Bangladesh Slideshow

12 September, 2010

My Quiet Eid

Eid-ul-Fitr is the biggest celebration for Muslims. On this day, we give thanks to Allah for allowing us the blessing of completing another Ramadan. Muslims are also encouraged on this day to forgive and forget any differences or past animosities that may have occurred with others during the year. Everywhere you hear greetings of Eid Mubarak (Greeting on Eid). The Eid prayer is performed in congregations in open fields or mosques, or in community centers. After the prayers, we visit families, friends and acquaintances, or hold large communal celebrations. Eid is also a truly gastronomic experience. We visit family and friends, and are visited in return, and everywhere, food takes center stage.

Popular Eid dishes in Bangladesh are Shemai (a vermicelli/milk dish), Kheer (rice pudding)

and Zarda (sweet saffron rice).

Shemai can be of three kinds: Lachcha Shemai, Bhuna Shemai (also known as Zarda Shemai), and Milk Shemai.

Some savoury dishes are also prepared. The favourites are Chotpoti (a chick pea/potato dish)

and Shami Kabab (mince/lentil patties).

These are usually offered during morning or afternoon visits.

For lunch and dinner, there is the mandatory Pulao, served with Chicken Korma or Roast.

Mutton and Beef dishes are also essential for the Eid table, but this year the chicken reined supreme in Bangladesh due to the anthrax incidents. I'm sure the cows and goats breathed a sigh of relief at the (temporary) respite.

This year, I was determined to spend a quiet Eid. Quite made up mind to be neither visitor nor visitee. And with the man of the house going to visit his parents for Eid (and most of the family/friends thinking I was going with him), I saw no other obstacles in my way.

Books, magazines and dvds were purchased.

The staff was given a holiday. I cooked enough food (murgh pulao) so that I wouldn't have to cook every meal.

The house was spiffed up (just in case).

and VoilĂ ! I was all set for my quiet Eid.

On the big day, Candy and I woke to the sound of (very loud) music.

We went to have Eid lunch with my parents. The streets were blissfully traffic-free and Candy enjoyed the wind in her face.

At lunch I gorged myself on Pulao and Roast (oh, Mum's cooking....Yummm!!!). Candy pigged out on Lachcha Shemai. We returned home absolutely content, with nothing but rest and relaxation on my mind.

Oh, what bliss the past three days have been. I lazed around and did absolutely nothing, alternating between my bed and the two other bedrooms and the couch. The only work consisted of heating up the food, watering the plants and making the bed. The phone was on silent and I used it only when absolutely necessary.

I read new/un-read books and old favorites. I read about politics (Stephen Katz's Overthrow and travel (Syed Mujtaba Ali's Deshe Bideshe), love (Georgette Heyer's Friday's Child) and laughter (Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat), fantasies (Rudyard Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill), classics (Sharatchandra Chattapadhya's Choritrohin) and un-classics (Humayun Ahmed's Leelaboti). I read with avid interest about the lives of Hollywood and Bollywood (that's the Mumbai film industry) celebrities, and sighed over the super thin figures of the models in Elle. Meals were eaten in the company of Archie and his gang. There were books and magazines in the bathroom too.

The Eid movie schedule contained such names as Up, Snow Dogs, the Blind Side, the Sound of Music, and Hirok Rajar Deshe (the Kingdom of Diamonds). And there were no junk food binges during showtime - or before or after (I'm so proud of myself!).

But all good things must come to an end. Sigh! But in the rat race that is our lives, I really needed this break, and I will return to the real world truly refreshed. Amen.

10 September, 2010

Shop till you Drop!

With Eid fast approaching, the shopping frenzy has increased in tempo. It's! And then buy some more!

We typically spend a third of our annual budget for clothes and accessories during Ramadan - buying for ourselves, for our extended circle of family and friends and associates, for the less fortunate, for our homes. It is predicted that total sales for Ramadan this year will top 16 billion Taka (about 230 million USD)! Businesspeople all over the country - at the mega malls, shopping centers and makeshift shops - are reporting better sales than last year in men's, women's and children's items. There is something for every taste and every budget.

I ventured to Bashundhara City Mall earlier this week. With 2500 retail stores spread over 8 floors, Bashundhara City is the largest shopping mall in South Asia, and sells almost everything under one roof (and a very colorful roof it is).

This is what I saw:

Yes, there were quite a lot of shoppers.

And this is what they were buying:

I should have made the effort to visit some other shopping centers like New Market and Gawsia Market, Mouchak Market and Bangabazzar, Bailey Road and Elephant Road, but I just couldn't bring myself to face the horrendous traffic. My apologies for not being able to share with you the photos of those very interesting and equally colorful places. Another time, I promise.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all Eid Mubarak, and hope for peace, tolerance, happiness and prosperity in your lives.

25 August, 2010

Time Out: A Stay at the Taj Tashi

I recently stayed at the Taj Tashi in Thimphu, Bhutan. It was the ULTIMATE in relaxation! And although I usually write my hotel reviews at TripAdvisor, I felt I just had to write about the Taj Tashi on my blog.

These are the photos I found of the hotel on the internet. It was clear that the building has adopted age-old Bhutanese traditions in its architecture and service. And I started to look forward to my stay.

My first view of the hotel didn't disappoint. It was like walking into a Dzong!

When I walked in through the front door, a maroon-clad Lama came forth to bless me with sprinkles of holy water and rice, offered me a traditional white silk kadha, and knotted a yellow string around my neck for luck, accompanied by the chimes of small metal bells. We were standing under massive cast iron bells hanging from the high lobby ceiling, and looked out into the valley beyond. I felt blessed.

The common areas were very elegantly furnished - always a mix of the traditional and the modern.

The hotel backyard was also very peaceful. There is just something about Bhutan that takes all your worries away.

Luxuriously appointed spacious bedrooms captured the essence of Bhutanese art and architecture in a contemporary setting, and attention was paid to even the minute details.

Hand-painted Budhdhist murals adorned the walls.

And the bathroom was to die for!!!

It had a heated floor!!!!!!! And spa quality toiletries!!

The main restaurant was also serenity personified. Just look at what view it afforded the diners!

Yes, that really is a HUGE prayer wheel. Om-mani-padme-hum!

And the bar-lounge was very trendy.

I lost my beloved camera one morning, and even a massive dose of retail therapy (5 pairs of shoes) didn't help. I needed to get over my loss and heal! The hotel claimed that their signature Jiva Spa experiences are steeped in the ancient Indian, Royal and healing traditions. So I booked the traditional 'hot-stone bath', trying not to wince at what it would cost me! But let me tell you, Dear Readers, it was money very well spent!

And the evening was rounded up with a gourmet in-room meal!

To add to its virtues, the Taj Tashi is located just off Thimphu's main thoroughfare, Norzin Lam, and is a stone's throw from the main sights, offices and shops. A traditional Bhutanese song-dance-music show is staged every evening for the guests. The service is efficiently provided by traditionally dressed young men and women, who always have a smile to offer. What more can one possibly ask?

I must return one winter to sit in the warmth of the bonfire in the backyard. Soon.