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Story Publication logo January 16, 2024

Maybe It Was in the Last Breath; Eid al-Adha Drains Dhaka’s Population



Manipella traveled to Bangladesh to report on the young professionals pursuing culturally and...


Commuters drive at dusk in the streets of Ruppur, a town on the banks of the Padma River and the main distributary of the Ganges outside of Dhaka. Image by Julia Manipella. Bangladesh, 2023.

It took just a portion of the time. A lonely trail of noise and exhaust echoed down the empty street. Winding metro veins speak of life even in its absence. Skid marks, dark puddles, and the occasional metallic scrap shine from a corner passed at speeds this CNG auto rickshaw hasn’t seen in what seems—and sounds—like ages. Running on compressed natural gas, the three-man vehicles surrounded by a metal cage with doors tend to fill the streets for taxi transport in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Midmorning on the Saturday after Eid al-Adha, a city known for its bustling streets, dwindles.

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Students gather in front of BRAC University Buildings in Dhaka after leaving classes on the first day back to school since the Eid al-Adha holiday break. In Islam, the holiday is based on the prophet Abraham’s willingness to give up his son, and how his selflessness was rewarded with a lamb to sacrifice in his son's stead; animals like cattle, goats, and lambs are now sacrificed for the holiday and split into three portions for the family, their friends and relatives, and the poor. Image by Julia Manipella. Bangladesh, 2023.

Not eerie. No, it felt more like the city had released a tangible breath as Thursday came and passed. Air thick enough to be fluid, the wind through the grates felt fresh momentarily. As a population trickled out to their familial hometowns, noise in a city of millions seemed to be at an all-time low. Yet in this allotted time to be with family and friends, a pulse seeps through walls across the nation filled with guests in kitchens, parlors, and front steps.

Streets echoed with the pound of stones following the rhythm of a centuries-long tale of life, love, death, giving, and thanks. The sounds of that week much different from the typical blaring morning fill the air far thicker than the traffic ever could. Each family offers a sacrifice to provide for the feast. Brimming with it all, as a July day does, it rained in Dhaka, and the people returned, slowing the CNG back to its bumper-to-bumper speed, as the city's lifeblood was drawn back in.

Street vendors cook during monsoon rains outside the Banani Kacha Bazar in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image by Julia Manipella. Bangladesh, 2023.


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