December 17, 2011
The postcard seller looks at me blankly
From which country?
I am in Bangladesh, the country without postcards.
The whole village welcomes the Bideshi (foreigners)
That’s a pity. You have to look at postcard views with a magnifying glass, but Bangladesh has its beautiful sides:
· The muezzin sings punctually at 17:15 in Arabic
· The rickshaw driver curses Rickshastau
· The travelling merchant sings the goodness of his fish in the alleys
· The ship’s bow divides the murky waters of the Buriganga
· The badminton ball jumps in the evening over the illuminated net
· The doner kebab revolves around its own centre
As a food lover, I immediately fell in love with Dönertiere and grilled chicken on every corner. I like meat and eat very little.
Somewhere in this country, an incredible number of people are starving every day. I certainly did not come to eat someone’s food.
Nightly badminton in the floodlit park
Then I eat even less because I’m sick in bed. A Bangladesh visit is probably only complete after a few days of fever and diarrhoea. All you have to do is leave the capital, Dhaka. In the countryside, you then wash down your not-heated meal with a milk tea from a dubious source.
When I’m fit again, I eat normally. I do not see any starving people. I see poor and rich people, fat and thin. I see fruit sellers, tailors, students and booksellers. At first glance, Bangladeshis are hardly different from Indians.
A shopping mall in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka
And Bangladesh is like India without cows. I see
· Shopping centres
· luxury hotels
· a Muslim festival
· a folk concert at the lake
· a rock concert on the university campus
(with Iron Maiden cover song)
That’s not how I imagined Bangladesh. I even find cheesecake in a fine café.
You do not only notice missing picture postcards that there are hardly any travellers to Bangladesh. The South Asian curiosity is extremely visible here.
a Bangladeshi comments on the extreme foreign curiosity of his compatriots
You are everywhere and always stared, addressed, touched. Often enough, one is surrounded by a bunch of staring locals.
Every jubilee year in Bangladesh you meet another Bideshi. This alien is almost certainly a member of a nongovernmental organization for building the country.
The most successful export good of Bangladesh seems to be a good conscience next to cheap jeans and cheap t-shirts.
To be honest, the offer is tempting.