Friday, December 16, 2005

Bangladesh is the Best

We are living in a global village where Bangladesh has always managed to snatch the headline in the news items in some way or other. It doesn’t matter the content of the news whether it is good, bad or sad. We have a lot of wonderful resources and insights that we can offer to this world for which we are proud of. ‘Bangladesh is the Best’ is not a rhetorical way to express a nationalistic viewpoint. Rather, it is an interactive sketch to reflect our past and present jointly to inspire all of us to work for a promising tomorrow. I would like to dedicate this inspirational writing to our new generation who will lead this nation to the new millennium. Their realization that a positive social change comes through evolving ideas and introspection is going to introduce a new era in our life time.

Bangladesh is a painter’s dream come true. Hundreds of rivers crisscross this country that is the lifeline of this ardent fertile delta. It is true that rivers and streams that carry more water through this tiny nation than flows through all of Europe. Global warming and Greenland meltdown threaten low lying Bangladesh that reminds us to work together for global awareness and action. Ancient Bangla has been transferred to today’s Bangladesh through wonderful struggles over time for its distinct identity. History shows how people’s lives have always been shattered in this wonderful land by nature, by occupation, and by its own people. Yet, Bangladesh proudly comes back to its heart to regain its loss and to rebuild its life. That is why, Bangladesh is uniquely the Best.

Bangladesh is a land of beauty where nature and people have come together to create the tapestry of lives for thousands of years. When we sing our national anthem, we submit our hearts and souls to this land’s wonderful beauty, joyful thrill of fragrance from mango-groves, sweetness of nature’s abundance in full-blossomed paddy fields. This country’s joy and sadness stir our mind uniquely. Nature and people have weaved here a rhythm of vibrant life and a resilient nation called- Bangladesh.

It presents a proud history of struggle for independence against all odds of this world. In a recent declassified oval office document shows, in November 1971 US State Secretary Henry Kissinger was blaming Indians about the independence war in Bangladesh. He was overlooking the democratic rise in Bangladesh against Pakistani Army’s massacre and therefore; he was denying rights of 75 million people at that time. Razakars and militant Jamati collaborators with Pakistan army forces killed three million in nine months, but they failed to defeat the spirit of this nation. It's true that only in Bangladesh justice never comes or even it comes, it's too late. That is why, the mass killer and war criminal Rajakar-Jamatis don't face justice the same way Nazis faced the Nuremberg trial. It always turns to be opposite in Bangladesh as these killers get rehabilitated socially and politically. Probably, Bangladesh is the only country in the world where war criminals got rehabilitated instead of facing justice.

We became independent on December 16, 1971. No one can dominate this wonderful nation. That is why; Bangladesh has become independent twice, first time from Pakistan in 1971, and second time from Ershad’s military government in 1990. Now, the same people are fighting again to free our beloved land, Bangladesh, from the evil shadow of religious extremism, militancy, and corruption.

Bangladesh sadly hit the headline on August 17, 2005, when 459 small bombs simultaneously exploded all over the country. As government is failing to take appropriate action, we are loosing our best sons in terrorist attacks. The recent rise of religious militancy is the biggest crisis that this country has ever faced. Jihadi terrorist groups are not part of the Bangladeshi community. They don't and won't reflect the inner heart of the Bangladeshi people. People will definitely stand up to fight militancy, extremism, and injustice in Bangladesh, as they woke up with a unifying spirit in 1971. People can no longer afford any demented political selfishness when the heart and soul of this nation are bleeding severely. Right now, we really need a national consensus for an interim government to combat terrorism independently, fearlessly and ferociously.

It is true that our history uniquely repeats itself. The strongest regime collapsed and tumbled down to its feet when the masses woke up. Look at 1969, look at 1971 and look at 1990. Nothing has stopped the mass uprising in Bangladesh. In the back alleys of history, attempts were taken to obsess and seduce the collective consciousness through money, poetry, and terror. All those attempts ended at the garbage can of history. All the powerful buildings collapsed, obsessive poetries evaporated and the will of people survived. We see a saga of remarkable strength and inspiration in our resiliency.

