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  #1  
Old December 11, 2019, 05:18 AM
Aritro Aritro is offline
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Default Impressions of a returned emigre in Dhaka

Hi folks, I'm a 32 year old Australian-Deshi who's come back for a 4-6 month stint in Dhaka to study Bangla in the program they run at IUB for foreigners and foreign-raised Deshis. It's a fantastic program with individualised, self-directed study provided by experienced teachers, and it's gone a long way towards improving my reading, writing and speaking abilities.

I moved away when I was 7 and have visited roughly every 5 years since, so it's usually a long time between drinks and although I try my best to soak the place up when I come back, it's only a matter of time before I feel dislocated from it again after going back to Australia. When you don't come back often enough, the motherland becomes an abstraction in your head, something that exists far away and you only have your fading memories to form an impression of it - and to make sense of who you are. I've always had a desire to move back for an extended period and get to know the place and get my Bangla back to fluency. But it was never clear what sort of work I'd actually be able to do here, until it occurred to me to just enroll somewhere to and directly study the language.

I came back in August and it's definitely been a difficult adjustment. Here's some of the good and the bad.

The good

The restaurant culture: the range of restaurants now serving quality local and foreign cuisines is no longer localised to Gulshan, and it's fantastic. Dhaka is now basically a world class food city. And having a restaurant scene to check out gives you a lot to occupy your spare time.

The coffee: I realise this is maybe the most bideshi of concerns, but once you're used to good quality coffee, you really notice its absence when you go to countries that don't have it. I have no hesitation in declaring that there's now better quality coffee available here than there is in London, and there's loads of places you can find it.

The bookshops: I've found some of my favourite bookshops in the world in Dhaka. And I love that even the small Boi Bichitra type places have cheap Indian prints of good English books I'd want to read.

Dhanmondi Lake: I love this place and do a 90 minute lap of it every day. It's a fantastic place to get your head right, and various sections of it are so jomjomat, it's great for people watching.

Uber: I have no idea how the owners of these cars make any money with the margins involved, but having Uber to get around instead of relying on CNGs and rickshas has made Dhaka a far better experience.

The clothes shops: I've been able to replenish a very tattered and fading wardrobe with the export-quality garments that are around at a fraction of the price you'd pay overseas.

Not feeling like you're an outsider in someone else's country: I don't want to exaggerate this aspect of it, because I certainly feel like a bideshi over here. But I also notice the distinct absence of a feeling I've always carried around since my childhood in Australia - that of being visibly different, and potentially open to racial abuse by white people. And as my Bangla's got better, I feel less and less like a fish out of water over here.

The bad

Obviously the traffic - It goes without saying, but it really does ruin your quality of life having to sit in a car for ages, and having to brace yourself for the prospect of doing so.

I also remember that one of the nice aspects of Dhaka was that people used to visit each other all the time, and it's seemed fairly clear to me that that aspect of Dhaka life has becoming eroded.

The overcrowding - Again, a very obvious thing to say, but I find myself absolutely exhausted at the end of each from the noise, the movement, and all the faces. A trip last week to Bombay and Kolkata - two cities notorious for overcrowding - was notable for how much less crowded and open both cities felt compared to ours.

Lost live-music culture - One of the things I was jealous of while growing up was how many gigs the people I knew in Dhaka seemed to go to all the time. I'm told the Holey attacks have made public music events a lot harder to get approval for, which is a shame, as I'd always wanted to come here and go to lots of gigs.

The loss of gach-pala and water bodies - I've heard a lot about how much of the natural environment has been lost to unplanned urbanisation over the years, and I think it's a real shame. The tree-lined Ramna area is a much nicer placer to be in than most others, and visiting that neighbourhood only reinforces how much I feel the absence of greenery in other areas. I saw a photo of Mirpur Road circa 1983 in the "400 years of Dhaka history" Facebook group and it really filled me with a sense of loss seeing the lack of traffic on the roads and the huge trees all around the Alliance Francais building. My older relatives tell me all of Dhaka used to look like that - what a shame it doesn't any more.

All in all it's been one of the most worthwhile experiences of my life, and something I've wanted to do for years and years. I'm on a career break at the moment so I took the opportunity to finally do it and I'll never regret it. I've finally been able to engage with the work of Rabindranath in the original Bangla which has been as thrilling as I'd hoped. I've also read some poetry by Jibananda Das and Nazrul Islam which, in addition to being brilliant, has given my own small stake in the great canon of Bangla literature.

I do find it a very tough place to live, which gets easier in some ways with more time, although the crowding and the traffic actually seem less tolerable the longer I'm here. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens after the metro rail is finished. I like to think Dhaka will feel like a much more open and agreeable place when there's a bit more space to breathe and you don't feel like it's going to be a mission to get somewhere.
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  #2  
Old December 11, 2019, 08:34 AM
iDumb iDumb is offline
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The feeling of inclusiveness is all great until you get mugged.

