I am featured in this year’s special Eid issue of the Bangladesh Pratidin, a daily Banga-language newspaper in Bangladesh that has a circulation of 550,000. They asked me about my relationship with Bangladesh, and the upcoming Eid festival. Here is what I said, for those who are interested and cannot read Bangla:
After falling in love with a Barishailla, I visited Bangladesh for the first time in the summer of 2009. I stayed for five weeks, and by the time I left I had fallen in love with the country and its people, too. Hence, I have been coming back to Bangladesh ever since. My last visit, earlier this year, was my seventh already. Even though there is much of Bangladesh I did not see yet, I think I saw quite a bit during the last six years. I saw the tranquil tea gardens of Sylhet, explored the ancient City of Gold, Sonargaon, listened to the mesmerizing songs of the Baul in Kushtia, took walks along the lakes at the National Martyrs’ Monument in Savar, traveled the vast rivers of Barisal (which to me look more like the sea than rivers), and strolled through scenic villages near the Indian border in Haluaghat. Most of my time, however, I have spent in Dhaka, which is dirty and chaotic, but has this incredible charm that no one I know, deshi or bideshi, is immune to. Dhaka is colorful and warm. It is constantly changing, and full of energy and life, and it never sleeps. The most beautiful part of Bangladesh, however, are its people. Bangladeshis, or most of them anyway, are open-minded, curious, resilient, and incredibly hospitable. I do not remember ever entering a household in Bangladesh, and not being offered homemade food and tea. They also love knowledge, and there is hardly a place where you can have better discussions about everything from politics to philosophy than the university campuses and cultural institutes of Bangladesh.
I was in Bangladesh during Eid al-Fitr twice, in 2012 and 2013, and got a chance to take part in the festivities. Even though there is little to no theological overlap, there are many similarities in the way Eid is celebrated in Bangladesh, and the way Christmas is celebrated in my home country, Germany. People enjoy good food and wear new clothes. They spent time with their families, and they go visit relatives, also those they hardly see during the rest of the year. Gifts are exchanged, streets are decorated, and there is a festive atmosphere everywhere. As I do not eat any animal products, such as meat, dairy or eggs, much of the traditional Eid cuisine does not suit me, unfortunately. That is in contrast to common iftar items in Bangladesh, many of which are as vegan as they are delicious. My wife prepared shemai with soy milk for me once during Eid, which I really liked. I hope she will do the same this year, but anyway I sure will miss Bangladesh while celebrating Eid here in Texas. I wish everybody in Bangladesh who will be celebrating a happy Eid. Eid Mubarak!