(I think about Dhaka now with a special kind of wonder. As I write this, an incredible number of well-wishers are gathering in Dhaka city for Humayun Ahmed’s funeral. All my love to the family, in particular my Dadu, Nova Apu, Sheila Apu, Bipasha Apu, Nuhash, and Boro Chachi.)
Dhaka city. It moves and speaks and breathes like a person. It is the most densely populated place in the world; there are places where it is close to impossible to walk on the street. You will step over someone selling t-shirts, weave through a shockingly orderly line of people waiting for a bus, and panic just a little as you have to duck under electricians working on a street light. People. Cars make up their own rules as they squeeze past each other; you have to get real creative if you want to get anywhere through traffic. Honking your horn is simply language. Pedestrians cheerily slap the sides of vehicles as they walk by, a way of saying hello that is extremely dangerous if you stop to think about it, but why would you ever do that. It’s really hot. Hundreds of stores line every street. Despite the fact that they all sell exactly the same things, none of them lack business. Women, the young women that have rescued the country’s economy with their work in the garments factories, walk in the protection of groups and covered heads, giggles on their lips. Children run up to cars stopped in traffic, selling flowers, popcorn, bottled water, and illegally photocopied books. If you take your money out a moment too late and your car starts to move, they will run with you.
If you squint a bit, you can see the poverty that you’ve read about in the papers. Much louder, though, much easier to touch, is the ingenuity; the stubborn, bulldoze-over-everything survival.