Echo

Nicco Park  

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The #fog situation has not improved. All flights delayed by hours.  

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South Indian Thali for dinner at Hotel Sarvana Bhaban  

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India gate at dusk  

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Red Fort, built by Emperor Shahjahan  

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Lotus temple ..a place for people of all religions  

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The dog isn't acting.. Just having a nice sun bath  

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Qutub Minar &Ala'i Darwaza  

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Qutub Minar, a marvel of 13th century  

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The Main entrance of Taj Mahal  

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The Taj Mahal  

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At a toll point near Jaipur  

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Azmer Sharif - thousands of believers flock in this shrine for their pilgrimage  

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Mustard field on the way to Azmer  

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Motidungri Fort in Jaipur  

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Water Palace @ The Pink City  

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Amber Fort ... So grande... So marvelous..  

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In the Pink City ....  

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Kolkata, Rules & Customer Service  

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Here is an update of our India tour. Yesterday was a day full of jinx. At one point of time we were wondering how worse can it get.

On the way to Benapole, our companion family's child got sick from food poisoning and vomited in the car. We had to stop for cleaning and then on the border it turned out the customs superintendent, who was supposed to give approval for enlisting the carnet de passage (permission to take the car across border) was not in the office. We were told that he will be coming but after half an hour it became clear that he is managing office from somewhere else and will not be coming anytime soon. It took a lot of effort including talking help of connections to make it happen without him. That contributed to further delays.

Passing through Bangladesh customs was easy, And in Indian side, because of our car they did not bother much about luggage. They did make us open the bonnet and check Engine nos etc.

And then it happened. The engine of the Landrover of our friend just died after driving through India for about half kilometer. We checked the fuses. double-checked the connections but the Engine did not start. We started panicking when we heard that there is no repair shops nearby. After a while we realized that this was not getting us anywhere and someone suggested that we tow the car to a nearby village of Bongaon (no break-down insurance available in these parts). A taxi helped us in towing which was a hard effort in dense traffic situations.

The mechanic told us that its a time-belt related trouble and he will need time to find out what happened. We, two families with three kids were stranded at that point with no food and toilet facilities. There were no decent eateries within one mile radius. After we pressed the mechanic to give us a decision, he declared he cannot fix this, mainly because parts are rare and even he finds the problem it will not be possible to get parts in the vicinity.

So we decided to leave the car there and carry on with a rented car. Finally we came to Kolkata in the night and half day was spoiled.

Today it was a busy day for us in Kolkata. My daughter kept asking whether we are in India because she found no difference with the traffic situation of Dhaka and Kolkata. The forrnar capital of British India (1858-1912) has changed much - highrises, bypasses more cars. But did it keep its glory?

Bengalis are not a rule based society traditionally. But I see that there are much efforts from government to instill rules. We were told that we cannot take luggage on the roof of a car, the driver of our rented car forced us to open all the windows in dusty conditions because he has tinted glass (which is said to be illegal). The taxis wont take extra person. You have to submit loads of documents including hotel receipts for a mobile SIM card - etc. But don't get fooled thinking these rules are being installed in the society. You can take extra person in taxi paying loads of extra.

And then there is the pathetic customer service. Here is a snippet of conversation with the person at reception desk of our accomodation.

Reception: Please right down all the 500 rupee notes in a paper and provide you name and telephone no.

Me: Thats so many, why I need to do that?

Reception: Because this is our rule.

Me: But why?

Reception: There are fake notes.

Me: Yes. But its your job to verify that and if anything needs to be written why I should be bothered. Its late and I don't wanna waste my time. Please excuse me.

Reception: Then I won't sign the gatepass. You wont be able to leave.

Me; Thats so rude. Moreover our passport details are with you. Why I should submit contacts again?

Reception: Its our rule. If you don't like it don't stay here.

Then reluctantly I wrote all the note numbers and provided my Bangladesh number to see what his his reaction. He did not say anything and that reminds me that they follow the rule blindly without thinking what are the implications.

From all these rules the human elements, the care about customers are missing. I don't know why, but Kolkata seems to be lacking these aspects.

Tomorrow we leave for Jaipur.. See you there.

Luxury comes first... Aesthetics later....our hotel In Kolkata...  

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Good Morning...... From Kolkata..  

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Waiting.. waiting... On the border..  

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Long line of trucks waiting to cross the Bangladesh India border.. @ Benapole  

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On a ferry crossing the eschuary between Padma & Jamuna  

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Innovative Bangladesh Flag on the wall. At Proshika Honey Processing Plant, Manikganj.  

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On the way to India  

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Today we have started our journey towards India. Its a sunny day today and a bit warmer than the last few days. Preparations are always hectic. Passport, visa, foreign currency endorsements are the usual process you have to go through. Now that all have been taken care of we are ready to go. Will be providing you updates..

