Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

The Hills* are alive…

… with the sound of nothing. Sweet, sweet nothing. Just the odd frog, some crickets and the occasional chirping bird. Nice birds, not the squawking, nails down a chalkboard, fresh off the set of ‘The Birds’ birds that seem to surround me in Dhaka. Maybe ‘The Birds’ birds only hang around Lalmatia, and perhaps only when I’m trying to get some sleep. It certainly feels that way to me.

Sometimes I do think that I’m sensory sensitive, and that’s perhaps why Dhaka really grinds on me after a few days. Mostly it’s the noise. For not one minute in Dhaka do you hear silence. There is ALWAYS noise, coming at you from every angle. And it’s not the sound of butterflies and floating petals, it’s hard, heavy, man-made, machine-assisted NOISE. I hate not being able to control the sound levels around me, or at least drown them out. If I watch TV (a strictly pre-Bangladesh activity) I can only watch it if I have the remote control in my hands. At all times. It’s not to channel surf, it’s to control the sound, which annoyingly changes between TV shows and ad breaks. It freaks me out if I can’t control it, and if I can’t I’d rather just not watch it. So I’m taking about unnecessary, inappropriately loud and uncontrollable noise which really does stress me out, makes me feel almost physically assaulted and just a little bit crazy. Which is exactly the kind of noise that dominates in Dhaka. So I guess it’s no surprise then that Dhaka hits about a million nerves in me, and that I run screaming for The Hills after a few days.

Now that I think about it, Dhaka hits all of my senses. In a bad way. As discussed, it’s hard on the ears. And it’s oh-so-hard on the eyes too. There is literally nothing aesthetically pleasing about that city. I never realised before how important beauty is to me. You know, something easy on the eyes, something that you can stare off into while your mind wonders and takes a little time-out. Ja, no sights in Dhaka will induce a mini-mind holiday. Everything you see brings your senses screeching back to the realisation of exactly where you are. And it’s no picnic for the nose either. I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone that Dhaka stinks. Literally stinks. Open sewers, pollution, and weird smells of indeterminable origin that waft around and catch you off guard. Plus the millions of people, all spitting and snotting and generally trying to clear all internal organs of any and all mucus, all around you, all the time. And the men peeing by the side of the road. Everywhere. And the staring. And the ‘what country are you from’. And, and, and…Wow, it’s a wonder I don’t completely loose my marbles after too much Dhaka-time. I really can feel assaulted by the external environment here, and just want to take refuge in a quiet, private and safe space after too much exposure.

But you know, other people don’t mind it/hate it quite as much as I do. So it must be me. Millions of other people can live there and not lash out at complete strangers on the street. So really, I must be the weirdo. Or the sensory sensitive one. Do you think that would stand up in court during my assault charge trials?

*The Hills = Chittagong Hill Tracts, a.k.a my kind, gentle,  q      u      i     e     t   refuge from Dhaka. Shhh. Nice.


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