Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Shopping decisions

I feel like I’ve spent the last year in a CNG. Ok, it was only most of today, but it felt like a year. And since when did CNGs (aka auto rickshaws) become so damn picky about where they are willing to accept a fare to? All a sunburn they are very selective, and don’t even bother with the protracted fare haggle/dance that we must all submit ourselves to. They don’t even say the word ‘no’ these days, they just drive off. Bastards. Have they been taking lessons from London cabbies lately?

Today’s CNG sojourn took me from Lalmatia, to ICDDRB (the doctors) to Computer City (to buy an external hard drive to store my one zillion photos) to Old Dhaka (to change the order for a dining room table that I put in yesterday) and back. The looongest part of the CNG extravaganza was getting across to Old Dhaka, where upon arrival I discovered the damn place is closed on Sundays. Arse. So I left  a little note, with photos of what my freshly decided dining table should look like. This is a BIG decision for me. It’s a lot of money, and having something made to order is so much harder than just walking into a shop, seeing and feeling and sitting at a dining table before buying it.

‘It’s an heirloom piece, it’s an heirloom piece’ I keep telling myself as I wonder where I’ll get the money from to set up my new life in Cape Town after this purchase. Fine, it’s not actually all THAT expensive, but you know, it wasn’t in the original budget. But who can pass up a custom made dining room set made from reclaimed Burmese teak? The old buildings in Dhaka (that are now sadly being torn down at the rate of knots to make way for generic, shoddily built apartment blocks) weren’t built with concrete beams, but with Burmese teak beams. So it’s these beams that are being salvaged from the demolition sites and turned into amazing pieces of furniture. And in particular my soon to be chunky, rustic French farmhouse dining table and chairs.

I wonder if there is a way to date a piece of wood? One, I could then tell if I’m been bamboozled into buying new (usually illegally logged) teak. And two, if not stolen out of the Hill Tracts by the light of the moon, then I could find out exactly how old it is. Some of the buildings that are being pulled down in Dhaka date from the Mughal period (from around the early 17th century, I think…. and which is a tragedy in its own right, again so much amazing history being lost on a daily basis). So some of these teak beams could be 300 – 400 years old. It’s that exciting? It’s worth it (effort and money wise), right?


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