So, this Bangladesh place then.

First impressions (from the 30 minute ride from the airport, hey, more than most journalists ever study a place).

The stndnrad of spoken English is high here, higher than in London often is. Among Bangladeshis in London that is. But then tour guides and porters at top end hotels are very desirable jobs in poor places.

Yes, teeming Asia, people, people, people, a la Paul Ehrlich (and this is 6 am on a Friday in a Muslim country).

Something good has happened here this past 30 years or so. OK, yes, many poor. Obviously. Couple of blokes working as porters (not hotel kind, carrying loads outside). They’re poor, obviously, rich people are not barefoot in the middle of town and carrying 40 lbs on their heads.

They’re also 6 foot and more tall.

That would be a hell of a surprise to anyone who had come to Bengal at any time in the past four millennia or so.

There are much more formal studies than my quick glance out there but there’s a definite difference in heights among generations. Think back to that WWI with the British soldiers and officers thing. When the 50 year old hotel porter is 5 ft, the 20 year old porter porter out there 6 then something’s happened. That something being a significant reduction in mal- and under-nutrition between the generations.

Hell, not saying it’s perfect, not at all, but the direction of travel has been in the right direction. Tall poor people is a hell of a sign of that.

They use British 3 pin plugs.

13 thoughts on “So, this Bangladesh place then.”

  1. I’ve never been to Bangladesh although many of my colleagues have and they despise the place. Which city are you in? I hear Dhaka is ok but when the guys have to go to Chittagong or, god forbid, Comilla they’re complaining for weeks… one had rocks thrown at his car when he turned up at a factory that was on strike, he thought he was going to be lynched.

    I did go to Pakistan once, in 2005, it was terrifiying. I spent 4 days in this city called Sialkot by the Kashmir border. The government supplied four armed police to ‘guard’ me but I soon realised they were more likely to get me killed then any terrorist so dismissed them the first evening. We were driving back to the ‘hotel’ along this bumpy road and the guards were in a pick-up truck driving in front of my car. One of them sitting in the back had his AK-47 on his lap with the barrel pointing right at me… one big pothole and I’m sure I’d have been shot. Then we arrive and I’m thankful to still be alive when this old guy in traditional dress carrying a shot gun starts walking towards me… I start imagining myself on the news…. I’m wondering why my ‘guards’ haven’t stopped him when he comes right up to me and puts his hand out to shake mine. He was the hotel’s guard.

    I also remember seeing a roadside advert for KFC proclaiming “Owned by Pakistanis – Operated by Pakistanis” in Lahore, and then maybe two days later seeing on the news that it had been blown up anyway; maybe the Al-Qaeda don’t read English so well.

    Thankfully our company banned trips there after some one with whom we did business was kidnapped and has never been seen since.

    Enjoy Bangla!

  2. It was 1982 when I was last in Bangladesh, hard to think it’s 35 years ago. Chittagong was grinding poverty, I cannot think that I ever saw anyone who looked anything more than very slim. Even our well to do agent, who had a fairly new car, didn’t seem to have an ounce of extra weight. Everywhere you looked there were people with ricketts or other signs of malnutrition. Anything that wasn’t bolted down was nicked. Stuff that was screwed down, like the brass sounding pipe caps disappeared, I ended up having to machine new ones. The grain that our ship was discharging that came as aid from the US was quite routinely put in sacks marked as having come “As a gift from the USSR”.
    When we were light enough we went farther upriver to a landing in the middle of nowhere to complete the discharge. It was a 100 times worse, but must admit than in our one foray ashore, although everyone we met was worse than dirt poor, they were polite and helpful.

    It would be nice to think that those kids we saw working in the paddy fields were now either in school or making T shirts. Or probably their grandchildren are.

  3. ‘Tall poor people’

    Adequate nutrition for sure. Additionally, it’s a sign that children aren’t doing heavy work.

  4. My HongKong ex-wife’s mother 30 years ago was a good foot shorter than ex-wife is now at her age. Gohmahmah grew up in the fields of rural Guandong, wifey grew up in Hong Kong.

  5. They use British 3 pin plugs

    So they have at least achieved a level of civilisation not yet found in Europe, well done them.

  6. Popular culture in Australia is that the difference in height between British squaddies and the meat fed ANZAC troops was noticeable in WWI. I don’t know how true it really is.

    It’s an interesting observation. Africa is the only continent with significant human genetic diversity (Masai vs Kalahari Bushmen, for instance). All of the rest of us are basically identical. Average height is as good a way as any to measure progress

  7. “The stndnrad of spoken English is high here, higher than in London often is.” A welcome introduction of sarcasm to this blog.

    When we lived in South Australia and Queensland the men were no taller than British men but my wife spotted that the women were taller. She inferred that a country must be usefully well off when even the girls are fed heaps of protein.

