Returned to Dhaka two days ago since classes resumed at IUB today. With only four million people Chittagong wasn’t exactly relaxing but definitely easier to navigate compared to Dhaka. I met with Alam Khorshed, a former engineer who studied and worked in the USA and Canada for 17 years. In 2004 he changed careers and established a cultural center called Bishaudbangla for the purpose of exposing Bangladeshi traditions- older and newer ones- to the younger generation. The place is very inviting and has a cafe/book store, gallery, offers Bangla language classes and sells beautiful clothes- a great chance to get some shopping done. One evening Alam and I went to an art exhibit by a local painter at the Alliance Francaise which was a lot of fun.
One of the things that struck me were the amount of hospitals in this city. There seemed to be at least one on every street- modern but shabby looking building that resembled a Motel Six. Alam remarked how private industry has caused this situation to explode. In the past, the government played a larger role in providing health care.
While photographing a marching band preparing for a gig in the old Portuguese district Shubasish Barua (his last name is very common among Buddhists in Bangladesh) appeared out of nowhere. He informed me that he was also a documentary photographer working for Drik Agency and in less then five minutes I was sitting in the living room of his families beautiful old home drinking coffee and eating chocolate cake. He excused himself as he was rushing off to a family function but I had a chance to have a good parent to parent talk with his 76 year old father that was very interesting! Never pass up an opportunity to talk with wise old men.
Ten minutes later my mobile phone rang and Shubasish arranged for a photographer friend of his to accompany me to Bandaban in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. I had already gone through the formalities of securing my travel permit from the district commissioner for the region since it is considered a sensitive area by the Bangladeshi Army. The next morning Tanvir and I were on our way.