imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for August, 2007

Friday
Aug 31,2007

oooh I better not finish that sentence in case I get into trouble.

But opening the papers today has not been a joy. The “mental torture” and “blindfolding” of Professors Anwar Hossain and Harun-or-Rashid will trouble people of conscience everywhere. Hossain’s  apology  to the army makes for even more uncomfortable reading. Bizarre, is it not, that a remand prisoner is allowed to make public statements? Until of course you read the statement…

One piece of good news though - Madam Khaleda Zia and her extended family of tax dodgers and dodgy income hiders have had their bank accounts frozen. Hoo-bloody-ray!! This kind of “assisted democracy” I like very much. . And if we could get this part over and done with, maybe we would be better off for a while atleast? Corruption in poor countries is a concommitant of development. But Madam’s fault was not harnessing it sufficiently to overcome the missing markets and make things go easier. Yet I still ask - is it naive to believe that a bull can leave a china shop undamaged?

Shonar Bangla

Wednesday
Aug 29,2007

Programme cover

The National Museum of Asian Arts -Guimet in Paris is holding a major programme entitled “Shonar Bangla” ( golden Bangla) between September 2007 and January 2008. Here is the pdf of the entire programme. (1941kb in size).

It will be featuring two documentaries I have been involved in. I am a bit annoyed that they have got the production date of Bostrobalikara as 2006 and not 2007. I have some invites I believe and so if you want to go to any of the screenings (of any of the films) lemme know.

Faridpur

  • Filed under: Floods
Tuesday
Aug 28,2007

Kids from Bhanga, Faridpur…well, actually a short ride away from Bhanga on a boat because of the floods. Some of the guardians of these kids said referring to us: “They all come and take photographs for flood projects but we don’t get anything.”

Faridpur kids

The media circus has been less than usual thanks to the fact that certain prominent individuals are restricted in their movements. Nevertheless, if you open the pages of national newspapers you will see every type of organisation represented in photographs showing their bigwigs handing over a bag of rice to some hapless bearded oldie (drafted in to round off the photo opportunity these floods provide).

Bengal delights

Saturday
Aug 25,2007

The Bengal Art gallery is always a pleasure to visit. Of course like so many other things, it turns out that it may have been built with dodgy money. Its founder Abul Khair Litu is under suspicion for corruption (but is serving his remand time in hospital of course) …Yesterday some insiders were hopeful that he might get bail at the end of the month. Whilst the gallery continues to put on exhibitions, apparently the absence of the impresario has affected Bengal Foundation projects.

Bengal facade carving

And there is added reason to visit the area these days. The unbelievable good news is that Nandos is opening opposite the gallery very shortly! This is an incredible badge of confidence in the republic of Bangladesh by a foreign investor. I have no reason to believe that it too is locally associated with dodgy money but I do know that Robert Brazon’s brand had very difficult and humble beginnings. Mr Brazon was in his thirties when he decided he would market peri-peri chicken in South Africa. The banks rejected him doubting his ability to compete with KFC and Chicken-Licken. The chicken farms also initially did not come forward. But somehow he broke through the barriers and today his chain spans all five continents I believe. I have the good fortune of having not one but two in my home town of Cambridge. It is a shame that the marketing is overwhelmingly “Portugese” slanted and its South African origins are all but buried. So here is a snap of it in Dhanmondi opposite the Bengal ( you can see me in the foreground dressed as a bush. My way of dealing with the curfew):

Nandos in Bangladesh

Evil forces??

Friday
Aug 24,2007

Anwar Hossain, Secretary of Dhaka University’s Teachers’ Association

Harun-Or Rashid, Dean, DU social science faculty

Do you, like me, get jittery when people talk about evil forces?

Quiet start to Friday

Friday
Aug 24,2007

Curfew at 10pm tonight. Darn it. And this morning, the heavy downpour must have favoured the authorities…And some miscreants have been chopping the internet lines in Cox Bazaar. Or so they say.
rickshaw

Kids

Curfew snaps

Thursday
Aug 23,2007

Mobiles came back on last night, and I was thus able to check on the safety of my mates and colleagues. The administration intends to relax things depending on the situation. Here are some snaps I took with my camera phone this morning in Gulshan 2 - Gulshan  has been free of violence. Most shops and offices are closed, and there is nothing like the chaos I saw around 4pm yesterday.

No respite for the bostrobalika. These girls have to report for duty curfew or no curfew.

Garment Girls

These chaps told me they were as cheesed off with things as everyone else. When i asked them if they were getting double time…they snorted.
Police

They stop the cars that have ventured out and usually let them go. The authorities have said that if you produce a passport and ticket it is sufficient to use as a “pass.”
car

Around 8.30am this morning

Gulshan2

Riot gear.

Riot gear

Editors have been told not to publish photos of “bhangchoor.” However all kudos to them that they have. I guess the authorities didnt want too many Kung Fu Scenes like this from the Daily Star (yesterday) depicting a classic bengali attitude to the military.
Drop Kick

At least this stall holder didnt have to get up at the crack of dawn today.

stall holder

I doubt these day labourers ( who congregate at the top of Road No 35) will get anything today….funny, isn’t it, they always lose out when these things happen
Day labourers

Here we go

Wednesday
Aug 22,2007

I went out 30 minutes ago around 1600 hrs Bangladesh time. All the shops are emptying and the offices too in Gulshan 1 and 2. I get a couple of phone calls advising me to stay at home and avoid my usual nightly forays. There are rumours of a curfew starting around 5pm. Nothing on tv yet apparently but it seems no one is taking any chances. Sirens going here and there Picture below explains why…..Dhaka university finally in the picture…

Country-wide curfew from 8pm tonight until futher notice.

