Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | April 19, 2016

Plight of Bangladeshi Passport Holders

We have learnt from the news media that Indonesia was considering to provide Bangladeshi citizens visa upon arrival facilities for 30 days validity and now finally it has come into effect. Someone recently shared a post in the Facebook, a picture of a Bangladeshi passport page with Indonesian visa upon arrival stamped. This is a good news for Bangladeshi citizens as it lessened the hassle of obtaining visa from the Indonesian Embassy before travelling. In order to boost tourism, the Indonesian government has recently eased visa restrictions for quite a number of countries. Citizens of these countries can now enjoy visa upon arrival facility at Indonesian airports and fortunately Bangladesh is one of them to gain this opportunity.

This is also advantageous for people like me who are engaged in frequent travelling to various countries for professional reasons. I do need to travel frequently as our office is a regional coordinating body of a worldwide youth organization. My colleagues hailing from various countries of Asia, mostly East and Southeast Asia face less difficulties for visa matters. In most of the countries, when they travel, they are entitled to visa upon arrival or no visa at all. For me, our travel agency has to run to various consulate offices, here in Hong Kong, to obtain my visas. I need to obtain visa to travel almost everywhere, except Bangladesh, they jokingly say. Personally, being a Bangladeshi, this is a sad experience for me. There are countries like Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal, where we Bangladeshi’s can visit without prior visa and no other countries in Asia extended us with visa upon arrival facility.  I still remember the days when we could travel to Hong Kong, Thailand or even South Korea, with visa upon arrival system, but those days are long past now.

According to the Global Passport Index, ( in the individual ranking Bangladesh falls in 188th  position with only 37 countries of the world accepting Bangladeshi citizens either with visa upon arrival or visa free facilities. Pakistan and Afghanistan falls on 198th  and 199th  position respectively, their citizens enjoying either on visa upon arrival or visa free facilities to only 28 and 29 countries respectively. Afghanistan is in the bottom of the list while Germany’s is in the first position with a total of 157 countries offering visa free or visa on arrival facilities to German citizens.

Obviously there are reasons for such an attitude on the part of the majority of countries towards us, the Bangladeshis. The affluent countries have been closing the doors for us, ever since. Even with proper documents, getting a visa for some countries in the West is so difficult. One has to prove with all documentary evidences that he or she will return back after the visit.

Why this is happening ? Plainly one may say that, when a Bangladeshi travels to an affluent country there has always been a tendency for him to stay back in that country illegally; especially in the cases of young people who are in pursuit of a better standard of living. Poverty and unemployment in the country is the root of the problem for people tending to migrate. The second reason is terrorist militancy; in a lot of cases, there have been links between Bangladeshis and terrorist militancy in the Middle East. The Rohinga refugees residing in the south-east part of Bangladesh is also an issue. It is an open secret, that a good number of these stateless refugees by adopting unfair means and in collaboration with a section of our people have managed to secure Bangladeshi passports, travelled abroad, engaged in illegal activities such getting involved in terrorist activities in Middle East where they worked as mercenary in the wars of Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq and now Syria.

These are the reasons why other countries are reluctant to extend us visas, considering us a threat to their own national security. One good example could be Cambodia; economically this country does not have better profile than Bangladesh, still it is difficult for a Bangladeshi to enter Cambodia. Cambodia is a country which has an open policy to entertain citizens of any country with a visa upon arrival facility, however, there is an exception, this is not applicable to citizens of nine countries. Unfortunately, Bangladesh falls into this category and the other countries are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia. Citizens of these countries are required to obtain prior visa to travel to Cambodia. Even after obtaining a prior visa, Bangladeshis are subjected to face some sort of questioning and harassment at the immigrations of Cambodian airports.

This is a matter of the reputation or image of our country, this is what the world perceives about us. The countries mentioned above are mostly the failed countries, infamous for militancy activities and no law and order situation prevailing. Now our government has to work more effectively to put ourselves in a better position, especially tackling militancy problem in our country.

Our economy is growing and so is as the living standards of our people, more and more people are travelling to various countries but the majority of them go to East Asia and Southeast Asian countries, mainly for tourism purpose. Introduction of budget airlines has also boosted overseas travelling, but the visa problems still remains for Bangladeshis.