  8. The Australians noticed the height differences across the various European troops.
    Which is not necessarily indicative – recruitment versus taking as conscript anyone not yet dead, where troops are used etc.

    It was a major issue for the US in Vietnam, equipment built for someone a certain height and that being taller than 90 percent of the men in the country….

    Even among families here – not uncommon to find kids raised in the 60s, 70s, 80s etc taller than their parents.
    Perhaps the diet, exercise etc all make a difference.

  9. Seen something similar in Andalusia. The 80+ are around 5′, those in their 50’s and 60’s are 5’6″ and the current teens and 20’s are closer to 6′.

  10. Received this today from a Brit business man in India ( long read )

    I arrived here last week and have been attending the spectacular gift and handicrafts bi-annual show in Greater Noida which is a satellite town to the east of Delhi.
    Last Friday I was telling you about the Indonesian concept of “Adat” – a powerful magical force that you need to understand to do business there. You can read about it here.

    Delhi improves by degree everytime I visit, drivers are more obeying the rules, streets are a tad cleaner and the trade show is monument to efficiency and friendliness. You have to give them credit for making it happen. But one thing that still seems the same is the air quality. After a few days.. and it always happens I get a hacking cough, and regardless of what I eat – the condition known as Delhi Belly. I guess that is enough detail.
    So I’m usually glad to escape Delhi area and head for .. well almost anywhere is better.

    I had a bit of an adventure..
    I arrive in this new city, and in India they have a pretty good system. In any airport you will see a pre-pay taxi desk – you go there tell them where you want to go and they give you a fixed price and a slip of paper you give to a taxi guy outside. Things can still go wrong, but mostly it is a good system. Except this time I arrived there was a queue for the pre-pay stand half the way back to Delhi. I looked at the snaking queue and thought, goodness that’s a two hour job. So “Plan B” – just go outside, and wait for the dodgy guy who comes and asks if you need a taxi. Of course this being India – once you are outside the airport, you can’t get back in without a ticket.. so a little risky.
    So I sally forth outside into the usual bedlam and sure enough within about thirty seconds this guy sidles over to me and asks if I need a taxi. I say yes brightly and give him the name of my hotel and ask how much, he is already grabbing my case, and telling me not to worry. So I worry. Tell me how much? – I say firmly holding on to my case. Well his price was five times up the pre-pay taxi rate. To be clear I don’t mind over paying because it’s not loads of money but I object to be taken for a fool. So I said don’t worry I’m cool. Thinking I’ll get the next offer.

    I walk away from him down towards the arrivals terminal. Sure enough some guys leans out of his window and asks me if I need a taxi.. how much? Amazing he gives me near enough the pre-pay rate. I jump in loading my luggage in the back. We are just about to pull out – when the first guy comes, sticks his hand inside the car and grabs the guys keys. Then they are shouting at each other in Hindi, dodgy guy is banging alarmingly on the roof, some of the words exchanged are more anglo saxon.. This is not good, what am I going to do? So my good taxi guy is at a distinct disadvantage – IE no keys and as negotiating positions go, he is stuck. He turns to me and says “sorry sir, doing that wobbling head business, this man says you are his customer. There is a police guy near by.. I get out and try and enlist his help. But he’s off out of there on some pressing business as soon as he see’s the situation.

    No choice but to recover my luggage and stand there fuming. This dodgy guy is again grabbing my bag. Now his arguments run to, “his boss will beat him if doesn’t get the fare” and “I promise not to ask you for more money half way there”. He has a smug look on his face, he knows I have no choice, because he can acost any other driver the same way. There is no way I’m going with this guy.. I was once mugged in Kathmandu under similar circumstances, so my warning bells are ringing like Westminster Abbey on a Royal wedding day.. So I tell him firmly and in my best posh English: “Sir, If you were the last (expletive) taxi man on earth, if you wait forever and ever and a (expletive) extra day – I’m never going to get in your godforsaken taxi – so sir.. please go forth and multiply”. Then I took a picture of his smug face. That upset him.

    All the policeman had vanished.. What was I going to do?

    Shall I tell you next week?

    OK Ok.. calm down.
    Not too difficult, I just called my hotel and ordered a limo to pick me up, I explained the situation briefly and where I was. I had to wait 20 minutes, while that guy hovered at a distance, smoking and glaring at any taxi driver thinking of approaching me. The hotel guy found me and I walked to the carpark with him, where his car was.
    I know what you are thinking – expensive right? – but the hotel apologised on behalf of India and offered me the pick up on a complimentary basis.

    More adventures.. next week.

    Oh and before you ask – they do have Uber in India, I must download it 🙂

    Like Bangladesh the place is getting better, unevenly so, but better.

  11. The grain that our ship was discharging that came as aid from the US was quite routinely put in sacks marked as having come “As a gift from the USSR”.

    So in other words the state appropriated from the capitalists to give to the poor. This is how the system was designed to work./s Anyway the real gift from the USSR was the sacks.

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