Travel To India By Car  

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This year I had been put under a lot of stress because of work, volunteerism and family affairs. It was inevitable that a holiday was on the cards. I have been to India for a quite a number of time but my family was not that lucky. And we always wanted to be at the Tajmahal together. So India it is.

And we will do this differently this time. One of our family friends has prior experience of traveling to India by car and the family has joined us. We have decided that we will do it the adventurous way.

Image from Flickr courtesy Rainer Ebert
Travelling to India by car is not a common phenomenon, especially because of strict tax regime in both the countries. I read recently that a car of a Bangladeshi traveler who drove home after travelling across many countries was confiscated by customs because the validity of his paper ran out. He could not release the car as it is subject to huge import tax (105%-300% according to Horsepower and age).

But the process of getting a permission to take your car to India and bring it back without paying duty  is fairly easy if you know how.

You will need an International Driver’s Licence to travel to India (which is virtually surrounding Bangladesh). To take your vehicle across the border you need a carnet de passage en douane. It is a document from the motoring organisation in the country in which the vehicle is registered, which says you will not sell the vehicle abroad without paying import duties.

In Bangladesh this permission is dealt by the Automobile Association of Bangladesh (AAB) [contact information here]. We had to give a bank guarantee of an assumed value of the car in favor of AAB, paid a permit charge of BDT 10,000/- (roughly $130) and the International Driving License Fee - BDT 2,500 (valid for one year) which is issued against your existing valid driving license. The whole process takes around 10 days.

The Indian Visa process has become very complicated due to their new online system which is unable to handle loads of requests. We managed to complete all the formalities after a lot of drama (but will save it for a later rant).

Those of you who have experience of travelling to India by air and by road knows that there is a clear discrimination in the ways immigration and customs are handled in both sides of the borders. I always tell my acquaintances to avoid the road borders because it involves lots of delays, harassment etc. But you never know things may have changed in the recent years. So I will be posting updates about our journey and hope that I will not be put under stress during travel.  

No Google Doodle For Victory Day  

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Some Bangladeshi netizens started a campaign to let Google know that we want a Google Doodle for Bangladesh's 40th victory day. Their voices were not heard. But still we can share the proposal. No?


Via Forhad

40 years of victory day celebrations at TSC.. Rallies, concerts all are happening..  

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Twitter Made Easy For You  

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During the first Dhaka Tweet up we discussed why there are not many Bangladeshis Tweeting. First of all only Citycell offers sms based tweeting. Technically users of other mobile operators can send sms to any of these three long codes (UK, Germany, Finland) as sms costs the same for local and international (BDT 2). But that is still costly for some as there are not many viable package sms options. So people with smartphones with Twitter apps use Twitter. It can also be used directly in mobile browser (like me )- people rarely know this although many of the recent phones are internet enabled and Twitter does not take much bandwidth.

I think people need to start using it and they will get the hang of it soon and it will be popular in Bangladesh. Here is a guide Titled "Twitter tips, tricks and Tweets" written by Paul McFedris which will help the new enthusiasts:


And who to follow? You can start by following me and many Bangladeshi Tweeps on this list.

The first ever barcamp in Bangladesh  

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This was long overdue. We first talked about the need for barcamp during the recent Dhaka Tweetup in BASIS. Then in the E Asia 2011 conference the talk got wind and here we go.


The first Bangladesh Barcamp will take place during 11-12 December 2011 at FREPD auditorium in Palashi, Dhaka. The duration will be from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM each day. You need to register here and the fee BDT 200 (US$ 3) will be collected at the venue. the event is being organized by FOSS bangladesh and Ankur ICT Foundation.

Here are the links:

* Facebook page
* Facebook Event
* Twitter account @BarCampBD
* Event Page
* What is Barcamp? "বারক্যাম্প'??? !!! বিষয়ডা কি? খায়? মাথায় দেয়? নাকি...

I wish they could announce the event a bit earlier thus giving the international barcampers a chance to participate. Moreover this needed to be in the weekend thus enabling many people to attend. It will be difficult to arrange a leave within such a short time. But its great to see the Barcamp happening at last.

Meanwhile those who think Bangladesh is not ready, this video is for them:

Bangladesh: Lone Woman Shows Resilience by Peaking Summits  

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Bangladesh tops the 2010 global climate change risk index but its people are one of the most resilient nations to tackle the threat of global warming and rising seas.

Wasfia Nazreen, a rights activist and development worker quit her job to fulfill her dream to reach seven summits of the seven continents. She started preparations two years ago and she reached 300 meters to the summit of Mount Elbrus in Russia (Europe) in July 2011 and the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (Africa) in September 2011. She is now on the way to climb Mount Aconcagua in South America.

