Notes from Bangladesh: New Market during Ramadan, 2013

Patrick writes about the preparations for the biggest world-wide party of the year.

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Isha and I accompanied Beli and Brother-in-Law to New Market yesterday. Imagine Christmas shopping, then multiply it by any absurd number you want. 100,000 (my guess) tiny shops in this one market. Everyone bargaining. Everyone pushing and trying to keep track of all their group members.

We are in about the third week of Ramadan. The city will empty for the actual Eid holiday in just over two weeks, with the whole population of Dhaka traveling to their villages. They bring gifts for extended family. Families are large, so the low New Market prices are a consideration; though middle-class shoppers will buy their own Eid clothing from fashionable, busting-at the-seams shops that are open until midnight or later.

Add to the crowds, the desperate activity, and the steam-bath heat – probably a majority of the shoppers are fasting from dawn and won’t have even a sip of water until dusk and Iftar. Last week I met a group in an air-conditioned office. They told me they lose approximately 20% of IQ points during Ramadan (every day). I fasted a couple of days and am pretty sure they were bragging. 20% is under-estimation. At my age I can’t afford to lose even a fraction of a percentage point, so have not continued.

After an hour of riding the surge, Isha and I gave up and found a rickshaw to take us home. Isha was devastated that we were leaving Ama and Uncle in the maelstrom. I don’t think it is anything we’ll be repeating.

Pictures are from Isha’s third birthday Iftar party and Isha waiting at a sari shop in New Market. (Blue Salamander top and pants by Alison.)

Isha’s third-birthday Iftar party

Isha’s third-birthday Iftar party

Isha waiting at a sari shop in New Market. (Blue Salamander top and pants by Alison.)

Isha waiting at a sari shop in New Market. (Blue Salamander top and pants by Alison.)

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