Chittagong, February 2002

I lie awake for a while listening to the shouts in the corridor grow louder, jump when other residents fall against the door or turn the handle and begin, mistakenly I hope, to creep in. Munnu has a sixth sense for these occasions and growls viciously enough to receive a muted apology before telling me not to worry and go back to sleep. I obey.

I love this place. Love it. Like a ciné film, my mind runs through my adventures, my travels, my new friends, my horrors, and I realise for the first time since my arrival, I am truly at home in Bangladesh. I feel almost comfortable here. On this day, the 16th February, I have, in effect, fallen in love.
“Oh, would you ever listen to yourself? Cop on and stop being a sentimental old twit.” I mutter out loud, grin to myself in the darkness, and dream spiritual dreams of fried eggs and roti.
Needless to say, in the morning, my moment of truth, of peace, of contentment is but a memory. I awake scratching frantically. My left shoulder, arm and entire back are covered in raised, angry, red lumps already irritated by my scraping nails and brewing horrible, infectious pus. Where there are miniscule gaps, the skin is black and blue with tender bruising from too many jostling rickshaws and buses.
Awkwardly I shower, and then cover myself with every cream, unguent, spray, and liquid I can find, swallow double the recommended dose of antihistamine, and pray for a plague of locusts or whatever is the appropriate member of the food chain to descend on the entire mosquito world.
(ABBW Ch23)

It was that moment when it all came together: the place, the people, the work, the travelling, and I had one of those rare moments when I was exactly where I wanted to be.  It was then that I knew I wanted to maintain a long term relationship with Bangladesh - and to let people at home see this 'other side' of the country, the bit where life goes on despite (or even in the midst of) flood, famine and monsoon aadn most of all, rather than being different, human beings are much the same, with similar concerns and challenges and joys, the world over.... too simplistic?  I never knew it would end in a book and, more importatnly, that the book would inspire a charity.
PUBLICATION - NEXT WEEK!
Eid, March 2002

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