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Thursday, December 18, 2008

The fun business, business of fun

My foreigner boss treated me lunch the other day. While praising the amazingly aromatic biriyani and the Bangladeshi chef, he also mentioned very casually how fun loving he thinks Bangladeshis are. Upon request for specification, he narrated from his recent experiences in tours in Nepal, Thailand and Malaysia. He said that almost wherever he went in those places, he came across scores of Bangladeshis, groups of friends, families, students all having fun, dining, wining, dancing, shopping, taking photos, gambling—in one word—having fun.

He also recalled one prominent restaurant in Kathmandu, where he found out that majority of the diners were not only from Bangladesh, but more specifically from Dhaka. He also exchanged pleasantries with a few, drawing upon his work experience as an expatriate here in Bangladesh. He claimed that even the duet singers who were rendering latest Bolloywood numbers, were flown in from Dhaka. They even sang latest Bangla songs as well, as some of the Bangla speaking audience furnished some request for particular numbers. After a sumptuous dinner in the company of Bangladeshis in the land of the Sagarmatha, my boss went up to the casino to try his luck with the roulette. There too, according to him, were our desi bhais trying their heart and luck out with flashy jackpot machines, plain roulette and other perhaps 53 types of games and gamblings possible with 52 cards. There were smoke, liquor, lights, shouts, calls, cries, sighs, smiles, tensions, laughter—in one word—merry making. And yes, Bangladeshis ofcourse. Fun loving Bangladeshis.

Our conversation over the biriyani dug deeper. We noticed that perhaps there is an increase in the number of domestic tourists within the country, who flock the popular tourist spots down south. We also realize that a certain income class of the society has achieved the ability to frequent more and more the tourist destinations around Bangladesh over the recent few years. But if these are the very tourists who cram the night clubs in Bangkok and the casinos in Kathmandu, thanks to their increased disposable income (or desire to travel whatever the budget be), then why don’t they show the same behaviour while within Bangladesh? I mean its good that we make the economy of the host country richer with our own money spent in their tourist hot spots, but is our demand to have similar kind of services not strong enough that might warrant flourishing of similar services in Kuakata and Cox’s Bazar? Its ironic that hotels in Cox’s Bazar allow BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze), you can drink in your hotel room, in the hotel beach (as long as you drink in bottles of Mum mineral water) or after the sun set. But you cannot set up legal bars there to sell alcohol. You can play loud music from your car, jeep and dance with your friends on the beaches but nothing called a ‘Disco’ can be set up or publicized. Or can it be? Just that no one bothers to, or dares to?

Rules. Rules. Rules. Is that the answer? What rule? Whose rule? Constitution? High court? Imam Shaheb? Abba? Amma? Who sets the rule? Society? Who is this society? Why am I willing to let my hair down and get flown and blown away with power alcohol in foreign discos but not willing to set up these in our tourist destinations? Chele meyera kharap hoye jabe? If we are so fond of Phi Phi island and Nagarkot and we also lament how beautiful our tourist locations are, are we still waiting for Government’s approval to set up infrastructure there? Or are we waiting that the ‘outlook’ of the society will change, then we will install ‘facilities’ as available even in so called Muslim majority nations such as Malaysia, Indonesia (Langkawi, Bali) etc.?

I don’t know if you have noticed or not, due to some ‘unknown’ reasons, the number of ‘DJ Parties’ have increased in town. I don’t want to argue if you think this is against our culture or not and all that jazz and jizz, I saw a poster the other day for a DJ party for Eid Celebration! Not bad huh? Quite a revolution isn’t it? Imam Shaheb will be a sad man seeing this poster, no? How many holud programs have you attended lately which went without a bit of nacha nachi? Globalization or the ‘wave of foreign cultural invasion’ has arrived here long ago, perhaps silently and not with a bang, but how long will we hold us back from the natural desire to jump around and dance around with some music and with friends and family? How long of the shady, close door parties in Gulshan, Baridhara, Uttara? How long of this strange system of doing ‘those things’ privately and wearing a gentle, sober face in the public? Which one are we actually?

Well, you could argue that we are a poor country and also a ‘Muslim’ country and have our heritage of many years, so we better not indulge in such ‘morally decaying’ activities. Honestly, I know little. Its just that I don’t understand if countries like Indonesia and Malaysia can allow same ‘things’ in and around their tourist locations and in major cities, why we cannot do it? Perhaps we are socially, culturally and morally stronger, purer than them right? Let it be then. I will be sober here, to keep the ‘social polices’ happy and put my coin down in the casinos in Nepal.


1. As an after-thought, setting up casinos and disco bars are not pre-requisites of a robust tourism sector. The argument is for introducing services, albeit through private sector initiatives, in our own tourist locations. This way, both domestic and foreign tourists will spend for the same service within our territory only. We can show that we can have fun, and we don’t have to keep on crowding foreign locations to prove that. What we have, is just unique, its just a matter of recognizing it and working on it.

2. The author is not a regular drinker, gambler, disco freak or any other socially ‘disturbing’ element, out in the mission to destroy ‘our values’. At the age of 28, he made his maiden visit to Cox’s Bazar in March 2008, this is the first reason of shame for him. He found the place so beautiful and full of potential that he has decided never to return there unless he himself can do something to tap this potential. That is the second reason of shame that he still has not managed to do anything much for the largest unbroken coastline down south. Other than this painfully long blog post.


qtzaman said...

I had read in a newspaper, that Bangladeshi's are the happiest nation in the world. You will see that general people in our country, always think of the present, don't try to plan for future. I think We are casual in our efforts to move on. Interesting write up.

Ferdous said...

interesting writing it..

Murshed said...

We need not to setup a bar to make our tourist place interesting and enjoyable.We can setup some innovative things in our native soil through using our culture.Just as like the other countries are doing.

rajib said...

Thanks man nice post though I do not agree to all your comments.