6.10pm UPDATE. All mobile networks are unavailable.

university

car

dhaka

Pictures lifted shamelessly from Daily Star, Sangbad and News Today.

Common Ground in Singapore

  • Filed under: labour
Monday
Aug 20,2007

Bangladeshi construction workers, among others, are responsible for the gleaming towers one sees in metropolitan environments from Singapore to Dubai and yet there is no recognition of their contribution.

Artists Joshua Yang and Justin Loke, in one instance of creative brilliance, have changed things. Opposite the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles in Singapore, they have erected a statue of a migrant worker. Their installation makes a brave and unconventional statement that foreign workers ( Foreign Talent) should occupy the same hallowed ground ( Common Ground) as Sir Stamford Raffles, the British East India Company man who “built” Singapore.

And the installation of the statue was telling in itself. Less than a week after it was set up, it was knocked down and damaged by a delivery van. Justin Loke made this comment:

Just like construction workers meeting with accidents at worksites, art works also. I think it’s the best reflection of reality, of real life where they meet accidents every day. So it’s a sculpture of a construction worker after an accident.

Gone

Saturday
Aug 18,2007

Bus Shelter

Here is a bus shelter near Dhaka university and it is devoid of political posters. Before this current dispensation, it was of course a very different story.

Dhallywood posters, usually replete with buxom wenches and knife wielding gundas, are now much more sedate. They occupied the same public space as graphically violent political posters depicting killings and maimings. These too are no longer visible.

And gone too are packed luxury car showrooms. As I drove past the Volvo and BMW showrooms near Tejgaon today, I was flabbergasted that these showrooms were empty. One volvo in the volvo showroom and one X5 in the BMW showroom.

Westin, Gulshan

Friday
Aug 17,2007

From my apartment on the fourth floor of a block on Road No 35 -undoubtedly the most socially and politically interesting road in Gulshan - I can not only see the new 5 star hotel in town but I can hear it too. Yes noise pollution is of no concern for the shiny and glitzy Westin. “Driver Musharraf, Driver Musharaff” followed by a little jingle and on and on it goes throughout the day and evening as each chauffeur is called to the surface from the underground car park.

Still, I decided I should go and patronise the place being as it is less than 2 minutes from my block by foot. You have to do a little mental moral calculation though - the owner Noor Ali is an ex communist party member (no problem in that but read on), and has recently hit the headlines when he accused Hasina of extortion ( no problem in that) and is a businessman who made the bulk of his money through labour recruitment to Saudi ( big fat mother of all problems there). Aren’t commies supposed to be pro-labour? Nevertheless, goaded by stories of how lovely the female staff are, I thought I had better get there pronto.

My friend and I were given a tour of the place by very customer oriented staff. I have stayed at the Sheraton and Sonargaon but neither come close to this. Inspired by Singaporean hotel management, I am pretty sure, even down to the decor I was quite impressed by the place.

The gym and pool are high tech and very pleasant indeed. The membership is a staggering 125,000 taka per year, and yet despite this the majority of the members are not foreigners. You can utilise the facilities on a one-off basis for 25,000. My friend’s World Bank outfit I understand gets a corporate discount.

Westin Pool

The rooms are apparently all bigger than the competitor hotels, and get this - this is the only 5 star hotel in the world with all plasma/lcd tvs in all rooms and reception areas.

Westin Reception

We ended the evening with a meal in their buffet bar. All of Gulshan’s elite had arrived by the looks of it, including the Foregin Adviser and some well known artistes and constitutional lawyers. Again the South/Far East Asian emphasis was welcome and superbly done. The staff attentiveness was quite something. If you are like me and keep dropping your napkin between your legs and onto the floor and hate bending down to retrieve it - no problem, a waiter will spot it within seconds and bring a fresh one instantly!

Sushi at the Westin

Crits? Well there is no greenery outside and the orchids inside are not quite Singaporean standard. And of course there is the noise…why do Starwoods and Westin think they can pollute the environment like this? Cos they are in Dhaka?

Sunday
Aug 12,2007

And the brown stuff has hit the fan in the UK. Migrant workers from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are recruited to go and work in the textile factories of Mauritius supplying shops such as TopMan and TopShop etc. Sir Philip Green is the baddie because news is that the labourers earn only £4 a day.  FOUR QUID A DAY!!! But shhhhh…thats a lot better than the sweatshops in Bangladesh…..about three pounds better and in some cases even more than that.

Friday
Aug 10,2007

Payam

Things must be looking bad if Hasina’s lot feel the need to engage a lawyer who is currently defending an accused Croatian Army general. Dr Payam Akhavan is a distinguished lawyer and his CV is sure to make lawyers in Bangladesh burn the midnight oil at double the usual rate. Until 2000 he was even an adviser to the prosecutor’s office for the Yugoslav and Rwanda war crimes tribunal at the Hague. So its a bit strange that he is now defending a person ( General Ante Gotovina) he must have helped indict ? …..I guess lawyers, at the end of the day, are just hired guns and of course money talks. And these croation thugs are not short of a bob or two ( Gotovina enjoyed the playboy life in the Canaries before his capture).  And neither is Hasina short of a bob or two - according to the present caretaker government!

My own advice to Payam is this:  You might like to know one thing about your client. She is responsible for inciting violence over a very long period. In this respect, your Lieutenant General client has something in common. So you have the unique and precise credentials to assist Hasina.

Water

  • Filed under: Floods
Thursday
Aug 9,2007

There are large areas under water not far from Dhaka airport. I took these snaps this morning.
water

Water everywhere