Baridhara, the neighborhood in which my language program and current apartment is located, is known as the ‘diplomatic enclave’ of Dhaka. It is, in a number of ways, a gated community, and it receives a great deal of flak for not being the real Dhaka. Yet it is a fascinating place, not only because of the people it houses and the dynamics it fosters, but also because it embodies an important and prominent part of of life in Dhaka City – the stark contrasts in the economic well-being of its residents.
You can see it in a mere five minutes away from my room. Head down the stairs, take a right once you’re out on the street, and keep straight (shoja!) until you find yourself face to face with a hulking metal wall, demarcating the end of the road – and of Baridhara. Walk up to its face and you’ll see the hole the size of a small doorway cut out of its lower left hand side. Step through and you’ll have left behind the (relative) quiet of Baridhara’s (relatively) large roads, and entered into the whirl and bustle of Noida Bazaar.
The contrast is striking.
And so are the questions raised by it – how such walls can serve as so much more than just a literal barrier is fascinating. Economic inequality smacks you hard in the face in most developing countries, and particularly in urban centers, where the ultra rich live feet down from the ultra poor. Baridhara in itself is an interesting place to explore, as is Noida Bazaar. But take a bird’s eye view of the two, and return to the ground level to see how they interact at the end of Park Road, and you’ve got yourself a really compelling exploration.
See the gate for yourself in the video above – a little thing of nightlife in Noida Bazaar that I threw together from a shots taken a couple of Thursday nights ago.