DHAKA: Santa Lakševica, a Latvian online activist, has recently visited Bangladesh and after returning home she wrote about Bangladesh. In the writing she said that western people have totally wrong impression about 3rd World countries.
She said ‘I believe it (Bangladeshi culture) is pretty similar to Indian culture and tradition because they are neighbor countries with similar historical background. But Muslim religion mixed with Hinduism and Christianity, small territory with high number of population and other small things makes it totally different’.
The writer mentions the facts below:
1. It is Muslim country with prayers 5 times a day. And you cannot miss it!! Each mosque has loud speakers where the priest sings a song (Azan) that calls for praying. The first prayer starts with the sunrise around 4:45. My sweet, sweet dreams… spoiled.
2. Muslim women do cover themselves and wear ‘burkas’. Not all of them do that, just some. But nowadays they wear it more and more often. They become more conservative not more open minded.
3. But people are not as religious as you could think at the first sight. So, rarely they pray 5 times a day every day. Mostly men go for prayers on Fridays. That’s why working week is from Sundays till Thursdays with Fridays and Saturdays as holidays. Almost everything is closed on Fridays.
4. Women love to be as colorful and shiny as possible! It is their everyday life to wear colorful saree or saluar khamiz with matching shining earrings, necklaces, bracelets, makeup and shoes. Yes, everyday! Whenever you step out your home, you need to look as good as possible, because others are looking at you, you know? And it looks so gorgeous- in West’s we have forgotten about color existents.
5. Men wear lungee or a kind of clothes that looks like a long skirt. Men really like it. It is light and comfortable in the hot weather.
6. Status and estate in society is a matter. The same rank people must be together, it’s unacceptable if a lower rank person gets married with a higher rank person. And as well, if you are lower estate, higher rank person will treat you nicely, but will always somehow show that you are just lower than I am. Human equivalence- it’s probably coming.
7. Population is huge, 160 million people need to live in this small country where half of land is water with rivers, lakes and ponds and the other half is deep jungles or uninhabitable hills. But they manage, it’s just always crowded: on streets, in buses, in trains, in shops, in parties, in restaurants, in houses, at home.
8. Mostly 3 generations are living in one home. It is not in their culture to live separately, they like to be together.
They are even afraid to move away from their parents, because they think they will feel lonely. That’s why some of the most popular questions that they ask me are: “Are you here with your parents? Are you here with your husband? You are alone??! Don’t you feel lonely?”
9. And elders are much respected. Young people respect and take care of elders of their parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. And young people listen to what elders tell. (Even if is a conservative dogma with no understanding about their children life or the 21st century).
10. When a younger person meets an elder person that he hasn’t seen for a while, he approaches him, touches elders feet and then touches his own chest and repeats this for 3 times to show the respect. Mean while the elder puts his hand on younger person’s head and gives blessing to him.
11. The main vehicle is rickshaw-tricycle. With rickshaws go not only people but it is perfectly suitable as any kind of goodies carrier. I would say that one rickshaw is comfortable for 2 people. But I have seen some missions impossible with cart of goodies and 4 people on a top or on mudguards.
12. Why play volleyball 5 against 5, if you can play 9 against 9?
13. It’s one of the rare countries where ‘national sport’ is cricket! And World Cup 11 exactly in Bangladesh! Lucky me! But, please, don’t ask me to watch the game... I don’t have 8-11 hours to watch just one game!
14. Everyone has at least one maid. If you don’t have and if you do everything yourself, it means you are a poor person. I was such a poor girl… for some time.
15. A lot of stuff people carry on their heads. Sometimes they put things in big baskets and then carry it on their heads. It’s amazing how many things you can put in that basket and that you are really able to carry it on your head, despite that you can barely pick it up with your hands.
16. Everything is about sitting. If you go shopping, in every shop there will be chairs and sellers all the time will ask you: sit, sister, sit! And they will beg you until you will sit. When you go and visit someone’s house, the first thing they will say to you: “Sit!” If people are standing and chatting servants come and ask: “Should I bring chairs, so you could sit?” “Boshen, apu! Boshen!”
17. To take a nap after lunch in your own shop on a bench or on your canteen table is so normal and casual.
18. And to belch or to fart or to rummage in your nose in front of other people as well is so normal.
19. In the street snack bars you can get tea, some their original snacks and sweets. Of course, no one knows how clean everything is. Anyway they believe that there are no bacteria in pond water, because they boil water and all bacteria die, you know! As well similarly they would use oil for fried snacks or lot of spices for food. But despite crazy oiliness most of them are sooo tasty!! Love!!
