Srimangal, February 2002

The land stretches to infinity, silent and lush against the setting orange sun, the peace interrupted only by the crunch of tyres and the soft thud of falling fruit as Hasina discards the last of the skins into the dirt. The path bends to the right where wrought iron gates sweep round a circular drive. A perfect, green lawn and flower gardens surround two white-washed bungalows. A bearer in spotless white makes his regal way down the steps of the main house, opens the car doors and stands respectfully back. Mr Habib, the estate manager, follows in casual contrastI have joined the cast of A Passage to India.
On the veranda, varnished cane chairs and small tables are strategically placed for shade and view, and gas lamps are lit as the evening falls. As the crickets emerge, punctuating conversation and drowning the mosquitoes’ whine, we sit back and admire the gardens; extravagantly watered, bright with flowers, and a swimming pool discreetly curtained by manicured hedges. Light-footed bearers serve ice-cold drinkstea, and biscuits from a linen napkin on a silver tray. Later on, as it grows dark over the hills and the heat of the day disperses, a two-tier trolley is wheeled out smoothly and silently.
“How is this done?” Hasina wonders. “Anne, do you see trolley’s like this in your country? We try one in London, but it is so noisy.”
“We had one just like that in 1978,” I say. “It was the rule for all aspiring middle class households.”
“And did the wheels squeak and rattle?” Hasina is interested.
“Almost certainly.”
She nods. “Here, the wheels would not dare squeak.”
(ABBW Ch20)

Spending a weekend on one of the many tea plantations in the north-east of the country was like stepping back to an age long gone and an experience very few visitors can achieve without 'contacts'.  For me, it came about  - as did so many other things - because of the kindness and hospitality of the Hoque family, definitely my adopted family in Bangladesh.  One day I hope to find a way to repay them... they are happy to 'star' in the book; I'm hoping they still feel that way when they'v.e read it!  I hope so.
Gulshan, Dhaka, February 2002
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