Bangladesh
Adrian Guerin

Cricket, kites and beautiful chaos; welcome to Old Dhaka

For a ruthless assault to the senses, nothing comes close to Dhaka... he says as he walks into a traffic jam of 10 million rickshaws, stepping into a puddle of, well... I don’t quite know what.

The beautiful chaos of Old Dhaka at dusk (shot standing atop a very old and precarious tin roof).

A boy watches a giant LCD screen at a roundabout in Dhaka. It was 34 degrees, noisy, fumey, and as usual, I was tired, hungry and lost (meaning I was right in my comfort zone). The main attraction here was the colourful LCD screen. The locals were drawn to it because it offered news and entertainment. I was was drawn to it because it offered light for my photos. Like a moth, I stayed near the light for longer than I should have until I realised I hadn’t eaten in a long time, had run out of energy and would soon die. At least I’ll get some rest.

Rule of thumb in Dhaka: rickshaws always make good photos so you should always take a of photo of them. No exceptions. Considering there’s over 1 million rickshaws in the city, it means you’ll be busy.

One of the nice things about Dhaka is the abundance of fresh produce stalls all over the city. Healthy and photogenic, what a mix.

How many sets of eyes can you spot looking at me?

When in Dhaka, you’re never far from rain. In all but 3 months of the year you’re likely to experience it. And while it does offer welcome respite from the unrelenting city heat, poor drainage makes the city remains vulnerable to flooding (and occasionally stepping in a gigantic black puddle).

A boy prepares to fly his kite atop the tin roofs of Old Dhaka at dusk. I spotted the scene from the streets below, and then spotted a (rickety) ladder. Cue lightbulb atop head. Should I? To that question the answer is always yes. I made it halfway up the ladder before noticing that it was actually a lot older than it looked from the footpath. It was a lot longer too. I then wondered if my insurance would cover ‘Climbing dodgy ladders in Old Dhaka’. Probably not. When I finally made it up, I noticed a lot of rusty tin edges, fragments of glass, erratic wires and… um, gaping holes in the roof. Should I? I had a grace period of 5 seconds of shooting before a group of 15 kite-flying kids spotted me. Once kids spot you the photo shoot is officially over, usually to be replaced with excited anarchy. So, despite the amazing scene of kids flying kites atop the roofs of Old Dhaka at dusk, this shot was all I could manage. I duly scorned the kids for becoming distracted, ‘Fly your fucking kites!’, before begrudgingly aborting the project. I returned to the ladder to discover it had gone. Oh no, it’s happening again. Ladder! Ladder! The kids noticed my concern and loved it. They heckled me and threw small stones. Eventually a man below noticed the curious scene of a white guy standing on an old tin roof in Old Dhaka, and after doing a double, and then triple-take, fetched the ladder and aided my return. I gave the kids a goodbye wave (middle finger salute) before setting off into the madness of old Dhaka at night. That’s when I saw a bunch of workers playing cricket on the scaffolding of a highway that was under construction. Should I?

A boatsman waits for an opening to more his boat along the densely packed banks of the Buriganga River, the lifeblood of Dhaka. With a network of more than 700 rivers, Bangladesh is a country that lives and dies by its rivers. Wherever you are, you’ll never be far from water. While the rivers help drive the economy through agriculture, they also lead to widespread devastation during monsoon season when a third of the country can become submerged.

While the entire park was filled with highly skilled Bangladeshi cricketers, a football pitch hid in the back corner. I informed all players that because this was such an important match, they needed to sit for a few pre-game media photos.

It took about an hour of waiting, but eventually enough space opened up for me to capture a single moment (rather than 5000 all at once). Such was the frenetic pace and density of these streets, it’s difficult to convey how rare this moment in time actually was.

After observing these kids play, it’s not hard to figure out why Bangladesh is often touted as world cricket’s next major force. World cricket, like the global economy, does not operate on a level playing field. Cricket in Bangladesh grapples with challenges developed countries take for granted. But spirit, determination and grit will get you everywhere in life. That’s why Bangladesh recently beat the rich and powerful (and cheating) Australian cricket team. Hats off to that.