March 9, 2010

Andrew Miller on England in Bangladesh 2009-10

The Bangladeshi boozer

Andrew Miller


The Railwayman’s Inn on Station Road © Andrew Miller
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The Railwayman’s Inn on Station Road sounds like a thoroughly conventional boozer. The sort of place with a jukebox and soiled brown carpets, and a dozy clientele of commuters waiting for the 17.32 to Paddington. The Railwayman’s Inn on Station Road in Chittagong, on the other hand, is something else entirely.

Mind you, Station Road in Chittagong is a sufficiently different sort of place as it is. It’s a long wide boulevard of the distinctly functional variety, with cheap and cheerful hotels lined up along one side, and even cheaper, rather less cheerful stalls and boutiques on the other.

It’s grimy and noisy, and tailored towards a transient market, with the average trip across the road bringing to mind that old-school computer game, Frogger. As you dither through the traffic, a constant stream of buses, lorries, carts, rickshaws and auto-rickshaws bear down on you at every speed imaginable, first from one direction, then from another, with only a thin brick kerb in the middle providing any sanctuary.

If you time your run right, you can even tuck into a power-up on the other side, because for some reason there seems to be an intermittent but constant stream of banana-traders marching steadfastly up the hill with their loads strung out in two pans across their shoulders. Ten taka (10p) for a bunch of four, and that’s breakfast sorted for another day.

But back to the boozer, because frankly that’s the logical place to go back to after a hard day’s hacking in the Chittagong press box. It’s a five-minute wander from my digs at the Asian SR Hotel, through a fog of exhaust fumes from the endlessly revving engines of Chittagong’s Bus Depot (from which you will be whisked on a ten-hour, 20 taka trip back to Dhaka if you drop your guard for so much as a moment), and then round the corner by the partially collapsed building on the left of the road as you approach the roundabout.

If you blink, you miss the turn-off, because immediately you’re plunged into darkness for 20 metres, as you totter down a muddy back-alley towards a green staircase behind an iron shutter, where a burly security guard is the only clue as to the riches that lie within. But a smart salute (and occasionally a palmful of baksheesh) earns you the right to ascend to the second floor, where a cavernous and unlit restaurant marks the gold at the end of the rainbow.

It's not a lot to look at, but then Bangladeshi bars don’t really go in for frills. Strictly speaking, alcohol is frowned upon in these parts, but frankly, given the run-ins the country has had with religion in the past, no-one actually gives two hoots any more. Certainly not the landlords, when they can rake in 140 Takas (£1.40) for a coke-sized can of “Hunters”, whose blue, red and gold emblem looks suspiciously similar to a certain well-known Aussie lager.

It may be a seedy setting, but it's a distinctly up-market clientele (and given that each beer costs more than the country's average daily income, that's not exactly surprising). A large fish tank behind the bar is the only designated source of light, although with satellite TV showing everything from Bollywood to the Premier League, the venue flickers with a cinema-like glow.

Except of course, when one of Chittagong's regular power-cuts kicks in. But as and when that happens, the conversation carries on without so much as a beat being skipped. As if an announcement had gone out that the 17.32 to Paddington has been delayed by approximately 40 minutes. And we apologise for the inconvenience it may cause.

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Andrew Miller is the former UK editor of ESPNcricinfo and now editor of The Cricketer magazine

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Posted by Mizanul Khan on (March 16, 2010, 1:07 GMT)

Just an Excellent piece of work. Thank you Mr. Miller. I think that you should take tour to whole Bangladesh(country side), then you would able to see real Bangladesh.

Thanks. M. Khan Canada

Posted by pezal on (March 13, 2010, 8:31 GMT)

hi...andy... why u try to show the poorest site of bangladesh. u must show the beauty and finest site of our lovely country.u show the hill beauti..show the wealth site of bangaladeshi people....u must..

Posted by Sidvicious on (March 12, 2010, 13:31 GMT)

Hunter costs only 100 taka.so tat bar cheated u of 40 taka!

Posted by Worzel1 on (March 12, 2010, 10:45 GMT)

Well, the expected stroll in the park (so far) for England. But, Andrew, it sounds as though you have no choice but to give us an up-to-date report on Cox's Bazar!! Keep up the most entertaining work.

Posted by Shakil on (March 11, 2010, 19:21 GMT)

Must go to Cox's Bazar or you will miss a lifetime chance Bro...

Posted by jakir on (March 11, 2010, 13:28 GMT)

i believe this coming test series bangladesh will play good cricket against england.it will be very tied series

Posted by Shihab Rasel on (March 11, 2010, 13:07 GMT)

Bangladesh is a beautiful country.So everybody visit our country.

Posted by Shahid Hasan on (March 11, 2010, 12:25 GMT)

I dont understand Why not selected Masrafi Bin Murtoza bangladesh Enland 1st Test match

M.Mortoza best bolar

Posted by erfun on (March 11, 2010, 6:06 GMT)

hi andrew

i am really happy to know that u have visited one of the oldest bar in bangladesh x what did you try there gin/vodk or wishky?

thank u very mush for high lighting the railway inn & bar

Posted by sanin on (March 11, 2010, 5:14 GMT)

Andrew....dont forget to visit all the natural beuties of Rangamati and Bandarban,

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007

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