Bangladesh presents the wonderful beauty of nature. It has world’s longest sea beach. On the south west, it presents one of the biggest mangroves called Sunderban. It is a cluster of islands with an approximate area of 4500 sq. miles forming the largest block of littoral forests. It is a transboundary ecosystem that can be somehow compared to Florida’s Everglades. Cruising to the Sunderban mangrove is a breath taking journey. Thousands of meandering streams, creeks, rivers and estuaries have enhanced its charm. Sundarban meaning beautiful forest is the natural habitat of the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger, spotted deer, crocodiles, jungle fowl, wild boar, lizards, theses monkey and an innumerable variety of beautiful birds. Royal Bengal Tiger, the pride of Bangladesh faces near extinction which can be saved by a collaborative biodiversity project only. A travel blog, “A short sojourn in untainted Bangladesh” testifies the exquisite beauty of Bangladesh that will allure others to visit us.

Bangladesh is the seventh largest country (144 millions) in population and the third largest Muslim country in the world. We proudly speak Bangla, our national language that is the fourth most spoken language in the world. Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore won Nobel Prize in literature for Gitanjali in 1913. Our rebellious National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam still inspires us to rise and raise ourselves for justice, freedom and equality that we all aspire. The whole world observes 21st February as International Mother Language Day as the UNESCO General Conference took a decision in 1999 when it unanimously adopted a draft resolution submitted by Bangladesh and co-sponsored and supported by 28 other countries. It honors the brave sons of Bangladesh who have sacrificed their lives to protect Bangla language and culture on February 21, 1952. This is only country in the world whose independence movement has been ushered by its language movement.

Bangladesh is often introduced to media to symbolize poverty. Yes, we are poor but our hearts are really rich. In our culture, entertaining guests with a heartfelt hospitality has become a long cherished tradition from the prehistoric time irrespective of rich and poor people. People somehow manage to survive even in hardships without much complaint. That is a part of our living, you can not frame it in any economic or GNI definition. Clarence Maloney says, “The intensity of human interaction, the expressive culture, the grace, the fullness of life, and the verbal arts – in short, many innately human qualities – are more fully expressed in Bangladesh than in many cultures” (Behavior and Poverty in Bangladesh, 1986).

It is a salient feature that poverty is increasing both in the poor and the rich in Bangladesh. While the poor are becoming poorer financially as economic opportunities are shrinking and the rich are becoming poorer mentally as they’re increasingly living outside the touch of reality and sanity. Bangladesh is no longer a test case of development; it is presenting the glowing picture of the best consumeristic economy in the developing world. Bangladesh shows perfectly how a reverse mercantile economy flourishes when you look at a sudden rise of retail business in Bangladesh. A poor woman in Bangladesh is selling her eyes to come out from poverty when few rich people are on waiting list for Lexus Cars in Dhaka proves the increasing inequity in economic growth. Bashundhara City, a gargantuan new $80 million shopping complex in downtown Dhaka was featured as ‘an epic sign of changing fortunes’ in the New York Times on July 20, 2005. According to the Bangladeshi developers, the 2,000-store retail colossus is called the Mall of South Asia.

The economic success in Bangladesh holds pains and promises simultaneously. Bangladesh appears as a puzzle to a foreign journalist who reports our continued struggle for good governance on the backdrop of natural calamity and political infighting. A Bangladeshi diplomat finds satisfaction in refuting the notion of poverty in 1995 as he says, “Bangladesh is among the top 30 economies in the world. It is above Nigeria, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand and several other countries…The country has doubled its gross domestic product, contained inflation at below 2 percent, slowed population growth, immunized 92 percent of its children against major diseases and made safe water available to 90 percent of its people. It now produces enough food to feed its population of 116 million”.

In order to fight poverty, Dr. Yunus from Bangladesh introduced Grameen Bank on the concept of banking without collateral for the poorest of the poor. His initiative shows how technology can alleviate poverty. Grameen Foundation USA replicates the success of Grameen Bank around the world. GFUSA has partnered with forty-six microfinance organizations in twenty countries, and touched the lives of an estimated 2.5 million . Grameen Bank’s success story inspired the eBay founder Pierre Omidyto to donate 100 million dollar to generate micro credit for the poor for entrepreneurship.

