Category Archives: Bangladesh

Anando Asbei

Finally! I wrote this article on the 18th of March, but due to wordpress problems, I am only able to publish it today (even though the justification button still doesn’t work… -_-)

It is difficult to resume the past five days in an article. Rather impossible. So much has been experienced, so much has been seen, so much has been felt in the soul and in the heart…- Where to begin?

I have had the great chance to experience the Dol Festival in Kushtia, Bangladesh. And it blew my mind and my heart away.

Let’s talk about the man to whom the festival does tribute to, then. Lalon, (লালন) also known as Lalon Sain, Lalon Shah, Lalon Fakir was a Bengali Baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker. Considered an archetypal icon of Bengali culture, Lalon inspired and influenced many poets, social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Allen Ginsberg albeit he “rejected all distinctions of caste and creed”. Widely celebrated as an epitome of religious tolerance, he was also accused of heresy during his lifetime and after his death. In his songs, Lalon envisioned a society where all religions and beliefs would stay in harmony. (…) Every year on the occasion of Dol Festival, thousands of his disciples and devotees assemble at Lalon Akhrah, and pay homage to the departed guru through celebration and discussion of his songs and philosophy for three days. In 2004, Lalon was placed at number 12 in the BBC’s poll of the Greatest Bengali of All Time. (Thank you Wikipedia – read the complete article about him here.)

The festival, for me, has been a melting pot of discoveries, laughs, spiritual enlightenment, food testing, new friends making, crazy-lovely-twisted experiences, all covered by lots of love and music.

I’ve road a big wheel without engine nor security, I discovered the countryside of Bangladesh, I swam in its’ rivers, traveled by its’ crazy means of transportation (on a plank of wood pulled by a electric bicycle!), I admired the work of some craftsmen, I stepped into an authentic Bangladeshi kitchen, I communicated with some wise men without speaking the same language they did, I enjoyed my new friends concert sitting on the stage behind them, I tasted countless new types of food and sweets (no idea what they were called or made of, I would just try all these new flavours), I payed my respects to Lalons’ sepulture, I observed weird looking and behaving folks wandering happily and freely around, I shared meals with 15 other guys sitting on the floor of the living room of the flat where we were hosted, I realized I was the only westerner around (!), I tried playing different traditional Bangali instruments under the supervision of a 10 years old genius, I danced in the sand, I learned some Bangla words, I wore a sharee for the first time, I enjoyed Baul music everywhere, all day long, all the time, I did some yoga, and above all, I lived, laughed and loved. So much. So so much. I felt so alive. I felt so welcome. I felt part of it. I’ve got the proof that even if you are from a different country, a different culture, that you speak a different language, you can bond with people. In a truly deep way. “Anando Asbei” means “Happiness will come” (Lalons’ words). Everybody kept singing it during the whole festival but for me, happiness was each and every moment I got to live in Kushtia.

I am so blessed. SO BLESSED!!!!

 

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My friend Priota made me wear my first sharee!

 

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Conversations with the wise – even though we didn’t speak the same language <3

 

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Honoring Lalons’ memory

 

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The wise singing some of Lalons’ songs in front of his sepulture

 

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The band on stage – Priota and I sitting behind them

More photos and videos in my instagram – follow me! @hit_the_road_girl

Good girls go to heaven. Rebels go wherever they want

One of the things you hold on most when you are traveling is your passport. Oh how I hate when checking in a hostel they want to keep it “safe”! Even if it is just an hour in order to make photocopies, I get nervous knowing it lays in other hands than mine. So just imagine leaving is to an embassy for 24 hours! (it happened to me in Sri Lanka for my Indian visa)

And now imagine being separated of your only identification form for 10 DAYS in a foreign country… It just happened to me. 10 days wandering around Kolkata undocumented (!)

The procedure to get the visa to Bangladesh was really unclear, but in the end everything went very smoothly (when I think about the Bangladeshis willing to travel to Europe, I feel like crying of shame). I got my passport back yesterday evening, and after paying for it, I finally discovered the visa between its’ pages as I was standing in the middle of the crowd on the street. I started tearing of happiness. I got it. Visiting Bangladesh is my dream, and it is going to come true.

But the majority of westerners always ask me: Why Bangladesh? Why are you so obsessed with this country? What is there to see over there?

And obviously have they thing to say about it… Don’t go! Go to Nepal instead! Go to Bhutan! Go to South East Asia! Or just stay in India! You’re crazy! It is not safe! Are you going alone?? You’re a girl! It’s a muslim country! Don’t go, or at least don’t go alone!

When people tell me not to travel to Bangladesh for X reasons...
When people tell me not to travel to Bangladesh for X reasons…

The others always know better. None of these people have never stepped a foot in Bangladesh, but there are afraid of it. Because it is the unknown.  It doesn’t have such a tourist infrastructure like the countries around it, it is off the “Gringo Trail”, it is not backpacker friendly and because no one ever speaks about Bangladesh, not even the medias. The forgotten little country surrounded by India and Myanmar.

That is why I am going there. I want to see it. I want to witness it. I want to write about it. I want to feel it.

So YES, I am a GIRL and YES, I am traveling ALONE and NO, I am NOT AFRAID!!!

’cause shit can happen anywhere. Shit can happen in your own country, in your own town and even in front of your own house.

’cause I am not afraid of other cultures or religions.

’cause I beleive people are good.

’cause Bangladesh is full of inspiring people. I can’t wait to meet The Flag Girl, and I will do my best to cross paths with Shahidul Alam and Taslima Akhter.

’cause good girls go to heaven, and rebels go wherever they want.