View Full Version : Andrew Miller the astute observer

October 10, 2003, 06:39 PM
This in itself is not unusual, especially on the subcontinent where cricket grounds form a natural centre of attention. But Dhaka is different. Like a galleon shipwrecked on a coral reef, the stadium - from the outside at least - has become so incorporated into the daily hustle and bustle, that it is barely recognisable for what it is.

The inner walls have become the home of innumerable electronics shops, with all manner of fancy gadgets for sale. The outer pillars, which prop up the overhanging concrete stands, provide inadequate shelter for some of Dhaka's legions of dispossessed - street children who huddle for warmth and occasionally tug at your sleeve for some spare change, and ragged women who sell thimbles of chai for the same purpose. It is quite a contrast to the more prosaic (post-independence) concrete bowl that makes up the National Hockey stadium, not more than 100 yards down the road.

The competition for space continues on the concourse in front of the ground. Dhaka traffic, which has developed its own peculiar - and highly effective - dynamic, is not concerned with such niceties as brakes and signalling. Instead, it is a free-for-all, in which the horn (a much underused weapon in the West) is often the difference between a stunning overtaking manoeuvre and a messy pile-up. The concourse, though, is the domain of Dhaka's signature sight - those wonderfully decorated bicycle rickshaws, which flutter in and out of each other's paths like giant (tinkling) butterflies.

It hardly seems justifiable, in a city where land comes at such a premium, that such a large area can be put aside for playing. But, on a non-match day at least, the sanctity of the ground is maintained with the minimum of effort, even though entry is as easy as walking into one of those Sony television shops. All that stood between the ground and the tunnel to the pitch was a lathi-bearing security guard who couldn't have been more than 14 years old. He sized me up for barely an instant, before ushering me through with a confused shrug.

I don't think I have read such candid, clear description of Dhaka even in Deshi Newspapers. :)

October 10, 2003, 08:43 PM
Arnab, I wanna have a go at the western imperialists, so easy, ok.

It is written with flair and really attempts to capture the "sense of the place" with graphic illustrations. Bernard Lewis would really be proud of him.
But the real tragedy is that although the writer tries to be sympathetic to this foreign place with his account of the essence of the stadium and people, it is basically negative romanticism. In short, he is trapped by a pre-formulated image , i.e "Orientalism".
Edward Said struggled so hard in his life to demonstrate what this "orientalism" meant to a western audience. Said was right, "orientalism' will linger on and continue its stealth influence on a non- suspect and "innocent" western media.:lol::lol:

October 10, 2003, 09:05 PM
As much as I like the late Edward Said's works, I think Andrew Miller has pictured Dhaka stadium and its surroundings to the T here. This is exactly the cynicism and disdain with which I viewed the place when I lived in Dhaka. I guess I was a detached observer with a closet westernized outlook on things.

October 11, 2003, 02:39 AM
I'm dunmb. Where exactly was the imperialist cynism in that last piece??

October 11, 2003, 02:54 AM
I don't think there's any. It's a pretty normal piece.

October 11, 2003, 09:19 AM
Guys, please look at my double smileys. Actually, earlier in the day I was rereading some paragraphs from an old copy of Said,s book "Orientalism". More specifically I was reading this passage wher he looks at european travellers in the 19th century. I guess that gulf that is described between the west and the east will be an antiquated notion. If not Said will still be a relevant source in this debate.
Here are some snipets from the book:

"Every european traveller or resident had to protect himself from its unsettling influences."
"In most cases, the Orient seemed to have offended sexual propriety;everything about the orient.

"But there were were other sorts of threats than sex. All of them wore away the European discreteness and rationality of time,space, and personal identity. In the Orient one suddenly confronted unimaginable antiquity, inhuman beauty, boundless distance. "