Grameen Phone, an initiative of Grameen Bank with the Norwegian telephone company Telenor, accepted the challenge to wire Bangladesh through mobile technologies for income generation. Stories of phone ladies from Bangladesh amazingly show how a simple mobile phone technology can change the life line of 50,000 poor rural women in Bangladesh. Now their number has reached to 180,000 who are pioneering a new model to bridge the digital divide in the developing countries. Wiring Bangladesh without wires emboldens others to work for positive social impact by putting digital technology in the hands of the poor. Even mobile phone company Nokia is working with GFUSA to bring affordable telecommunications to rural Africa encouraged by the success story of phone ladies in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has also shown how an award winning Sustainable Rural Livelihood Information Network can revolutionize information technology for the farmers. The Bangladesh experience in a simple family based poultry firm comes up as a tool for poverty alleviation for the poorer nations in Asia and Africa. Bangladesh shows how tilapia can be cultivated in the rice paddy field to diversify income for the farmers. On the other hand, Bangladesh shows insensitive project that brings profit at the cost of environment and threatens Sunderban’s mangrove forest.

Bangladesh shows its long struggle against natural calamity of tornado and flood. In the recent years, we have shown a successful progress in disaster management. Devastated floods in Bangladesh turned worse as environment pollution and drainage clog in Bangladesh cities caused by careless use of polythene bags. Bangladesh joined the polythene ban in 2002 with Ireland, and South Africa after two decade long polythene bag use. This move, indeed, promoted use of environment friendly jute bag.

Jute, an agro base industry, really holds answer to environment when people think about man-made pollution. Bangladesh produces 80% of high quality jute in the world that is famous for biodegradability. Jute has brought fortune to many people except who produce it. If you look at history, Dundee in Scotland remembers its profit in jute production from Bangladesh. Dundee's textile industry was founded on the production of linen from flax but jute from Bengal became increasingly important. Korean War veterans may remember how jute bags have saved their lives in the war zone. It was a lucky break for Pakistan when a sudden and unexpected demand for jute from Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) pushed its price to an unprecedented level for using them as sandbags in Korean War.

Unfortunately, jute has lost its competition to synthetic fiber, yet it holds potentiality for rebound. Visit the product galleries about what jute can offer:
Home Textiles
Fashion Accessories
Conventional Products
Floor Coverings
Industrial Products

The textile industry of Bengal is very old. Bengal cotton fabrics were exported to the Roman and the Chinese empires and they are mentioned in Ptolemy's Geography and the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, and by the ancient Chinese travelers. But Dhaka Muslin became famous and attracted foreign and transmarine buyers after the establishment of the Mughal capital at Dhaka. The Muslin industry of Dhaka received patronage from the Mughal emperors and the Mughal nobility. Muslin is a fine artisan product that a 50 meter long Muslin fabric could be squeezed into a matchbox. The British, during their occupation, ended the Muslin production brutally by having the Muslin weavers' thumbs chopped off. The weaving technology is lost forever.

The art of making jamdani designs on fine fabric reached to its peak during Mughal rule. There were handlooms in almost all villages of dhaka district. Traders from Europe, Iran, Armenia, as well as Mughal-Pathan traders used to deal in these fabrics. The Mughal Emperor, the Nawab of Bengal and other aristocrats used to engage agents at Dhaka to buy high quality muslin and jamdani for their masters' use. Jamdani is still very popular in Bangladesh as Sari.

Sari, a predominant colorful outfit, of Bangladeshi women did allure pop star Madonna to wear it on the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. Bibi Russell, a Bangladeshi fashion designer and entrepreneur, takes Bangladeshi fashion to the west as she says, “fashion is a part of culture,", "and “textiles are a part of the history of Bangladesh”. Now, Sari makes waves in BBC for newscasters as History Talking feels proud in rising diversity of culture. When British Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair wears sari, it promotes Sari, a predominant traditional dress of South Asian women.

