October 08, 2014

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Pedestrian ramp at Ramna Park leading to a crosswalk over Bhasani Road.
Pedestrian ramp at Ramna Park leading to a crosswalk over Bhasani Road.

Today was a lame day for me. I slept in and got a late start; I also decided to make today a museum day. When I did leave the hotel, I walked to the Liberation War Museum, which wasn’t too far away, but when I got there, I was told that bags and cameras were not allowed; there was a place to store the visitors’ bags, but they were open bays without locks; I decided that I rather walk the short distance back to the hotel and store my camera and tripod there than take a chance here. I told the entrance guards I would be back and walked away from the museum; although, instead of walking back to my hotel, I decided to check out the policy on bags at the National Museum; so I walked further westward to the museum, passing by Ramna Park and crowds of people shopping at stalls lined up at various intersections along the route; there were also crowds of rickshaws at each intersection and entrances to popular places, waiting for customers. While crossing a street at the crosswalk, I narrowly avoided being vomited on; a woman walking by just let loose her stomach contents on the road . . . which is completely understandable in Dhaka since this city’s smell is nauseating – it smells like a designated trash dump (if you don’t know what a trash dump smells like, imagine taking bovine diarrhea, goat milk, hog innards, and human urine, mixing all of these ingredients in a blender, and then letting it sit for four months – that is the type of nauseating smell that exists here in Dhaka; another possible analogy would be an open sewer). I finally reached the National Museum and, sure enough, they also do not allow bags nor cameras inside. I then walked back to the hotel, entered my hotel, and then relaxed away from the humidity for a while, drinking a large bottle of water. I also turned on the television and found the film ‘Hitchcock’, which had just started on one of the movie channels; I could not resist watching a film I had never seen before about the great director; so I sat back and viewed the film, which turned out to be a well made, entertaining film with great performances by Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins. When the film had concluded, I left the hotel again (this time without camera and tripod) and I walked back to the Liberation War Museum; the museum chronicles the history leading up to the Liberation War, which was the war when East Pakistan split from West Pakistan and became Bangladesh back in 1971. I found the museum to be very informative and I learned some interesting things from the various rooms and exhibits (one exhibit was dedicated to George Harrison and displayed artifacts from his ‘Concert for Bangladesh’); there were also many graphic photographs of massacred Bangladeshi freedom fighters and civilians in the museum, so it is not for the faint of heart. From the museum, I discovered that the Pakistani military established killing fields in Bangladesh in order to murder all the intellectuals within the country in order to create a vacuum of leadership; the murders intensified near the very end of the war, after India declared war on Pakistan (which they did due to the Pakistan Air Force striking Indian Air Bases on December 3, 1971 – thirteen days later, India took Dhaka and Pakistan surrendered on December 16, 1971, making the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 one of the shortest wars in the history of humanity). After finishing my tour of the museum, I walked back to the hotel since it was too late to see the National Museum. I then relaxed in my room until it was time for dinner. For dinner, I went back up to the restaurant on the nineteenth floor (there are not many reputable places to eat around where I’m staying, so I’ll have to rely on the hotel’s restaurant) and I had beef bhuna (a spicy, fried recipe), a bowl of dal (a type of split-lentil soup), polau (rice mixed with some vegetables and fruit), and water. After dinner, I retired to my room and fell asleep.

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