Bangladesh in a New Light:The Chronicles of Nadiya

Review: Written by George King.

As terrifying headlines such as “The Rise of Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh” circulate the international media, the South Asian country has had to fight to uphold its reputation for some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. However, a recent documentary narrated by Nadiya Hussain, portrays the country as proud, diverse and prosperous – embracing its sundry religions and cultures, a must watch for all. 

I am now going to say something that will sound like blasphemy to the ears of many British citizens: I can’t stand the Great British Bake Off. There, I said it, I never did, I never will. I apologise to grandmothers across the world for this opinion, but I needed to make my position clear.

Thus, when I saw a BBC documentary about a British Bake Off winner (Nadiya Hussain), I went on a rather large twitter rant about the waste of money this will be and its connection with the rising TV licensing costs for students. Please note readers, my apparent prejudices are in no way linked to the country Nadiya travels to; Bangladesh, a nation I will be travelling to this week and am very passionate about. My prejudices were based on Mrs Hussain’s desire to show viewers how to bake instead of showing them this wonderful country.

Needless to say, my prejudices were proven wrong very swiftly.

In this two-part documentary, Nadiya begins her journey in the North-Eastern region Sylhet, where she grew up before moving to Luton. In Sylhet, Nadiya cooks/bakes for her family; which doesn’t really sound that interesting. However, throughout the first episode Nadiya explores the different processes taken for the food to be available to sell on the colourful food markets of Sylhet. Don’t worry baking fans, Nadiya also travels to a baking factory where she bakes a massive cake that I’m sure is very impressive to any bakers out there.

Later in the first episode, Nadiya invites viewers to learn the intricate fishing method her family and neighbours use. After this, probably the most fascinating part of the first episode of the documentary come when Nadiya attends one of her cousins Bangladeshi/Muslim weddings. Throughout the wedding, Nadiya gives viewers more insight on cultural values Muslims hold within Bangladesh, one being the bride never smiling throughout the whole wedding, although I have seen this custom used in Britain on numerous occasions. There is no doubt that Nadiya’s charming and humbling commentary throughout the documentary played a major role in its success.

In the second and final episode of ‘The Chronicles of Nadiya’, Nadiya travels across Bangladesh, working for food charities in schools and fishing using otters in one of the 700 rivers in Bangladesh. While there is inevitable baking and cooking, Nadiya also teaches viewers about the large levels of poverty within the rural areas of Bangladesh, and in its capital Dhaka. Its refreshing to see Nadiya use her large audience to remind viewers that at least 45 million people in Bangladesh, almost one third of the population, live below the poverty line, and a significant proportion of them live in extreme poverty.

The Chronicles of Nadiya encapsulates the beauty of Bangladesh throughout, with time-lapses of the hustle and bustle in Dhaka, and panoramic shots of Bangladesh’s beautiful rivers. It is especially lovely to see such positive coverage of a nation that receives predominantly negative coverage, from the bombings in Dhaka, to factory fires and the infamous ‘river of blood’.

The Chronicles of Nadiya didn’t only receive critical acclaim from a university graduate such as myself, it was also regarded as ‘beautiful, joyous television’ by Sunday Times columnist India Knight. Many fans on twitter are also requesting for Nadiya to have her own regular travel cookery series.

I for one hope the BBC have something similar in the oven for next year.

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