Dhaka Diary: In search of one percent inspiration

Boys will be boys and find trees to climb even in the middle of the Dhaka city. Walking under the tree I only looked up and saw them when I heard their shouts. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

Genius, they say, is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration. The 99 per cent, one can easily supply. For most of us it’s our stock in trade. The one per cent is the bit that’s somewhat more elusive or difficult to come up with.   More so, if you’ve been working to build that pension fund and you’ve let your brain get oxidized with strategic planning, writing press releases, speeches for the boss etc, etc.  The bright shiny eyes which you saw the world as a child invariably gets dull with age.

I am a person who hated school.  My aunt’s three sewing girls in Panadura, Sri Lanka,  drew sticks in the morning to decide who would take me to school – nay practically carry me to school –a biting, crying animal to school. 

But in later adult life I’ve trudged back to school, still hating the four walled environment but loving the learning.  In Dhaka, learning the basics of photography at the Pathshala Media Academy is like taking a polishing cloth and abrasives to clean the oxidized brain. The one percent I may never find but so far the polishing has been fun.

Seeing the world with bright eyes. Two street boys munching fruits on a tree in ther middle of the city. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Pathshala is a Sanskrit word meaning  “place of learning,” and the Media Academy is modeled on how ancient teaching took place under spreading banyan trees where gurus with long flowing beards imparted wisdom and experiences in an open environment of learning.  Today, there are beards but not the gurus with flowing white beards.  Being a photography course outdoor classes are mandatory, but for our short course this was the first one.   Interestingly, the course coordinator and guru for the day Shah Sazzad was in a workshop I ran on caption writing at the Chobi Mela IV in 2006.  Today, tables are turned and am the pupil and he the guru.

Out near a small polluted lake our first assignment was to photograph a subject against a strong backlight but to try to catch the images in the water. Someone found a street waif Azad but he was a natural.

A little tired of the posing he ran and got himself an ice cream with the first baksheesh he got. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Portrait of Azad. Dhaka Bangladesh. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Azad posing for the photographers, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 By this time the photography students were attracting many who were more than willing people to pose  for photographs. But Azad had the biggest following. 

 

A boy and his monkey Prince. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 By this time the photography students were attracting many who were more than willing people to pose  for photographs. But Azad had the biggest following. 

The next assignment was to take portrait shots but the question was how to convince anyone to pose for a photograph with only a smattering of Bangla.  But as it turned out the couple of words and the body language did work.  Renu at first refused , but then she was soon enjoying being in front of the lens.

Portrait of Renu. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

Out on the streets a promotion for a new TV station was taking shape.  There were horse-drawn carriages and a musical show with a live band.

Feeding time before the parade. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 

Taslima and Yasmin have front row standing space. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

But as I photographed the young mother and baby enjoying the show with front row standing seats, an official stepped up to ask her  to move thinking I didn’t want them in the photo.  I was shooing the officer away trying to tell him that I didn’t want them to move, and that I wanted them in the picture, when they turned to look at me and I got an unexpected shot of Taslima and daughter Yasmin.

Taslima and daughter Yasmin. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

   

Sunrise, sunset and in between in Maldives

Sunrise at Kurumba. Maldives. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Sunrise at Kurumba. Maldives. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Wake up early in Kurumba island, walk the few paces to the beach, sink your feet into the cool cool pristine white sand, look East and there you have it — all the joy of  a magnificent sunrise.  The Kurumba atoll in Maldives was a picture postcard sight. Tiny waves lapping softly, the  water crystal clear inside  a man made reef.  Ahh, Once long long long ago, we played at Hikkaduwa on a beach like this behind our house.

The view from my bedroom. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

This now is the playground of the rich — the honeymoon paradise.

Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Maldives was a poignant reminder what Hikkaduwa  was before unregulated tourism destroyed the corals. Then we would  try to catch the  little fish we called Batayas in rocky pools behind our house.  We’d  take bread to throw at the multi-hued  reef fish and watch spell bound as they clustered around the pieces of bread,  just as they did off the pier at Kurumba.  But here too were the signs of climate warming  — more dead corals and only a couple of new brain coral were alive.  Maldivian atolls are renowned for these exotic luxury holiday resorts, with the tourists laying the golden $$$ eggs.  Threatened by rising sea levels, impacted by the global financial crisis Maldives’ newly elected democratic government is struggling to give a better deal for its citizens. It is however not an easy task. Life for the people in the little atolls is a far cry from the luxury enjoyed by the tourists.  The delivery of services such as health, education and welfare to these scattered islands presents a different set of problems.   To really see Maldives and its people and understand these issues you need to leave the luxury of the resorts and visit an atoll where there are no hotels .  Life here in the small atoll Felidhe atoll Fulidhoo  is  relaxed. You can  just watch the sea or rock gently in a hammock as life flows on.  No problems are visible and you yourself begin to hunger for the smell of the sea, feel of the sand, a hammock to lie in, and a good book to read.

Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The sea would have provided everything for the islanders including the coral to build the houses.  Coral is not allowed to be used now, but there are still houses and a few remaining coral walls.

Coral wall  detail. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Streets were generally empty and people were more shy at being photographed and disappeared quickly into the houses.Still shy but one that didn't run away.Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Leftover election graffiti. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Leftover election graffiti. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Maldives had a peaceful transfer of power after a first ever multi-party elections in October of 2008.  Out here  this little peaceful island has many mega issues to solve. It has a population of 421,  living in 61 houses, one school with 84 students and 16 teachers and one health post. There is a Community Health Officer manning the post but there is no doctor and to consult a doctor the islanders need to travel to another island that can take about 2 hrs by boat.
Solid waste disposal systems are not there and the aged old system of disposing human excreta into the ground has polluted the fresh water of the island. The  one and only school in the island has a principal “imported”  from India who is enthusiastic to give the kids in the island a good education.  He yearns to upgrade the computer labs and have Internet facilities.
We had a lot to reflect on as we walked through the village.  Fishing still remains the main livelihood. One could also see two huge partly built boats in sheds.   Maldivian  seafarers regularly traded with Sri Lanka brining the much priced Maldive fish (sun dried tuna) and the smaller smelly sort of salt water pickled fish called “jadi”  to Sri Lanka.  Down in Dodanduwa where the dhoani’s came, there were a string of small shops that sold these in huge earthenware jars.
On the beach children were busy building sandcastles as all children (and adults) do all over the world.  No bathing suits for the girls but they were having fun fully dressed.
No sign of my cap. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

No sign of my cap. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

One last look at the island, many of the problems still ringing in our ears it was time for us to start our return journey in our very fast boat back to Kurumba.  My one and only cap had gone flying over the boat as the wind whipped it off my head. One more item polluting the sea.  Victor sitting next to me had gallantly quipped “no worries, we’ll pick it up on our way back:-))”
Back in Kurumba, it was time for a swim and there I was on the beach with a lonely bird at sunset . And a little private chat time for me with my old friend the sea.
Sunset at Kurumba. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Sunset at Kurumba. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

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