Monday, December 06, 2004

Think how lucky you are you don't live in Bangladesh 

If you are reading this blog, it is almost certainly the case that the biggest thrill in your life is not checking out the new overpass, because your country has never had one before:
Some visitors come on day trips from rural areas while others live in the capital Dhaka who enjoy the atmosphere around the new overpass, Monday's English language Daily Star said.

"We have seen bridges over rivers but never a road on top of another," a visitor named Nazmul told the newspaper, adding he had travelled from central Narsinghdi district with a friend to see the overpass.

You don't want to be anywhere near Dhaka when Bangladesh gets its first tunnel. Not that there is one on the drawing board. But still.

I actually almost died in Dhaka once. Back in 1986 I was flying from Rangoon to Kathmandu on the world's grodiest airline (or at least the grodiest airline on which I have ever secured carriage). I was on this airline because the alternative, Royal Thai, was like $50 more and to my travelling companion that was an enormous sum (fast forward 18 years, and he's a lot wealthier than I am, so all that thrift seems to have paid off).

We had spent a week in Burma and toward the end of the visit I was coming down with a hideous fever-inducing gut-liquidating Burmese bug. Rather than do the smart thing and go back to Bangkok immediately, we decided to press on to Kathmandu. Who wants to miss Kathmandu during the rainy season? Actually, going to Kathmandu was not as dopey as it seems in retrospect because we had read that the Canadians staffed a hospital there that served up some pretty decent Western medicine. This may have been utter bullshit, but it was the sort of utter bullshit that you believe when you are fighting off a fever in the Rangoon airport.

Unfortunately, Bimen Bangladesh's plane broke during the layover in Dhaka, and it thereafter took three days to fix. It follows that we didn't get to the hospital with Canadians on any schedule consistent with the progression of my infection.

The airline put us up in the second best hotel in Dhaka, which was a dump, blessed though it was with air conditioning and Western toilets. My fever got worse, and eventually I couldn't retain any water or food. I trembled in bed sort of hoping to get better, and after a couple of days it was probably clear that I was in some trouble. Of course, idiot that I was I did not appreciate my plight.

Fortunately, my friend had the presence of mind to ask the concierge whether he could round up a doctor. He could, but it would be "berry, berry expensive." My friend, always watching his takas, quickly calculated the cost of the proposed house call at approximately US$2, which seemed like a bargain even to him. He also rounded up some oral rehydration salts, which were probably what saved me.

The doctor, complete with traditional black leather bag and command of English, arrived to probe me and offer up solutions. He took my temperature, agreed that the rehydration salts were the right move, and then announced: "I recommend milk of gleen coconut." At this my friend burst out laughing (he's that kind of guy).

Being nobody's fool, I moaned and asked "why?" he recommended "milk of gleen coconut," to which he offered an extremely learned description of all the various electrolytes that can be found therein. Basically, green coconuts are a poor man's Gatorade. Asked where green coconuts might be found, the concierge (who was watching all of this) pointed out the window. There was a man missing both legs, wearing only a cloth, sitting behind a huge pile of green coconuts. My sicko friend burst out laughing again! The concierge dispatched a deputy to secure a supply.

Of course, I also asked the doctor if he had anything a bit more, er, "Western." He produced from his bag a blister package with pills that purported to be antibiotics, and said they were "berry, berry expensive." Also US$2. They had the old Squibb logo, which reassured foolish me of their quality.

The doctor also gave me some tablets about the size of a quarter, which he said were for diarrhea. He told me to take one a day. The first day I took half of one tablet, and I didn't "do number two" again for more than a week. Powerful stuff.

So much as I respect the tremendous progress in Bangladesh during the last twenty years, I can also understand why an overpass qualifies as a tourist destination.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Dec 06, 11:14:00 PM:

"It could be worse. You could be in Bangladesh"  

By Blogger Rezwan, at Thu Dec 09, 04:03:00 AM:

Its very interesting to know about your experience in Dhaka 18 years ago. Things changed a lot since then.

I am against all the stereotyping we do about people of the wider world without having much information. There is a vast and diversified world out there. But
many see all this with the eyes of a citizen of a developed country. Some call this a jaundice-eyed-view. Its not fair to compare living standards of other countries according to US or other developed country standards.

Please read my reply to your post

I hope you would understand.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jun 19, 04:19:00 PM:

i am a bangladeshi citizen aged 28 and currently living at usa . bangladesh is a hell hole and people have no self respect and its a corrupt country to the last bone and i am ashamed to be a bangladeshi as i certainly is smarter then the rest to be known as one of them is the biggest shame in my life. currently i am telling everyone i am from india , bangalore and named deepak persena and seems to regained some respect from colligues.  

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