Rangpur, North Bengal
I got an early start from Sikkim and reached the Bangladesh border by early afternoon. Interesting to travel through three distinct countries cultures by land in half a day. First impression back in Bangladesh is the amount of people everywhere- even compared to India. Every few miles is another bustling village along the road. The entire country is the same size as Wisconsin with over 150 million people.
Yet another coincidence. Less then two hours into Bangladesh on a local bus, my mobile phone rang and it was Stijn Pieters, a Belgium photographer I had spent some time with a couple of months back in Dhaka. He called from Rangpur, the place I was heading to. We ended up traveling together in the region for the next four days. Some of the university and apartment building in Rangpur reminded me of Eastern bloc architecture. Just a few kilometers outside of town by richshaw we visited a village and were immediately welcomed by the local steering commitee of over 50 people.
Beautiful eleven hour train ride up to Dinajpur, close to the India border. It was nice to get “off the road” from the blasting horns and watch the landscape of green and yellow mustard fields go by. At the train station a man waits for me with a flower. It’s Siful, the driver who takes me back to NGO where I’ll be staying for five days. Mesbah is a student at IUB and his mother’s family runs Aloha Social Services of Bangladesh. She has been a woman’s activist for over twenty years. The name of the NGO was inspired by some of the doctors who come over from Hawaii every year to provide medical care. They also partner with a German NGO called Shanti. This region is one of the poorest parts of the country.
‘Local” buses in North Bengal
I wasn’t planning to be in Bangladesh for all of the cow sacrifices but ended up celebrating Eid-Ul-Azha. with Mesbah and family. We took a few side trips to Thakurgaon and Saidpur and there learnt the important meaning of the word “gate lock”. The only problem was that all of the buses in the area were not “gate locked” so they stopped every other mile to pick up and stuff in as many passengers as possible.