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Published: November 30th 2010
Last night, I had a trip to Handi for some incredible food with some friends. When i say incredible food, i mean it. The tastiest Naan breads and perhaps the most wonderful chicken dish i have ever tasted. And all for under £5 - and thats expensive here! It is by far my favourite restaurant in Chittagong, a place i have been to many times, and will hopefully have my final meal out there!!
But the story really begins with the ride home. It involved a rickshaw, perhaps my favourite form of transport and something i will greatly miss riding in when i get home. Now, the main road which Handi is on is a dual carriageway type of road, and the restaurant is on completely the wrong side of the road for us to get home. So, we walked up a short way to find a rickshaw-wallah available to take us back. A very smiley man was willing to take us, and so we set off.
He decided it would be sensible to take us a certain distance in the opposite direction to most of the traffic, road rules simply are not adhered to! So there we were, at night, with no lights heading directly into oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, a pretty major crossroads occurs here too, so huge buses and trucks, manic CNG drivers and other rickshaws hurtled towards us whilst we attempted to cross the road. Terrifying, yes, but also pretty hilarious and exhilarating.
We moved past the busy crossroads, still heading in the wrong direction, when we were stopped by a police office who, without seeing Bonny and I, started shouting at the rickshaw-wallah for making an 'illegal' move. As soon as he saw us though, his disposition brightened!! He stopped the wallah and began to engage us in conversation. He was perplexed by what we were doing in Chittagong, asking us about our work in CGS, how long we have been in the city and, as usual, our opinions on Bangladesh! Both of us answered his questions politely and with a smile, hoping that he would let us go on our way, and not make the wallah turn around and find a suitable U-Turn place a long way in the wrong direction! Eventually, the police officer decided he had had enough conversation with us foreigners and waved us off, allowing the rickshaw-wallah to continue on his merry way, finding a place to swap onto the right side of the carriageway but still heading in the right direction!!
This story is indicative of Bangladesh. Firstly, a smile and engaging in polite conversation gets you a long way and opens doors that may otherwise be shut. Secondly, being a foreigner means bending the rules is acceptable. And finally, anyone in a position of power is willing to change his mind for the right price - it just so happened that this man's price was a conversation with foreigners in which he could practice his English - which was very good!!
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