A Bengali Odyssey
Between six and eight weeks in Bangladesh: We flew in at the height of the most violent political upheaval in 30 years (context: Bangladeshi General Election 2014, “Most violent election day”), somehow survived threats and manifestations of hartals, blockades, kidnapping, theft and trickery.
A sleepless night of passionate planning and we made way to the Bishwa Ijtema, the world’s second largest gathering of muslims… with a liter of rum in my backpack. A mistake that could have cost us our lives. We prayed, and miraculously survived, then made our way to the Chittagong Hill tracts, an area we were heavily recommended to avoid due to past travelers having been abducted and killed by Chakma separatists.
While looking for Rohingyas, we instead find ourselves in a Burmese Buddhist temple along the border with Myanmar, sleeping light under threat of kidnapping, only to subsequently become good friends with a tight group of Chakmas. That gave us the opportunity to delve into their community – learning a bit of their language, history and customs. They made us feel very much at home.
After a short return to Dhaka to pick up Alexander, we met with the country’s big shots, then made way to Khulna Division, Saad’s home division (unfortunately without him).
Illness and über-strangeness ensued, as usual, in the Sunderbans, with local councils and politicians. We somehow eventually get back to Dhaka, part of the way, atop a bus.
In Dhaka: tricks, deceit, manipulation and hardcore poverty hit us in the face on a daily basis while we seek refuge in a fairly nice hotel near the embassy area. We had run-ins with the police and their sponsors, and the British-american tobacco association (?!?!) made us realize there was not a single working number to get in touch with authorities in an emergency. Welcome to true anarchy functioning under near-ultimate corruption – a truly fascinating, terrifying yet illuminating political philosophy.