One of the solutions could be, that countries of the East Asia and Southeast Asia like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, etc.,  where more and more Bangladeshi people are travelling can provide visa upon arrivals to Bangladeshi visitors on the condition that they have previously visited the country within the period of the last one or two years. Obviously, people who can afford to visit that country at frequent intervals and have not overstayed in the earlier visit, will most likely never overstay in the subsequent visits. Another provision could be that Bangladeshi’s who are holding valid visas for USA, Canada, Australia, UK or Schengen States could be provided with visa upon arrivals. These Western countries do a lot of background checks before providing long time visa hence trusting those visas could help avoid duplication of work.

The foreign ministry of Bangladesh needs to be proactive in this matter and be able to effectively negotiate with their overseas counterparts in making travelling for Bangladeshis more hassle-free by easing visa procedures. In the long term, we need to toil to improve the overall performance of the country, creating a secular image of the country and totally eliminating militancy from the country by showing zero tolerance to such activities. We let us toil together to take our country to that stage when a Bangladesh will be among the leading countries in passport power ranking in the world. The passport power ranking reflects the prosperity and acceptability of the country.

Duncan Chowdhury is a YMCA Executive and writes from Hong Kong.

(This article was published in the print version of The Daily Sun on 13 April 2016)


Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | January 29, 2014

An Amazing Story From Latvia

It was during the late Nineties, I came across one of my overseas colleagues from Latvia, whom I met in Gothenburg, Sweden. She was in her Twenties. I had naturally an inquisitiveness to learn about her who hailed from a country completely unknown to us in this part of the world. The only thing we knew that Latvia was in Soviet Republic and became independent with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in early Nineties. 

My friend had embraced Christianity recently, her boyfriend was also a Christian whom she married. She was elaborating her experiences, how she had been introduced to Christianity. She never knew Christ before.

It was an amazing story. She narrated that during the Communist Era, she used to visit her boyfriend at his home and have supper with his family. Then she had noticed that just before having meal, her boyfriend’s family used to utter few words, often with eyes shut, thanking someone for the food which had been served on the table. This had raised substantial curiosity in her mind, but she didn’t dare to ask her boy friend about this strange ritual of her boyfriend’s family.

One day she told her mom about this strange act of his boy friend’s family and inquired whether mom had any clue about it. Her mom was not all surprised but whispered to her daughter that she will explain all to her when her father was away from home. Her father was a member of the Politburo.

Then one day when my friend’s father was away from home for some days on official business, then her mother called her and took her to the attic of their home. It was a very old trunk from where she brought out a thick fat book covered with a velvet fabric. This was a very old bible which was a prize possession of her mother, which she secretly kept and adored from her childhood, inherited from her parents.

Then my friend’s mother told her about Christianity,  God the Almighty and Jesus Christ and explained that it is a tradition that we give thanks for the blessings we have received from God the Almighty. The act of giving thanks to God before the meal is also customary for Christians.

This is how my friend became acquainted with Christianity. She found out that his boyfriend was also Christian but practiced Christianity in secret until the fall of Soviet Union. Now they are good practicing Christian and do have the right to observe all religious practices without fear and threat.

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | December 6, 2013

A Nobel Prize for the Master of Short Story Writer

Literature enthusiasts eagerly await the declaration of the Nobel Prize for Literature each year. The Nobel Prize has always been regarded as the most recognized award in the field of literature. This year the Royal Academy of Sciences, Stockholm, awarded Canadian short story writer Alice Munro as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for the year 2013.

Alice Munro has now come in the focus of inquisitive minds of book lovers throughout the world. Thousands throng now in the bookstalls for her books. It is not unusual for a Nobel Laureate’s book run short of stock. Munro’s case is not an exception, her books were already best sellers, unlike last year’s Nobel Prize winner for Literature Mo Yan  from China, who was hardly known internationally for his literary works. Munro had won the internationally acclaimed Man Booker International Prize in 2009 and she was already acclaimed short story writer, and her books published and widely circulated in the market.

She is the first Canadian writer to receive this prestigious 106th Nobel Prize in Literature and the 13th woman to receive it, since its inception in 1901.  Earlier, Canada born Saul Bellow was awarded this prize in 1976, however, Saul left Canada when he was nine and settled in the U.S. So he is not at all regarded as a Canadian to receive the Nobel Prize.

