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The title is a quotation from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Novel “Notes from Underground”. No doubt millions of people on earth would agree with those words.
Sreemangal is nicknamed the "Tea Capital of Bangladesh" because of the numerous tea gardens in the region and the place of origin of the seven-colour tea. Sreemangal is located about 190 km from Dhaka and is known as the centre of tea production in Bangladesh. The hilly region is very picturesque and is home to many tea, pineapple and rubber plantations. The best time to walk and explore is early in the morning, when the fog has not yet lifted and the gardens are still shrouded in a mystical light.
I met my guide in Sreemangal. It was he who took care of me during the following weeks until my departure from Bangladesh. We got to know each other over a meal of rice and a deadly spicy curry at a local restaurant. Over dinner, we created an action plan for the first few days. We planned visits to several tea plantations, villages where tea workers live, and villages where local tribes live - not all tribes are involved in the tea industry. We also planned trips to a region near the Indian border, to Lake Madhabpur, and to some other interesting places.
We later chatted about the production of tea, during which I learned the following:
Plucking – the season for gathering of tea leaves lasts 8 months. Workers, who are mainly women, work from early morning until late at night, picking the small buds and first two or three young leaves from the tea bush. They work seven days a week.
Appraisal, weighing and transportation
During a workday, the tea-picking women usually fill several large, specially designed sacks that hold between 20 and 30 kg. At certain times of the day, the women deliver their bundles to a company representative, who quickly inspects and weighs the leaves and records the data in a notebook. The women then deliver their bundles to be loaded onto trucks that transport the tea leaves to the processing plants.
Processing in the factory - here the tea leaves are selected, dried, oxygenated and otherwise treated. Generally, about 22 to 25 kg of processed tea is obtained from 100 kg of fresh leaves. I wanted to visit a processing factory, but was told that I could watch but not take photos. It was unclear whether this was for reasons of professional or trade secrecy, or to avoid problems related to working conditions in these factories. I suspect that both may be true.
Export - half of the tea produced is consumed domestically and the rest is exported abroad.
There are about 150 tea plantations covering about 41,000 hectares. They produce large quantities of the highest quality tea in the world. The Bangladesh Tea Research Institute in Sreemangal has made a number of contributions to the development and standardisation of tea quality and has contributed its research findings to the Bangladesh tea industry.
Workers in the tea industry are not well paid. Statistically, there are about 300,000 of them, 75% of whom are women. The long working day with its measly US$0.50 cents per day condemns these women to a joyless life. Very often the money they earn is not even enough for a cup of tea. Some owners said that some homeless women workers are housed in purpose-built villages, that schools are available for the children, and that they even receive medical care. But half a dollar a day is half a dollar and therefore very little money. Despite their situation, these women are constantly smiling, joking and chatting happily with each other. The cheerful atmosphere does not at all correspond to the reality of their sad daily lives.
I love my daily cups of tea and whenever I reach for a cup, images of their smiling faces come flooding back to me.
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Tours and expeditions
My program and itinerary in Bangladesh resulted from my month-long trip around the country. I have selected some of the most exciting places that will reveal to you the authentic beauty of this country. Bangladesh has almost no landmarks or monuments of global or even local scale. However, the whole country is one significant landmark. People travel to Bangladesh for the authenticity that still exists in most parts of the country. My tour in Bangladesh for a small group of 7/8 people