Archive for July, 2007

I’m starting a sexual revolution

In the news recently:

“Betel-nut condom wins taste tests
NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) — An Indian firm has launched a paan-flavored condom designed to evoke the pungent taste of the betel nut and tobacco concoction chewed and then spat out by millions of South Asians, newspapers have reported.

Hindustan Latex is targeting the new condom range at prostitutes, who are among the most vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS, the Hindustan Times reported Tuesday.

The company ran taste tests with sex workers, including prototypes with chocolate, banana and strawberry flavors, but the paan flavor came out tops.

“The community loved it as most of the sex workers chew paan,” Sanjeev Gaikwad was quoted as saying at the launch in Mumbai. Gaikwad is a director at Family Health International, a public health organisations that helped develop the condom.

Paan is a mildly intoxicating preparation wrapped in a leaf, usually
containing tobacco, betel nut and flavorings, and is hugely popular across South Asia. It is chewed to a mouth-staining red pulp before being spat out.

The condoms will at first be made available only to prostitutes, but will we launched to the general public in a few months, the newspaper said.”

I’ve looked and can’t find the original article, but either way, this is the funniest story I’ve read from the region over the whole year. It’s certainly a very different approach to HIV development programmes, the polar opposite to all these pro-abstinance campaigns which are absolutely useless.

However, given how vigourously people chew paan over here, it might be great for the prostitutes but I’m not sure I’d be keen on covering my penis with something that makes people want to bite down. It’s the equivalent of smearing yourself in barbeque sauce and then waving your cock above a bear pit.

But if this really does take off, then how long before it becomes a commercial success in other countries? Not paan-flavoured, obviously, but if you could produce condoms to suit the local palate then you could be on to an instant money-maker. And now my lack of success every time I visit Poland can be simply put down to my lack of Durex smelling of boiled cabbage.

Thinking back to my teenage years in London, where nights on the pull were mainly spent standing in the back of pubs on my own, I’m not sure the boiled cabbage offer would have worked in the first place. Tragically, fashion-wise I was just too ahead of the times and it still annoys me that my unique look has since been copied and made popular by Harry Potter. But for all those misunderstood young men out there desperate for action, help could be hand. What do all young girls across the world love to suck when they go out, constantly, sometimes ten or more times a night? Exactly. Marlboro-Light flavoured condoms.

Someone please put me in touch with Phillip Morris. I think I might have just made the world a better place.


The latest suprise

Everytime these last few months I’ve returned to Sylhet, I have a sense of foreboding, not just because I’d rather be with friends in Dhaka, but there always seems to be a problem with my house, which I never want to deal with when I’ve just got back from a long journey and it’s dark and hot and I’m hungry. One time there were ants all over my bed, another time the whole house and all my clothes had gone mouldy, the last time everything was six inches under filthy water.

Continue reading ‘The latest suprise’

Met by Harry

You can tell you’ve left the Chittagong Hill Tracts and are in the rest of the world when people come up to you at traffic lights and try and sell a knock-off version of the new Harry Potter.

I’ve just had the best two weeks of my time in Bangladesh. And I’ve got a killer rice-wine hangover to show for it. Will write some things up in more detail over the next week or so.

Sheikh Hasina arrested, and the Army gambles with Bangladesh

[I actually wrote this last week but couldn’t get online for a while.]

At around 2am in Dhaka on Monday 16th June, a thousand members of the security forces began to assemble outside the home of Sheikh Hasina, the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and leader of one of the two main parties, the Awami League (AL). She was arrested on charges of extortion, taken to court, denied bail under the Emergency Power Rules and sent to a sub-jail by midday. After six months of running Bangladesh under a state of emergency, the military-backed caretaker government is finally beginning to lay its cards on the table, in doing so taking a massive gamble with the future of Bangladesh and its 150 million people. Currently, it’s impossible to predict if this gamble will pay off.  Continue reading ‘Sheikh Hasina arrested, and the Army gambles with Bangladesh’

I’m away

At a conference for a week so no more bloggin’.

A new digital divide

[This was published in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free section, here. There are already quite a few comments, so perhaps continue the argument on that site]

Three years ago I had dinner with a senior alumnus of my university and he initiated small talk by commenting that in his day, they survived without email. It has recently occurred to me that I could now return to my university at the tender age of 24 and remark that in my day, we survived without Facebook. More than other social networking sites, and not just through its popularity, it has changed the way we interact and engage socially – but there is a potential cost.

Continue reading ‘A new digital divide’

Life from the other side of Bangladesh

In the middle of my recent travails in Sylhet, getting frustrated by the flooding and the sweating and generally not being too happy about it, I experienced something totally different. On a bus journey back up to Sylhet from Dhaka I had a phone call, and someone overheard me talking in English so decided to come up and have a chat. This happens quite often, and normally I try and bat the usual questions away as quickly as possible, but this guy not only spoke better English than most, but had lived in London for thirty years and used to go out and get drunk in Camden, my area. He now worked as a senior manager for a very large Asian corporation, but was just returning to his family’s place in Sylhet for a week. He invited me to his house for dinner, which actually does mean a genuine invitation, so I accepted given that I had nothing other to do than sweat.
Continue reading ‘Life from the other side of Bangladesh’