When Munro came to know about the award she instantly reacted to Doug Gibson her publisher , “I am amazed and very grateful. I am particularly glad that winning this award will please so many Canadians. I ‘m happy that this will bring attention to Canadian writing”. It is a matter of fact, that so far Canadian literature had little in focus in the realm of English Literature.

Munro has been writing since her teenage, she had seen the Great Depression in her childhood days and she grew up as a teenager during the Second World War. The settings for her writings had always been the rural atmosphere or small townships in Canada. The protagonists had been girls or young women, their struggle in life to get acceptance in the society, strained relationships and moral conflicts often been portrayed in her writings.  She had the ability to express ordinary incidents of ordinary people in a most extra ordinary way. Her easy-to-read style and free flow of writing attracted innumerous readership around the world.

Her publisher Gibson rightly explained, “Here we have a world prize being won by someone who writes about housewives in Vancouver, booksellers in Victoria, bean-farmers in Huron County and accountants and teachers and librarians – ordinary Canadian people, and she turns it into magic”.

The Nobel Committee regarded her as “Master of Contemporary Short Story”, also added that “Munro is acclaimed for her finely tuned storytelling, which is characterized by clarity and psychological realism.” They further said, “her texts often feature depictions of everyday but decisive events, epiphanies of a kind, that illuminate the surrounding story and let existential questions appear in a flash of lighting.” American writer Cynthia Ozick, compare her with Anthon Chekhov, the 19th Century Russian writer, the greatest short story writer of all times.

It has been said that short stories has always been ignored, when prominent literature awards are considered. Awarding Munro for the Nobel Prize broke this unexplained taboo, she has now secured her position in the top end of English Literature, inspite of being a short story writer only.

When asked about her focus on short story writing, she said, “For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel. Then I found that they were all I could do, and so I faced that. I suppose that my trying to get so much into stories has been a compensation.”

In 2009 when she was awarded the Man Booker Award, the judge panel described, “Alice Munro is mostly known as  short story writer and yet she brings as much depth, wisdom and precision to every story as most novelists bring to a lifetime of novels. To read Alice Munro is to learn something every time that you never thought of before.”

Munro started writing in local magazines in the Fifties’. Later her first published work was ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’ in 1968. This acclaimed the Governor General’s Award, thus she came in the lime light from the very beginning. Then she continued her writing without a pause, her noteworthy short story collections are “Lives of Girls and Women” (1971), “Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You” (1974), “The Beggar Maid” (1978), “Who do You Think You Are ?” (1978), “The Moons of Jupiter”(1982), “The Progress of Love”(1986), “Friend of My Youth”(1990), “Open Secrets”(1994), “The Love of Good Woman”(1998), “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”(2001), “Runaway”(2004), “The View from Castle Rock”(2006), “Too Much Happiness”(2009),

The award winning film “Away from Her” released in 2006 directed by Sarah Polley was based on her book “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage”.

She was born in 1931 lived in Southwestern Ontario town of Clinton. Her father was a fox farmer and mother was a school teacher.  She studied journalism and English at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She got married in 1951 and moved to Victoria, British Columbia with her husband and had to take care of a family bookstore for some time.

Alice Munro is now 82, she has been writing for more than four decades have recently decided to close the cap of her pen. This award has now led the world to know more about her writings, making her more popular, bringing Canadian English Literature on the center stage, and moreover, giving the opportunity to the readers of English Literature to rediscover short stories again.o

Duncan Chowdhury  is a YMCA Executive and writes from Hong Kong

(Published in The Daily Independent, 28 November 2013)

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | December 6, 2013

Manna Dey the Legendary Singer Passes Away

Manna Dey the legendary singer has left us for his heavenly  abode on October 24. He was 94 when he died of cardiac arrest at a Hospital in Bangalore, South India. He has been in the hospital for quite some time with health complications.

Manna Dey does not need to be introduced to a Bangalee who has acquaintance with our music. He had been admired by millions, perhaps by crores and had been dominating the realm of Bangla music for more than six decades as a luminary.