20. Weddings are one of the greatest traditions they have. And they would have so many parties and traditions. Some couples make engagement party before marriage.
I would say that it is quite similar to real marriage: fancy, with dresses, with some marriage traditions. Funny thing is that rich couples would make a big banner for themselves, big pictures with their names, yey!
Real traditional weddings are happening for 7 days. In first days bride would go to grooms relatives and opposite. Relatives would feed new person in family and would welcome him/her.
In coloring day all relatives would color them with some spices in yellow or green color. As a relative you bless groom or bride and you put spice on his/her face (most often on forehead), on arms and on finger nails.
Spices really soak in a body so afterwards you walk some days yellow.
In marriage ceremony the bride and the groom are dressed as colorfully and shiny as possible. When the groom and his family come, the bride’s relatives give ladies flower bracelets and throw flower petals on men.
Sometimes the young couple sits together, sometimes they put them separately.
The bride’s relatives put a lot of golden jewels on the bride. As well as a golden nose pin that shows that you are a married girl.
The young couple don’t eat themselves, their relatives feed them from one big plate, that symbolizes a long and wealthy life together.
21. For Hindu women marriage symbols are many. They have a red line on the head where the hair spilt into half, red tip, 2 white bracelets and one metal. That’s how wives must look every day.
22. There are two typical questions that people ask each other every day: “What did you eat? Did you take a shower?”
Here everything is about eating! They eat a lot and in every meal there are lots of items on a table. And because it’s hot here, people sweat, so personal hygiene is very important.
23. They wear and buy rich clothes and they take care of their hygiene, but they don’t care much about their environmental cleanness.
It’s not important to paint your house, walls and floor, to get rid of cobwebs, mice, cockroaches and other insects.
Streets are very dirty. And no matter how educated they are all of them litter on streets. But I believe in new generation, they will be different, they will make changes.
24. Traffic here is a perfect example that every chaos has its perfect order. There is only one rule: no rules! Red light – so what? Sign: can’t do something- so what? And on streets and roads you can find everything: starting from regular vehicles like cars, buses, trucks continuing with bikes, rickshaws, people, cows, goats, ducks and… But the roads are small, two way lines only.
So, max speed is 70-80 km/h, but most probably sometimes you would even stop to let by some crazy truck or bus driver that is overtaking other vehicle.
And Dhaka city can have nickname: traffic jam city! Most of the roads are 4-6 lines in one way, but traffic jam can last hours and hours and hours… Sometimes to go for 0.5 km it may take you 1-2 hours!
My friend had a situation when she went for shopping. She sat 5 hours in traffic jam when they understood they won’t make till market because it will be closed after an hour, so they went back home that took them 4 more hours. Have fun sitting all day in traffic jam!
25. To be a foreigner with light skin is to be famous in five minutes. Staring people, pointing on you with fingers, taking pictures, making videos (even if you eat) is everyday life.
26. Their traditional dance style is pretty funny, but interesting and even hard to learn with some specific finger, arm or feet movements. Hindi video clips are sooo funny! And Bengali movies are like musicals: situation and, woalla, they already sing and dance with background dancers too that come from nowhere.
27. Grocery is often packed in paper bags that are made from student notebooks, exam papers, books and compendiums. Unfortunately, the Bengali language I don’t read, but sometimes I find packages with pages medical books. Processus frontalis and sinus maxillaris!
28. Here everything is in contrast: a very beautifully painted house just beside an under construction house, a very nice place just beside slum, a very colorfully dressed person just beside a person dressed in black and white, very, very rich people and very, very poor people.
29. Family and relatives is the most important thing here. The bonds are very, very close. You may call your 3rd level cousin your brother or sister and you may call your nephew your son. You love your family, you take care of your family, and your family is everything.
30. And here everything is about sincerity and love toward others. And thinking and taking care about others. And about appreciating other care and love, and work and just being beside.
Love is in the air! And compassion is all around you. And God is always beside you.
Santa Lakševica concluded the writing saying that the world still is the nicest and the safest place where to live! No matter which country you choose.
BDST: 1757 HRS, MAY 11, 2014