Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world. The city of Dhaka is infamous for its chaotic crowds and traffic. I had been warned my friends about how chaotic Bangladesh and the Dhaka International Airport can be. Of course, this being my first solo journey ever, I was a little worried about having decided on Bangladesh on an impulse. I wondered if I would like living and working in Dhaka and if I would be miserable within the first few hours, wanting to take the first flight back. Then, I decided that I would keep an open mind and get my own experiences.
As it turns out, the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport is no jungle. The staff was friendly, just like they are at other airports. Bangladeshi people, in general, (I have to say this after spending some time living in Dhaka) are very helpful. Some of them are willing to go well out of their way to help you, simply because you are visiting their country, and they are proud of that.
The traffic in Dhaka is crazy, especially in the evenings. One of the reasons is the road work going on along the Mirpur road. I guess that makes all the drivers (auto-rickshaw, taxi and bus) a little crazy. I mean, these guys make you feel like you are in a Hollywood thriller/action movie. One crazy hotel cab driver drove me to the Grand Prince Hotel in Mirpur, where I was to begin my Grameen Bank Internship the next day. Although I was exhausted, I didn’t want to die sleeping in a car, so I kept my eyes wide open throughout the journey. It was strange, trying to make out the shapes of the people, trees and vehicles that passed us by in the darkness, with no street lights in the city.
Walking the 10 minutes distance to the Grameen Bank early the next morning, introduced me to the sights and sounds of Dhaka. What fascinated me most were the cycle rickshaws. They are beautiful, adorned with vibrant colours and unique rickshaw art. The cycle rickshaw riders are like true heroes, I would learn in a few days. Shopkeepers were just getting started, cleaning their wares, arranging window displays. Roadside vendors, selling fruits, vegetables and kitchen wares were busy setting up their makeshift carts, sometimes shouting, “Hello, how are you?”, having spotted us foreign interns walking along. Tourism is very new to the country and most people can only say, “How are you?” and “Fine, thank you”, but no more in English. Beggars, young and old, were getting ready to start business, positioning themselves along the footpath, at the same time chatting up the vendors. Men stood in small groups on the street, sipping on their morning tea from the tea vendor. Groups of school children huddled, some walking to school, some waiting for the bus and some younger ones being packed into cycle or auto rickshaws. The traffic on the roads moved in all possible directions, as the drivers pleased. We walked along, following the logo of the Grameen Bank on a tall building not far away, taking it all in. Just another morning in Mirpur, Dhaka.