Born on 1st May of 1919 in Calcutta. His real name was Probodh Chandra Dey. He became famous by his nick name Manna Dey to his music lovers. Though he was a Bangalee and primarily sang in Bangla but he had ventured in the music arenas of other regional languages too, which had elevated him to be an unparalleled vocalists of our sub-continent. He was a versatile singer with a melodious voice but with a profound depth.

With the news of his death, the media has been over-flowing with tributes from heads of states, governments to renowned musicians and other dignitaries of our sub-continent. The President of India Pranab Mukherjee, who himself is a fan of Manna Dey paid his tribute to the late singer saying that India  “has lost a veteran playback singer, a versatile artist of extraordinary ability and a creative genius who mesmerised listeners with his enchanting voice.”

When I was a small boy, I first came to know about Manna Dey during early Seventies. I still remember to discover one of his 45rpm records, with Hoyto Tomar Jonno. I was enthralled by this song at my tender age, perhaps because it was a sort of fusion of oriental tune with western beats and even now I cherish it as one of the best songs of Manna Dey.

In his early life Manny Dey had studied and practiced classical music extensively. Then in 1942, his uncle Krishna Chandra Dey who was also his mentor, a contemporary renowned  musician had showed him the way to Bombay, where he started his music career as an assistant music director under his uncle. He later worked with music legend Sachin Dev Burman also.  He was still taking lessons in music from Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan while directing music during that time.

It is said that he had recorded more than 3,500 songs in his life time. He sang in the major languages of the Indian Sub-Continent  and a large number of  Bangla songs. He sang more than 1,200 Bangla songs and around 600 of them as playback singer. He also sang a few dozens of Rabindra Sangeet too. From the Fifties he played a lead role in the Hindi music, as a playback singer.  He also sang Bhojpuri, Panjabi, Assamese, Oriya, Gujrati, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam and even in Nepali.

The important feature of most of his songs is that they have a classical base, rooted to ragas. He was chiefly a classical singer, he possessed the skill of expressing various moods with wide variations in his songs. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Manna Dey always adhered the basics of classical music in his songs. Most of his songs are classical or light classical whether it is in Bangla or in Hindi or in other languages. It was his feat to put lyrics of light words within the classical framework and thus give birth of a new genre of classical pop songs. Simple words become live and melodious with classical tone in his songs. Perhaps Yesudas the musical maestro of South India could be mentioned whose work also follow the same path. This is also one of the reasons that his songs had so much appeal to the audience spanning for more than half a century.

His debut as a playback singer was in the film Tamanna in 1943 , but his songs in Do Bigha Zamin in 1953 made in popular in Bollywood. In between he worked as playback singer for several movies but these didn’t bear much fruit to make him a popular singer.

Pyar hua ikraar hua  is the duet with legendary maestro Lata Mangeshkar in the film Shri 240 had been one of his most romantic hits. Perhaps the popular  one is Yeh Dosti, in the film  Sholay  released in 1975, this was a duet song with Kishore Kumar. This is one of the few songs he sang with Kishore Kumar.

Manna Dey put a pause in his singing career in the 1990s, he seldom sang after that. He reigned the Bollywood in the sphere where Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar had also reigned the Hindi music arena.  He had a lot of contribution to the Hindi music, however, I would rather like to emphasis on his contribution to Bangla music now.

He had travelled extensively around the world in his life time for stage performances and also visited Bangladesh on several occasions and enthralled our audience with his evergreen classic numbers.

In Bangla, Teer Bhanga Dhau was his earlier hits, later in course of time his Bangla hit songs climbed to hundreds. It will be difficult for one to pin point his best hit song. Lalita Go, and after that Jhokhon Keu Amake Pagol Bole, Kagoje Likho Nam, or Shee Amar Chotto Bone, Khub Jante Ische Kore and without debate ‘Coffee Houser Shei Addata are amongst his super hits. It is easily possible for anyone to express his or her emotions through his songs in his own way, especially any romantic mood.

In recognition to Manny Dey’s invaluable contribution to music, we was awarded the Padma Shri in 1971 and the Padma Bhushan in 2005 the highest civilian award by the Government of India. He also received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2007.

He was married in 1953 to Sulochana Kumaran who hails from Kerala and they had been blessed with two daughters, Sumita and Suroma. During his last days he had been with his daughter Sumita in Bangalore and Suroma his other daughter now resides in the United States. As Kabita Krisnamurti one of his ardent disciples pointed out that Manna Dey really lost his will to live after the death of his wife, Sulochana who died in 2012.

