Oh, to be in Dhaka!

“That (the cage) is just to ensure that nothing happens if the auto topples,” says the CNG driver.-“That (the cage) is just to ensure that nothing happens if the auto topples,” says the CNG driver.

The autorickshaws in Bangladesh aren’t a lot different from the ones back home, but they are intriguing cage-like set-ups. As you sit inside a CNG (that’s what the autos are fuelled by and hence the name), the driver bolts the door making the diarist, Arun Venugopal, feel like it’s on the way to Dhaka Zoo.

The diary is a nervous wreck — never mind its outwardly bravado — when it comes to air-travel. No, it isn’t perturbed as much by flying as it is by the procedural rigmarole in airports. Forever in fear of losing its baggage or documents, the diary is as eagle-eyed as it humanly could be, even fancying itself as some kind of Sherlock Holmes. Landing at the Shahjalalal International Airport in Dhaka, there is another hurdle in its path, one it dreads the most: the immigration-checks. The queue, as had been feared, is frightfully long — and slow-moving. The presence of Rohan Gavaskar and Murali Kartik in the vicinity gives the diary a reassuring feeling of familiarity.

Once it gets to the counter, there is a half-gasp of relief in the hope the ordeal is coming to an end. But they won’t let the diary get away so easily, will they? The immigration officer looks up slowly — almost as if a cinematic introduction shot were being filmed on him — and even more slowly says: “Go there, meet senior officer.”

‘This is it,’ the diary feels a quiver in its tummy. Surely, it’s in some trouble. Why can’t it be let through when everyone else (at least, most of them) is allowed to pass? The ‘senior officer’ fixes a suspicious pair of eyes on the diary’s visa. ‘Indian journalist, hmm,’ he strokes his double chin contemplatively before allowing it to go. As it finally reaches its hotel room, weary and haggard, it notices a friend staring vengefully at a cup of coffee. On what caused him grief, he tells the diary: “I ask the room-service for Aquafina, and he brings me a cup of coffee. When I stared blankly, the guy coolly smiles: “Haan, Cofee na?” Welcome to Bangladesh.

Caged capers

The autorickshaws here aren’t a lot different from the ones back home, but they are intriguing cage-like set-ups. As you sit inside a CNG (that’s what the autos are fuelled by and hence the name), the driver bolts the door making the diary feel like it’s on the way to Dhaka Zoo.

The Afganistan captain, Mohammad Nabi, speaks fluent Hindi.-

Before the diary could make an enquiry, it finds itself swirling with the serpentine turns that the CNG makes. Traffic bedlam is par for the course in Mirpur. The diary is told that chaotic traffic is an indicator of normalcy. Thin vehicle-flow is a pointer to a curfew or bandh, apparently. It’s common to see CNGs and cycle-rickshaws elbowing each other out to grab that crucial inch of space.

The diary alternates between keeping its eyes shut and holding on for dear life as the CNG nearly mows a couple of people down. Finally, unable to contain its curiosity, it asks the driver, in broken Bengali, about the cages. “That is just to ensure that nothing happens if the auto topples,” he informs with a wicked grin. ‘But then, why would the autos topple?’ the diary wonders, but is happy that the cage keeps him from spilling out what with the speed at which the CNG clatters along.

Indian music in Bangla land

In the hotel and elsewhere, popular songs from Hindi cinema are frequently belted out. There is Aashiqui-2, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Dhoom 3 and Chennai Express. And, it isn’t just Hindi film songs. At the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah, the DJ revs up the atmosphere with Tamil and Telugu chartbusters as well. Indian actors, expectedly, are quite popular here. “The girls just go crazy about Ranbir Kapoor. We watch a lot of Hindi films here," says one of the journalists.

The Afghanistan captain, Mohammad Nabi, speaks fluent Hindi. When the diary asks him where he picked it up, Nabi says, “ Itne saare hindi filmen toh dekhte hain, bhai” Nabi is also a big Aamir Khan fan. “ Who jo bhi picture karta hai, hit ho jaati hai.”

Aminul Islam and Sportstar

Aminul Islam, Bangladesh’s first Test century-maker is an ever-smiling affable personality. When he finds out that the diary represents Sportstar, he instantly jogs back down memory lane.

“When I met Sunny bhai (Sunil Gavaskar) recently, he instantly hugged me and said, ‘the first Test centurion of Bangladesh’. I was very touched that he still remembered it. At that time, he had written a column on my innings in Sportstar , and I still have it stuck up on my wall," says the former Bangladesh captain.