Dhaka – First impressions
Even as Taslima was scurrying for cover in a pretentiously secularist West Bengal, I was planning my first trip to East Bengal. Like most post ’47 first generations Bengali’s in India, my parents were born in erstwhile East Pakistan and spent a few years there before moving to India. Having witnessed the pain of partition first hand and the angst of having to leave every piece they owned they’ve always felt strongly emotional about this piece of land. Consequently, I grew up hearing a lot of stories about Bangladesh and knew many places by heart. I did the normal routine of reading up whatever lonely planet could dish and other travel blogs and surprisingly most of them had something good to tell about the place. Not that I believed a word of what I read. Am not sure why, but I strongly believe that a nation construed on religion can never be anything near ‘good’. So I set forth with my set of conservative prejudices.
20 minutes from NSCB International and the captain announces that we were ready to descend. I suspect it was a ploy to keep passengers quite and not pester the crew for stuff coz we kept circling a good 20 minutes before the actual descent begun. In the middle, the crew hurriedly scattered lunch boxes reminiscent of a toned down flood time food packet distribution ceremony.
As we touched down in Zia International, the first things that hit me was “Bismillah Airlines”. It hit me hard on how religion was deeply etched into every aspect of an Islamic nation. Anyway, it looked a World War II relic and I wasn’t going to fly that for free. A long walk down the arrival terminal led to the immigration counter the person there didn’t bother much about my tourist visa. But one of my managers who was on a tourist visa as well wasn’t so lucky. The immigration person quizzed him on what the places to visit were and after a barrage of other questions and suspicious retorted “On this fare you could have visited Bangkok, why come to Dhaka of all places?” Whatta reality check J
Anyway, as I stepped out and drove out into the city I was greeted with an array of palm trees. Have always wondered if palm trees have a symbolic connection to Islamic Countries. And the next thing that struck me was the barrage of gleaming Toyota’s all over the city! Apart from the rampant corruption I got thinking on what other sources of disposable income the nation was privy to .. it did’nt add up …and then it hit me – Aid Money! Doles from the ADB’s and WB’s and other loan peddlers.
Those were just the initial feelers … and im here for the long haul .. till later…