WORLDCOOK'S TRAVELS - Daily life in Bangladesh (1)
Recipes from Bangladesh Travel to Bangladesh Travel to other countries

The river is the heart of liveAs most of the houses have no running water in rural areas, a major part of life centers around the river. People wash themselves as well as their clothes in the river or the pond. From the car, you see sometimes women, completely covered in a sari, get into the water, and then suddenly you see a head and a floating sari.
The wash is done in the river and, as can be seen from the picture, is left out to dry on the side. Many people get their water from pump, but they are often not close to the house and as washing takes a lot of water, it is much easier to carry your clothes to the water than to carry many buckets of water towards your clothes.
The river is also a source of fun. Many children, mostly boys, and sometimes men, are swimming as soon as the school or working day is over.Small lights in shops alongside the road
When driving from village to village along the small roads, you see many little shops on the left and right side. At night this is especially nice, as they all have a small lamp or candle shining, and men are always gathering around it, having their social time.
The goods you can buy are unfortunately not so attractive, being mainly sweets and crisps, many of them well beyond due date, but the little lights certainly add to the atmosphere.
When the harsh ninth month of Ramadan has arrived, the sunny days consist of one long gloomy waiting period: for Iftar to come. The whole day eating is not allowed, and for an unclear reason (at least unclear to me) the favorite food after a day of fasting is deep-fried and most of it is sweet. Also puffed rice is very popular. From 5 o'clock, the streets are getting empty, everybody is running towards the little stalls where the Iftar food is exhibited, to buy big bags with different kinds of greasy food, only to mix them before eating afterwards. I love to get invited to the Iftar parties, but after a week or so, I also crave for fresh fruit and green leafy vegetables.

Deep fried Iftar foodOne of the popular kinds of Iftar food

The bride's face is covered with yellow pasteMarriage is a big issue in Bangladesh; its celebration is split up in several days and takes about 5 days, and the dowries and costs are so high, that parents, especially parents of the bride, have to suffer for half a lifetime. This is one of the reasons girls still are married out young; the older the girl, the higher the dowry that must be paid. And in this country, 25 is already old for an unmarried girl. Even though the law forbids marriage under 18, lots of girls still marry at their 14th.
On the first day, the Gaye Holud ceremony, the party given by the bride's parents, is held. Holud means turmeric, the yellow curry-like spice that is used in many Bangladeshi and Indian dishes. The turmeric is put on the face of the bride and the groom.
The bride is by tradition dressed in a beautiful red sari. In the middle of a room, two decorated chairs are put and on this day, she sits there all alone, and in most of the cases that we have attended, completely unsmiling. Rows of chairs are facing her, where the guest can take place to endlessly admire her timeless beauty. After the admiration, the guests receive a dinner as reward. Normally, huge numbers of guests are invited, ranging between a hundred and thousands. When one load of guests is having dinner, the next load is already waiting behind the chairs.

Thousands of wedding guests

The birth of a child is obviously also an important occasion. Minimally one week after its birth, the Akika (Aqiqah) is performed for Muslim children. Akika is the name-giving ceremony. A strand of hair is taken from the baby by the imam and in exchange it gets some honey. The father has to secretly bury that hair. Goats are to be slaughtered - two if it is a boy, one if it is a girl. Gender empowerment is still a minor issue here. Consequently, there will be an enormous party, where food has to be served for hundreds of guests. The food will be distributed evenly: one third for the poor, one third for distant relatives and one third for the parents and close relatives. Some poor families will be in deep financial trouble as a result of these kinds of ceremonies, but they find these expenses unavoidable for the well-being of their newly born.

If a public activity takes place, the streets will be flooded with policemen. Especially if there is a hartal, a protest, or a visit of a high level official from abroad, all police men are brought in from all over the country. (A smart terrorist might grab his chances outside Dhaka days like these). But apart from the usual police, there is also the RAB (Rapid Action Battalion). This RAB “elite anti-crime corps” was put into life in 2003 by the government. Their members look very grim and dark and are clad in the same black shirts, trousers, shoes, sunglasses and head scarf. The battalion is extremely active: over 2005 about 600 people have been killed “in crossfire” by them. Seemingly, the victims even fire back when they are chained, and especially if they happen to be members of for instance a forbidden political party.
Protests are regularly uttered by human rights activists and journalists, but the reaction of the government is, that “encounter killings” happen all over the world. At least, they state, serious crime has dropped by half.

Click for large pictureThe year in Bangladesh, has six seasons, and as a result, different varieties of rice are cultivated. There are three different varieties, namely aus, aman and boro, and all grow under different circumstances. The aman rice is sown in the rainy season and needs no irrigation. Unfortunately, this year the amount of rain was rather small and therefore, the aman harvest is insufficient. As the rice supply normally just meets the demand, the gap will have to be bridged by the production of boro rice. This variety however grows in winter and as it hardly rains in that period, a considerable irrigation is needed, which again puts a pressure on the electricity demand.
In the month of August already, without any irrigation, the electricity demand by far exceeds the supply and power cuts are a daily occurrence, from 3-4 hours in Dhaka to double that length in rural areas. Rice is the absolute most popular staple food in Bangladesh. There is no scope for extra supply of electricity, without further damaging the daily life in Bangladesh. The year 2006 will be another long and difficult year for the poor and hungry people.

More picturesClick for more daily life - 2

Click for more daily life - 3