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Posts Tagged ‘islam’

I am about to place my order for two Samosas, my mouth watering and stomach growling, as a man shoots into my field of vision. “Come join us for the open house – free food!” He points to a row of large tents, where a colorful mix of people weave their way past food stands.

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 As a former military analyst and interested student in international politics and development, I have been conditioned to think about a country as a political and economic entity, as a developed or underdeveloped nation, as an ally or as a potential ‘threat’. My understandings of a place comes from T.V, books, articles and, often, biased or western-centric media analysis. As a result, I put greater emphasis on personal and national ‘threats’ than is deserving. Opening my eyes and mind to images and personalities beyond these parameters is challenging.

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Tell me about Bangladesh: How is it different from India? This is the question that everyone from home asks me. In our first destination, Sylhet, we find that the lungi is deeply in style, and this combined with the pervasive stares makes us feel like we are transported back to Tamil Nadu. A new development, however, is that whenever we stop to do anything on the street, a crowd of 10 or 20 men gathers within moments to watch. Look, the foreigners are trying to buy water at the store. Look, the foreigners are arguing with a baby-taxi driver. Look, the foreigners are drinking tea, are visiting a tailor, are admiring a shop full of saris and lungis.

These crowds are unnerving for sure, but deeply benign. A disagreement over price can be easily resolved when people from the crowd intervene on behalf of fairness. A language barrier in rickshaw directions can be overcome when the crowd member with the best English steps forward to interpret. (more…)

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