The death of Manna Dey has created a huge vacuum in our musical arena which cannot be replaced. His absence will be felt more and more when we need a music guru like him to guide our present day music students to learn music in a more systematic and classical way. We shall surely miss him as “tar gan theme geche”, and “… eka boshe aschi smriti nea tar”.

Duncan Chowdhury is a YMCA Executive, writes from Hong Kong.

(Published in  The Daily Independent, Bangladesh on 9th of November 2013)

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | June 22, 2013

Electric Vehicles in Bangladesh

A silent revolution has taking place in the transport sector in Bangladesh. The introduction of electric vehicles, the battery run three-wheelers in the past few years brought about a sort of transport revolution throughout the country. These battery run electric tricycles are now extensively used for short distance travelling in Bangladesh. Locally these are called easy bikes.


 These vehicles can carry about five passengers including the driver, these look somewhat like the traditional auto rickshaw but larger in size. Earlier these were imported from China, now these are produced locally, these vehicle costs about one hundred and twenty thousand takas which is less than two thousand US dollars and run the whole day, charging of the batteries are done at night.


It is believed that thousands of such vehicles now ply throughout the country, mainly through the towns and in the suburban areas. Some estimate the figures at a million. However, there is no proper statistics available, as these vehicles are not registered with the governmental transport department . In Dhaka city this vehicle is not allowed in the main roads, but do ply in the small streets, lanes and by lanes, commuting passengers.


This was not a government initiative nor was this welcomed by the government. The enthusiastic business community of the transport sector promoted this transport system throughout the country. The government does not encourage such vehicles as charging batteries of these vehicles throughout the country had put extra pressure in the total power generation and the government is finding it difficult to coup up with the need of extra power generation, causing energy crisis.


However, the environmental impact has not been taken into consideration. Surely this mode of transport is environmental friendly, no fumes, no sound pollution, creating less carbon foot prints, which is required only for the power generation at the power stations.


This has brought about a sort of silent revolution in the transport sector, it  has become popular for the fare being comparatively cheaper than other mode of road commuting, The common people’s necessity.

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | April 30, 2013

The Saga of the Garment Workers

Workers safety and  workers security,

Had never been the priority,

Working relentlessly under the threat of deadly hazards,

Workers’ rights and  aspirations are never answered.

Often victims of  factory building collapse or fire

Thousands find their final destinations at grave or pyre

Still the owners hearts remain unchanged

And they are ever unrepentant

Their overseas market remains steady and strong

As long they can sell the cheapest  clothes nothing wrong

Workers come and workers go

Their wages remain always low.

This is the saga of the Bangladesh Garment

Their sweat and blood remain always dormant.


Duncan Chowdhury

30 April 2013

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | January 2, 2012

Reminiscences of St. Placid’s High School

The years I had spent in St. Placid’s High School are the golden years of my life. It was in 1967 when I got admitted in KG-I, I was a child of 4 years. Though 44 years have passed, I still cherish the fond memories of my school days. I passed SSC Exams from the school in the year 1979 and had spent 12 years at our Alma Mater.

The first day in SPS was the day of my interview. It was in a class-room on the first floor of the Administrative Building, where the Principal’s Office was situated. Now the building has been demolished. I still recall that our Principal Bro. Jarlath D’Souza and Late Teacher F. Rodrigues (Headmistress of Primary Section) were conducting the interview. A blue colored cane-table round in shape was the center of attraction; some toys and some small household articles like knives, match boxes, clock, etc, were kept on the table. I was asked to identify those and that was my admission test. I do not know how I performed but the aftermath was that soon after I was admitted in KG-I. Late Teacher Spirito was our teacher, Late Teacher Khan, who was a Burmese lady was our teacher too, she often spoke in Urdu. We had a large counting frame in the classroom, hard for us to reach, our teacher used to move the ping-pong ball like colored wooden beads from one end to other. Our day would start with counting numbers together at the top of our voice from 1 to 100. Mrs. Khan carried a penknife in the lock of her thami. She was always busy sharpening our pencils with her penknife. During recess time, we had to eat our snacks in the classroom and were not allowed to go out. If we required to go to the restroom, Ayas would accompany us.

