Another adventure in Bangladesh. On Saturday the four students and I went sightseeing. We hired a van for the day and took in the old Hindu Village about two and half hours out of Dhaka. Travel in Dhaka is always longer than you would expect and this day was no different than any other. We were stopped for one hour while construction was being done to a fly over, essentially the same as a clover leaf in Canada. Apparently, the left hand turns has been causing massive traffic delays and the solution is a fly over that allows the vehicles to go around and over the road below and then proceed the way they would have if they could make the left turn. The construction of this major highway is much different than in Canada, there are no massive cranes lifting preformed cement sections onto the road. In Bangladesh labourers are always available and they are cheap. So you will see strings of people hand digging the ground to clear the roadway and then another group leveling the road and a final group spreading the cement. Quite a process.
Our first stop this day was a Arts and Crafts center
that is dedicated to Father of Bangladesh. I could not work out if he had lived there or not, but the house is being restored with support from Korea and Norway. Despite the current state of disrepair, the building demonstrated potential to be an amazing work of art. The fine details included mosaic tiles, sculptures under the eaves and over windows and doors. At the front door was a lake with a ghat, actually just steps to the water. On either side of the ghat are two very large white horses with riders - sadly they were tilting into the water quite a bit and I fear they may land in the lake soon. In the cultural center there were exhibits of wooden and metal sandals and such, and a few tapestries that demonstrated the needlework of the time.
Our second stop was to Pama Village. This is an archeological site that curiously is unprotected from squatters and vandals. Although the remains are only one very long block, you can tell that this was an area of great wealth. Apparently it is a Hindu village that was deserted by the inhabitants at about the time of the partition with
India and Pakistan, so around the 1940's. I was impressed by the art work created by the builders. It is hard to remember that the workers may or may not have used molds to create the leaf reliefs and other art. The homes are crumbling away as red brick tends to do when it is very old and will soon be just piles of rubble. There were signs that people had added electricity and were living in some of these ruins. I am surprised that UNESCO has not designated this site, or maybe there is not interest in maintaining the Hindu culture in an Islamic country.
We traveled through lush green countryside for almost another hour and finally reach the Taj Mahal- yes that is what I said. The local people refer to it as the "little Taj Mahal" and it is almost a perfect replica of the original. The place was over run with young lovers and newly married people, it appears to be as romantic and romanticized as the original structure as well. With rain threatening we started our journey home only to be stopped in our tracks by an elephant and his handler. I have never
been that close to such a big, intelligent animal. After we took pictures, the handler said one word and elephant stuck its trunk through the open window to take hold of the money that was required for the picture. Quite a surprise for the woman sitting in the front seat I must say, but she handled it well and the money was taken away without incident.
I have only three weeks left in Bangladesh. I continue to find the people very resilient and hopeful and optimistic. I still believe that Dhaka is built on garbage and sand and will inevitably be washed away as the sea levels rise. I also feel that if everyone got out and scrubbed down the outside of their building, it would feel cleaner here. I have gone through several bottles of hand sanitizer and continue to feel dirty and crawling with ants and cockroaches. Not a pleasant feeling to say the least. I seek refuge in my mosquito net and feel hot and sticky all night, but with fewer bites than people who choose not to use a net.
Take care everyone
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