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January 23, 2004

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Barter in the Modern Society

Dhaka International Trade Fair

Imran H. Khan

This month, the largest transaction of money probably took place at the Dhaka International Trade Fair (DITF). Year by year, DITF has gained international recognition and reputation as a profitable venture. The people of Dhaka are amongst the hardest of workers and the fruit of such labour is money. And what better way to spend money than at a trade fair. That is why we see that every year, there are some new countries participating in the event, along with the familiar rest.

This is the 10th Dhaka International Trade Fair which started on January 1 and will continue throughout this month. There are about 20 countries, including host Bangladesh taking part in the event. There are over 400 local and foreign pavilions and stalls in this year's event, with more than 300 being stalls. Foreign stalls include stalls from US, Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Switzerland, Pakistan, Iran, Thailand, Russia, Singapore and many other exotic countries. With most Bangladeshis not being able to afford the luxuries of travelling abroad, this is one event where they can roam the magical streets of Thailand or see precious stones and art works from Iran and Pakistan or even taste the delicacies of lands they simply see on National Geographic.

From the moment you enter the parking lot, you can start to comprehend the amount of visitors it gets, but as soon as you enter the fair you will see that the volume of the crowd is rather thin. The simple explanation is the vastness of the fair ground.

Even though security is always a problem, this year, the DITF authorities have taken stern actions to prevent any mishaps from happening in the fair grounds. Apart from a number of policemen going about, both enjoying the fair as well as keeping a lookout for troublemakers, policemen with guard dogs have also been introduced so that any illegal items that do not meet the eye can be met with the nose.

Most of the foreign shops are decorated with things that reflect the shop's origin. Artisti has their new line of shirts and ties while Siemens Mobile is showing their line of cellular phones and all the packages that they are currently providing. Gulbaft Sonali Indian Ltd. caters mainly to those interested in glass jewellery and 'fresh dates'. Thai Wonder Mop was a unique shop that only dealt with, what else, mops. There were mops for every possible use, starting with dusters to sophisticated mops for cleaning floors as well as the ceiling. Nizam Enterprise, with their range of vase, chandeliers and plastic flowers, probably had the most expensive vase for sale at Tk.68,500. For some reason at that point, I lost all interest in buying a vase. Banani Textiles was a sight of relief because it catered to those interested in traditional tribal clothes and handicrafts of Rangamati.

Amongst some familiar old names were Miyako, from Japan with mostly foreigners crowding the entrance to the shop. Revlon Personi, Jordana and a host of others are there to enhance the youth and splendour of the ladies, though quite a large number of men were also crowding the shops. One of the interesting 'sights' to visit was the Thailand Pavilion that had their own realm of shops, all in the same boundary. Starting from Thai Airways, there were numerous shops -- selling flowers, jewellery, chandeliers, food, electronic appliances, beauty products -- all from Thailand. The music and fragrance added to the surroundings and it was almost as if you were in Thailand in person, shopping, of course!

There were a host of electronic shops too, with Transcom Electronics having quite an architecturally advanced structure, much like their product line. Starting from the common iron, to the most advanced television and DVD player, this is where one must come for all their electronic needs. It has world famous brands under its name such as Philips, Whirlpool and more.

Since home appliances are never enough for people, there are about 20 different shops attending to those starting a new home, as well as to those who are in dire need of changing their burnt pots and pans. Home Needs is one such shop with a lot of small everyday kitchen and household gadgets. Delhi Aluminium is such a shop with a large quantity of pots and pans in every possible size. Bangladesh Handloom Board has two stalls at this fair, selling mostly sarees, judging from the crowd of ladies flocking there. Faber Castell from Germany has their stationery shop situated in a convenient corner. Starting from pencils and erasers to more complicated architecture 'devices', this shop is a haven for all those interested in putting a little colour into their lives.

Other brands and ventures included Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Tanin, Fantasy Kingdom, etc., all of whom have their respective little pavilions and distinctive decorations.

Nayan Bastro Bitan, Mehedi, Boishabe and a large number of stalls are catering to the fashion needs of the people while there are bed and cushion shops too to give the drawing room a final touch. Pakistan Art Gallery is selling wooden furniture and has little to do with art. Other popular furniture stalls include Otobi, Navana and many more. Golden Teak, a pavilion selling furniture, has a wonderful outlook and has door designs all around the top floor instead of walls. These are vast number of food stalls conveniently located all over the fair, serving mainly light items, such as chatpati, muglai parata and puchka.

There is a wide range of activities -- whether you like simply browsing, gazing at the scenery, or just enjoying the company of hoards of people or -- this fair offers a treat for everyone. Young and old alike, this fair gets a swarm of people who come from near and far, simply because this is one event everyone can be a part of .
Photo by Imran H Khan


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