Sunday, April 11, 2010


The drive from Dhaka to Chittagong, as might be expected for the road between the two largest and oldest cities in Bangladesh has plenty to interest along the way Strangely, two of the most interesting places lie either side of the road between Sitakunda and Chittagong. On the coast lies the world’s largest recycling area.. The coast that is the location of the maritime recycling workshop.

It is easy to view that as an environmental, and health and safety disaster, but that ignores the question, where else should the leviathans of the sea be deconstructed and their many materials freed for reuse?

Bangladesh is very short of mineral wealth, and very well endowed with low cost, unemployed labour.

If shipbuilding has been significantly automated around the world, reversing the process still requires to be labour intensive, and the row of shipping superstructures visible from the highway is something that always attracts my attention as I travel the road.

However, it is to the north of the road that one of the most interesting sites in the country can be found, a couple of kilometres stroll up a track into the Chittagong Hills.

In Hindu tradition, one of the most worthy of Gods was Rama. His wife, Sita, has always been regarded as the very model of the chast and loyal wife.

When Rama was exiled by his father through the machinations of his step mother, Sita joined her husband in exile in the forests to which he retreated.

From there she was kidnapped by Ravana, the King of Lanka, and carried off to the realm that is now known as Sri Lanka.

Rescued by Rama with the help of other deities, she had to prove her chasity during her captivity. To do this, she walked barefoot through flames. ( Walking barefoot across hot coals is still a favoured way of proving faith in Southern India).

This demonstration is believed by Hindus to have taken place at a small temple on the slopes above Sitakunda. An eternal flame still burns in the cavern beneath the ancient building, fuelled, it may be reasonable to suppose by seepage of natural gas!

There is something of the entry to the underworld, so favored by Greek mythology, about visiting the place. Not to be missed by the romantically inclined!

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