The Sound of Normal in Dhaka

The difference between Dhaka today and the same time yesterday is like the difference between night and day. The sun has come out – no more gloomy storm clouds casting their shadows over the city. But more importantly than that – the city is noisy again. Hammers banging away at nearby construction sites, street vendors yelling about the sales they are having, and the rings of rickshaws as they pedal by. The city is alive again.

I was awake at midnight last evening and what struck me was the utter dark and silence. I had only experienced this kind of dark and silence once before – when I was in the rural village of Modhipur. But in Modhipur, there wasn’t a soul nearby. But, last night in Dhaka, surrounded by tightly packed apartments with thousands of people – I couldn’t hear a peep and couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

With things so bad now – I desperately want to make a difference. I brought certain items with me as part of this project – like water purification straws called “LifeStraws” donated to me by the manufacturer Vestergaard Frandsen. I also have insecticide treated sheeting that can be used for housing called “ZeroFly” donated by the same company. I also have recently purchased 70 blankets to give away. I don’t want to just give them away by the roadside – for they then maybe taken and merely resold (as I have been warned by many people).

I’ve been working desperately trying to partner with a reputable and trustworthy NGO or charity to help me distribute these items. NGOs and charities, having established a long-term presence here, are better able to assess genuine need and would best be able to help me direct my efforts. Unfortunately, to my surprise, many NGOs don’t want publicity. After about a month’s worth of negotiation, I had managed to secure assistance from a very big and prestigious NGO to distribute the LifeStraws. They would help me distribute them to a needy group of people in rural Bangladesh. I was even given permission to film the whole thing. But, apparently, they did not realize that I was filming it as part of a video blog. When they understood the purpose of the filming – the entire distribution got scrapped. A month of discussions, giving items for testing, and preparation all down the drain.

I’m left back at square one at a time when I should be on the ground making a difference.

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