This is a Hindu Village apparently still there though the temple spire we could see is now gone, a casualty of political unrest. The village is isolated in the center of a golf course. The golf course is ringed by a race track for horse races. The separation is because Hindus and Muslims do not get along so well. The photo was captioned taken in 2008. The village looks very much as it did when I was there in 1969. By the way, the Hindus are really poor, while the golf course outside their village is for the rich. The golf course sports special hazards, sacred Hindu cows and the birds that attend them, also very large crows.
In 1967, my Dad got his second overseas American Society School posting, this time in Dacca, East Pakistan, now known as Dhaka, Bangladesh. In a long and complex story I wound up going with my Mom and Dad to this part of the world. Dhaka is centrally placed in Bangladesh and is far enough away from the main rivers and also high enough to miss most of the flooding that is seasonally associated with the local monsoon. In those days one of the most affluent areas in all Dhaka was the district called Dhanmondi. Many of the consular and embassy offices were located there and the biggest concentration of foreign nationals associated with diplomatic services also lived there. We settled temporarily in one house and then got another where we stayed for most of our two year tour. While there I actually held a job of sorts for a lot of the time in the Holy Family Hospital which still serves Dhaka today. There are major changes to Dhanmondi. I looked and could not recognize the area in the satellite photos. Most is newer than the end of the sixties.
"Dhanmondi (Bengali: ধানমন্ডি) is one of the most crowded planned areas in Dhaka city. Its origins can be traced back to the late 1950s, beginning as an affluent residential area, and over the decades evolving into a miniature city, where one can find everything from hospitals to malls, schools, banks, offices and universities.
"Dhanmondi has been traditionally known as an upmarket, affluent residential area. After the liberation war, it primarily consisted of two storied houses and fostered a quiet neighborhood environment. More recently, migration issues, aggressive real estate business policies, and increasing numbers of schools and shopping malls have transformed its quiet residential status to that of a more congested, commercial area.
"It is in Dhanmondi where the founding father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, lived and was assassinated, along with his entire family, in 1975."
It was expected of us to have chowkidars (gate guards), cooks and utility servants, who cleaned and served the meals. It was difficult to do with less than three people to do these functions. The school was assigned a driver as well. I got a drivers license early on as a matter of course, and so did we all but none of us drove much. It was too dangerous for us to be driving in case of an accident. It was much better to have a native driver. I got around in bicycle rickshaws and a ubiquitous vehicle we knew as a baby taxi which had a rain cover and a seat over the back two wheels of a three wheel scooter. It was otherwise open.
The unrest that led to the creation of Bangladesh in a break away of East from West Pakistan had begun before we left. It was serious but not so serious as we were leaving that we had to leave. However, one reason I quit working at the Holy Family Hospital was the decision that we made to limit my exposure to the city outside the Dhanmondi district. One day as I tried to return to the hospital after lunch at home, there was shooting just up the street and I went back home that day. The unrest got severe enough that the longtime government of Ayub Khan located in Karachi in West Pakistan was deposed and General Yaya Khan replaced him. That happened before we left. When we returned home, all hell broke loose in the east and that took care of that.
Here is a map of Dhanmondi district.I lived on the small square that is called Nazeeb Park though not on this map and is located just above the named Dhaka City College that did not exist in 1969. I lived on what you could call the southeast corner across from the park. Down south of there you will see the designation New Market. In the back of the New Market was a government licensed ganja (marijuana) shop. I did a fair amount of legal business there. I had to buy hashish on the black market because importing it was illegal. Bangladeshis smoked both hash and ganja mixed with tobacco. They used coconut water pipes or the clay heads they placed on the pipestems called chellums. They held the chellums in their hands wrapped in wetted cloths because they used a moist mix rolled together and chopped fine with a red hot tinder on top to drive the heat through and burn the dope. One of our crowd, fresh in country, dropped as if poleaxed from a good hit of that stuff and then promptly shit his pants. We had to dunk him in the lake to clean him on the way back home. Good times, eh? especially as we sat crowded together in a bay taxi, three of us, a close fit.
One of our cooks was named Nazir but I forget which one. The one I write of in the poem was a handsome white haired fellow of late middle age and his hair had a beautiful wave to it. His face was very kind. He was slender, perfectly porportioned but quite small. He spoke in English moderately well. Our other servants did not speak English that well. The cook ran things. Our driver, Gulmir also spoke English fairly well. Our cook hailed from country far to the south of Dhaka, closer to Chittagong. He was an excellent cook, trained in the British Indian tradition and a shrewd shopper on the open market, a skill necessary in a good cook.
This poem is posted as part of Big Tent Poetry's Friday gathering:
You got sick on us,
something like a leprosy.
We had to let go,
Send you home, your wife
bewailing your family's
fate. Who will give you
a cooking job now?
As for us, we've given up
the best banana
fritters in the world,
in the whole of Bangladesh.
This is no damn fair.
2 hours ago