Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bangladesh and Brazil Similarities Beyond the Green Flag


By: Diego Da Luz (Brazilian Traveler)
Children are often great teachers
For Brazilians, Bangladesh sounds unknown and exotic. After all there are 15 000 kilometers, 4 oceans, 9 time zones and thousands of years of completely different histories and cultures keeping these two nations apart. Surprisingly, the similarities go further than the green flag and the capital B in both names, and I'm glad to be one of the few Brazilians that have discovered Bangladesh and fallen in love with its people, food, traditions, and much more.

We share a common history of colonization, late industrial and economic development, present social problems associated with a widening inequality between the rich and the poor and so on. On the brighter side both are lands of opportunity and figure among the so called 11 countries of the future. Without visiting either country, one wouldn't know that these similarities extend to our people, landscape, food and even business. Discovering these paralegals makes me so glad to have included Bangladesh in my trip itinerary at the last minute.

A chart about prehistoric migratory flows on the wall of the natural science museum in Sao Paulo, my hometown in Brazil, tells me that the genetic link between those who moved to the Americas and those in the Indian Subcontinent is very distant and weak. However, 15 minutes on the streets of old Dhaka sitting in a tea stall enjoying my delicious “doodh cha” and watching the common people on the street doing their everyday business tells me that we were born from the same parents.

On the surface, our skin tone reveals the first and most noticeable similarity. The average Bangladeshi flaunts the same beautiful bronze color that is a result of the constant mixing of different European and African nations with Brazil's native inhabitants.

Over the skin runs sweat induced by the hot weather and hard work of the people of both countries that “flees not from battle” (citation from the Brazilian national anthem). On both sides of the world Brazilians and Bangladeshis prove their strength in the everyday fight to overcome the challenges of poverty to achieve better conditions.

Eating some of the best mangoes in North Bengal with  fresh milk...
Under the skin beats the same warm heart that leads every simple conversation to a passionate discussion. It was beautiful to watch how people would put all their hearts into each conversation because it reminded me of home. My family, friends and I all behave exactly the same. Ah, but we must be careful because we share the same serious risk of heart attack, especially when it comes to football! Several times during my stay in Bangladesh I was told that during the World Cup I would see that Bangladeshis are crazier about football than Brazilians. As a matter of fact, I was shocked by the numerous arguments between supporters of Brazil and Argentina and I was happily surprised by the number of Brazilian flags waving around. I shall write a separate piece on that soon!

We've been mutually blessed with the opportunity to live in a great environment. The hot and wet summer followed by milder seasons and a pleasant winter set the perfect weather that in conjunction with the rivers that flow through the always-green flatland, allow us to grow all kinds of plants and food in both places. It is no wonder that our diet constitutes by the same ingredients.  Bangladeshis are the “mango people” boasting jack-fruit as the national fruit. In Brazil we are also crazy for both! We eat rice on daily basis and for having the largest water basin in the world, fish is also a great part of our diet. (I love both cuisines so much that is too hard for me to pick a favorite. Eating with my hands is something that I learned to do and fell in love with in 'Bengal'. This closer connection to food makes me pull in favor of Bangladesh.)

Getting groomed by a local 'professional'
As if all these things weren't enough to make me feel at home, the people's welcoming attitude towards me certainly made me consider moving to Bangladesh. It never took me more than 20 minutes of conversation with a complete stranger either in a social gathering or in the long hours traveling on a bus to get invited to meet their family, have dinner and even stay as a guest in their home. Brazilians are also greatly known for our hospitality and similar situations are not rare. One thing that I experienced was the same is the exaggerated quantity of food that we offer to our guests. Every time I had dinner in a Bengali home I left feeling like I was about to explode, and in Brazil it wouldn’t be different. Whenever I take guests to my family's place my mom and grandma make sure they offer nothing less than the best and, of course, in very large quantity!

With such great connections there are a lot of opportunities for our mutual relations to flourish. In Brazil we have already started learning from Bangladesh's micro-credit ventures. After popularized by  Dr. Yunus, it became a reality in my home country and now it is a case of success with the largest micro-credit bank operating in Latin America benefiting 3.8 millions of people with loans with interest of  8% per year. Tourism is undoubtedly another great area for development. Brazil is a great destination for tourists from all around the globe and with a very well-developed tourism sector, while Bangladesh has a lot of unexplored potential in this matter. I've met some Bangladeshis who went to Brazil for the World Cup and that is a great start, perhaps the next steps could include loosening the visas restrictions and fostering the bilateral exchange.
View from my cabin on the way to Barisal
 

Getting around in the villages

Photo Credit: Diego Da Luz.

*Writer: Diego Da Luz, a Brazilian traveler who has been travelling across Asia for over one year. He visited Bangladesh during June 2014. He stayed here for one month and travelled all over Bangladesh with Tiger Tours. He is going to continue his travels through India onto Pakistan and Iran and finally ending his long journey in Turkey after which he will go back home to Brazil. Diego has a deep love for people and new places. During his stay, he has travelled to North Bengal, Sylhet, souther coast (Barisal, Khulna, Bagerhat etc) and Cox's Bazar. He is a self taught photographer and a passionate blogger. 

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