Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Lost in Translation. Literally.

Finally got my laptop hooked up to the internet... so will be able to do a bit of slacking during office hours. Doing a bit of tedious admin work like cataloguing photos and helping in their process of digitising their entire library (it'll take years from the looks of its size and their frequent tea breaks).

See you on MSN hopefully.

Poor Guiqing. You can start stocking up on your liqour for when Jason gets back.

By the way, have tried smsing some pple.. but apparently Starhub can't receive.

Pls email me at:


It's tiring having to log into gmail, webmail and hotmail and yahoo mail. FUCK.

By the way

PROF SHYAM TEKWANI IS SAFE! According to Cherian George... Was in india or something.

Tata pple. Here are the entries written earlier:

Written on Jan 3 2005, 9.10 pm Dhaka time

(headings added after typing because i know some pple reading this will get bored. you know who you are)

As I’m typing this on a iBook that has turned somewhat greyish, my face is covered with what could casually be termed as “Green Gunk”. It’s actually an all-natural skin mask made of ingredients still unknown to me, kindly prepared by Shalini who lives upstairs and who is apparently appalled by the condition of my complexion.

It’s actually the same, which can be depressing for me I suppose, if not for the fact that she seems to have the utmost unspoken confidence that this organic concoction of hers will solve all my facial problems. If it works, good for me, firstly for obvious reasons, and seconedly because this will cost considerably less than any off-the-shelf products. I’m fairly sure the Indian/Bangladeshi population in Singapore has made these products available for purchase in Little India.

As Yixin said, it’s only been three days, but it feels like forever. She said that everything already seems routine for her. I know the feeling she’s having, but I’m sceptical because we haven’t travelled anywhere except between Pathshala and Drik. But she’s visited a church here so far, and she says the streets are way more crowded elsewhere.

Where I am it’s certainly not as crowded as Little India on a Sunday night. Most of the congestion is not human, but of the rickshaw variety. There are rickshaws everywhere here, and I think I can assume that there are more in the city centre.

One thing that I don’t think I can get accustomed to is the subservient nature of those working for other people. Peter Rozario, our cook, is a nice old man in his 50s with greying hair, a charming smile, and a certain gentle, silent disposition. Shalini has asked him to bring tea to her in bed in the mornings because “i simply can’t get up without my tea”. He’s more than just a cook or a waiter, he’s a servant of sorts. It’s because of the way he acts, the way he constantly asks us if we need something, the way he sits aside. And yet Shalini has a nice rapport going on with him, and they talk like friends. So I can’t reconcile treating him both as a friend and as a servant. In fact I can’t imagine treating anyone like a servant. It’s all very odd to me. I left my dishes in the sink tonight for him to wash because Shalini was there and I didn’t want to wash mine and make her feel as if I was implying something, and it was really strange.

Peter is a Catholic, and has four children and some grandchildren. The thing that occured to me is how even though he’s a cook, his own children and grandchildren can’t enjoy his food because he only returns to his village in the weekends. Life’s strange.

Finally made my way and talked a bit more to the people working at Drik today. The characters are intersting, but I’ve come to realise, also very unrepresentative of the Bangladeshi population.

Obviously, I would only be mixing with the educated and thus middle-incomed people. I need to travel outside before I see what shalini calls the “poor beyond imagination” people.


For the sake of my own records and diary entry, I’m going to talk about the people I’ve met. This will unfortunately turn my blog into one of those super-boring “this is what i did today and where i’m going tomorrow” kindda things, if it’s not already that anyway, but er... you know what I mean.

Topu: the nickname for Tanvir Murad, a young guy who you’ll have problems as to whether to tag him as skinny or lean. He’s probably 26 or 27, and he’s the nicest person I’ve met so far. He studied anthropology at the university in Dhaka. He collects funny hats. His hats are really quite unique and would look good in some avant garde fashion catalougue. He’s funny, on my second day here he tried to scare me with a serious face about a ghost who lived under the mango tree in Pathshala. the thing that’s most intruiging about him is that he’s deeply religious. He keeps his beard long, and from his manner you can tell that he’s a conservative guy, albeit funny and nice.

I had certain reservations about his religiousness, no thanks to subconcious media influence no doubt, so it was a very very pleasant surprise to hear Shalini tell me in front of him how he has a hat that looks like a turban, and when he puts it on, he looks exactly like Osama. Topu was genuinely amused.

“So we tell him, take a picture with your turban hat and apply for a visa to America and they’ll say come come!!!! Come here so we can catch you!”

Topi Topu they call it.

Reza: A graphic designer/photographer who’s probably 35 but with those eternal youthful looks. He looks Pakistani. He’s funny. On the first day: “Ah so you are the two who will be chopping wood for us? We need lots of wood.” He’s also good-looking... you know the charming sort. His wife is beautiful, in my opinion, and his son too cute to describe.

That’s the thing about people here, they’re all funny. Everyone is cracking jokes, but I don’t know how to react because I don’t know if they’re joking. That’s if I even understand them in the first place.

It’s nice to know we’re entertainment though. They get a big kick out of asking us to repeat bengali phrases.

The Children

The children here are all really photogenic. They have those huge expressive eyes and they stare at you and laugh.

Only today, I met the first child that wasn’t laughing and wasn’t staring at me. Her mother was carrying her, and she was looking at me as we walked past each other. When my gaze me hers, she stared for a short while, before slowly looking away. Not looking down, like when kids do when they’re shy, but to the side, the kind of look that makes you feel as if this child has seen and felt a lot, and is too tired to meet the stare of a stranger. It was sad.

Going to wash the gunk off now and take a bath. Cross fingers for water supply. And hot water.