Bangladesh is trying to diversify its exportable products. Garments is still a leading product worth nearly 5 billion US$ per year to the USA, EU, Canada and other countries of the world. At present, Bangladesh is the 6th largest apparel supplier to the USA and EU countries. Life of workers in a garment factory has often attracted news headline. Recently, a lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of working children of some developing countries including Bangladesh has appeared to be very sensational.

Bangladesh has shown huge success in transforming automobiles from gasoline to concentrated natural gas (CNG). In a research paper, it shows the comparative cost for driving a gasoline-driven vehicle in Bangladesh is Tk. 245 ($4.20), compared to only Tk. 42 ($0.72) for CNG over the same distance. CNG use as a vehicle fuel was first introduced in Bangladesh in 1982 through a World Bank pilot project. Bangladesh has been in the forefront in utilizing CNG for automobiles contributed to drastic reduction in emission pollution in city areas. It is true that due to large reserve in natural gas, Bangladesh is also becoming increasingly important to world energy markets.

It is amazing to find how Bangladeshi faces have contributed to change this world. Fazlur Rahman Khan, a Bangladeshi architect with a difference, symbolizes his fine work in building Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the USA. It was World’s tallest building until 1996. In 1998, the City of Chicago named a street in his honor called “Fazlur R. Khan Way”. In the lobby of the Sears Tower, a sculpture is erected by the Spanish artist Carlos Marinas in Mr. Khan’s honor.

Bangladesh has pioneered a model of preventive public health care program almost half a century ago. Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim led this country in 1956 to raise public awareness and care for diabetic treatment. If anyone wants to see how a low cost community based public health intervention against deadly diabetic disease helps thousands in a poor nation, they need to visit Diabetic Association of Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi thinker and educator Abdullah Abu Sayeed has become famous for global change through literary movement as in 1975 he founded Bish-wo Sha-hitto Kendro (World Literature Center) in Dhaka. In an interview with CNN Talk Asia he says, “I dream for the new generation, for them to become turn out as enlightened human beings and they are inspired to do good things for their fellow beings and to mitigate their sufferings...”

Tommy Miah, a Bangladeshi chef and entrepreneur, dominates UK’s Indian cuisine show. The money raised through the show doesn’t only promote interest and popularity of Indian cuisine; it also helps an orphanage in Bangladesh. Tommy Miah, curry king of Britain, has been honored and recognized by Queen Elizabeth II who wrote the foreword to his latest book, a move described by Buckingham Palace as the queen’s first and last celebrity endorsement.

Bangladesh Army’s participation in the UN peacekeeping in 12 countries across three continents has earned reputation for helping the most distressed people of the globe. When a citizen from Sierra Leon expresses deep appreciation of Bangladesh Army’s noble role in rebuilding his country, it makes us proud. Bangladesh soldiers sacrificed lives in Congo for peace keeping.

Rickshaw’ (tri-cycle) is a popular, environment friendly, cost effective means of transport in city areas that features the huge availability of cheap labor for investors in Bangladesh. Riding Ricksha is fun, pulling rickshaw is not. Bangladeshi Rickshaws’ colorful and artistic designs feature talents of traditional artisan folks who are now loosing their income. The International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico holds rickshaw arts--both panels and hoods from Bangladesh. Joanna Kirkpatrick, an American Cultural and Social Anthropologist, is credited for promoting Bangladeshi rickshaw and its arts.

The huge competition between Rickshaws and Motor cars for driving spaces on city streets of Bangladesh takes us back to the earlier days of industrial revolution and urbanization. Increasingly blamed for traffic gridlock in city areas, Rickshaw is facing restrictions in main thoroughfares in Dhaka. Traffic gridlock in Dhaka along with other city areas in Bangladesh poses policy questions and challenges to ease traffic jam without displacing poor rickshaw pullers. A move to ban rickshaw in Dhaka city has faced huge protest by advocacy groups. When Bangladesh blames rickshaw for gridlock and plans to phase it out, New York City may consider rickshaw as an answer to solve its traffic gridlock in the downtown area.