Going back to an University setting to study at age 32 will give anyone a refreshing feeling Dhaka or not . I guess Dhaka more so because of your ethnicity. You would get a little more attention being from outside than you would otherwise .

Nice write up but this sounds like a description of a dating destination . Let me know how u think of Dhaka in raising a child in your 30s instead of going to an University.
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  #3  
Old December 11, 2019, 08:46 AM
Aritro Aritro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iDumb
The feeling of inclusiveness is all great until you get mugged.

Going back to an University setting to study at age 32 will give anyone a refreshing feeling Dhaka or not . I guess Dhaka more so because of your ethnicity. You would get a little more attention being from outside than you would otherwise .

Nice write up but this sounds like a description of a dating destination . Let me know how u think of Dhaka in raising a child in your 30s instead of going to an University.
Heh, what a weird and snide reply. I tried to reflect on the place with balance and perspective - not least because it's patently disrespectful for an outsider to come back and find reasons to **** all over it.

Nevertheless, it sounds like someone's burnt out and feeling like being snippy. Best remedy might be to find a dodgy pharmacy that'll sell you some valium to chill the **** out.
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  #4  
Old December 11, 2019, 10:29 AM
iDumb iDumb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aritro
I tried to reflect on the place with balance and perspective
And I showed you why your perspective is biased and the content is superficial at best. You havnn't really said much. You like running next to a lake, like going to University in your 30s (no $hit), and there are lot of restaurants. This is not a day to day living perspective of a "returned emigrate". You are visiting and simply taking an aboard course.

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Nevertheless, it sounds like someone's burnt out and feeling like being snippy. Best remedy might be to find a dodgy pharmacy that'll sell you some valium to chill the **** out.
LOL. Now you wanna attack me because you didn't like my reply? What you thougght i would write.. what an awesome australian you are and so great you are learning bangla?? Some of us don't need to re-learn bangla. I can fully write, read and speak fluently. we are blessed with good brains.
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  #5  
Old December 11, 2019, 02:02 PM
Aritro Aritro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iDumb
And I showed you why your perspective is biased and the content is superficial at best. You havnn't really said much. You like running next to a lake, like going to University in your 30s (no $hit), and there are lot of restaurants. This is not a day to day living perspective of a "returned emigrate". You are visiting and simply taking an aboard course.
It's framed as the impressions of a returned emigre my family moved me somewhere else for most of my life (an emigre), and now I'm back, however briefly (or returned, to use a synonym) and these are my impressions. No **** they're superficial; I've been here three months and handpicked a smattering of things I like, under a subheading denoting things I've liked, in opposition to things I haven't. The first section is there to balance the second section. It wasn't meant to be a sociological treatise, and it's patently an outsider's perspective and doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't.

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LOL. Now you wanna attack me because you didn't like my reply? What you thougght i would write.. what an awesome australian you are and so great you are learning bangla?? Some of us don't need to re-learn bangla. I can fully write, read and speak fluently. we are blessed with good brains.
Heh, no, I don't like your reply because it was snide and snippy. But yeah, let's reappraise what you actually did, which was make a supercilious reference to me being at Uni in my 30s, followed up with an arcane non-sequitur about it being a "dating description" (what the **** does this actually mean?!), while doing a manful job of misapprehending the entire point of the post.

Well done.

Oh, and good job on the not needing to re-learn Bangla. Now see if you can turn your attentions (and that mighty brain, by God!) to learning how not to be such a massive tit.
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  #6  
Old December 11, 2019, 03:44 PM
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Shingara Shingara is offline
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Hang on, you were 7 when you left and you forgot Bangla ? Wth were your parents doing all this time in Australia ? They should have made sure you were fluent in Bangla. Bad parenting!

I was born abroad but my Bangla is fluent.
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  #7  
Old December 11, 2019, 04:22 PM
iDumb iDumb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shingara

I was born abroad but my Bangla is fluent.
You mean your sylheti is fluent.
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  #8  
Old December 13, 2019, 05:46 PM
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Shingara Shingara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iDumb
You mean your sylheti is fluent.
If you had met me, you would have found out! I don't speak Sylethi.
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  #9  
Old December 16, 2019, 10:12 AM
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My ancestral home is Habiganj but being born and brought up in Dhaka with parents of different regions, I cannot speak their language either. This is a life-long conundrum for me whenever I meet someone speaking Sylheti to me with general notion that I would understand and speak the language without any doubt.
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  #10  
Old December 11, 2019, 04:23 PM
Aritro Aritro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shingara
Hang on, you were 7 when you left and you forgot Bangla ? Wth were your parents doing all this time in Australia ? They should have made sure you were fluent in Bangla. Bad parenting!

