Tag Archives: ITravelAlone

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!!!!

 

17308811_10208961079249061_3881202229118624524_n
My friend Priota made me wear my first sharee!

 

17265209_10208956899744576_1086077040863344179_n
Conversations with the wise – even though we didn’t speak the same language <3

 

17155996_10208956899344566_4321354417843709548_n
Honoring Lalons’ memory

 

17159186_10154658982144087_6085308456052149877_o
The wise singing some of Lalons’ songs in front of his sepulture

 

17212141_10154658257804087_7660768445956489931_o
The band on stage – Priota and I sitting behind them

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

About hate, and what do we do about it

The photos featured with this article are not mine, they have been downloaded from the member of Parliament of Bengal Derek O’Briens’ Twitter account.

About a week ago, a terrible hate crime occurred in Kansas, United States. It was perpetrated against 2 Indians engineers (read the New York time article here). Only one of them survived, leaving the entire Indian community in grief. The president of the United States remained silent, but not the people around the world.
In Kolkata, I just happened to be walking on Park Street, close to Mother Theresas’ statue when I saw them: A group of people had gathered together with signs and candles. When I approached them, curious, a man told me they were protesting against politics of hate, and asked me if I wanted to join. Of course I wanted to join. Here, there, everywhere: I do not support politics of hate.

Some travelers told me (in other occasions, I was alone that day) not to get into protests in a foreign country, because… shit happens. As you already know if you have been reading a little bit my blog, I am sick and tired of the “shit happens”. Shit happens everywhere, even in your one house. Period. And injustices and atrocities are happening everywhere and we have to do something about it.

So suddenly there I was, on the front line with a sign in one hand and a candle in the other, remaining silent and serious under the flashes of the journalists, except for when they asked me to speak on tv (!)

16864942_1000384943427079_5633410875602524623_n

Because being a nomad doesn’t mean I got rid of my opinions as I got rid of most of my material belongings. Not at all. There are stronger than ever. And I have always been pro activism, I always felt necessary to raise my voice to protest, and I will keep on doing it. I cannot stay silent in front of injustice. And now I have a new tool: my blog. My travel blog. Because traveling is compatible with activism, with art, with social issues, with fun, with everything. Traveling is life.

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.

A little bit of Kolkata

Kolkata, from Kalikata: the field of Kali, Goddess of Time, Creation, Destruction and Power. My favorite. If I had to “kiss some gods’ arse”, as Aravind Adiga says in “The White Tiger”, it would be Kalis. Maybe does it influe in the fact that fell in love with the City of Joy. Or maybe not. Maybe is it just because of all these wonderful people I’ve got to meet here, of the smell of the amazing (and amazingly cheap!) food that follows me wherever I go, of the sweet chai I drink in every corner in clay cups, or of the artistic and cultural events that take place everywhere, at anytime 🙂

Flower market
Flower market

 

Workers of the Victoria Memorial
Workers of the Victoria Memorial

 

Having a break
Having a break on the street

 

Ma'am! Please take a picture of me with this rose!
Ma’am! Please take a picture of me with this rose!

 

Flower market
Flower market

 

Morning bath in the Hoghly river
Morning bath in the Hoghly river

 

Casual
Casual

 

Lost in the city, this man offered us a seat, a bottle of water and his precious advices <3
Lost in the city, this man offered me a seat, a bottle of water and his precious advices <3

 

Workers from the port having a break
Workers from the port having a break

 

sabir
Conversation with Sabir <3

Follow me on instagram! @hit_the_road_girl