Friday, July 27, 2007

Witchdoctors and Windscreen Wipers

TIB…This is Bangladesh...and its been ten months so therefore many things are no longer a surprise. However, the recent goings on at Georgia’s organisation have reconfirmed my faith the Bangladeshi capacity to be astounding. You may remember that I spent a couple of weeks there in May working on their research strategy and training staff in participatory techniques. The organisation is mainly staffed by and works with indigenous communities in the hill tracts, and has some serious backing from major institutional donors.

However it also, it seems, harbours a thief, for someone has purloined a laptop from the organisation. Apparently it is known for the police (who are Bengali and skeptical of the indigenous organisations) to pay members of staff to steal computers, and it is this that has been suspected here. The NGO is now undergoing an investigation.

The investigation so far has not yielded anything useful, and they are considering turning the matter over to a higher authority to find out the culprit. This is not the police, however, as one might expect, but instead a fortune teller. She ha put a curse on the office which gives all employees 72 hours to own up to the wicked deed, or she will reveal who did it in a humiliating or frightening way. The deadline is up today, so I am expecting show trials and burnings at the stake before long.

Back in Dhaka, the rain is posing problems for the taxi drivers. These cars rarely work in the best of times, being a mismash of other cars, buses and spray paint as they desperately try to get them to run without spending any money. Hence, the driver that took me up to Gulshan on Thursday evening had not invested in repairing his windscreen wipers. Clearly he felt he didn’t need them, despite monsoon rains lashing the windows and making it impossible to see anything.

Luckily, he had developed an ingenious solution – he had attached a small wire to the right hand wiper which was hanging down against the side of the car. As we drove along he had his arm out the window pulling the wire and thereby replicating a rudimentary windscreen wiper, allowing him a small patch to see out of which enabled him to continue to drive like a lunatic, the common state in Dhaka come wind or shine.

On the way back, our CNG was a large Indian one, the biggest I have seen in Bangladesh. Yet it was driven by a midget, the smallest CNG driver I have seen here. Though it might come out of a Dali painting, it doesn’t look out of place here.

TIB after all

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