Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eastern Plaza

Going out in the traffic of Dhaka can be a hassle. You pretty much have to plan your trip well in advance, and if you are going to a far away (relatively speaking, far = 5 km) and traffic is not in your favour, you have to devote the whole day for that trip. Since Eastern Plaza, a famous old mall in Dhaka, was nearby, we decided to go there yesterday.

The best time to go to a popular place in Dhaka, such as Eastern Plaza or Boshundhara City, is to go there during working hours on a weekday. It was virtually empty (again, empty is a relative word).

Eastern Plaza is one of those rare shopping complexes in Asia that have not completely Westernized, but still retains a good mix of the old and the new. You can get anything from cheap DVDs to the latest electronics (top floor) to old, ancient, cultural stuff. This picture is of some holud goods on sale.

One of the top attractions of Eastern Plaza is the whole floor of saree shops.

Almost EVERY shop on that floor is a saree shop. One after another gorgeous sarees line the windows.

An amazing thing I realized, even during my travels in Dubai, is that MEN sell WOMEN's clothes. In Dubai it was common to find men hawking women's lingerie and beautiful Emarati women in burkha waiting to be sized up by a non-chalant Indian man who would stare at their chest then hand them the latest in designer bras. Here too, men sat in saree shops and shouted their wares in top voice.

The traders would target the women who walked by and go "Oh Mishti Apa (sweet sister)! O Didi (sister - reserved if they thought the woman was a Hindu one)! Oh Bhabi (sister-in-law)! Oh Aunty!" The addressing was based on what they thought the woman's age and marital status was. Many Bangladeshi woman counted their age as to when they progressed from one stage to the other. The moment sellers called them as "Oh Aunty" was the time they took a tasbeeh in their hand and started to count themselves as senior citizens.

The sarees themselves were all inspired by Indian designs.

Indeed, most of the top stuff was Indian or Pakistani.

I find an amazing amount of inferiority complex amongst Bangladeshis here. Most people like to boast of how their stuff is 'imported' or 'not local'. Coming from "Proudly Canadian" to "Apa! This saree is good stuff, direct from Bombay!" or "This sandal is good, it's Pakistani!" takes a bit of used to.

Even the dolls look nothing like normal Bengali women! Yes, they call them 'dolls' here. "Apa! Oi doll-er shari ta dekhen na!"

Of course I am surprised by how seemingly expensive stuff is. Yes, if you convert to Canadian dollars it's not that much, but people here don't earn in Canadian dollars. A good saree is 35,000 taka. Can you imagine paying 35,000 for a dress? A gold set is 6 lacs taka. A designer blouse and dupatta set is 4000 taka. And so on.

I am also amazed at how fast people count money. I couldn't count money as fast as normal people here - they are used to handling large bundles of moolah - this trader counted the stack of 500 taka notes as fast as any machine at a bank, and they weren't laid out in the same direction!

One great thing about Bangladesh, and which we in the West should take note of, is how quickly they have completely eradicated polythene bags. All bags are by law paper bags now (been like this for over 3 years). They are strong, don't tear, yet environment friendly, and completely easy to dispose of if needed. Whereas plastic bags used to clog up the drains and litter the streets of Dhaka, these paper bags and the successful implementation of the policy is something Bangladesh can be proud of.


NAB said...

I have WALKED down those aisless! Seen those stores. I miss Eastern plaza. :(
and I need those darned "daalas". did you take those pics to taunt me mezbollah?! hmmph.

Baraka said...


Am really enjoying your travelogue!

'The moment sellers called them as "Oh Aunty" was the time they took a tasbeeh in their hand and started to count themselves as senior citizens.'

Too funny- even here in the States I monitor every "Miss" versus "Ma'am".

Thankfully no need for a tasbeeh yet :)


mousehunter said...

Very interesting. When I see the pics of the mall I am very much reminded of The Path except Desified!

Anonymous said...

"The moment sellers called them as "Oh Aunty" was the time they took a tasbeeh in their hand and started to count themselves as senior citizens."

No, that's when the women glare at those shopkeepers and walk out. Or does that happen with only the women in my family? Hehehee

Anonymous said...

Oh no, that anonymous at 12:05 p.m. was me


mezba said...

Nowal: why don't you come here rather than go to Toronto?

Baraka: thank you! I wouldn't call you 'maam' either, 'miss' would be my guess!

Mousehunter: Ah, the Path. I have to check it out when I get back iA.

Athena: I always wondered, if you were the seller, you should NEVER say "Oh Aunty".

Neena said...

Thanks Mezba, my Aunt is from Dhaka and I showed this to her, she was amazed by it. Thanks for sharing it with us.

mezba said...

neena: you are welcome!

Anika said...

A good sharee is 35 000 taka??!!?! You are getting ripped off my friend!

You can get good sharees with alot of hand embroidery, quality fabric, from 2000-15 000 taka. Anything above is excessive. Although, you may be talking about a bridal sharee, in which probably would be outside that range.

anika said...

35 000 taka is alot for a sharee! Most sharees dont cost that much. Usually a good sharee ranges from 4000 taka to 15000 taka.

Organic-Muslimah said...

Loving the diary!