I toured Bangladesh in the spring of 1998. As it happened, I went during an "Eid" (holiday). Hence my usual rejoinder: "I went to Bangladesh, but it was closed."

When you think of Bangladesh, of course, you think of poverty. There is poverty, but a country has to have SOMETHING going right to manage to fit 100 million plus into an area as small as Michigan, HALF of which is typically under water during the flooding.

As for the Bengalis, I found them friendly and helpful and far from the "helpless" label with which many would label them.

The Bangladeshi national anthem

Amar sonar Bamla,
Ami tomay bhalobashi,
Ciradin tomar akas, tomar batas, amar prane
Oma amar prane, bajay basi.

Sonar Bamla, Ami tomay bhalobasi.
O ma, Fagune tor amer bane ghrane
pagal kare, mari hay, hay re
O ma, Fagune tor amer bane ghrane pagal kare,
O ma, aghrane tor bhara ksete ki dekhechi
ami ki dekhechi madhur hasi

Sonar Bamla ami tomay bhalo basi,
ki sobha, ki chaya go ki sneha,
ki maya go ki acal bichayecha
bater mule, nadir kule kule.
Ma, tor mukher bani amar kane lage
suhar mato, mari hay hay re ma,
tor nadankhani malin hale, o ma,
ami nayanjale bhasi.

Amar Shonar Bangla (My Golden Bengal)*

My Bengal of gold, I love you
Forever your skies, your air set my heart
in tune as if it were a flute,
In Spring, Oh mother mine, the fragrance from
your mango-groves makes me wild with joy-
Ah, what a thrill!

In Autumn, Oh mother mine,
in the full-blossomes paddy fields,
I have seen spread all over - sweet smiles!
Ah, what a beauty, what shades,
what an affection and what a tenderness!
What a quilt have you spread at the feet of
banyan trees and along the banks of rivers!

Oh mother mine, words from your lips
are like Nectar to my ears!
Ah, what a thrill!
If sadness, Oh mother mine,
casts a gloom on your face,
my eyes are filled with tears!

*original Bangla words by Nobel Prize-winning poet Tagore. I have to comment on what an inspiring poem this is. How welcome a contrast to so many anthems obsessed with death and fighting.

Here's a trishaw, a typical mode of transportation

This is Lalberg fort in Dhaka.

The Lalberg is kind of a poor man's Red Fort. Bangladesh was conquered early by the British and had a lot less need of things like forts since it didn't really prosper before the Colonial era.

This is the Hussain Dalan, the main Shia mosque in Dhaka.

Here's yet another mosque. Note the Bangladeshis
swimming in the pool out front of the mosque.

Her is the Sitara (5 Star) Mosque,to
my eyes the prettiest on this tour.

This is an Armenian Church. At one time,
the Armenians, as in India, formed an important
part of the merchant community of the country,
but few remain. None even tended this church.

These are "boat people" who live on the river.

This is the "Pink Palace." At one time it belonged to a "rajbari," a nobleman. Later, an indigo millionaire lived in it.

Here's a typical street scene in Dhaka.

A sudden downpour surprises no one.

This is the Parliament building.

This is Zia's tomb. Zia was a "good dicatator" who
ruled Bangladesh during the early 1980s.

It tells you a bit about politics in Bangladesh
that a dictator merits this much attention.

Onward to Chittagong, the second city. This is a rare church.

This is the Shahi Jami-e-Masjid (City Mosque).

Okay, the "Genetic Computer School"?

This is the Nandakaran Monastery, a rare Buddhist
structure in this predominantly Moslem country.

Here's a street scene in Chittigong.

Onward to the Western (and somewhat richer) part of
the country. This the Parjatan Hotel in Rajashahi.

This is the Padma (Ganges) River.

Look at the size of that river, and this is
the DRY season. India is WAY over there.

This Shiva (Hindu) temple is in Puthia, near Rajshahi. The British used Puthia to "retire" a lot of petty local kings.

The nearby Govinda Temple is more famous.

The temple is famed for this terra cotta.

Squint and you'll see a rare Bengal tiger.

The streets of Rajshahi.

Here's a Bangladeshi High School.

Bangladeshi boys play cricket.

Some wanted me to take their picture.

So then others wanted their pictures taken also.
Bangladeshis are friendly and interested in strangers.

This is some of the country's famed rickshaw art.

This shows the Bangladeshi flag and verdant agriculture.
A lot of things grow here in the humid, rich climate.

Animals literally live with people. These goats held
no fear of me whatsoever. Baa! Baa! Baa!

This final view of the Ganges bids farewell to Bangladesh.


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