iCommons iSummit 2007

This year’s iCommons iSummit was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the banks of the Adriatic Sea. The summit was truly international, and it was a great experience for me to be able to meet so many people from so many different countries under one roof.

3 Days in India

Timeline: June 7 – June 9

I traveled more than 3200 kilometers in the last 3 days — Dhaka to Kolkata, Kolkata to New Delhi, and back.

Taxi in Kolkata

I hated the temperature in Delhi. It was 42° C when I landed at 22:30, and in the morning it was around 50° C. I’ve never been to a place this hot, and therefor I really didn’t enjoy moving around the city. I didn’t like the food either… I’ve always found Indian dishes to be disgusting.

For me, India was never a favourite destination, and I’ll avoid visiting this country in the future. The only places I wouldn’t mind to be at are Bangalore, Goa, Darjeeling, Kashmir, and Mumbai.

Khulna Revisited

Timeline: October 9 – October 11

Setting up the Khulna center was my last assignment from Relief International. I’ve been working for this international aid agency since May 2005, and I finally realised that it’s time to quit. I resigned last month, and September 31st was officially my last day at work. For last two weeks, I’ve been helping them out as a volunteer, and mentoring my assistant Alamgir whom I’ve nominated for my position.

My work at Khulna took only few hours, so I got a good chance to roam around the city. I visited the zero point, Khulna University campus, Khulna court, the “Jail Khana Ghaat” on the banks of Rupsa river, the New Market, Meena Bazar, and Daily Purbanchal office.

The Khulna Meena Bazar is almost the same size of the Dhaka one, but has one third of the products that our one has. I went there to buy Playboy deodorant for myself but couldn’t find it.

Overall, it was a good trip. I boarded at Hotel Royal as usual and I’m giving them 8.5 out 10 for their service. No beer this time since it’s Ramadan.

Hazrat Khan Jahan Ali’s Bagerhat

Timeline: July 18 – July 19, 2006

Public transportation service from Khulna to Bagerhat is extremely poor. These two districts are only 30 kilometers apart, though the bus takes almost an hour to reach. Rupsha river separates the districts, and the newly built 1.4 kilometer bridge stands high. Yes, it’s named after Khan Jahan Ali as well.

I stayed overnight at Khan Jahania Gono Bidyalaya, which is less than a kilometer away from the famous Shat Gombuj or the “Sixty Dome” Mosque. Contrarary to it’s name, the Mosque doesn’t have sixty domes, but a total of eighty one. Seventy seven domes are over the roof and four domes are on four corners. There are sixty pillars supporting the mosque, and that’s how it got it’s name. Built in 1459 entirely with stones and red burn mud, the mosque measures 160′ x 108′ and the interior is beautifully decorated with terra cotta.

Bagerhat Museum is just beside the mosque, and it has quite a good collection of local antiques, mostly pottery and terra cotta.

The burial place of Khan Jahan Ali was near too, and I gave it a visit. My guide was a local electrician cum folk singer cum painter who has a very good relation with the people taking care of the burial place, or the maazar. The scenario inside the maazar looked a lot like what goes on inside Hindu temples. Some people have turned this sacred place into a business venture, and charges money from the visitors. I didn’t had to pay anything since my guide was their friend. The religious radicalism surrounding this place has got nothing to do with Islam.

Beside the burial lies a very big pond called “Thakur Dighi” and guess what’s in there! Crocodiles! Yes, dozens of crocodiles! They lived there for more than 500 years, and my understanding is that their ancestors were brought from Persia or Arabia by Hazrat Khan Jahan Ali. Interesting, huh?

Khulna Visit

It took eight long hours to reach Khulna, the so called industrial capital of Bangladesh. The 335 kilometers journey wouldn’t have been so boring and tiresome if the Volvo service of Green Line was better. Their AC acted weird, the TV blew up, the seats were uncomfortable, the mineral water had a bad odour, and the guide never apologised despite of so many problems. If I wasn’t carrying my iPod, then I would have surely died of boredom. A good lesson learnt, I’ll never ride on Green Line bus again.

I checked in at Hotel Royal, the best hotel in the region. Their services were of international standards, but surprisingly the room rent wasn’t too high. The room was well groomed with international standard fixtures, the bed was comfy, the room service was quick, and the room attendants appeared well trained. They have a bar too.

I roamed around the town, visited the New Market, but I wasn’t too impressed. Despite being the divisional head quarter of the division, the city was much smaller than I expected. It’s not too developed either. There were handful of cars in the road, and the buildings looked pale. Load shedding is a major problem of the city dwellers. Khulna city had nothing that can be compared to Dhaka, not even with port city Chittagong. Just imagine what kind of city it is where the shutters of shops get closed by 9 PM!

Just a few observations: 1. The dialect of Khulna people isn’t too difficult to understand. 2. The rikshaw fair is pretty cheap. 3. People of Khulna seems to be too obsessed with Hazrat Khan Jahan Ali, the 15 century Islamic religious leader and a ruler. Roads, schools, shops, buildings, companies, and a lot of installations are named after him.

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