OPINION

Bangladesh Diary: What a Strange, Wonderful Place

November 09, 2006
Andrew Morris

Three a.m. Somewhere a dog barked, or a car horn blasted out into the deep silence of the night, and I was jolted out of sleep. Why is it I always seem to get my bouts of insomnia out here? Perhaps I'm overstimulated by the whole chaotic experience, the colour, the people and the noise. Anyway, I suppose it's a good opportunity to return to the blog, as Jules, my wife, in the bedroom next door, swims in her dreams.

Given time and space to think here in Bangladesh, I am always utterly overwhelmed by the amazing qualities of the people. Never anywhere have I been smiled at so often by so many - from rickshaw-wallahs to heads of institutions - though perhaps this is an interesting reflection of the fact that I myself can't stop smiling at the moment, like some grinning loon on prozac (which I'm not, honest). Funny how on those days when I feel a bit tired or scowly, then the whole world scowls with me....

Here are some incidents from the past couple of months: I go to buy a mobile phone for Jules, and find I am 25 short. The shop owner says to me, "No matter, come back this evening and bring the rest. Take the phone now." I have known him all of three days, since I bought, er... my other phone. I try to imagine this happening to a Bangladeshi in the same position in a shop back home? After a while, I stop trying and give up.

One of my colleagues has the smiliest face in the world. He is a portly sixty-year old and wears a white beard, a round belly and a groovy tanktop. In his time he has been Director of just about every education institution in Bangladesh. He has form - his words carry weight, and everyone naturally defers to him in the sessions. He tells me about his daughter who has a PhD in English from Dhaka University. Currently she is in Canada. He tells me, with fleeting shadows of shame and disappointment in his eyes, that only work she can find in enlightened Canada is serving in a coffee shop.

Another senior colleague is, like everyone else here, dumbfounded by our decision to have child-free life. We dance the usual pas-de-deux around the subject. He exhorts me to have just the one. I tell him I prefer a life of travel and freedom. He prays that Allah will give me one. I offer the observation that there are plenty of children in Bangladesh already... He smiles at me with genuine pity. This is a conversation I have enjoyed so many times here. On a tired day I sometimes tell people I will have just the one soon. But as the wrinkles gather in small armies around my eyes, and as my hair is peppered increasingly with salt, the plausibility of this line of defence is being eroded. The best ever conversation on this topic happened a few years back when a teacher turned to me and asked very earnestly: if you and your wife don't have children, what are you going to talk about?

What a strange and wonderful place. And what a privilege to be here.... The Bangladesh tourist board exhorts people on its posters, without even a trace of irony, to 'come to Bangladesh before the tourists do.' Now's your chance, guys.

Andrew is from Wales, UK, but currently living in Dhaka. He's been visiting Bangladesh for many years, and loves the place. Now he's working as a teacher trainer and writing a book, which he's sure will be a bestseller (in his own house). He can always be found at www.morristhepen.net
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Bangladesh Diary: What a Strange, Wonderful Place

Article

Author: Andrew Morris

 

Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

#1
Zahidur
URL
November 9, 2006
10:07 AM

Very nice article. I love the fact that you highlighted all the amazing qualities of the common people in Bangladesh. Also, I hope you would adopt a child from Bangladesh and help him to have a better life.

#2
Andrew Morris
URL
November 9, 2006
12:12 PM

Thanks Zahidur. Interesting that you too want me to have a child! :-)

In fact I have a god child here. I wrote about her here:

http://www.morristhepen.net/home/blog.php?id=67

So you can rest easy!

#3
Rumi
URL
November 9, 2006
02:30 PM

Andrew

In case you don't know it yet, let me to tell you how much I appreciate your observations and expressions. Your writings are awesome.

#4
Andrew Morris
URL
November 9, 2006
08:19 PM

Rumi - many thanks for this! Glad you're enjoying what I write. Lots more to come: look out for anything marked 'Bangladesh Diary" :)

#5
temporal
URL
November 9, 2006
10:52 PM

this is the key:

though perhaps this is an interesting reflection of the fact that I myself can't stop smiling at the moment, like some grinning loon on prozac (which I'm not, honest). Funny how on those days when I feel a bit tired or scowly, then the whole world scowls with me....

you will get a similar response in other places too

but then ...yes...you are sharing bangladesh with us:)

#6
Andrew Morris
URL
November 9, 2006
11:20 PM

Temporal

Couldn't agree more. It's a universal experience that what you get out is what you put in. As true in one's own village as in faraway places.

What I'm trying to figure out is: how is it only in Bangladesh, after a lifetime of travel, that I've been moved to write it all down. Answers on a postcard please...

#7
temporal
URL
November 10, 2006
10:02 AM

andrew:

how is it only in Bangladesh, after a lifetime of travel, that I've been moved to write it all down. Answers on a postcard please...

you are a tough taskmnaster;)

answer:

earlier you were absorbing experiences
now, you are ready to share

#8
Andrew Morris
URL
November 10, 2006
02:23 PM

nice answer, temporal. you win the prize! now i just have to work out what the prize is....

#9
null
URL
November 24, 2006
06:18 PM

poo poo bum bum

#10
Andrew Morris
URL
November 24, 2006
06:53 PM

Null!

All is now explained... if only I'd known you were actually three years old I'd have treated your comments differently.

Did your daddy and mummy teach you how to hit a keyboard?

#11
Andrew Morris
URL
November 24, 2006
10:02 PM

Dee - you and Aaman are welcome over here any time. I reckon everyone should see BD at least once in their lifetime.

I've been in talks recently which might lead to me staying another nine (yes, nine!) years, so plenty of time to make up your minds...

#12
Deepti Lamba
URL
November 25, 2006
12:04 AM

My comment disappeared:( I agree I'd love to see Bangladesh if only to compare how different or similar it is to West Bengal.

Nine years will probably pass with the blink of an eyelid. Jules is a lucky gal;)

Add your comment

(Or ping: http://desicritics.org/tb/3536)

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.






Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!