The following year in 1968 I was promoted to KG-II, Mrs. H. Belasso was our teacher. I do not remember much about this class. I used to sit on the bench in the front row being a small boy. It was quite difficult for us to see the teacher and for her also to see us, as she sat on the table on a raised platform just in front of us. We used to do mischievous acts as our teacher could not notice us. I still remember, one of my good dear friend would often sit silently on the cross bar footrest underneath the teacher’s table and when she noticed it, we were rewarded with the fat ruler.

Late Mary Johnson was our teacher in Class I in 1969. Our class room was on the first floor. The room was situated at the extreme north of the administrative building. This room had three doors and it was quite easy to freak out to the verandah when our teacher was not in class. We started to learn Bangla in this year. Miss. Nirupama Parey was our teacher, she now resides in Australia. I still remember that we struggled with the various ‘Sha’s in the Bangla alphabet. It was in this year, that men first set their foot on moon. “That’s a small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. In 1970 I was in Class II, Miss. Evelyn Gomes was our teacher. It was in this year on the Independence Day on 14th August, we had experienced the lunar expedition of Apollo 11, in a documentary screened in the school field. This was a thrilling experience for us to experience the triumph of modern rocket science on the screen.

Gradually the political arena of the country turned to turmoil. Demonstrations, protests and processions became a daily event. Being a minor, it was quite difficult for me to grasp the situation. To my utter surprise, one evening I saw our Teacher Mrs. Henrietta Bellasso and Late Teacher Peter Shaha was in the front of a procession on the road. Another sad event of this year was the death one of our students of Class III, who was drowned, during annual class picnic.

As much as I can recollect, during late Sixties and early Seventies each year we celebrated the School Feast Day on 5th of October, as the St. Placid’s Day, commemorating the day of birth of St. Placid who was born on this day in 515 AD. We used to rehearse frequently the School Anthem “Let’s Loudly Sing, the Praise of our Alma Mater”, and we sang the School Anthem on the Feast Day in the ceremony.

The School Flag with the yellow cross on blue background was designed by our Teacher Lucy Rebeiro, she now resides in Montreal, Canada. Our Principal’s room always adorned with the School Flag and I believe it is still there.

During the historic liberation war in 1971, I was in Class III. Late Teacher Patty Rodrigues was my class teacher. She was an exceptional teacher. She was very much practical, and was not satisfied with the students what they learnt, but more interested in putting that into practice. Once in the Civics Class I had been poorly graded in one of my answers about how to make use the lawn of your house. I had written exactly what had to be written, however, upon my enquiry for the low grade, she responded that she had been visiting my home and never seen any flower garden in front of my home as such I could not expect any better marks from her. For the Geography Class we had to make landscape with clay models for the exams. Carry clay from home, we used to make a model of a volcano on a cardboard, working in the backside verandah facing the graveyard.

Our school closed indefinitely due to strike from 3rd March in 1971 and we were not able to go to school until July, when the Pak Army ordered to reopen the schools. We used to go to school but not regularly, the attendance was poor. Our Hindu friends were totally out of the scene, so as our Teachers from the Hindu Community. Gradually our Urdu Speaking classmates started to move to the then West Pakistan and we continued to go to school till end of October. During that time a couple of bomb blasts blew away the big electric transformer in front of the Church. This lead us to stop going to school. We was not allowed to come to school thereafter for safety reasons. Curfew was imposed at night. A tense situation prevailed until the day of our independence on 16th December 1971. I still remember that the Pak Army visited our school on several occasions during the period of liberation war, the reasons were unknown to us, perhaps they would come looking for our teachers whom they suspected to be subversive. Our Teacher Ms. Kallani Ghosh, Late Teacher Kanango, Late Teacher Dewanjee and some other teachers went on hiding as soon as war broke out, they had undergone a lot of unbearable hardship during the war. The Victory Day on 16th December was a great sigh of relief for us.

After our independence, we didn’t have to wear Jinnah Cap on Fridays anymore when the National Anthem was sung, and we had a new National Anthem for which we had to rehearse almost everyday at our assemblies. The good news was that we all got auto-promotion to the next class, without any examinations. This opportunity was for all the students in that year.

