worked on housing issues in Glasgow in the past I thought nothing could be as bad….well not in europe in anycase….until news of a protest in Rome last weekend reached me…..READ HERE

Turbo charge this Voter List

Jan 22,2007

Everywhere I go in Dhaka the thinking and writing around id cards and voter lists assumes that it will all take a hell of a long time. This being the case, we are gradually accepting that this interim government/caretaker government is going to be around for many months. Perhaps a year or more. Why? If we can immunise millions of people so successfully in such a short space of time, and involve volunteers, teachers and doctors and other layers of citizens in the process, why not apply a similar model to voter list creation? Surely then we are done and dusted in weeks?


Jan 21,2007

Thanks very much for the many, many emails and messages from the bostrobalikara site. Thanks for the kind words about the documentary.

We had two standing room only premiere shows. Total sell out. This indicates the depth of concern people in Bangladesh have about the industry, its workers and the issue of sweatshop wages and conditions.

Dubai Marina blaze

  • Filed under: labour
Jan 20,2007

Dubai Marina fire

On my way here to Dhaka the big headline on the front page of Gulf News in Dubai was: “Tower fire traps workers.” At the time of going to press four had been killed and scores treated for smoke inhalation. I scanned the page and sure enough I found what i was anticipating: the head of the trauma centre at Rashid Hospital said the workers were mainly chinese, indians and bangladeshis. You will recall i posted an item some weeks back about record keeping in the Emirates. I refer to recording deaths of migrant workers. In fact last year over 800 bodies were sent home and yet the emirates recorded only 34. Anyway, the Gulf News states that an investigation has started…

Whatever my thoughts about Dubai’s labour regime, I have to say that I am a long time and avid reader of Gulf News. It is a great publication.


  • Filed under: Art
Jan 17,2007

My son was delirious: his eyes were burning
like red krishnachura. i took his small hands
and held them gently; when I touched his forehead
it was burning with fever. He was panting softly
and his head ached furiously. His small dry lips
were moving gently like a swallow’s breast. Outside
the storm raged, beating with fury against the windows.
I shivered and wondered if I should call the doctor again.

Red krishnachuras looked into my eyes. Are you suffering
my child? I whispered: try to sleep. I touched his brow.
There was no sound. Only a cat yawned in a distant corner
of the room. Sleepless, I wondered if dawn would ever
return, I wondered if I could share his suffering.
And then I realised that when it comes to pain
we are all lonely.

krishnachura: red flowers

Pain by Shamsur Rahman

An exhibition of photographs of Shamsur Rahman by M A Taher is taking place at the Bengal Shilpalaya until Jan 22nd. It will be my first port of call.

Jan 16,2007

web site image

Here is the first version of the web site for the Bostrobalikara: Garment Girls of Bangladesh documentary. The premiere is on 19th January at the Public Library Auditorium, Shahbag. We hope to put up more images from the documentary and perhaps a clip or two.

Jan 14,2007

The Foreign Office’s latest travel advisory on Bangladesh. “We advise against all but essential travel to Bangladesh. “ Read HERE.

I will be boarding a plane later this week all things being equal.  I have asked several non-bengali friends if they would like to come and watch the election process from the comfort of my Gulshan flat. Strangely all declined my generous offer. One replied “I don’t have time to bugger about like you, Shafi.” Quite. Its just that I  am very interested to hear what non-Bangladeshis make of the  events attending this election. Some kind of disinterested description by an outsider would be great because I can’t make head or tails of this.

Jan 13,2007

Bethnal Green
A couple of days ago I went for a recce in the east end of London. I visited activists dealing with drug abuse in the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets. They help addicts through recovery programmes and provide counselling and advice etc. It was blowy and pelting down hard throughout the day. I walked around the various estates. I don’t want to take away any of the bleakness of it all - and believe me some of these estates are bleak - but one can nevertheless see the positive impact of the local state’s regeneration programme at the superficial level at least. Clearly the built environment and the services are only one part of it because the drugs problem continues to grow. …And not just amongst bengali lads but also bengali girls and women. The prospects are apparently dire. According to local organisations this problem is set to remain and indeed grow in the forseeable future.

I will hopefully be following these chaps around for part of the diaspora project I am engaged in, and I will be pointing you to a separate site if you are interested in knowing more.

What?? How??? Really??

Jan 12,2007

Check this

Just hours into the declaration of state of emergency, the army arrested Giasuddin Al Mamun while raiding the residences and offices of several political leaders and businessmen including former influential ministers on Thursday night.The raids were carried out as part of a crackdown on ‘corruptionists and godfathers of criminals’, according to sources.

Read More Here

State of Emergency

Jan 11,2007

Jeepers creepers. Fundamental rights are now suspended. Curfew after 11pm and until 5am. With the announcement of a state of emergency by President Iajuddin Ahmed, things are looking ripe for much street nastiness in the days ahead. Khaleda thinks she is on a winner here. The EU and UN have pulled their monitors. Hasina is no doubt reading that as a good sign.


  • Filed under: labour
Jan 10,2007

Unrest in garment factories continues….