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Bangladesh: Year 40

In case 2012 causes us all to die, this wouldn't be a bad penultimate year, unless you count all the Shakib Khan films that came out. But those still made us laugh so it's all good. In all seriousness, we've had arguments (but that's just our Bangali blood), sports events, concerts, births and deaths. Natural disaster wasn't as around as usual, not here, anyway. We celebrated and we lamented. Here is an overview.

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A Good Year In Sport

The year opened, with the curtain rising on the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Being the cricket crazy nation we are, huge lines formed outside the counters. Screams of elation could be heard when people waiting day and night in cold January weather finally got their hands on those tickets. People related to MPs were fortunate, with each MP getting 20 tickets.

Brian Adams came and performed live in what was the first concert in Dhaka by an internationally famous musician. He sang his heart out and entertained the audience, first at the ICC World Cup opening ceremony and then at an acoustic concert. Bangladesh was the centre of attention when the opening ceremony took place at our own Bangabandhu Stadium. Who can ever forget THOSE rickshaw entries? The tournament itself was memorable. Though we endured low-scoring defeats including the humiliating 58 and 78 all outs versus the West Indies and South Africa respectively, we still managed to win three of our six games. One of those was the breathtaking victory against England. We proved worthy hosts.

Though the rest of the year hasn't been the best in cricket with series losses to Zimbabwe, West Indies (although we did exact revenge by bowling them out for 61) and Pakistan.

The year also held a bright phase for our football team as we beat Pakistan in the FIFA World Cup Pre-qualifiers. Although we went out to Lebanon in the next round, we defeated them 2-0 in Dhaka. These achievements were diminished by our dismal performance in the SAFF Championships later in the year.

Of course, speaking of big sporting appearances, who can forget the arrival of Lionel Messi, the best footballer in the world and his Argentine side to Dhaka in September? Millions of Argentina devotees screamed their hearts out at the Bangabandhu and in front of their TV sets as the team rocked the football field against Nigeria. This blew open the possibility of Bangladesh hosting future football events.

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Violence Comes Naturally To Us

Our stock market bubble burst this year and investors (read: people who have no idea how a stock market works but expects profits every day) turned violent. Motijheel has seen more than its fair share of destruction this year.

We don't only settle for violence on the streets though. Eve-teasing was the hot trend last year, this year it's stepped up a notch to beating and physically maiming. The cases are beyond count but the most prominent was when an assistant professor at DU, Rumana Manzur, was beaten, blinded and had her nose torn off in an insane rage by her husband. The man is now dead. He died recently while in custody, and it's hard to say he didn't deserve it. There were more, as women in villages were lashed to death and as I write this, I read an article about a young girl whose husband cut off her hands because she wanted to study. And we're a civilized society?

Sticking with the sad news, a moment to remember six youths who died at Aminbazar after being thought to be robbers. They were beaten to death by locals and the worst part is that this happened while the police stood by and watched. Limon, a young man in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. He lost his leg after being shot in a RAB crossfire while RAB was trying to catch part of a criminal gang. And then there was Abir who was shot down by police in Pallabi.

Ok, enough sad stuff.

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The Souls Departed

Life is short, we come and we go. This year saw the demise of some personalities who had contributed momentously to the culture and recognition of Bangladesh. Azam Khan, our own king of pop passed away, leaving his songs forever in our hearts. We also lost one of our best filmmakers of all time, the award winning Tareque Masud and cinematographer Mishuk Munier in a road accident in August.

 

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The Issue Brought To Light

The deaths of Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier saddened the nation but it also brought to light an issue ignored for far too long. Bangladesh's roads are treacherous. Trucks and buses come from both directions at high speeds and countless people die every year on our roads. Most of the drivers on the highways don't have licenses and couldn't care less for the laws of the road. It might've cost us two extremely talented people but the outrage sparked by their demise would make you think it might not all be in vain. Movements began, protesting for the government to take notice of the problem.

It didn't help when the shipping minister claimed that a person who can tell cows apart from goats is qualified for the road. Promises were made, not much has been done. People are still dying on our roads. The incidents are too many to recite though the most miserable one was probably when a bus toppled over the road, killing more than 40 schoolchildren returning home. The new communications minister could give new hope but let's pray it's not false.

