Bangla English – Tomato Tomato

Sign of life in Dhaka where many people do not "self drive."
Sign of life in Dhaka where many people do not “self drive.”

The English spoken in Bangladesh includes a few words which are different in British English and American English, plus some that are unique to Bangla English. Here are several words which are different from American English:

Capsicum – is a bell pepper/sweet pepper

Aubergine – eggplant (“BEG-un” in Bangla)

Coriander – cilantro (the leafy part of the coriander plant)

Lime – lime is lemon (“yellow limes” are a fairly rare sight here and they are a different breed)

Microbus – mini-van

There are other differences but these are the ones I encounter all the time. I’ll try to update this as I recall more.

While many Britishisms exist in Bangla, “schedule” is not “SHEY-duel” which is interesting considering that many of the words spelled with an “s” are pronounced with a “sh” sound (like “sari” or “sharee”). Plus, there are many Bangla words which I think would be a great addition to the English language. My first contender would be the expressive word for “end” or “finito!” — Shesh!

Essential Bangla — Bengali Language

Mum is the brand here.
Mum is the major brand of water here.

While a smile will get you far, as a foreigner in Bangladesh, learning a few phrases of Bangla is a good idea. I am not a linguist so I’ve made up my own system of phonetics. These are some of the phrases I have learned:

PAH-nee — water — This is the Bangla word I used most in this hot, hot, hot land.

DON-ah-bawd — thank you (foreigners like to use this but I’m told it’s not really part of the culture. I’ve seen nods of the head or a closed fist to the chest used as “thank you” and that works too).

Sah-ley-al-eh-kyum — greetings (it’s from Arabic and is how you greet people or announce your presence) — I often just say “good evening/good day/hello” and that seems to work.

DECK-A-hawb-aa — see you later.

AH-che — gotcha or yes, I’m listening to you and I understand that you are speaking. I like “gotcha” because it rhymes with the Bangla word.

EK-tah — one of (EK is one).

SHESH — done as in “enough” and “it’s over.”

LAWG-bey-nah — No need or I do not need it (useful when rickshaws try to run you over in their eagerness for your custom). This is the phrase I have found most useful.

Half a million rickshaws, all trying to give you a ride.
Half a million rickshaws, all trying to give you a ride.

‘Twas the Day After Eid – Empty Streets in Dhaka

One shop was open the day after Eid-ul-Adha.
One shop in Gulshan Two was open the day after Eid-ul-Adha.

Empty streets in Dhaka? This year, Durga Puja and Eid-ul-Adha happened within days of each other so the government was closed for several days. The week also included a harvest festival, Wangala, and a full moon. Whatever the religion, many Dhaka-ites went home to their villages to spend holiday time with their families. The result was quiet in Dhaka much like in Europe the day after Christmas. Some businesses were closed for Durga Puja and almost all were closed for Eid-ul-Adha and the day after. By Thursday, a few places opened up again. 7-11 has not arrived in Bangladesh yet (there is probably a 7-11 but it is not the official franchise) but they too would have been busy if they were here.

This is "Rickshaw Road" with no traffic. We went fast enough to blur the photo.
This is “Rickshaw Road” with no traffic. We went fast enough to blur the photo.

This is the most shuttered I’ve seen Dhaka. The result was that the streets were empty. So you could get nowhere fast. Which we did when we went exploring.

Cow Market, Dhaka Gabtoli Cattle Fair

On the road to the Gabtoli cattle market
On the road to the Gabtoli cattle market

As Eid-ul-Adha (a celebration commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son) approaches, many Muslims will buy a “cow” to sacrifice. Although folks say “cow,” the cattle for sale are actually bulls. The largest “cow market” in Dhaka is the Gabtoli cattle fair, located on the road to Savar, next to the Gabtoli bus terminal. I was told to take “gum boots” because of the cow “mud” on the ground. One person even told me to take a rain jacket as protection against the “mud” on the cows which might rub against me. It had not rained recently, so when I got to the cattle market, I chose not to wear my rubber boots (and I did not take a rain jacket anyway). It was extremely dusty and crowded.

A bull with painted horns.
A bull with painted horns.

I did not find the cattle market smelly. The smell of the open sewers in my neighborhood is much worse. The bulls were extremely clean and well cared for. I saw them being washed using hay as a sponge. The bulls were docile and they were not castrated. There was indeed some manure on the ground but I walked around it, and I do not think that I would have walked in it even if I had been wearing my gum boots.

Snack vendor at Gabtoli cattle market.
Snack vendor at Gabtoli cattle market.

