At Dhaka Aiport....
Suddenly there is an announcement over the tannoy system, which Munnu translates as my having to leave. We say a flurry of goodbyesâ€”tearful in my caseâ€”and I load up my bags.
â€œBut I donâ€™t want to go,â€ I whine like child. â€œI want to stay here and take tea and go shopping with Hasina and on tours with you and sit in the SCI office and fill in evaluation forms and make Christine come back andâ€¦â€
â€œAnne. You must go.â€ Munnu propels me forward. â€œAlso you must return soon.â€
At a sign that says â€œDepartures. Passengers Onlyâ€ we face a serious security guard who wants to check my papers. He asks Munnu a couple of questions, grunts doubtfully and waves us both along.
â€œWhat did you say to him?â€
â€œI tell him my blonde Bengali wife departs the country leaving me behind her,â€ he grins. â€œHe says I may come to the gate and wave to you.â€
Suddenly it is time to go, and I load Munnu down with messages for everyone I can think of. There is so much to say, and yet there is nothing. I take a step forward, and then one back. I suddenly think of something I have been meaning to ask Munnu for weeks, and I must know before I go.
â€œMunnu,â€ I say. â€œWhat is calculus?â€
He looks puzzled. â€œCalculus? I do not know. Why do you ask?â€
â€œYou must know.â€ I persist. â€œYouâ€™ve told me a lot of stories and in many of them you start by saying, â€˜when I was in calculusâ€¦â€™ Is it something in college?â€
He looks at me for a moment, and then laughs out loud. â€œNot calculus,â€ he explains. â€œCadet class. I say â€˜when I am in cadet class.â€™ It is a school that gives good education and also trains men for the Army. My mother sent me there, but I do not wish to be a military person. Cadet class,â€ he repeats. â€œMake sure this is correct in your travelling diary.â€
â€œYes, my diary,â€ I say. â€œI will send it to you. But how should I finish it? What will I say so people know how I feel about Bangladesh?â€
â€œAnne. Long ago in Khalia you tell me that you come to Bangladesh because you want to have your story to tell. Yes? And now you have this story.â€
I nod, touched that he remembers.
â€œSo already you will have written everything. You just be simple.â€
Since he is right, it is only fitting that I give Munnu the last words.
He thinks carefully: â€œSay: I said goodbye, I got in the airplane, and went home. The End,â€ he advises.
And this is what I do.
It wasn't really the end, it still isn't, as this blog and the book both signify. But it was the beginning of another long journey in which the diary became the book, begat a charity and is the basis for my ongoing 'life' in Bangladesh which has involved eight or nine visits to date - the next one with a baby???
So here starts another chapter...