Sonargaon, an old Moghul King's kingdom from 1432 is a place that I've visited at least 5 times in my life. Who visits a national monument that many times, when it is at least 2.5 hours away from the city? Well, when you are in the this place, for a second you'll think that you've gone back in time. This entire district has been more or less preserved for historical value, so when you walk past the main house, all the other buildings and houses that were lived in my support staff for the monarchy, are still standing. Its an archaelogical gem...
This angle in particular is my favourite, and I've taken this shot at least a few times before, each time using a different technique to process (hoping its an improvement each time).
This guy was seated in the front row of the audience. I glanced in his corner a few times, and all those times, he looked really serious. It was to my (and probably everybody else's) surprise that he was the first guy to jump out of his seat and start dancing. I applaud his enthusiasm, and goes to show how you can never judge a book by its cover.
Baul singers are cult heros in Bangladesh. I forget the name of this one, will research it and find out. Here he takes a moment in between songs to make a few jokes with his duet partner on the Tabla.
Other than traditional cultural events, there are a lot of traditional items for sale. Fabric and "Churi" are among some of them. Churi is bengali for bangles, which are worn together with many of the traditional outfits of Bangladesh.
Bengali classical dance is a big part of the Poush Mela. The folk and tribal music and dance forms of Bangladesh are of indigenous origin and rooted to the soil of Bangladesh. Several dancing styles in vogue in the north-eastern part of the Indian subcontinent, like Monipuri and Santal dances, are also practiced in Bangladesh, but Bangladesh has developed its own distinct dancing styles. Bangladesh has a rich tradition of folk songs, with lyrics rooted into vibrant tradition and spirituality, mysticism and devotion. Such folk songs also revolve round several other themes, including love themes.
After a brief trip to Old Dhaka, we now go to the hub of culture in Dhaka - Ramna Park. This park has a historical past - it starts about 1610 AD during Mughal rule, when the city of Dhaka was founded by Subehdar Islam Khan under Emperor Jahangir. At that time two beautiful residential areas were developed in the northern suburb of Dhaka city. New residential houses, gardens, mosques, tombs and temples were built in this area during that period. After the fall of the Mughal rule, Ramna gradually lost much of its glory. Ramna was then a barren area with bushes, abandoned or dilapidated buildings, tombs and old temples.
Ramna area began to regain its glory since 1825, when Mr. Dowes, a British collector of Dhaka initiated a series of steps for development of the city. Engaging convicts, he cleared up the bushes and demolished most tombs and monuments except the Ramna Kali Mandir. The old mosque and tomb that now stand by the western side of old High Court building were spared. The renovated area was given the name of Ramna Green and was fenced by a boundary for using it as a race course. In 1908 he began the work of a garden that took 20 years to take a shape.
The Nawabs of Dhaka developed the racecourse area as a beautiful garden and named a part of it as Shahbagh, the royal garden. The Nawabs also set up a zoo at Ramna. In 1851, the European civil servants established the Dhaka Club on the northern corner of the racecourse and after the Partition a good number of beautiful residential houses were built at Minto road area for the High Court judges and top bureaucrats.
Ramna Park was officially inaugurated in 1949 with an area of 88.50 acres of land with 71 species of plants. The large open spaces on the southwest facing the lake were used for holding National Fairs and Exhibitions. In 1960, Queen Elizabeth II was accorded a rousing civic reception at the Ramna park with display of local fireworks. A raised concrete platform was built for the Queen, the remnants of which can still be seen in the park close to the lake. [source: wikipedia]
Nowadays, the park and a famed tree is the home to many festivals. One of them is the Poush Mela. Poush, the first of the two months in the Bengali calendar spanning winter, brings in festivity in the life of people living in rural Bengal. The people make traditional delicacies called pithas, made of new harvest of rice and date juice. There are traditional Baul music, songs, dances, recitation from puthis or folk literature, and plenty of traditional foods. There are stalls for henna (mehndi) painting and other foods like honey and dates for sale. All in all, the festival is reminescent of a Bohemian lifestyle, where everybody hangs out, chills out and basically has an all around good time.