Back after a long while. It’s now 11. 49 pm dhaka time...ran into Koli at the kitchen and started chatting.. then Shalini came... and we talked about men and relationships and the future and our ambitions.... lighthearted stuff.

My Room

Anyhow, shall try to describe my room:

It’s square, and slightly larger than a single room in hall, according to what i’ve seen (no where near Swee’s of course) and the door is at the side of the wall. assuming the wall with the door is the south wall, the north wall has windows that take up half of it. The walls are made of brick, and its not painted. The floor is stone. The bed is pushed up along the north west wall. next to the bed along the west wall is a metal cupboard that makes a damn lot of noise when you open it.. its kinda like the ancient version of the one we have in chron room. along the south wall, next to the door is my desk. wooden desk with a drawer, quite small. the east wall has the toilet door in the middle. that’s it.

What a boring paragraph which could be simplified into one picture.

Listening to Stevie Wonder now.

Call Me

Oh. finally managed to get a prepaid card here. I can make local calls and send international sms but can’t call international. but can receive international calls.

My number is 0176794103. Country code is either +088 or +88 or +0088 (different pple tell me different things and i’m not in singapore to do trial and error) and u’ve to dial your idd number first which i don’t know what it is. apparently it’s difficult to get the right combination, so i’m not expecting any calls anytime soon.

posting my handphone number on the internet. who’d have thought i’d do a thing like that.


hope everyone else is having a swell time at their own jobs.

but i did learn a cool photo trick which i’d never come across (not that i’ve seen a lot anyway) but it’s done with long exposure (like a few seconds) and you zoom in and out the lens when you take the photo.

the results are quite nice... i just ccouldn’t comprehend how the guy did it till he told me.

and he had some prints which were 12 seconds exposure with like 8 or 11 f stop.... very intersting effects cos it’s taken at night and you get a effect somewhat akin to double exposures...

wish i could post photos. just located the office negative/slide scanner... so shall get started on it soon.

Impending Work

had an interesting proposal today, shalini wants to start on a project to obtain scholarships for underprivilaged women to study photography at Pathshala... sounds swell. plus other stuff she’s got.. i’m really impressed with the kind of passion she talks about such humanitarian activism... it’s not out of pity or symphathy... she’s doing it because to her it’s what’s needed to be done for the people here. practical things... not the high headed idealistic kind of talk.

guiqing. i really really honestly wish you were here. i plan to returnn in 2006 for Chobi Mela IV (which is a kick ass festival with internattionally reknown photographers coming down) to help out. and you’re coming with me.

Written on Jan 5, 12.17 am

About to go off to sleep, because I'm still quite unused to waking up early no thanks to the holiday debauchery.

It's strange that the first tears I shed (the ones at airport don't count) would be triggered not by a phone call from home or a picture or an sms... but music. Going through the collection which Darren compiled for me 9 (which up till now has been inaccessible because ibook no like wma files) and seeing some songs which i love just made me so happy and sad at the same time.

Got lost today on the way back. Fueled by some false courage of sorts, yixin and i decided to attempt to take a rickshaw back ourselves after doing a bit of shopping. apparently the address we gave was much too vague... and lucky for us the rickshaw driver was honest and smart enough to understand our limited bengali to bring us to the correct destination.

but at least he understood the little that we said which was just three sentences

"dhanmondi bolt-trish" (the vague address)
"koto taka?" (how much?)
"mirpur road!" (a bit more detailed of an address)

plus a lot of head shaking and laughing and guttural noises. Paid him 20TK, a hefty price for something which is usually just 6 or 7TK but it's still less than S$1. finding it hard not to overpay... they need the money more than I do, it's still ridiculously cheap even after tripling the price, and I don't care if it'll make a difference. it might, and that's all that matters.

Shalini wasn't too amused though. She's very paranoid about muggings here, which is scary because I'm not.

Feel quite safe, sans the stares and the security guards with AK47s... no one followed us around before... i know because i always turn around to look... but then again haven't been out much.. but shall play safe next time.

Played a bit more with Noinyl (don't know how to spell but that's the pronounciation), the 3 or 4 year old son of the guy who takes care of the place. probably mentioned this before, but his wife cleans our rooms everyday.

I'm in love with Noinyl's eyes.. which are a light shade of brown. And I think the term "impish" was coined just for him. It's lovely how the universal language of play can bridge all gaps, language and cultural. Just play guns with him and he turns into a squealing (and rather violent) little kid. I'm personally not going to buy my own kids any weapons of any sorts, but this makes him so happy I'm obliged.

And I just found out his father, Moti, is a caretaker cum photographer cum student at Pathshala after I say Noinyl playing with his father's tripod. Felt ashamed that i assumed Moti was nothing more than just a caretaker when he's so much better at photography than I am. But then again, his servial attitude and the way he conducts himself didn't really help me with the stereotyping.

Speaking of eyes, saw another exotic pair today at office. Nazrul is a student from Pathshala working at Drik. Probably 23 or 24. I still can't figure out what colour they are because I don't want to be rude and stare.. sometimes it's green, sometimes it's green-brown, sometimes it a very light brown. All in all, it's very exotic, and i'll be sure to take pictures.

They had a photo session for a fashion catalogue today so the studio was really crowded. The female models here are gorgeous (as expected) and the male models.. well... really himbotic-looking. It was so amusing that Topu, Nazrul and myself had to hurriedly excuse ourselves from the studio only to burst into laughter outside. That happened when the male model started posing.

goodnight people.


Ghim Lay said...

Oooh love your blog entries, sounds damn fascinating to me. Glad that you're meeting such interesting people over there, take care ok?

huckerby said...

i hear that prof tekwani has tsunami pictures which may appear in chron, haha.