Friday, June 13, 2014


View of Dhaka, Bangladesh. There have been huge changes since the late sixties when I knew the city.

This poem is a fiction. Bangladesh is not, though when I was there it was East Pakistan. At the partition of India in 1947, the British cut off a substantial amount of territory in the west and East Bengal in the east to attempt a peaceful resolution of the older Hindu cultures (there are several) and the Muslim overlay that is more recent. Of course by European and American standards, both the Hindu and Muslim groups are old.

Thus in Bangladesh and Pakistan Islam holds sway while in India Hinduism is dominant. A quick check shows any movement to reunite the countries is not practical at this time.

When I was in East Pakistan, there was a significant uprising in my last year there. It was only a short time before my departure that Ayub Khan handed his leadership over to the military and it's leader Yaya Khan. That was in 1969. A couple years after my return to the states, the unrest in the east culminated in the seige and surrender of Dhaka in December, 1971. That's when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan.

India and Pakistan hover on the edge of war, and their conflict over Kashmir is overt. There are areas in the Hindu Kush on either side of the contested border where travel is totally restricted. Part of the bad blood between India and Pakistan stems from India's participation in separating East from West Pakistan, which was definitely in India's interest.

Currently Bangladesh is over 89% Muslim and only 8% Hindu.

The most beautiful Hindu woman I have ever known was the daughter of the Indian High Commisioner to East Pakistan. She claimed to be fluent in five European languages and six Indian languages. She said she would think about things in the languages best suited for that sort of thought. She was drop dead gorgeous and brilliant. Unfortunately, she was also absolutely batshit crazy or at least it seemed so.


Most of all, mostly
it was the smell that took me
back to monsoon streets,
to open sewers
beside the ox carts, rickshaws,
baby taxis - we called
them that though they had
another name in Bangla,
of that I am sure.

It was the fat smell
and in it right there between
the incense and stink,
right there, that's the way
you looked at me, and kohl rimmed
your amazing eyes.

September 17, 2010 4:20 PM

View of Sonargaon, Bangladesh, an older city, probably basically unchanged even though the country has undergone so much.

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