Dhaka is known as the Rickshaw capital of the world. If you've ever been here, you'll know why. At any given time, there are 400,000 of them zipping around the city. Although the govt. is trying to ban them in a lot of the major highways during the daytime to reduce traffic jams, in Old Dhaka, it is the only form of transportation that can get into all the narrow roads and alleys. There are rickshaw garages everywhere. It is unlikely that you will see a bunch of them parked, but we had arrived at a less busy time, and on a holiday, so we caught a rare glimpse of them all parked together.
"He originally was working in harsh sunlight. I asked him, through the guide, if he would mind setting up a few feet away in the shade. This change greatly enhanced the image quality so I could portray the details of the man’s face, in his hand actions and in his shoes."
Really? You asked him to 'move' his 'shop', so you could take a better picture? I just wrote a whole post on how I feel about pictures like this - to keep it short, I feel it's exploitative, opportunistic, and if you are making money as a result of the pictures (directly or indirectly), I feel you need to do something to give back to the person, or the place. Do something (as little as can be done) to make the persons life a little bit better. You can read more about it here.
So, then you may ask, why am I posting this picture? Well, my conscious is clear for two reasons - one of the reasons being that the kid told me to take the picture. This is just outside Ahsan Manjil, where a lot of vendors (mostly kids) sell a lot of stuff. It was pretty crowded, but with my massive dslr, I guess I stood out. He asked me to take the picture, saying that he wanted to make a pose. Then he asked me if he could get the picture. I showed him the picture right away, and he seemed pretty elated. He said he is there every friday, so if I ever came back, to please bring the picture. I felt bad, because I knew there was no way I could get the picture to him, being unprepared as I was, and I was not going back there this visit. I was thinking about it recently when I processed the picture about two weeks ago - it dawned on me that I can send it to my aunt (and I did), who then on my request printed it out and went there to give it the boy. My aunt said that he was ecstatic. I didn't really improve his life by much, but I left him happy, I believe, which is good enough for me. If all these bigshot photographers would do just that much, I would be happy.
Speaking of contrasts, I just thought this was really funny. Being as technological as I am, I still can't get into text-ing. But in Dhaka, its rampant. This is at Ahsan Manzil, a historical Nawab family house. The security guard seemed engrossed in a text message conversation, and standing in front of this historical building made an awesome picture.
In a town of 12 million people and one of the densly populated cities in the world, it is hard to find a little space of your own, where you can have a moment. I caught this couple taking a little time out at the Lalbagh fort, where they seemed to be able to find that elusive space of their own.
This is the mosque at Lalbagh Fort in Dhaka, a leftover stronghold of the bygone era of the Mughal empire, which once ruled Central Asia. This was started by Prince Muhammad Azam Shah in 1678, and but couldn't finish before he was called back. His successor, Shaista Khan, did not complete the work, though he stayed in Dhaka up to 1688. His daughter Iran Dukht nick named Pari Bibi (Fairy Lady) died here in 1684 and this led him to consider the fort to be ominous.
Lalbagh Fort is also the witness of the revolt of the native soldiers against the British during the Great Rebellion of 1857. As in the Red Fort in India, they were defeated by the force led by the East India Company. They and the soldiers who fled from Meerat were hanged to death at the Victoria Park. In 1858 the declaration of Queen Victoria of taking over the administrative control of India from the Company was read out at the Victoria park, latter renamed Bahadur Shah Park after the name of the last Mughal Emperor who led that greatest rebellion against then British empire. [Source: wikipedia]
The string of pictures in Sylhet and the tea gardens is almost done - this one is on the way back. If you don't know already, the traffic jams of Bangladesh are just terrible. You can get stuck for hours, all for no reason other than the fact that there are too-many-vehicles. There is not much to do once you get stuck in this traffic, except just contemplate, which is what I was doing, and I caught a glimpse of the truck driver's face, who seemed to be doing the same thing. There is a look of defeat in his face, which I assumed I had as well, mostly because of frustruation of not being able to go anywhere.
