Waiting to get picked up by this ocean liner
I shot this from a much smaller oversized row boat on the last day of 2008. I was getting a bit antsy hanging around my guesthouse these past few days so decided to take a boat to a town nearby called Munshiganj (pronounced Moon- she -gansh). Sounds like something out of Dr. Seuss. The idea of sitting on the upper deck of a boat with the sun on my back and watching the Buriganga river go by sounded like a relaxing way to spend the day. The trip over was calm enough with only a few people on the upper deck. Most were camping out below- huge families. Packed. It looked like a giant pajama party with Hindu musicals on the television.
The town was pleasant enough with several huge ponds the size of a city block surrounded by houses on four sides. Two young men from the local university got hold of me- this usually takes about 10 seconds to happen in Bangladesh. Their English was very good so at least we could communicate. They took me to their school and I thought this is a Bangladeshi version of Reed College complete with a quad/green area. I got to even meet a very talkative Chemistry major.
Had my usual lunch when I’m away from the guesthouse. A big plate of Indian samosas stuffed with potatoes and peanuts with tea and milk. I discovered a small street with men crouched in open air shops writing documents- some even with computers. They were translating and processing information for people who are illiterate. There must have been a dozen stalls set up for this purpose alone. When one man asked me where I was from and I told him Am-mer-reeka he smiled a called me a terrorist. First time that ever happened. A minute later he insisted on ordering me a cup of tea so I guess he wasn’t too hostile.
Back at the boat terminal over sized row boats ferry passengers out a few hundred feet and these huge steamers carrying what looked like over a thousand people stop in the middle of the river to drop off and pick up new customers. It’s pandemonium as the ship hands are selling and collecting little pieces of paper ticket out in the middle of the river. The return fare for the two hour trip was 40 cents. The ship going back was packed. Nowhere to sit on the upper deck. Only enough room to stand packed with everyone else except for a few people who spread out blankets and camped out on the floor. I tried not to think about those stories buried on the back page of the newspaper reporting several hundred people drowned off the bay of Bengal. We passed ship building docks and brick factories and as we got closer to Dhaka I noticed that they must be pumping an awful lot of raw sewage into the river. More pandemonium as we arrived unloading passengers. Absolutely amazing the way those ships come barreling into the terminal and somehow manage to squeeze into the tiny spaces allotted to them. Very typical of the premium for space in this country and the way people adapt to it.