Bangladesh is a land of colorful festivity. Outside Bangladesh, people need to go to London or New York to see thriving Bangladeshi community. 'Banglatown' in London's East End comes alive when the sights and sound of Bengali culture on the Bangla New Year festival attract thousands of visitors. Brick Lane in East London welcomes its visitors to get a flavor of Bangladesh along with other South Asian communities. Jackson Heights features a multicultural community and a vibrant culture in New York where you will find the highest concentration of Bangladeshi stores. In Queens and Bronx of New York City, we have created a little show case of Bangladesh where Americans and Bangladeshis flock to get the authentic taste of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

When Bangladesh creates showcases of its vibrant culture, it also attracts global attention for its arsenic problem. In early 1990s, arsenic hits the headline as the largest mass poisoning in history that may have been caused by unregulated irrigation project in some area of Bangladesh. Government initiative along with international help in preventing arsenic problem has dramatically raised public awareness to use arsenic free water. Bangladesh has pioneered in Cholera Research for last four decades that is credited to introduce rehydration salts (ORS). Low cost home made oral saline (ORS) saved thousands of children in the developing countries. In 1979, this cholera research project appeared as an International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), a leading public health and population research organization.

Bangladesh shows how an elected government can create a controversial law enforcement branch RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) drawn from the Police, Military and Para Military to model lawless law enforcement in the country. This is the only country where the government can no longer trust and use its police force alone–the legal arm of law enforcement. Bangladesh creates RAB in 2004 as another layer of law enforcement entity parallel to Police force which is a total wastage of public money and manpower and allegedly a pretext of involving military forces in civil affairs. RAB’s brutality in deliberate killing of alleged criminals and innocents in the pretext of cross fire has drawn world wide human right concern.

The nexus between criminals and politicians appeared to reinforce institutionalized corruption, violence, and impunity for human rights abuses” as Amnesty International presents in its 2005 report on Bangladesh. Bangladesh has managed to maintain its top rank as the most corrupt country on earth that calls for transparent and accountable public governance. The general people are helpless and abandoned when government remains inactive and ambivalent to battle deep rooted corruption. They don’t realize, “corruption isn't a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves”. World Bank pulls Bangladesh cash out of the allocated money is a no surprise.

The gravity of controversy surrounding bribery charges involving Bangladesh Oil Minister’s dealing with Niko shows the urgency of public accountability in Bangladesh. It is interesting to find out how an oil well blowout in early 2005 that caused the evacuation of up to 20,000 people in Bangladesh, prompted a series of discussion and hearing at Yale University to find its plan to help fix the situation in Bangladesh, as the University holds share in Niko in the amount of $50 million dollars.

“Bangladesh is the Best” - it is not a slogan or an article, it is an interactive catalog of few selected faces, facts, incidents, challenges and promises that we have encountered at different times. All these distinct features reflect a true portrait of Bangladesh. As a citizen of this global village, we need to carry on this interactive catalog to inspire us to work together for a common human wellbeing across nations. Our strengths lie in our positive and forward looking outlook as we believe in “We shall overcome”. Bangladesh inspires our hearts like it did for George Harrison and his friends in 1971. We need to reach to an uninhibited heart of Bangladesh that has really captivated our poet Jibanananda Das who wants to come back to this wonderful land even as a bird:

“When I return to the banks of the Dhansiri, to this Bengal,
Not as a man, perhaps, but as a
salik bird or white hawk,
Perhaps as a dawn crow in this land of autumn's new
rice harvest,
I'll float upon the breast of fog one day in the shade of a
jackfruit tree.
or I'll be some young girl's pet duck-ankle bells upon her reddened feet-
And I'll spend the day floating on duckweed-scented waters,
When again I come, smitten by Bengal's rivers and fields, to this
Green and kindly land, Bengal, moistened by the Jalangi river's waves….”
Translated by the Poet)

Click here to read this posting in Bangla:

What a unique presentation of all goods in Bangladesh, with a unique collection of links. You deserve (which you probably will gain) a boosted ranking after this post.

