Friday, May 11, 2007

Hare Krishna Anniversary Feast
May 5, 2007

Nitonondo, the guy that Natasha and I met on our visit to Old Dhaka, invited us to come back to his house on May 5th for an anniversary feast and we accepted. Everyone was very friendly and the food was AMAZING! Hare Krishna followers are vegetarians - they do not eat meat, fish, or eggs. Natasha (a Muslim) and I talked with some of the followers about their beliefs. Apparently there are four main rules that Hare Krishnas must follow: 1) they can not eat meat, 2) they can not take drugs or intoxicants (including caffeine), 3) they can not gamble, and 4) they must abstain from sex except within a marriage for the purpose of procreation. Hare Krishna followers also fast two days every month.

Nitonondo explained to me that Hare Krishna followers believe in all religions. He gave me the analogy of a house. There might be many doors (the different religions - Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) , but the inside of the house (God) is still the same. He believes that the primary purpose of life is to achieve happiness. This is done by becoming a servant of Krisha (God). He also believes in reincarnation.

There were several dozen dishes. Nitonondo told me that last week there was a party where they prepared 86 different dishes! (All vegetarian) There was a celebration a couple of weeks ago where 1001 different dishes were prepared! Everybody eats a little bit of every dish. They kept bringing more and more food for Natasha and I and we got very full!

Natasha, Nitonondo, and I
This photo was taken on the roof of Nitonondo's house.

They set Natasha and I up in one of the rooms to eat so we didn't have to sit on the floor.

After the dancing and singing, everybody ate on the floor in the little courtyard to one side of the building. (For photos of the building, see my May 1 blog entry...)

Savar Survey
May 4, 2007

Today I went to Savar to complete the final data collection for my survey. As before, my group was greeted with a lot of attention. When one of the men who was circling us started answering my garment worker's questions for her, I pulled him and the others standing around off to the side to distract them with photos. Most people really love having their photo taken and then seeing it back on the screen of my digital camera - especially the kids! I would try to take a photo of a garment worker cooking in the distance and then kids would run in that direction to try to be in the photo. It was quite funny.

This time there was a guy in the group who knew how to use a camera, so he took several shots of me with the kids. At one point he was snapping several photos while I was seated in a chair and then mothers started bringing their babies over and putting them in my lap so that they could have their picture taken with me. I felt like Santa Claus!

Here are some of the photos...

Bangladeshi "Van"
These are my four research assistants in a "van." It was quite cozy, especially when I got in too!

Surveying the Garment Workers
My research assistant Shipa outside of one of the garment worker's homes.

Garment Worker
This woman was standing on the front veranda of her house. In this building there were several rooms, each a separate house, that were connected by this covered veranda out front.

Garment Worker Cooking
Most of the kitchens are outside. Some are under covered sheds, but this one is out in the open. She cooks over an open clay burner. Underneath the burner she burns wood or garbage for fuel.

Me with the Garment Workers and Their Children
Some of the kids brought over a goat for me to pet. In the background you can see their houses.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Narrow Houses and Kind Strangers
May 1, 2007

Today is yet another Bangladeshi holiday. This time I think it is a Hindu holiday… My friend Natasha, her son Annan, and I went to Old Dhaka together. Initially we wanted to see Lalbag (the Red Fort) but it was closed today because of the holiday. Instead, we went back to Shakari Bazar to see the narrow houses there. My second trip to Old Dhaka was much more pleasant than my first trip. I wasn’t harassed and I did not receive more than the normal amount of attention.

Natasha, her four year-old son (she couldn’t find a babysitter), and I took a rickshaw down through the narrow roads to the heart of Old Dhaka. There we got out and Natasha asked some of the people if we could go up and see their houses. As we were asking, a student walked by and said that he would be happy to show us some homes in the area. His name was Nitonondo (which means eternal happiness) and he studies English Literature and Dhaka University (the Bangladeshi equivalent of Harvard.) He is also a Hari Krishna Hindu (most of the residents of Old Dhaka are Hindu) and he took us to several Hari Krishna homes.

We were particularly interested in the houses because they are extremely narrow (only 4-10 feet) but very deep (100 to 150 feet). Plus they go up several stories (5-7). I met Natasha at the architecture conference at BUET several weeks ago (she is a Bangladeshi architect and now architecture professor) and she was telling me about these houses. Apparently, most of the families who live in them are very rich, but they still prefer to live in these small, congested homes because their families have lived there for over 200 years. In the homes, the owner and his/her family will usually live on the top floor and rent out the rest of the house to other tenants. Each family gets one small room and they share a bathroom and kitchen. Because the home is so narrow, all of the apartments are built railroad style, so the family in the back has to go through two or three other families’ homes to get to their house.

The people who lived in these homes were so generous! Not only were they willing to let us come look inside their houses uninvited, but they offered us sweets and drinks wherever we went. Nitonondo and one of his friends invited us back for a big feast on May 5th. Natasha and I are going to try to go.

Old Dhaka Street Scene
The streets in this part of town are very narrow. So are the houses!

House in Old Dhaka
This was the washing area of one of the houses we visited.

Inside of an Old Dhaka House
This is the inside of one of the houses we visited. The width of this room is the width of the entire house. One family lives in this room. The woman in the center is my friend Natasha.

Hari Krishna House
This is the second floor of the Hari Krishna house. I liked the house the best because there was a corridor next to the small rooms so each one had light and air and nobody had to walk through anybody else's house to get home. The floors were also brightly painted.

This was the shared kitchen in one of the houses that we visited.