06 Dec 2007


It is just getting daylight in the city of Khulna  (KOOL na) . … With a population of over one million, it is the third largest city in Bangladesh. (BON gla desh) About an hour earlier, this man started the day by loading his cart from a boat at the river some two miles from here.  The Muslim Imam (EE mom) is returning to his home after the first of the required five daily prayers. Most rickshaws are already loaded with produce and people.  Others are still waiting for their first passengers of the day.

 Before the sun burns off the early morning fog, the first batch of parboiled rice has been placed on the drying floor to cool.   In a few days, it will be hulled and ready for sale.  The wholesale fish market is in full swing with sellers taking advantage of the cool morning air to keep the fish fresh and bring the best price.  Fast food restaurants abound for the early morning crowd.  Shops with a variety of fruit and vegetables are all well stocked and ready for the first customers of the day.

 Even though Khulna is the district capital, few large buildings grace the skyline.  This is not a city known as an industrial center or as a tourist attraction.  Instead, it owes its importance to the Rupsa (ROOP sha) River that skirts along its eastern edge.  Here goods and people are transported up and down the river as well as from one side to the other.  Launches and ferries loaded with people, produce, and vehicles provide the primary means for crossing the river since no bridges are available. 

 The river is wide but too shallow for ocean going vessels. The larger ships are offloaded to smaller boats at a port 25 miles to the south. The small boats, … many of them powered by people, … are used to transport the goods to the cities and towns located up the river.  The top-heavy and usually overloaded launches are efficient for transporting people.  Unfortunately, … they often capsize with the resulting loss of many lives during the frequent storms of the monsoon season. 

 For many, these boats are an essential part of life and the economy of the area.  Families depend on the income derived from the boats, many of which, are old and in serious need of repair.

  The shoebox style housing complexes were constructed during the British rule and are primarily used to house government workers.  The city police building includes a dormitory for some of the officers.  Constant repair on the buildings is required because of their age and the very heavy rainfall during the summer monsoons.  But, these are the homes for a large portion of those living in the city.  Others live in small bamboo and thatch buildings.  Their water is pumped from a nearby community well.

 Corruption and crime in this city, … like that of most of Bangladesh, … is a serious problem.  Armed guards are required for all significant places of business.  A police court set up at a major downtown intersection provides a quick and efficient method of handling the large number of minor offenses.

 Typical in Khulna are the businesses involved in working with the wood brought up the river by the small boats.  The rough pieces of wood are split up for firewood and sold by weight.  The better pieces are sawed, shaped, and carved to make a variety of furniture.  The machinery used in the furniture making industry appears primitive.  The workers, however, are proud of their equipment and the products they make.

 Khulna is an easy place to visit; … a place where you can quickly become immersed in the culture of the country. It is a city that is overflowing with friendly people who would like for you to come.  Won’t you go and share your life with them?


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