|The Kurigram College Vice Principal and head of the English Department introduces me, to speak to a joint class of all the English students at the college.|
|What do people eat in Australia?|
|Why do you live in Bangladesh?|
|What do you think of Kurigram?|
|Are there any jobs going at the newspaper?|
|Street scene in Dhaka. Most rickshaw drivers are from North Bengal.|
|Students from Shilpakala Academy in Burungamari perform in Kurigram Town.|
|With the skills shown that evening, it was easy to imagine a few future stars were among us!|
|Setting out: from the boat to Char Parbhotipur|
|Abdul Wahed, our local correspondent who looked after me in Kurigram.|
|On the Char Parbhotipur boat.|
|With Md Abu Taleb and his family in Char Parbhotipur.|
Notes: There are many "chars" or sand shoals in the Brahmaputra River - maybe one hundred? Living conditions are very basic on the shoals. We visited the nearest (and presumably most developed) one, Char Parbhotipur.
It was interesting for me because my Bengali village is in Hatiya, Noakhali in the south of the country but ultimately Hatiya is also a "char", albeit a much larger island that has been around for a few hundred years. Nonetheless around Hatiya too are newer chars, some of which are inhabited / newly settled.
But Char Parbhotipur was significantly poorer than is usual these days in Hatiya - more like how Hatiyan families used to live twenty years ago. As Hatiya has not had a major cyclone since 1991 and has the benefit of sea as well as river fishing it has become significantly richer and more developed.
The family we visited in Char Parbhotipur, meanwhile, could not even offer tea - which is basically unthinkable in Hatiya, even if visiting the poorest families.
It was incredibly hot with sun glare such that you had to squint on the day we visited - it only took a few hours but I was tired soon enough. Nonetheless, I wished I'd had more time, had gone their alone and stayed the night - or even on a more remote shoal. The local people would easily look after you with somewhere to sleep, and safety is a non-issue - one would only need to bring food supplies as there was no shop there. Maybe next time...
Photos from Ulipur:
|Hanging out at the Ulipur fire station.|
|Trying kheer mahan at one of the competitors to Pabna Sweets, with Makbel.|
|Pithas of a local variety made by Makbel's wife.|
|Discussing Kurigram's food with Md Shohidur Rahman at the Al Shad Hotel. It was the start of the shutkani adventure!|
|Proof that I did help with the cooking (slightly).|
|Crushing jute leaves... like an expert?|
|With Shohidur Bhai and Bipul Bhai in their house yard.|
Notes: I am laughing at the Kurigram photographs of me for two features: first is the "Honda hair" and second, for the really observant, is a slight redness to the lips! It is from chewing betel leaf - a habit I have grown to enjoy now and then (while... ahem... Hari Pada barely stops chewing betel!) The photograph below is a typical "betel photo" in that you want to keep your lips closed a little tightly to prevent the "red lip" phenomenon in the photo. Cameras are yet to be designed with a red lip reduction feature...
|With my friend from Dhaka Hari Pada, at a tea shop in Hatia Union.|
|Sub-inspector Hari Pada buys betel from Rana Bhai!|
|Betel leaf and nut (paan and shupari).|
Photos from Chilmari:
|The Chilmari ghat, where boats leave for the other side of the Brahmaputra.|
|Motorbikes and roof-riding!|
|The other passengers in the boat, before the remaining twenty of them arrived.|
Notes: To the south of Ulipur is Chilmari. It is possible to take ferry boats from the constantly eroding basic ghat there, across the Brahmaputra River to the two isolated Upazilas of Kurigram that lay on the far side... Raumari and Char Rajibpur.
These Upazilas are sandwiched between the Brahmaputra, which takes over an hour to cross by boat, and the black fenced border with the Indian state of Meghalaya. The scenery is beautiful because nearby Meghalaya offers a hilly addition to the horizon, while nearer Bangladesh is flat.
To travel this way is an alternative route back to Dhaka, since buses head south to Jamalpur District where the main northern highway runs south through Mymensingh and Gazipur to the capital. The road from Kurigram to Dhaka is a much longer route in distance (not time) due to the need to use the Banghabandu Bridge far to the south - the only bridge across the Brahmaputra (which is called the Jamuna River further south).