Friday, April 11, 2008


Misinformation led me to wander around the streets of Gulshan rather aimlessly at 10am on my one-and-only day off.

Felt slightly helpless, being too far from the house to consider crawling back into bed, but there's a fresh charm on the streets every Friday. When empty, they can be rather enjoyable to walk upon.

Gulshan's considered one of the posher districts in Dhaka, along with Banani and satellite towns Uttara and Baridhara. Should check with my geography about this, but this is how my head understands it as of now.

Nevertheless, I had a difficult time convincing my Mom this was so when she was here. Posher? How so? Admittedly, the buildings are no shinier, the pavements as broken as anywhere else in Dhaka. Its not an Orchard Road in that sense. But if you sit and wait a little longer, you'll see the bigger cars, the foreigners, the beggars who are more insistent and more professional in their insistence. The rickshaw wallahs here are not shy to ask for prices that their Dhanmondi counterparts would baulk at.

And why shouldn't they inflate ten taka to a hundred? The embassies and high commissions are here, filled with diplomats and their private drivers. The car boutiques are here, their shiny glass windows helpless against the onslaught of Dhaka dust. The newfangled restaurants with fancy decor. Of course, most of the wealth is away from the main road and in the backlanes - the private apartments, sprawling bungalows. The roads seem wider here, could it be to accommodate the larger size of cars here?

Still, my Mom was unconvinced.

And so I walked from the Indian High Comm, walking past a KFC, and then a Pizza Hut. Went to check out a bookshop, which didn't have much, and then past an A&W to hit the centre of Gulshan-1. All three fastfood outlets occupy a two-storey building by itself.

Rickshaw ride down to search for another bookshop I recalled seeing (a plan had long since formed in my mind, and it involved newspapers and a cuppa breakfast coffee), got lost for a bit but eventually ended up at Words 'n Pages.

Bought the IHT (135Tk, if anyone's interested) and a Chinese-English dictionary just 'cos i felt like it. Yesterday I couldn't remember how to write 来至, and I wept in shame for an hour.

Then, off to hunt for a place at which to enjoy the paper and an unscheduled breakfast. Failed miserably. There are probably places that do serve breakfast fodder, but I just didn't know where they were. And I don't even have high standards for these things - my favourite breakfast in Singapore takes place at the kopitiam downstairs upon red plastic stools and in front of a bowl of steaming prawn noodles.

So, I debated getting a waffle at A&W, but eventually decided that was compromising too much with my notion of what breakfast should be like.

The two kids followed me for a block. The older sister chanting her demands for money, the little one, who looks like he just learned to walk, chanted after her, gurgling and messing up the phrases, but trying to imitate as best he could. I felt sick.