I was born abroad but my Bangla is fluent.
No, I spoke it well enough, but I want to be able to speak idiomatic Bangla and articulate difficult concepts at close to native speaker levels.
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  #11  
Old December 11, 2019, 04:34 PM
iDumb iDumb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aritro
No, I spoke it well enough, but I want to be able to speak idiomatic Bangla and articulate difficult concepts at close to native speaker levels.
Many bangladeshi Dhaka grown up kids these days don't know how to speak bangla. Nor they can speak English either.

They speak a form of weird language where it's bangla but coming from someone foreigner while not knowing a foreign language if that makes any sense
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Old December 11, 2019, 04:30 PM
iDumb iDumb is offline
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Aritro real question. Did the girls in Dhaka get prettier? Better or worse?. Back in the days they see a foreign passport they all used to jump on you but since all the day laborer immigrants mess that up (all these BD middle class upper middle class pretty girls got married to cabbies and construction workers of the West and they too had to grind as well to survive) ..value of that foreign passport evaporated.

Are u facing similar shuns there ?
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Old December 16, 2019, 10:15 PM
dolcevita dolcevita is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iDumb
Aritro real question. Did the girls in Dhaka get prettier? Better or worse?. Back in the days they see a foreign passport they all used to jump on you but since all the day laborer immigrants mess that up (all these BD middle class upper middle class pretty girls got married to cabbies and construction workers of the West and they too had to grind as well to survive) ..value of that foreign passport evaporated.

Are u facing similar shuns there ?

Spot on, nowadays educated middle class bangladeshis don't want or are reluctant to marry their daughters with immigrants.
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  #14  
Old December 12, 2019, 02:52 AM
inspyr9 inspyr9 is offline
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I have to agree with you on Uber. They made my stay in Dhaka 100% better compare to the last time I went there and practically had to beg the CNG drivers to go anywhere.
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Old December 12, 2019, 11:34 AM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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What is this Bangladesh you guys speak of?
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Old December 20, 2019, 10:58 PM
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Roey Haque Roey Haque is offline
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Dhaka no bueno Aritro. An absolute $hithole. But yes, they don't have the poisonous creatures and stuff like in Aus.
Other than that, very little to offer.

Little greenery, dirty lakes, dirty roads, no real downtown, noise pollution, high density crowds, no good public transport, no good garbage collection, broken sidewalks, uncut fields, list goes on and on....
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Old December 21, 2019, 07:42 AM
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Shingara Shingara is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roey Haque
Dhaka no bueno Aritro. An absolute $hithole. But yes, they don't have the poisonous creatures and stuff like in Aus.
Other than that, very little to offer.

Little greenery, dirty lakes, dirty roads, no real downtown, noise pollution, high density crowds, no good public transport, no good garbage collection, broken sidewalks, uncut fields, list goes on and on....
And that's the $hithole that your roots are from. Keep that in mind!
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Old December 21, 2019, 10:58 PM
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Roey Haque Roey Haque is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shingara
And that's the $hithole that your roots are from. Keep that in mind!
Ok sir!
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Old December 22, 2019, 12:00 AM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shingara
And that's the $hithole that your roots are from. Keep that in mind!
I consider myself American but I will take America to the cleaners.

By the same logic, even if BD is my "root" why tf is it that I am not allowed to criticize it?

Patriotism is the last...
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Old December 22, 2019, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roey Haque
Dhaka no bueno Aritro. An absolute $hithole. But yes, they don't have the poisonous creatures and stuff like in Aus.
Other than that, very little to offer.

Little greenery, dirty lakes, dirty roads, no real downtown, noise pollution, high density crowds, no good public transport, no good garbage collection, broken sidewalks, uncut fields, list goes on and on....
Agree 100% the country has those problems. But I want to see Bangladesh when I want to go to Bangladesh be it rugged, ghetto and 'grungy'.

I don't want to see Australia when I want to go to Bangladesh.
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Old December 26, 2019, 10:41 AM
HereWeGo HereWeGo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roey Haque
Dhaka no bueno Aritro. An absolute $hithole. But yes, they don't have the poisonous creatures and stuff like in Aus.
Other than that, very little to offer.

Little greenery, dirty lakes, dirty roads, no real downtown, noise pollution, high density crowds, no good public transport, no good garbage collection, broken sidewalks, uncut fields, list goes on and on....
Criticism should be constructive, it should not include profanity. I have a love hate relationship with Dhaka. More things to dislike than to like to be fair.

1/I really miss the underground rock music scene of the 90's.
2/Miss the love for football that existed up until "ICC trophy" win changed everything.
3/Grew up in Dhanmondi when it was actually a residential area, and schools had fields and greenery instead of turning apartment buildings into schools and parking lot into assembly areas.
4/ As much as i hated the constant political infighting between AL and BNP, but criticism of the government or religion was not met with immediate persecution. I am saying this despite me and my family being politically inclined to a liberal AL growing up.
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