Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dhaka Diary: Joi Bangla!

For those who didn't know, work took me to Dhaka, Bangladesh just in time to kick off the 2011 Cricket World Cup! Here are some (backdated) notes from that 4-day whirlwind trip...

Flight or Fight
My flight was on time and I arrived in Dhaka safe and sound. Except for the guy seated next to me who decided to blare a Bollywood duet on his mobile before take-off (had to tell him to shut it) and being welcomed by big fat mosquitoes at the conveyor belt, everything was well. But then, I had to remind myself that I was a foreigner in this country even if I didn't look like one ;) and needed to keep my fearless "Bombay girl" instincts aside.

Dhaka is all decked up for the 2011 Cricket World Cup (CWC). Everywhere you'll see signs bearing the CWC logo, and brands welcoming one and all to the big event. When I told one of the airport officials (who stopped me before I exited the airport) that I was here for the World Cup, he just let me go without a word.

My counterpart (NM) here picked me up from the airport and insisted I go to her home for lunch. And her folks had prepared a feast: rice, beef slow-cooked in whole spices, fried 'ilish maach' (hilsa fish which was highly recommended but I wasn't too thrilled by it), another fish preparation (which was super yummy), a mixed sabzi and salad. Enjoyed the meal and the conversations thoroughly. 

Before lunch, I had checked into my hotel. It's actually more of a homely guesthouse, and in a very quiet location called Gulshan surrounded by various consulates, so I'm guessing it's very safe. Met Paul, the manager who I had spoken to over the phone from India. A middle-aged stocky man, Paul was quite cooperative even before I reached Dhaka. I landed there forgetting to carry a printout of my email booking. No money was exchanged, yet I had a roof over my head in another country. Will try and review the place in another post with pics of my room.

The good news is that the hotel has decent wifi. As of now. So work/tweeting will not be a problem, I guess.

And I also remember that I haven't slept much over the past few days in the run-up to this trip. Been also running around coordinating with the client, my in-venue teams and various entities for accreditation, and helping a colleague with his travel plans for Sri Lanka, co-host of the CWC. Of late, I've been fighting a lot. With people, red tape, myself... I love travelling and this was my first solo trip in the real sense. But somewhere within, I was too stressed out to get excited about Dhaka.

Before I left for Dhaka, I did chat with NM for some details... Like if there was any dress code for women, safety while venturing out, etc. I was told there are very few women who dress in western clothes, but it's not strict as long as you're decently dressed. So I did make a mental note of what to pack (jeans + kurtas/tunic tops). But this Bombay girl was disappointed to learn that she wouldn't be able to venture out on her own late in the evening or at night. Plus I realised that not knowing Bangla was a huge barrier to me going anywhere or getting anything done. 

Sigh, aami Bangla jaani naa...

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