I’ve sheshed the desh, a little sooner than expected, and I’m home with my Mum and my lovely family and friends. Mum says visiting Bangladesh was the hardest trip she has ever done.
Bangladesh has given me the most amazing stories to fill my mind and this blog, but there was so much more that I had wanted to say.
I had wanted to share more about the people I met.
Like Mr Mintu – full-time drive, part-time translator, bargainer, confidant, gossiper and all round nice guy. Founder of the phrases, “many tensions feeling”, “eyes water coming, m’am” and “you, Andrew, heavy love?”. He looked after all of us so well. His wife has just had their second baby, a little girl called Bosha.
Julia Ahmed, colleague, friend, definition of the empowered woman. She has committed her life to improving the situation for women in Bangladesh, working at the grassroots, at the very heart of the problem – the underlying perceptions and mindsets that establish women as inferior. She’s also a Medical Doctor and speaks Bulgarian. She’s been my mentor and I know I’ll see her again.
Dahlia Ahmed, Julia’s sister, premier Tagore recitalist, and a pretty amazing woman herself. They come from a family closely involved in the Liberation War – Julia, Dahlia, and all their siblings, are now doing great things all over Bangladesh.
My coconut lady, Shirina Sharsh, is a deft hand with a sickle, and can always pick the sweetest. She’s unique in a male dominated industry. I visited her at least weekly for my last three months, and always enjoyed having a sit and chat with curious kids and other customers. Her two little daughters go to a nearby madrasa. Go and visit her at Banani Bazar.
Shehab Shamir, founder of the Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative. When I first met him, he explained his goal for the organisation – “In Bangladesh”, he said, “we’ve already got the money. What we need are leaders who know what to do with it. I want to help to create the next generation of Bangladeshi environmental leaders”. I’m not sure if he knows it yet, but he’s going to be one of them, and probably not just in Bangladesh.
Shuki, a lovely young lady I met each day on my commute home. She and her brothers lived with her Aunty, and sold flowers and other things in the traffic each day. My first purchase was a ridiculous balloon, and I started preparing myself with an stock of bananas for her and all the other kids at Gulshan 1 circle. I wish I had done more to help her and her family. And I didn’t get to say goodbye.
The Mirpur gals.
And of course, other expats.
I had wanted to write more about everyday life for me and others.
Early morning rickshaw rides. Roadside cha. The curious and invasive stares. The day a bulldozer bulldozed dozens of stalls outside our office to make way for car parks – the car parks have since been re-occupied. Buying a bag of the fattest, pinkest lychees you’ve ever seen, and eating most of the bag before arriving home.
Earthquakes. Men selling live chickens and ducks to your doorstep, to deal with the power outages. The odd beauty of a smoke-stack. Turag River, partially filled in over the year I was there. The lack of open space.
That answer-less debate about giving money to those who ask for it. The extremes of rich and poor, and my place in that. The ethics of bargaining. The ethics of not bargaining. The satisfaction and headache of bargaining.
Buying strings of jasmine flowers to festoon the house – Mr Mintu’s best barginning effort was about 50 strings for 100 taka, downtown, when the going rate in Gulshan is only 10 for 100. He nearly cried with joy.
About how you can feel so much affection, hope and so much despair for a country and all I met, at the same time. How I can be happy to be home, for now, but know that I’ll be back.
Bangladesh – Inshallah – I’ll be back.