The sad part was that in 1972 the medium of the school was changed from English to Bangla as per the instructions of the Government. We had to start afresh with Bangla in all subjects, and this was quite difficult for us, as we were not been able to read Bangla as free flow. I still remember that our Teacher Mr. Robert Rebeiro used to teach us Bangla times table in class IV along with Bangla Numbers. Indeed, the Bangla joint alphabets were strange to us.

Due to the change of the medium of instructions, the students who were in class IX & X and even class VII and VIII were given the opportunity to appear for the SSC Examinations in English Medium at once. A large group of students seized this opportunity and appeared for the SSC within the next couple of years. Soon after this the SSC Examinations were no more held in English.

We had a sad feeling after joining to school in 1972 that most of our Urdu Speaking friends had left for Pakistan, and those who were remaining, they also gradually left the country through RedCross flights arranged under their Repatriation Program. It was a also a matter of joy for us to find most of our friends from the Hindu Community returned back to School.

In 1972 St. Scholastica’s School which was a co-education school in the primary section, disallowed boys in their school from that year, as a result there was an influx of boys from St. Scholastica’s School admitting en masse to St. Placid’s School.

St. Placid’s School began to change dramatically. The teachers who were teaching us in the English Medium School had to gradually leave the school. Some migrated to the West and some had better opportunities in the emerging NGO Community expanding their network in the war ravaged country. New teachers were appointed. The School had undergone some years of teething period to adopt the new medium of instructions.

The extra curricular activities touched new horizons, formation of Red Cross Volunteers, the Judo Training Class, the involvement of boys in school farming brought new dimensions, in addition to Boy Scouts and Cubs. The staging of plays once again started but now all in Bangla. In 1977 our class performed “Hobu Rajar Deshe”. Our Bangla Teacher, Mr. Binoy Bhushan Barua, inspired the boys for the drama.

The Annual Sports of the school had always been an attraction which usually held during the month of February. Practice for the Sports Meet and the competition amongst the Houses kept the students busy. Unfortunately, the Annual Aquatics Sports gradually lost its place in the Annual Calendar of the School.

The School Band and PT Demonstration was one of the main attraction of the Sports. I was in the PT Group right through Class VII onwards to Class IX. We had extensive practice sessions each day and had the final display during the Annual Sports Day. We also performed during National Days at the Chittagong Stadium. Buses were sent to school to bring us to the stadium and we were rewarded with snacks of nimkis, jilapees and rashgollas packed in small brown paper packets. Our Late Teacher Fazlur Rahman was our PT Instructor.

Our school basketball team was one of the best school team in the country. They carried the name of our school, length and breadth of the country. St. Gregory’s High School of Dhaka was always our contender. SPS won the National Championship in the Inter School Basket Ball Competition in 1977.

We are indebted to our beloved teachers of St. Placid’s High School, who trained our minds, provided quality education for us, so that we could stand steady on our own feet in this competitive world.

Our Alumni who are spread throughout the world share the common thought and aspiration, that let the flag of our Alma Mater be held high in the realm of education in this country and beyond.

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | May 11, 2010

MPO List Draws Flak

The headlines of most of the dailies today were governed by the news about the decision of the cabinet meeting to review the list of the recently declared 1022 Educational Institutions under the MPO.

Under the scheme the Government subsidies partial and full salaries of the teachers of non government schools. The matter of reviewing the list was kept in abeyance for several years, until last week a fresh list of 1022 institutions were made.

The ministers were outraged with the list of the institutions, their allegations were that the list didn’t contain much of their recommended institutions, whereas a lot of institutions were enlisted which were recommended by the opposition MPs.

The Education Minister defended that the list was made, by abiding strictly the policies laid down. However, it was decided that the list would reviewed within the next 3 months.

Now such a decision, evolves a lot of question of politicizing the educational institutions. The matter of good governance comes into question. The institutions should be considered not by the merit of recommendations, but by the performances it makes. Eligibility should be weighted only by merit not by who has recommended it, after all the students studying there, does not belong to any political party but to the nation. Why should be they deprived, on the plea of their respective authorities who hold different political views.

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | October 26, 2009

Bangladesh Ranks Low In South Asia Mobile Use

A report in the newspaper today attracted my attention. Bangladesh lags behind all the countries of South Asia in Mobile Penetration Rate.