People in the west usually think of Asia as an exotic place, just as the people in Asia think the west is exotic. The cultures are VERY different, and even within Asia, they vary to a great degree. Even the mundane picture of regular everyday life from Asia seems really exquisite and eye-catching - pictures of people are even more so. There is a little personal dilemma I have with this when doing this in a country where the people are really poor/uneducated/unaware of the potential of the pictures being taken off them. I know of many documentary/travel photographers who travel to these poorer third world countries, and take regular pictures which are then lauded in chic galleries in New York City and other cities because of its 'exotic-ness'. Most of them do little or nothing to improve the lives of the people they took a picture of and then proceeded to become famous for it. I also know of many of these photographers, who go there and stage the photographs, because nobody in the west can really tell the authenticity of the situation it was taken in. Nobody gets model releases, nobody explains to the illiterate farmer that his picture might be hanging in a fancy gallery, and people who have no idea about his life will be looking at it, and the photographer would become famous at his expense. Just look around the web and elsewhere, and pictures of dirty kids, and homeless people are abundant and somehow considered 'artsy', and I can safely say that the peoples' lives in the photographs haven't changed much. IMHO, I feel it is exploitive and opportunistic. I just don't feel right about doing that.
There are many famous photographers who have become famous this way, including Steve McCurry, whose Afghan Girl picture is one of the most recognized pictures in the world. But I do know that he went back, and searched for that girl (and found her). So, there are photographers that do it right. I love documentary photography, but doing a good job in that field requires the photographer to make a connection with their subjects. Once they do that, there is no way they will leave it behind in the same condition they found it.
I have a few pictures of people from Bangladesh, but I really don't like to shoot people in their misery, and nor do I like to get credit for taking pictures of their misery. I struggled a little bit about putting up tihs picture, but we were both pretty frustruated by the traffic at that time, so I posted it.
If you haven't already guessed by the name of this site, I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan. Their songs are complex, deep and brilliant stories that gel together to make fascinating listening experience. And being that way, I get never get tired of them. A lot of photographers listen to music while taking pictures, and whenever I do, I listen to Pink Floyd. I wasn't listening to Pink Floyd when I took this picture, but I was thinking about it. This guy appeared out of nowhere as soon as I turned, and I took the picture very quickly, and the title came to mind. Because just before that, I was taking a picture of the tea plants, and I was done, and I turned around to go back, and for whatever reason turned back, and here he was. This area was actually pretty empty, and so to see this guy was a pleasant surprise. He actually stopped a little ahead, and told us a pretty cool place have some tea.
This is on the same road as The Green Tunnel, but this one is from the car as I didn't have the time to stop and take the shot. You can see the reflections on the lower right - which I chose to leave in. At a first glance, it may seem like a blurry shot most people would delete, but as we were driving, the framse seemed really good, and I couldn't help thinking about 'the moment' that HCB has always mentioned (albeit this may be a very poor example). The blur motion of the trees add to the shot, I feel...
The reason I chose to leave the reflections in was because the contrast in which this picture was taken always bothers me - I usually travel by car when I go back to Bangladesh, but looking out the window, the disparity between the rich and poor always bothers me... it was pretty cold, but here was this guy, biking to work (or wherever) while I was in my warm car....
Its not often you see an empty road in Dhaka. The chances may be higher outside of the city, but still a rare sight. So when you see an empty road, perfectly embraced by hovering trees, you stop and you take the picture - no question. This is on the way to the tea plantations in Sri-mongol/Sylhet.
The tea gardens at Sri-mongol are endless. It is one of the few regions in the country that is mountainous, and so when the tea plants that are evenly trimmed are seen all over the mountains, it looks a lot like a smooth green carpet. For a lack of more eloquent words, it looks really cool.