CS Sharada Prasad | bangladesh
65
archive,tag,tag-bangladesh,tag-65,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,select-theme-ver-4.3, vertical_menu_transparency vertical_menu_transparency_on,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.4.5,vc_responsive

FAQs in Bangladesh

If you are a foreigner travelling in Bangladesh, please be ready to answer the following questions:

  1.  Which country?
  2. Are you married?
  3. What is your religion?

Third question was the most ubiquitous in Bangladesh. I did not experience this in Nepal. But in Kenya, it was a different story.

In Chittagong, near Sitakund, I met with a group of 8 to 12-year-old children playing cricket in the back alleys.

From a distance a kid hollered, “Which country?”

“India”

The kids stopped playing cricket and approached me to ask a more important question, “Which religion?”

“Humanity,” I replied with a smile.

“No, I am not asking about how you look. I am asking what religion you follow,” blurted a kid in the group.

“I don’t have any religion,” I reassured them.

“One always has a religion”

“See, you are wrong. I don’t have one and I am alive, so far”

“You are lying!”

No meat, please!

My family does not eat meat for religious reasons. Now that I have disowned my religion, I can eat meat. But I don’t do so as to continue patronising my friends who eat meat.

Today, on a ferry, I met a Bangladeshi who was kind enough to befriend me and join me for lunch. In my broken Bengali Hindi hybrid language, I explained him that I don’t eat meat. He told waiter something and a plate with what looked like meat was placed in front of me by the waiter.

“I said I don’t eat meat, only vegetables”

“But this is not meat. This is chicken”, said my friend.

“I don’t eat chicken”, I said pushing the plate aside. The waiter went in and got me another dish. Even that had a flaky bone in it.

“Is this fish?”, I asked with all the calmness.

“Yes”, said my new friend with the “how can you not recognize fish?” look.

“I don’t eat fish.”

With a look full of confusion, my new friend said, “But you said no meat and you don’t eat chicken and fish? “.

“No! No meat, no chicken, no fish. Only vegetables”, I replied with my face beaming with pride.

My friend said something to the waiter in Bengali and the waiter placed a blue plastic mug in front of me. I peered into the mug to find a familiar liquid – dal.

Looking at me pouring the watery dal into my plate of rice when everyone else was enjoying fish and chicken curry, my new friend leaned over to me and whispered in my ears, “do you have any disease that forbids you from eating anything other than dal?”

Without realising who was patronising whom now, I said, “No” and continued eating. The already watery dal seemed even more tasteless.

When can one get married?

Yesterday for the first time I entered a country by road. It was a great experience.

After crossing the border, I took a bus from Satkhira to Khulna, my first bus ride in Bangladesh, and it was full of surprises. The guy next to me told me that he got his daughter married last week. I responded back complimenting him saying, “You look quite young. I would not have guessed that you had a daughter of marriageable age!” (I know I sound as if I am hitting on a woman in a bar!)

“I am forty and my daughter is 16 years old. How old are you?”, he replied with a smile that exposed his brownish teeth.

“34”, I replied.

“Are you married?”, he asked.

I said, “No.”

“Why?”

“Things somehow did not workout”

“One should always get married. You have beautiful women in India. I love Indian women. I dream of them all the time. But I could get married only to a Bangladeshi woman. But you should find an Indian woman and get married soon”, he implored in a way.

“I am an old guy as per Indian family standards. Which family will give me a girl?”, I responded jovially.

He chided me and said, “If you have gold and a good erection, you can get married any time!”

“What?” I asked in shock, not believing what I had just heard

The man this time yelled over the hum of the engine, “I said, if you have gold and a good erection, you can get married any time!”

I did not know how to respond to that statement, “Oh, this bus is going very slow, isn’t it?” I changed the topic and saved myself from some more public embarrassment (or at least I hope to think so).

How to go to Bangladesh by road?

When applying for Bangladeshi VISA, specify that you want to travel by road. One can reach Bangladesh by road from Kolkata either via Benapole or Basirhat crossing. If Dhaka is your destination, there are direct buses from Kolkata and Agartala.

I had to go to Khulna. Khulna has no direct buses from Kolkata and here is how I came to Khulna by road today.

  • 10:25 am – Left my hotel in Salt Lake City, Kolkata. Cost Rs.250
  • 10:45 am – Reached Sealdah Station
  • 11:05 – Bought my ticket to Basirhat (12:12 Hasnabad train). Cost Rs.15
  • 11:35 – Train arrived on platform 6
  • 12:15 – Train departed Sealdah
  • 2:20 – Train reached Basirhat (about 70km from Sealdah)
  • 2:30 – Took a rickshaw from the train station to Bodh ghat (it sounded something like that). About 2km. Rs.7
  • 2:50 – Auto-rickshaw to Bhomra- Gojadanga border. Rs.15 per person or Rs.100 if you want the auto for yourself. 9 km
  • 3:15 – Reached border
  • 3:25 – Done with Emigration
  • 3:35 – Done with Land Customs
  • 3:40 (4:10 Bangldesh Local time) – Crossed the border
  • 4:20 – Done with Bangladesh Immigration
  • 4:30 – Done with Bangladesh Customs
  • 4:40 – Boarded Baby taxi to Satkhira. Tk.25, 15km
  • 5:20 – Reached Satkhira
  • 5:25 – Rickshaw to bus station (Tk.5)
  • 5:35 – Boarded bus to Khulna. 60km, Tk90
  • 8:20 – Reached Khulna

The other option is to take a bus bound to Dhaka from Kolkata (International Bus Terminus, Salt Lake City or Shohagh Paribahan, Madhyamgram) and get down in Jessore and then take a bus to Khulna.

I did not pay anyone to cross the border. People will approach you to help you with filling of forms and then ask you for money. Avoid them all.  It is better to carry a declaration of all the electronic items you are carrying and get it certified by the customs officer.

My entry and exit points are different. I am leaving Bangladesh via Akhaura crossing to Agartala.