Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2012

Buriganga River

The Buriganga River cuts through Dhaka like an interstate. Commercial and public transportation create constant activity back and forth between the banks, and large ferries connect Dhaka (metro area population-over 22 million) with the other communities around the riverine delta at the apex of Bengal Bay.

East, west, and south of the city the Brahmaputra, the Ganges/Padma, the Mehna, and numerous smaller rivers like the Buriganga gradually merge as they drain the majority of the Himalayas into the bay.

For more photos from the Buriganga River, go to https://www.billdurrence.com/index/G0000Pf25lXK9vOc

Bangladesh, 2012

Panam Nagar

I was sitting at my desk thinking about what to write about this, but realized, there is nothing I can say about a pink burka that the pink burka does not already say, and better than me. I will say that it was about 110 degrees F. that day, and I felt like I was dressed too warmly with just a t-shirt and shorts.

Panam Nagar is a short drive from Dhaka, the current capital of Bangladesh. It was established in the late 13th century and was a trading and political hub as the capital of Bengal in the 15th century. Today the elaborate buildings sit, mostly abandoned, slowly deteriorating. I suppose location really is everything when it comes to real estate. These places would command a very large purchase price, and substantial financial commitment to renovation if they were sitting in Savannah.

To see some of the Panam Nagar architecture, go to https://www.billdurrence.com/index/G0000xJrK3P2v4ek

Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2012

Sonargaon, Bangladesh

We had hired a rickshaw driver outside our hotel entrance to tour us around in the city of Dhaka for the day, and he turned out to be a great guide, so we arranged with him to get a car and driver and take us into the surrounding countryside the next day.

One of our first stops was the Goaldi Mosque, built in the 1500s and very nicely restored. While we were checking it out, and making a few photos, we heard/saw this commotion at the madrassa next door. You don’t get much variety day-to-day in the countryside, so a couple of large Americans layered with cameras are downright exotic. The boys’ instructors decided they would probably get everyone back to their studies quicker if they just let them say hello to us, and pose for a photograph. You can see in the formal group shot in the web-gallery (link below), the instructors were less enthusiastic than the boys.

It was inevitable that Randy and I would stand out in a place like Bangladesh. You just roll with it, smile, be friendly, respect local customs. The reception was much warmer than I expected, for a couple of infidels in a Muslim country. We were regularly asked to be in people’s photos, including several men who paired us with their wives, who were often dressed in hijabs, or even burkas. Whatever conservative posture the form of the clothing carried, many of the women showed a real flare in the colors, patterns, and fabrics they would combine in what at first looks like simple, modest apparel.

For the Bangladesh gallery, go to https://www.billdurrence.com/index/G0000xJrK3P2v4ek

Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2012

Hindu Street

Hindu Street is a commercial Hindu enclave in Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh, primarily and officially Muslim, and exploring this area was the first thing my traveling partner, Randy, and I did on what would be a three week trip through Bangladesh and India.

I was a day late getting to Dhaka; maybe it was kismet. My reason for making this journey was Dad. My flight from Beijing to Dhaka took off so late, when we reached the one stop on the flight, Kunming, that airport was shut down and we could not continue, so several of us were taken to a local -1 star hotel to wait for the next day’s once-a-day only flight to Dhaka.

Dad was a supply sergeant in the US Army Air Corps, stationed at one of the approximately 25 airbases the Allies had setup in Bengal (Bangladesh and Pakistan were both still part of India then) to fly supplies over the Himalayas (“The Hump”) to General Chiang Kai Shek in Kunming, during World War II. My flight out of China was the same route as the return flight of all those crews who flew in the most dangerous flying conditions. The combination of altitude, constant bad weather, and Japanese fighter pilots led to more downed planes here than in Europe.

I’ve wondered what a country boy from south Georgia who did not finish the seventh grade must have thought of a place so alien to everything he knew. He never said much about his service, or anything else for that matter; Dad was a man of few words, but I remember once he said he did not understand how there could be so much hunger when there were cows freely walking the streets. Dad’s been gone almost 50 years now, but a few years ago I was looking in a pocket notepad he had and discovered he had written down the arrival and departure date and time for every post he was sent to, including all the connections for the flights to get from Miami to Dhaka, a convoluted trip that went down the east coast of South America, across the southern Atlantic via Ascension Island, and then through central Africa, Yemen, Oman, and across India. No exposition, few words like I said, just names, dates, and times. Hoping to follow his journey became a major item on my bucket list.

My trip was 67 years after Dad was there, so there are certainly differences, but my hunch is what he found there was much the same as what I found–poverty, poor infrastructure, noise and chaos in the streets, but also an easy acceptance, courtesy, curiosity about who we were, and a willingness to share their world. For the next few weeks I’ll be reliving that journey with the first step being a new gallery on my website, “City, Region, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2012.” These photos are a selection from wandering the streets and driving out in the countryside to see Panam Nagar, the capital of the fifteenth-century Bengal ruler Isa Khan, an elaborate place mostly abandoned now.

To see the gallery, go to https://www.billdurrence.com/index/G0000xJrK3P2v4ek