The simple reason for the soldierâ€™s reluctance to let me enter Rangmati, he describes with obvious relish and Munnuâ€”I know him well enough by nowâ€”picks over and selectively interprets for me. Unfortunately, the soldier is unaware of this nicety and punctuates Munnuâ€™s narrative with ghoulish gurgles and throat-cutting antics.
â€œHe says that yesterday there was a kidnapping. Ten Bengali men are taken from their microbus. Two are found unharmed. The others are mostly still missing.â€
â€œOne is deadâ€¦.â€ Observing the soldierâ€™s garrotting motions, there is no need to ask how death occurred. â€œâ€¦And one injured.â€
Munnu, pained at my insistence, finally yields. â€œHis fingers and toes are no more attached to him,â€ he admits delicately.
Chittagong suddenly looks very inviting, so inviting I think we should go straight there. I have an abrupt urge for a large, bustling city with a pleasant waterfront and access to a tropical beach. A place that is safely in the opposite direction and full of people who will want to stare at me, perhaps even stroke my hair and ask me to marry them. What they will not want are my body parts as souvenirs.
I open my mouth to demand immediate expatriation to civilisation, and stop. The tableau of rolling hills, winding roads, the dazzle of the sun turning the ripples in the water silver, that early morning slant of light promising a glorious day, is the most perfect image I have ever seen.
Naively, I refuse to believe that anything bad will happen to me here.
Stubbornly, I refuse to waste the opportunity to drink in more of this Nirvana.
Politically, I refuse to give in to terrorist threat.
And, fatalistically, I refuse to give up on my mantra: regret the things you do, not the things you donâ€™t do.
Clearly I wasn't kidnapped, murdered or anything else but scared out of my wits for a couple of days, which was incongruous with the beautiful surroundings, and not helped by the fact I was staying in an underground room and over-stayed my welcome by a nerve-racking 24 hours... Rangmati is also memorable as being the place where Munnu and I forged a firm friendship that has survived years and miles since. If there is a hero in the book, it is Munnu.