Its only when you fly across India to get to Bangladesh [formerly East Pakistan], that you realize how cruelly the lines that partitioned the Subcontinent had been drawn. Who, in their right mind, would believe that a country could be governed when it was split apart – or as Rushdie describes it, a moth-eaten country.
If there is one thing that has left me with an overwhelming sense of envy, it is the patriotism of the Bangladeshi people. I consider myself a patriotic Pakistani, and wouldn’t give up my green passport for the world, but the sense of pride here is something one must experience first hand. Arriving in Dhaka as the Cricket World Cup kicked off in the capital, you can feel how the people here are immensely proud of who they are and what their nation stands for, and this is fuelled further by being hosts of the CWC. Even though Dhaka is by far one of the most tourist-unfriendly metropolitans one has ever visited (the people are wonderful and helpful though); there are no signs in English, for example – and if you don’t understand Bengali, you might as well end up in another part of town [as I did, trying to get to the Liberation War Museum and ending up at the National Museum in another part of town]. One ends up feeling like a character from Scoop, “Anyone here speak English and knows a Prisoner of War?”
In Dhaka, there is no avoiding the past. Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman’s posters line the streets, and on walls, there are graphic representations of a member of the Pakistan Army snatching the dupatta of a Bengali girl. By the end of the visit, I had told so many people I was from India to avoid getting into a 1971 conversation, that the waiter at the hotel’s restaurant kept consoling me when Bangladesh’s batsmen hit fours and sixers against India in the first Cricket World Cup match.
As one travels around Dhaka, which really is quite a beautiful city, one feels a sense of irrevocable loss – we lost a beautiful city, and a wonderful nation with such rich culture and diversity, and we’ve left millions of people with a deep-rooted hatred for what happened to them at the hands of those wearing Pakistan Army uniforms – and for what?
I have never wanted to apologize so badly for something I wasn’t even responsible for.
You can see the rest of the pictures from Dhaka here