Mugged in Bangladesh

I always expected being mugged to look like this:

Unfortunately bideshis (foreigners) are easy targets in Bangladesh as we’re almost guaranteed to be rich in comparison to the vast majority in the country. In Dhaka it is almost a weekly occurrence for someone to be robbed one way or another. We’ve had girls dragged off rickshaws, men jogging held at gunpoint and others dragged into vans and beaten up.

But there are nearly 16 million people living in Dhaka so such things shouldn’t be a surprise and I wouldn’t be shocked to find the statistics for tourists being mugged in London or Paris or New York to be similar. It’s just scary to think about it happening to you. I’m thankful that I have not been mugged in the past and dread it happening to be honest. I didn’t think that day would be today and would be whilst on the journey to Dhaka rather than in it.

I also didn’t expect it to be fun and be able to take photos while it was happening.

But it is quite true. We were approached by a gang which stopped our car, threatened us with a frightening weapon and demanded money – which we gave…willingly. Was it scary? Yes – because it was a HUGE weapon to be thrust right up to your windscreen. Were we safe? Always.

Ok, I’ve had my fun. Here’s what happened -We were stopped by this:

The weapon

Although both the elephants out on the road were quite small, they blocked the road completely and the trunk prevented any possibility of escape. It was fascinating and the cameras came out as the men riding the beasts and their companions demanded money – all reasonably light-heartedly, of course.

Riders of the beasts

After much laughter and banter, many photos and far too much nasal snot smeared on our windscreen we finally put 10 taka (about 7 pence) on the windscreen for the men to take. They wanted 100 taka but we refused and, eventually, they took the money and moved on to the next car.

It’s actually my first time ever seeing an elephant in Bangladesh. Although my family have managed, somehow, to see elephants before – even on LAMB grounds itself – somehow I’ve managed to miss it on the rare occasions it happens. So this was a real delight to me!

So, I stand by my accusation:

  • We were prevented from continuing our journey
  • We were physically stopped by something that could have caused us serious damage had it’s rider decided so.
  • Money was demanded

Therefore, it was a mugging, as far as I am concerned But one I would happily have every journey to the capital if only to break up the 10 hours of tedium spent in the way-to-expensive car! Seeing the elephants brought smiles to my family and that was worth the little money they extorted from us.

If only all life could be as simple and fun as that!

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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32 Responses to Mugged in Bangladesh

  1. The same thing happened to me on my way to Jessore. It was definitely an interesting experience but — for me — more sad than fun. Last March, I spent a week volunteering with elephants in Thailand (check out Elephant Nature Park), many of which were once exploited like the ones who “mugged” you. When you realize how poorly they’re treated and how unhappy they are, it takes all the fun out of it. Sorry to be such a downer, but I really want people to know the truth about situations like these … in the hopes that raising awareness will help these beautiful creatures.

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    • I think you are right to bring these things to attention but must be careful not to tar all people, in other countries. with the same brush. There are 93 captive elephants in Bangladesh and whilst their conditions are, as yet, unregulated (except for the 17 owned by the Government) their condition fares much better than for the wild elephants who are starving because of land encroachment taking away their food sources. The tradition of owning elephants in the Indian subcontinent goes back many hundreds of years and probably more and there is a sense of honour given to the animals even if that honour is uneven and many are, undoubtedly, mistreated as you say.

      I am no expert on the condition of elephants in Bangladesh and I applaud your concern for their welfare which, of course, is important to ensure worldwide. As for these individual elephants in this particular time? Having spent four years living here I found it is always best not to pass judgement until I am really certain of all the facts. As I cannot be certain of anything here, I pass this one in silence.

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  2. shovonc says:

    Come on. Elephants need to eat too.

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  3. Ladygardenia says:

    Lol, what an adorable story… 😀 I was lucky I wasn’t mugged in BD although foreigners have higher chance for this… well thats why I also never moved alone in BD…

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  4. Lost Creek Publishing says:

    What a hoot! A very interesting way to be “Held Up!” In my eight or nine years in Colombia my and I have only been “Held Up” once. We were driving to San Luis in Antioquia and a fellow with a long weapon stepped into the middle of the road facing us. He asked for money to buy a coke. We gave him 5,000 pesos, about two dollars and fifty cents and continued on our way. It was not nearly as much fun as meeting two elephants though.

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    • Wow that’s both funny and scary at the same time! I did hear of a woman who had a gun pointed at her on her doorstep here in Bangladesh. It was a boy she knew and he, for some bizarre reason, thought she would be a good person to rob! She laughed in his face, said “don’t be so bloody stupid!” and he apologised and left! The world is a funny old place…

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  5. Kerry Dwyer says:

    What fun. I love elephants.

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  6. becca3416 says:

    Lucky! I want to be mugged by an elephant! They really are magnificent creatures, and apparently extremely smart.

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    • kenthinksaloud says:

      It was a little scary I must admit when I thought we were going to bump into the creature and I had visions of it trampling us to death! But once I realised what was going on, well yes, it was pretty darned cool! 🙂

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  7. Omg 😯
    seriously.i mean mugged by someone riding an elephant for 100 takka..

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  8. aFrankAngle says:

    For my first-time visit, an interesting turn of events. Well done!

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  9. La La says:

    We both had our brush with death. 😉 and now I need to see a picture of yours, too!

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  10. Ruby Tuesday says:

    You always expected you’d be mugged by a naked woman with a revolver? Me too!

    I’m glad it turned out to be an interesting and harmless experience. More or less. 🙂

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    • Ha ha – trust you ruby to look really closely to the picture! I only noticed it the day AFTER I had put the post up. It was fun, though I did recall some major battles being won in history because elephants got spooked and panicked, crushing men beneath them. I wondered just what this one could do to our car!

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  11. What a story! I think I’d have the same reaction as you!
    Is this blood on the elephant or paint to make them scary [muggers special effects!]? [I hope the latter.]
    🙂

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  12. Nice story! Thanks for a peak into your world.

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  13. Ken!
    Trust you to see the light heartedness of it all!
    Glad everything was okay!
    Poor elephants though!

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  14. Anonymous says:

    That made me smile …although I have worried about you all day having seen your earlier post!!!!

    Like

  15. Tracy B says:

    Love it!!! Great pics – what wonderful memories your kids will take with them into adulthood! 🙂

    Like

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