Addabaj, as one of the top bloggers in Bangladesh, we have a great news to break for you, and we break it here first:

Your post should have been in Bangla, shouldn't it? Lacking the blogging tools for expressing yourself freely in your own alphabet? We did indeed feel the need for a real banglablog, and since we couldn't find any, we started developing one. Today, on the 16th December, we are happy to launch

Go there, sign up and start blogging in Bangla! But we also want you as our team mate, as our journey is far from complete with this, it has actually just started.

This is what we give you:
1) a free blog where you type with bijoy keyboard (given)
2) operational in IE and Firefox, but Opera has to wait a month or two until version 9 is released.
3) upload pictures
4) tag your posts and pictures
5) give a thumbs up for good posts
6) report abuse, insults or obscure items to moderator for removal from blog.
7) today's best posts, latest posts and latest commented posts on home page, with tag cloud in bangla

What is coming, step by step:
1) phonetic bangla keyboard
2) sort pictures in albums
3) several levels of advancing your admin view the more skilled you get

You, as a skilled blogger, may feel limited in our first edition. However, you will soon see more and more functions added, and we appreciate all constructive comments we can get from other bloggers in Bangladesh.

We want to reach far beyond the few hundred bloggers that has been around for a while. We want to reach down to internet users that hardly have heard the word blog before. Thus we decided to go for the simplest and easiest user interfaces we could think of. Lots of user testing needed still to see the reactions. But if you help us with better ideas to reach down and really create a mass movement, we will respond seriously to your requests for more advanced functions.

The slogan "badh bangar aawaj" should symbolise how this blog can become the rumbling and somewhat noisy channel through which all sealed up frustrations, emotions, engagement, fun and ideas of thousands of silenced people break free and run as a powerful, unstoppable stream through the hole in the dam.

Go right to and try for your self. You may get addicted (at least if bijoy typing is easy for you)

bangladesh is the best!

your friends somewhere in...
Thank you Arlid for your kind comment. I'll definitely try to put Adda in Bangla language through Thanks!!!
Addabaj, thanks for painting one of the best pen picture of Bangladesh I have ever come across. There is nothing shameful in not writing this piece in Bangla because I am sure you have equal expertise in expressing yourself in your own mother tongue. Your writing proves your skill in English. In doing so your blog had transcended the boundaries of Bangladesh and can be read and understood by innumerable people of the world. Your positive message will create a new breed of world citizens who will appreciate Bangladesh better countering the traditional image of Bangladesh portrayed by western press as a country besieged by disease, natural calamities and unending cycle of poverty. Please keep up your good works. We too will appreciate if you translate yourself in Bangla but your focus should be in English. Remember that Kabi Guru Rabindranath would have never won Nobel Prize if Gitanjali was never translated in English. Thanks for your effort and valuable time in blogging
Hi reader,

Thank you for your inspiring comment. I've just put togetehr our wonderful people's contribution to our mother country, I really don't deserve any special thanks! We all need to work hard for this wonderful land and that's all I care about most. We hope, one day we'll fully honor our best sons who sacrificed their souls for our freedom.

I've already started my bangla blog adda and I'm planning to put the Bangladesh is the Best in Bangla. It will take time. Thank you all.

I have read the article in a breath! If that seems unrealistic, please note I will be coming back to read it again and again. Really a wonderful effort. It needs to be relished for a long time.

I think as a citizen of Bangladesh it is our duty to think positive about our country and promote it to the world to break all the misconceptions. If we can't do it then who will do it for us?

I have already linked this article to global voices. And I will be quoting it everywhere possible.

I also believe that we shall overcome someday.
Hi Mr.Rezwan,

Thank you. I appreciate your wholehearted support that we need to put out the most positive things about Bangladesh. I think, as a leading Bangladeshi blogger, you've been working for that.
Great article, I guess people will be happy to see positives. Still, I would like to add a few things Bangladesh are proud of :
1) Primary Enrolement ratio - children go to school even if they are poor.
2) ADB is projecting Chittagong to become transport hub of South Asia, like Singapore for ASEAN.
Sears Towers Architect was Bruce Graham.
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