DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA…

…DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA… I normally like to mention the etymology of places that I visit, but in this case I’m not really sure where the capital of Bangladesh gets its name from, but really wouldn’t be surprised if it was simply after the constant cacophony that spits, sputters and screams out of this insane city…DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA…

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Dhaka’s sights are few and far between, the main attraction is simply being there just to take in what I can safely say is the most chaotic city I’ve ever visited. I knew this within minutes of getting off the bus at the main station and into a CNG (auto rickshaw). The thrill ride to the hotel was like being picked up and placed into a real life game of Mario Kart, we seemed to weave in and out of traffic whilst avoiding the other vehicles and giant turtle shells, as the driver tipped the CNG onto two wheels in the same manner in which Donkey Kong would turn a corner. When we arrived at the hotel, there was no mushroom cup to be had, just a lung full of smog and nerves shattered into a million pieces…

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Cripples begging on the road

Shankharia bazar aka Hindu Street, was an extremely crowded but interesting part of the city to walk down. Gravestone makers are the friendly neighbours of many barber shops and if you’re lucky, you may come face to face with a posse of eunuchs – the hymapherides of South Asia. It’s also the only place in Bangladesh I was able to buy hot food through the day. For all it’s an experience being in Bangladesh during Ramadan, one can’t live on Mr Twist tomato flavoured crisps and deep fried chillies…

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Eunuch army

Continue to walk south of the sardine packed streets and you eventually reach Sadarghat, the beating heart of Dhaka where all the goods are shipped in and out of the city. After a walk around where we witnessed a fight over some fruit and were followed by literally dozens of people, you arrive at the boatman terminal. Sadarghat was documented by the BBC in their TV show ‘the hardest place to be a ferryman’, here the aging men chauffeur passengers back and forth across the Buriganga river at a price of 5 taka (2 pence) per ticket, avoiding the hundreds of triple decker liners that sail in and out everyday. Many of the boat hands flock to Dhaka to do this as the money is apparently a lot better than what they can make in their villages, some of the men work well into their 80’s, a long hard life away from your loved ones. I asked at the ticket counter “Is this really the hardest place in the world to be a ferryman?”, to which I got the answer I was expecting – “Five taka”…

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Man doing a woman’s job

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They see a camera and they all want snapped

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Ear cleaning by the ghat

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The hardest ferryman – proper grafter

It’s difficult even just to walk around the streets of Dhaka, you need to constantly be alert to avoid the many obstacles storming your way. Hussaini Dalan is one of the oldest mosques in the city and for me offered a much needed respite from the crazy streets…

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Dhaka is the most populated city in Bangladesh by a long shot, they say that by 2025 it will have a population of over 27 million people. The city is forever growing like a gluttonous slob that will eventually burst at the seams, if it hasn’t already. The overwhelming amount of people is apparent when riding into Dhaka via train, houses made from rubbish are within touching distance of the railway line, the poorest of the poor living under abandoned carriages, smacked up to the eye balls with no hope and no future, the exact thing they came here looking for, sadly.

Dhaka was once a magnificent city under the British rule. The government of Bangladesh let the place go to hell, they could have laid down water pipes, electricity lines and highways or put in place a decent infrastructure for a second and/or a third city, instead of cramming everything into a small place like Dhaka, but to quote one local I met “If corruption around the world was a competition, then Bangladesh would surely be champions”.

It is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed, for anyone unwilling to experience the harsh realities of Dhaka themselves, I recommend reading Like a Diamond in the Sky by Shazia Omar for a unique insight into this multidimensional metropolis. For me, it was time to leave Bangladesh, but not before I could witness another car crash on the airport road and be stared at one last time in the departure lounge, by the airport cat!

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Categories: Bangladesh | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “DHAKA DHAKA DHAKA…

  1. Wow! That was a great outsider’s take on Dhaka – I had never seen it like that. Thanks.

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