This is a matter of pity for Bangladesh that we lag behind Afghanistan also in this respect. The MPR of Afghanistan is 29 percent while Bangladesh is 28 percent. How could it be possible for a war ravaged country.

Maldives leads this region with 143 active SIMs/ 100 people as the undisputed leader in mobile connectivity in South Asia, while Sri Lanka secured the second position with 52 active SIMs per 100 people.

Pakistan is 50 SIMs per 100 and Bhutan is 37 SIMs per 100 people. India is lagging behind which is 29 per 100 people, same as Afghanistan.

This scenario indicates that Bangladesh yet has a good space for the expansion of the cell phone industry. In order to enhance the market, the mobile operators needs to reduce the tariff more so that it could reach to more people especially at the grass root level and on the other side the Government needs to reduce the tax on each SIM connection also, currently it is Taka 800, which is one of the hindrances for the expansion of the mobile industry in Bangladesh.

Though the mobile operators had reduced their rate substantially still there is lot to be done. The interconnectivity rate between the mobile operators needs to be reduced. The first cell phone company used to charge Taka 10 per minute for outgoing and Taka 7 per minute for incoming and the connection fee was more than hundred thousand Taka. I was not a subscriber until 1997/1998 when grameenphone was launched. I still remember I had to pay Taka 24,000 for the connection fee including a mobile set costing Taka 6,000. In those days the outgoing rate was Taka 5 per minute and Taka 3 per minute for incoming. Now the provision of incoming rate has been waived by all the operators and the outgoing charge has come down to less a Taka per minute in some schemes. This is of course a radical reduction in the rate. Cell sets are also cheaper today, you can buy good quality sets within Taka 1,200/- also. Thanks to the China Manufacturers.

The concern of the mobile phone industry here is the foreign investment in this sector, the huge profits in this sector are siphoned away abroad. This needs a better scrutiny.

Posted by: Duncan Chowdhury | September 3, 2009

Exporting Internet Bandwidth

A report has been published today in Daily Ittefaq. The Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company is now planning to export internet bandwidth to Nepal and Bhutan. According to BSCC, we are using only 31 % of the total capacity of internet bandwidth and the balance bandwidth is left utilized, so this could be exported to Nepal or Bhutan. These countries are landlocked and do not have direct access to sea, thus unable to have internet connection through submarine cables. They rely on costly VSAT technology which is a costly affair.

Exporting internet bandwidth to Bhutan and Nepal is of high potentiality and could fetch us substantial revenues. This is because of the advantage we enjoy for our country’s geographical location. The problem is that we do not have any common border with any of these countries, in between there is a patch of Indian soil. Now the question arises whether Bangladesh will be able to negotiate with India for allowing us to lay cables through their land, to reach a third country. I believe this will be a difficult job, as it is understood that India itself would like to take the opportunity to provide such internet connection to these countries.

Now other pertinent question arises, are we now in a position to transfer our bandwidth to a third country? According to the newspaper report currently we are using only 31 % of our bandwidth, apparently it seems that the rest is left unutilized. This would be an acceptable proposal if we had a high usage of internet bandwidth per capita at present. Being a country of around 150 million people, I guess hardly a million people have access to internet. We have to reach out to more and more people with the internet, in order to materialize our vision of Digital Bangladesh. The cost of internet connection is still out of reach of the general people. Still we have to pay on an average Tk.1,000 to stay online to our service provider. The cost is still same as the old VSAT usage. What percentage of our population can afford that, the Government must take steps to lower down the cost of internet usage, then only we will be able to see that the rate of utilization of internet shall increase more and more and there will be no unutilized bandwidth left.

Finally, I would still say not to give up the idea of exporting bandwidth to our neighbouring countries, this could be done only after our optimum utilization of our required bandwidth, perhaps a second submarine line could be installed for this purpose only. The bottom line is that, Nepal and Bhutan along with the development of the information technology, will surely be linked with submarine cables and these has to be routed either via India or Bangladesh. China’s border with these two countries are located in remote Chinese areas as such it will be difficult to connect. Now it will depend on the strength of the Bangladeshi diplomacy, how they could come to a advantages situation and bring revenue for the country from this sector.

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