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Half Finished, Fully Incompetent

Staying on the topic of transport, traffic seems to have stepped up a level this year. It was infuriating before, plain unreasonable now. But never fear, the government had plans for a metro rail in Dhaka which would, logically, be the solution to our traffic problems. The proposed metro rail was supposed to go under Dhaka that was until the Air Force decided to butt in. Why do the Air Force have a problem with something underground? Well, the proposed line would take the train past the old airport on VIP road and they thought this is unacceptable because of... wait for it... terrorism risks. The solution? Take the train under the parliament building. So, let me get this straight, there's a terrorism risk if a train goes under an old airport but not if it goes below the bloody parliament (and the best damn piece of architecture in Dhaka)? How does that work? Only in Bangladesh would this even be considered. The Japanese who were helping pay for this ran out of patience and construction has still not started.

The indispensable-to-connecting-parts-of-the-country Padma Bridge construction also came to a standstill this year. The reason? The World Bank, who was funding the project, alleged our now-former communications minister to be too corrupt and this project a funnel. So, now we have a half built bridge. Yay. This motivated pretty much everyone to call for this guy's head but somehow the self-proclaimed “proven honest man” clung onto his position for months after. He's still not been fired though. The communications ministry has been broken down by separating Rail and ICT from it. He's now heading ICT which means he's in charge of taking us towards Digital Bangladesh and the big-money project of making Doel Laptops, which should hit markets next year. But don't worry. He's a “proven honest man”. He won't screw it up. We hope.

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And Then There Were Festivals

January was when the sixth edition of Bangladesh's own international photography festival, Chobi Mela, was held. The biannual festival displayed 29 print exhibitions from around 20 countries. All entries focused on the theme, “Dreams”. This festival, started by photographer Shahidul Alam back in 2001, has put Bangladesh on the photography map.

The first Dhaka World Music Festival was held in February. It featured bands from different genres, ranging from reggae to funk to our own home-grown baul, assembling under the banner of “world music”, a term used to describe music consisting of a mixture of popular music with ethnic.

 

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The Break-Up

They split up Dhaka as you should know by now, from at least just reading RS. North and South. This means two mayors and somehow increased efficiency in the actions of Dhaka City Corporation. How this works is beyond this writer but he has learnt long ago to not apply logic to Bangladeshi politics. Also, hopefully they'll build a wall. It's not division without a wall. Then we'll be like Berlin but with darker skinned people.

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Boro Bhai India

Manmohan Singh, the Indian premier, came to Bangladesh on a high profile visit. This was surrounded by a huge buzz, especially concerning three major deals to be signed. The first that was signed gave freedom to the people of one of the hundred plus enclaves who had so long suffered abandonment. The second to be signed was...wait, the other two weren't signed. Instead we signed something about conserving tigers. Uh-huh good luck with that. Bangalis conserving an endangered species! Hah!

The Teesta water sharing deal fell through because West Bengal didn't like the conditions and threw a massive tantrum. Which actually works out better for India. They don't have to give us water. The other, far more ludicrous deal was to give them a corridor through Bangladesh. This was to transport “goods” (read: a whole bloody army) to the (rebel-infested) Eastern states. Our already dilapidated roads would disintegrate under the weight of the Indians. And we were going to charge a fee. Of a few paisa. Per ton. Wow. And now they're building their Tipaimukh Dam despite the adverse effects it'll have here. The government has been sod all useless about this, despite huge protests, and instead have by some mad calculation found it beneficial. Sigh.

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And To End

In a year that has consisted of all of the above plus beheadings of our nationals in Saudi Arabia, displacing Bangladesh's only Nobel Laureate with a conviction that can only be described as vindictive, being dissed at in what was honestly a pretty baseless article though an accurate reflection of the state of things in the Economist and then further embarrassing ourselves by sending a overly defensive reply longer than the original article, ...at least we're all still alive.

What a year! Yes it had its moments, and it also didn't fail to prove Bangladesh's reputation as a developing nation. Forty years into independence and we continue to learn. As we step closer to the end of the world in 2012, and we start the trials of traitors and war criminals, we can take comfort in the fact that we've survived this far, and we'll keep going (till we drown under rising sea levels).

By Padya Paramita and Bareesh Chowdhury

 

 

 

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