Monday, April 22, 2013

The Trash Mafia and Doris the Ugly Stepsister

I kept hearing about the rickshaw mafia in Dhaka, but never really believed it much. Supposedly, all the rickshaws in Dhaka are under the tight management of a few rickshaw lords who take in their daily money from the skinny wallahs. To tell you the truth, I am not exactly sure what they would take from them since the hapless wallahs seem to make somewhere around nothing to 50 cents a day. It must be tough to be a rickshaw lord and to maintain a lavish lifestyle in this business. But it does exist. In fact, couple of years ago, in a generous move some USAID-related organization decided on an awesome project and gave away 10 rickshaws to poor people to help them earn a living. Would you know it, overnight the rickshaws were gone as the livid rickshaw mafia did not find it amusing that someone was messing up with the business, USAID be damned.

And now, I have an entire trash mafia drama on my hands (and nose) that can easily rival the New Jersey mafia’s trash collection business. As you might know, the New Jersey mafiosos traditionally own garbage businesses, which is super useful when you want to dispose of bodies. At least that’s what you learn from HBO and Toni Soprano (man, that was a good show!). For the past two weeks, the trash from our 4 trash cans in the open ground-floor garage had not been emptied. Besides the obvious festering and incubation of critters, the piling garbage also looks rather unsightly and as of today – smells putridly. Initially, I thought it hasn’t been collected because of the massive random dugouts on our street (fyi, we are told that while it took less than 2 weeks to dig the holes for the pipes and then to cover them up, it apparently will take 5 months to remove the tall mounds of soil and stones covering our street and making it look like a moon surface and then PERHAPS the street will be paved again). Today, I learned that our garbage collector vendor (read, a REALLY skinny guy with a beaten-up old rickshaw cart who collected our garbage) has been threatened over the past few weeks and apparently was beaten down this morning while trying to collect the trash. Apparently, he is the victim of an extortion scheme and his rickshaw trash wagon (!) was taken away from him. So, much like in NJ – do NOT mess with the trash mafia in Dhaka.

This week the Diplomat was gallivanting in NYC celebrating 10 years of his business school graduation while I slogged away at home. OK, I did not slog that much – I admit to going out almost every night of the week after putting Son to sleep. As a matter of fact, on Friday night I did my favorite thing in Dhaka – I MC-ed another fabulous fashion show at the Radisson Hotel. Now, if you are a regular reader, you’ll recall that I love doing those fashion shows and one of my favorite parts is the hair and makeup before the show. I just love saying to people who call me on a show day, “oh, I can’t talk now, I am going into hair and makeup!” Now,as I have said before, makeup is a whole different beast in Bangladesh. It is a vastly lucrative business here, especially during wedding season where unsuspecting but welcoming brides get so much cosmetics slathered on their face, neck and arms that they are typically unrecognizable by their relatives. In fact, during a recent wedding I did not realize the person next to me was the bride (whom I know pesonally) and so I asked her how she was related to the family...Awkward...

My makeup usually is no exception. I have a running joke with myself how much the artist will botch up my face. I have learned by now what NOT to allow them to do – create raccoon black eyes (looks particularly hideous on white skin), put superdark eye shadow that makes me look like a mass murdered from a zombie movie, or give me bright-red lipstick which makes me look like an ageing Liz Taylor. On Friday, I warned my makeup artist against all of these pitfalls. I saw her choose great colors, put a lot of good attention to the right places and gave her a menacing look when she reached for the black eyeshadow. I thought it was going great. The offensive touch came right out of left field and was completely unexpected. I noticed that she was spending an inordinate amount of time on my eyebrows – you know, after you have painted the whole face thickly with foundation, you have to repaint some stuff hidden underneath, like the eyebrows. I get that. What I wasn’t prepared for were the two giant eyebrows painted on my face that did not even start on the same level. Combined with my huge painted lips, I was an uncanny replica of the ugly stepsister Doris from Shrek. OK, I did not have the poignant mole. I probably should have, for completeness sake.

So, for my next show, I think I will cool it off with the makeup. Despite everyone’s assurances that one needs embellished makeup when they are on the stage because of the bright lights and what have you, I really do not think anyone needs to be exposed to eyebrows like that. They were so thick and long that I think even some folks in Nepal saw them that night from their balconies.

The Diplomat is coming back tomorrow morning. He asked me on the phone what I would like from NYC and gallantly offered to get me a bottle of perform from the airport duty free. Yup, nothing says “I thought about you while I was in NY and wanted to get you something special” like a duty free perfume. I declined. I am afraid I wasn’t particularly gracious about it though.

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