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Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Honeymoon + Ambulance = Bangladesh.

It wasn’t at all an emergency, but my bride and I started out our honeymoon in an ambulance. Only in Bangladesh !

In the capital city of Dhaka, only the traffic is as jammed up as the politics, and the two are intimately related. While Bangladesh is a democracy, it is a very young one, and still very much maturing. The political parties and movements don’t limit their confrontations to the floors of the parliament. Instead they often wage pitch battles on the streets of the country, with commonly called “Hartals” or general strikes, which result in violent protest and forced curfews upon regular offices, businesses and most forms of transport.

Just the other day I narrowly escaped in my car, slipping past a bus which dared to ply the roads on a hartal day, and was being tipped over by an angry mob with passengers scrambling out the windows for safety.

This is an election year in Bangladesh, so the opposition parties are trying to force the government to give up control early by closing down the country. There’s also a highly charged court case with convictions, death sentences and political connections, gripping the entire country in a raging debate about the past, present and future.

In short, Bangladesh is in a mess. Much of the start to 2013 has already been spoiled, and half the work days of March have been already been lost. It’s likely going to get worse as the tensions rise closer to what will be a hotly and violently disputed election process.

It all makes one want to take a break, get out of the country and catch one’s breath for a few days. Recently married, my wife and I were very much looking forward to our honeymoon. The day we were to fly out of the country was yet another hartal (strike day), which threatens most vehicular movement. But people in a 15+ million populated metropolis have to get around when urgently required. To be safe, the best way is to rent an ambulance. Most mob mentalities, usually let the red cross go. That’s how we began our honeymoon from Dhaka, in an ambulance to the airport !

Shafkat Ahmed Chowdhury is the Director Bangladesh, for the Canadian University Application Centre.

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