Wasfia will continue her expeditions in 2012 as she is set to conquer Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) in Asia, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, Mount McKinley (Denali) in North America and Carstensz Pyramidin in Oceania.

Wasfia Nazreen. Photo by Tanvir Murad Topu for Bangladesh On Seven Summits. Used with permission
Wasfia Nazreen. Photo by Tanvir Murad Topu for Bangladesh On Seven Summits. Used with permission
From the Facebook page of the Bangladesh on Seven Summits Foundation the effort is a tribute to 40 years of Bangladesh’s independence this year:
Bangladesh on Seven Summits is a tribute to those women and men, who, through sheer resolve, overcame enormous ordeal for the birth of our Nation.

Bangladesh on Seven Summits calls upon the international community to act urgently - to meet the drastic "Temperature Challenges" of Global Warming caused by the emissions of industrialized nations. In terms of magnitude, she is one of the most vulnerable countries to Climate Change. The climbs will highlight the resilience of the Bangladeshi peoples, who continue to adapt, confront and tenaciously survive, instead of being mere passive victims of natural disasters.

The world must listen to Bangladesh, and hear her across the heights of Kilimanjaro to Denali, Aconcagua to Sagarmatha.
Chaitanya Kumar at 350.org blog says:
Facing grave dangers of rising sea levels and erratic weather patterns, the country aims to adapt to the changing climate and that will require great reslience and courage. Calling it the temperature challenge, Wasfia is being the image of a resilient Bangladesh by facing extreme weather upon these peaks.
Close to the summit of Mount Elbrus with Bangladesh flag. Photo by Wasfia Nazreen. Used with permission
Close to the summit of Mount Elbrus with Bangladesh flag. Photo by Wasfia Nazreen. Used with permission
Wasfia is constantly engaging people with Facebook and Twitter to spread the campaign, raise funds and share updates about her journey.

Here are a few updates from Twitter:
@BDon7Summits: strange happenings at the #russianembassy. hopefully visa by sunday and off we go to Mt. Elbrus! #mtelbrus (23 Jun)
@BDon7Summits: We are still trying to track @wasfia. Updates soon. Fund raising continues (10 Jul)
@wasfia back to civilization, back to training! one toenail from a frost-bitten toe about to fall off. overwhelmed w all the solidarity messages (20 Jul)
Wasfia in Africa. Image from Bangladesh on Seven Summits's Facebook page.
Wasfia in Africa. Image by Meredith Riley
#fitnesstraining. Follow up w reports again on Tuesday. Preparation for Kili continue (24 Jul)
@BDon7Summits Touch down in Moshi, Tanzania after missing flight/s, losing luggage, paying extra extra extra & a lot of drama!... http://on.fb.me/tu8Sz0 (26 Sep)
@BDon7Summits 2nd Oct, 7:29am in #Tanzania, #Wasfia Nazreen reached the summit of #Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing... fb.me/YjcAae1k
Wasfia reflects in The Forum (A publication of the Daily Star) on her feat in reaching the highest peak of Africa:
Africa, as a continent is rising rapidly from the ashes of that past... just like us, Bangladeshis, they are resilient and proud people!
She continues:
Kili made me realise, once again, that the tides, the Moon that swoons, the Soul and the Mind who whisper… all are in essence, intricately interconnected. In principle there are a lot of ideas that feel amazing, but in execution, not many of us accomplish the emotional hurdles. Kili renewed my faith, once again, that all barriers, essentially, are in our minds only. Can we not walk the Earth with dignity towards all beings, and all women, including our sisters and mothers involved in this (sex) trade?
Please keep on following the Facebook page, and Twitter accounts @BDon7Summits & @wasfia for updates about the great journey.

Full-blown Sunrise over Patagonia © 2011 Wasfia Nazreen
Full-blown Sunrise over Patagonia © 2011 Wasfia Nazreen
@wasfia: "Mama i'm home again!" Full-blown #Sunrise over #Patagonia © 2011 wasfia nazreen #Aconcagua #Dec #expedition http://pic.twitter.com/IRxSE29p (Dec 3)
@wasfia: Almost 8:30pm, #Sunset over #Mendoza mountain ridge in the horizon... blowing my being away!! Would be neat to have a #home here!! Please. (Dec 4)
First published in Global Voices Online

Afternoon session @ #eAsia2011 'Building your own cloud' - On the podium Shinya Kukita  

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BRACU Chandrabot on display at #eAsia2011  

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The award winners of #eAsia2011 on stage  

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Session: Building a National e-Governance Architecture for Developing Countries  

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Green view - Dec 2, 2011 9:30AM

People arriving the #eAsia2011 venue - today is the 2nd day  

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