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Simon, 15 August 2010

As the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice, I've been absent for a while, and yes - the baby has been launched before the book!Simon was born on 15 August, timely at D-Day+3 and giving his father time to travel 3000 miles to make the big event.  The baby took a while to make his grand entrance before arriving waving (his hand on his head) but as I've kept saying, childbirth is like a pilot landing a plane: don't matter how s/he gets that plane down as long as it lands safely...I'll get back to the story of A Blonde Bengali Wife whilst he is sleeping... so bear with me for a few days!
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Today is the Glorious Twelflth  .... And D-Day for the baby - though he is deliberately ignoring that fact!So I should clarify: I am talking a real, live, human boy baby here whose due date is today.  It seems that I've been so obscure  that people who haven't seen the sumo-wrestler sized bump I'm currently sporting think I'm referring to ABBW the book.  Nope!  Little person imminent.  Book trailing (not far) behind.So, I'm off to dunk a pineapple into some raspberry leaf tea and waddle up and down the stairs a lot.  Any other suggestions gratefully received!
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Jessore District, February 2002

“Now, Mrs Anne.” Dr Musa beckons me to continue the tour. “I show you my speciality. In French, my wife says it is a piece de resistance.” He pauses for dramatic effect outside a square concrete room screened from the corridor only by a flimsy and ill-fitting door. “The operating theatre,” he announces. In the centre of the room, raised on an oval pedestal is the operating table, a tattered couch covered in black plastic. Above this, swinging from a long metal chain is a bright, white light, and to the right is a table and shelves littered with intriguing bits of medical equipment. I search for words, try to imagine even minor surgery taking place here, wonder about sterility, the lighting, and marvel over the lack of gleaming surfaces and fancy gadgets. “You find this a strange place, Mrs Anne,” says Dr Musa. “It is to you, like something from...
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Jennifer Who?

Anytime I'm asked to speak about Bangladesh, one of the questions is always: "Bangladesh?  But Why?"  Here's a light-hearted travel piece, variations of which I've often used for publicity...Bangladesh? Why?When Jennifer Lightfoot’s granddad won her a dream holiday in the local newspaper, she was unbearable:“You’ll never guess where we’re going,” she crowed. “You’ll never guess because it’s really erotic –” (she was ten; she probably meant exotic. But given her later career choices, maybe not).She gave me a clue as the Mini-Traveller pulled off with the whole family squashed in, goggle-eyed. “It begins with H and ends in N,” she yelled. “Ha-ha! I bet you’ll never go anywhere I can’t guess…” Twenty years on, Jennifer Lightfoot can eat her sunhat.If I invited her to swim at the longest sea beach in the world, to trek rare tigers amidst the earth’s largest mangrove forests, to refresh her taste buds beside verdant, rolling tea...
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Khalia Village, January 2002

A playing field stretches out in front of the school, a cracked and arid carpet sprouting stiff and prickly grass at variance with the lush palm trees framing it and the tarred road opposite. During the rainy season, Munnu says, this field is deluged by floodwaters leaving patches of subsidence that make playing games erratic. “So we wait now for our tools,” he finishes, leading us to the school steps and motioning us to sit. Tools?“Digging,” mumbles Christine. She speaks up. “Suez said we would be digging.” A delicate silence ensues whilst the brothers look at oneanother, clearly hoping the other will speak first.. “Well?” demands Christine. “Is Suez right?”Bachchu and Munnu both nod slowly.“What kind of digging?” I pray for a little light weeding. “We make flat the Khalia school playing field,” Munnu states with endearing honesty. “What?”“We...are going to level the field?” asks Christine slowly, examining the lines and...
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