(Taken while riding a small ferry across the Buriganga)
While writing my thesis on two cities I love – Mumbai and Shanghai – I learned that Dhaka was the densest city in the world, about 1.3 times as dense as Mumbai. Knowing only this one fact about Dhaka was enough to make me decide that I’d be going to Bangladesh for spring break. Cancun isn’t really my thing anyways.I went there to understand what being the densest city in the world means, which was rather naive because I was only going there for two weeks, by myself, with no plans, and not knowing much about the development of the city. It felt just about as dense as Mumbai or like crowded parts of China, so in the end it wasn’t its density that struck me, it was the people that lived there.In all my travels I’ve never been asked by so many people to take their picture, I’ve never had strangers buy be tea, and I’ve never left my debit card in an ATM only to have a man find me minutes later and hand me my card with $200 he had accidentally withdrawn with it – that could have ended much worse.Anyways, here a few of the pictures from that experience.
On the banks of the Buriganga in Kamrangirchar, Dhaka.
I had just taken the younger man’s photo, but he was still curious about the lens.
You don’t need to be in focus to see a clear smile.
(A toll collector sits on the banks of the Buriganga)
The quality of this picture isn’t great, but the moment I took it sticks with me. About 500,000 Jamaat-e-Ismali supporters had rode up from Chittagong to protest in Dhaka against “Zionist and Atheist Bloggers” and trails against some of their members for war crimes committed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. No women were allowed in the protest, they were calling for death to the “Zionist Bloggers”, and yet they were incredibly nice to me. I believe they mistook my skin color and larger camera for the telltale signs of foreign media – I was even allowed up on a bridge overlooking the protest with “other” members of the media. That’s when these three approached, shook my hand, and asked me to take their picture. They smiled, then went off into the crowd.
A movie fan, probably.
This is the only female who asked me to take her picture.
It cost one taka to cross the river ($1 = ~75 taka at the time). Normally the oarsman will wait to fill up his boat with passengers before crossing but as soon as I got in he pushed off. He smiled, was nice, then motioned for me to take his picture. When the lens when up a stern look replaced his smile. I was more than happy to pay to have the boat to myself just to get this picture.