The cattle pens were row upon row of bamboo stakes and fabric sun awnings. Like a county fair, there were vendors selling snacks and some selling feed for the cattle. The cattle were fed grain mixed with water. I cannot remember how much a bull cost per kilo but I think that when we asked about a certain bull, the price was around 70 lakh taka (a lakh is 100 thousand) so around $900. For those who can’t afford a bull, a goat will suffice, but I didn’t see any for sale at this market. I was also told that camels and water buffalo might be for sale at the Gabtoli market. I didn’t see any but instead saw many different breeds of cattle including miniature breeds, Rajastani (with hump), Hereford, Jersey mix — and all in a variety of colors from all white, dun, to all black.

The bulls get decorated for Eid-ul-Adha.
The bulls get decorated for Eid-ul-Adha.
Bull for sale.
Bull on the road to the cattle market.

All in all, it was interesting to see the cattle market after all stories I was told. It was much like a cattle fair in the U.S. except that here we expats drew a crowd. More on that in another blog posting.

The Kingdom of Bhutan, Land of Gross National Happiness

The Paro valley and red chiles drying on a rooftop.
The Paro valley and red chiles drying on a rooftop.

Bhutan. Land of Happiness. Land of Gross National Happiness. Land of the Thunder Dragon. The Hermit kingdom. Whatever the name, it is unlike any other place in the world.

As a non-Indian, Nepalese, or Bangladeshi, getting to Bhutan must be done through a tour company. The company takes care of your ticket, visa, hotel, and itinerary. We used a fledgling company called Bhutan HappyLand Tours. While some of the kinks need to be ironed out, overall, I’m glad that we went. Indeed, I feel myself yearning to go back. Our guide was unflagging in energy and answered every single one of my vast array of questions, from early in the morning till late at night.

When working, the men must wear the national costume.
When working, the men must wear the national costume.

They filmed Seven Years in Tibet — in Bhutan —  and you might want to stay that long. If you can afford it. It is not cheap to visit at $250 per night, $450 for the ticket from Dhaka, and $40 visa. But beyond that, the only other money you will need is for souvenirs and to tip your guide. Everything is best paid in U.S. dollars (100 bills are best). Druk Air, Royal Bhutan Airlines, is the national carrier of Bhutan and there are only two flights per week from Dhaka to Paro.

Prayer wheels spinning in this Buddhist country.
Prayer wheels spinning in this Buddhist country.

There are many itineraries to choose from but we chose the three night tour of Bhutan. We saw archery, graphic wall art, butter churning, monks praying, and much happiness.

Since the country is shrouded in mystery, there are many things that set Bhutan apart from other countries. More in a future blog posting…

Grocery Stores in Gulshan

As an expat, grocery shopping can be an adventure. But if you don’t want one, here’s a list of stores which come closest to what you would find in the U.S., Australia, or England. Many of these places are on my map of 99 expat places.

Lots of imported fruit and freshly spritzed lettuce.
Lots of imported fruit and freshly spritzed lettuce.

Unimart, Road 91, near Gulshan 2 circle: Opened July 2013. Wide clean aisles… The store is like a small Target or Walmart. It is in the basement with parking garages below. Excellent service. Everything from coat hangers, plastic flower pots, sports jerseys, kitchen appliances, clothes, fresh fruit, British pickles (no food dye), children’s shoes, men’s shoes, sports gear, bakery, etc. etc. Very clean and with wide aisles.

Dali, in the corner of DIT 2 (the horsehoe market across from the Westin): A good selection of fresh meat, vegetables, and the usual canned goods. Houses the Australian Butcher who will butcher to order.

Agora, in the Agora building on Gulshan Avenue, same building as Bamboo Shoot: This has pretty much everything. A little pricey.

Lavender, on the road behind the Landmark building which is the northwest quarter of Gulshan 2 circle: It has a fair selection for hefty prices. The second floor is great for nail polish, toys, etc.

Korean Mart, road 12 in Banani: They have everything from fresh tofu, vegetables, buckwheat, and almost everything you didn’t know that you wanted. It’s pricey.

Meena, Road 11, Banani (It’s a local chain so you will find them all over.): Has almost everything but not so much of it.

Like bingo night -- they will call your driver up from the garage.
Like bingo night — at Unimart, they will call your driver up from the garage.

Then there are some small shops that one could shop at which do not sell pots and pans:

White Hen, near Rok restaurant in Banani: This is mostly a deli and bakery run by the same guy who is the “Australian butcher” at Dali.

“Organic grocer” — is Southwest Gardens. They have vegetables, frozen fish, rice, honey.

German Butcher, on road 59 (I think): deli meats, cheese, bagels, fresh brown bread, and they will butcher pork to order.

London Sausage House, number 14 on my map of 99 expat places: It’s got deli meats, cheese, etc.

Some of these places will deliver as well.

Delivery truck.
Delivery truck.