A Blonde Bengali Wife

A Blonde Bengali Wife
Travels in Bangladesh

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Where you will learn everything you
need to know about the progress of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the travel
book I've written about my love-affair with the fabulous country of

It's a blog about Bangladesh, about Bhola, and about fiction
and creative writing in general...

A Blonde Bengali Wife:

First published in September 2010 and launched in October 2010.

Reprinted and re-launched in November 2015 as an eBook available from Amazon UK/.com

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Saturday, 31 May 2014

Reflections on Bhola

'm bending a self-imposed rule this month and writing more than a couple of paragraphs... stringent self-editing has fallen by the wayside in trying to report everything that happened last month in Bangladesh!

We arrived in Bhola early on the morning of the 9th April.  At this stage, it’s a homecoming for me as I’ve been to Bangladesh a dozen times; Simon at 3-and-a half is on his second visit, and for Allan, a fundraiser and supporter, also from Scotland, it was his first time in SE Asia. 

After the thrill of a ride in our new auto-rickshaw, the children, armed with Bangla flags and bright flowers, were on hand to greet us – a wonderful, warm welcome for all three of us, but clearly Simon was the one they were waiting for… He had a fantastic time playing with the ‘big boys’ and was using sign language in no time; it took him longer to accept the girls as they were too ‘kissy’!  Allan, a marathon-runner was accompanied on his early morning runs by up to 10 boys in flip-flops, on other days Ali led them in a brisk walk.

It was a pleasure to see so many new faces amongst the familiar ones.  A couple of the younger girls had only just arrived and were busily settling in, whereas old friends had – just as they do in all families –  grown up and moved on. Not moved too far though: we spoke to Tasnur and Dilruba, and met Maksud in the street.  Everyone appeared to be happy, well and in good spirits too.  The older children continue going daily to the local primary school.  It’s not easy for anyone, as they don’t have an interpreter, but they are persevering, and signing and lip-reading classes continue in the boundary.  There was much singing and dancing – there always is – and cricket was the name of the game most evenings.

Official awareness programmes and day-long picnics were shelved for this visit, given the average temperatures of 35 degrees, but we managed trips to Valumia (the new access road is shaping up and the pond is being dug out - very slow and hot work), Supari Bagan, the river, the second bridge and Bhola town.  One highlight was the ‘water melon’ trip: Ali, the three of us, 32 staff and children, and twenty gigantic watermelons on an outing in the tractor; with the crowds that followed, there was plenty of unofficial awareness-raising!  .
It’s a tradition that with the arrival of a direct financial donation, a small portion is shaved off for an outing or other special treat.  This way, says Ali, the children learn to forge a link with the outside world and to celebrate their donors and supporters worldwide.  So this watermelon picnic came courtesy of the money raised by Saltyard – and was enjoyed by one and all!  The remainder of the very generous £535 raised will be put towards a couple of specific projects: mainline gas – finally – has come to Bhola and funding buys the correct fittings so that cooking over a wood-burning fire in temperatures of 40 degrees is no longer essential.  It’s also the time of year to brave the bazaar and buy cloth by the yard, from which the girls will sew all the clothes and school uniforms required, and make the tablecloths and bedcovers that bring in a little extra income.  The rest of the money is safely in the bank, a contingency for – literally – a rainy day.
Our last day coincided with the Bangladeshi New Year and Nahian’s ninth birthday, so an evening party, with Ali’s signature dish of ‘sweet rice’ – and when the Bangladeshi’s call something sweet, they really mean it – and a lot of fun and games.

There were the usual types of challenges! The new air-conditioning unit on the third floor continually blew the electrics and added to the thrice daily power-cuts… Eventually the very tenacious electrician triumphed (at 11pm) and the system, used sparingly, is a welcome addition. The microbus kept breaking down due to the lack of clean fuel but again, was eventually fixed and fixed again, and, best of all, the brand new gas supply, promised to Bhola Island for years, finally arrived.  This long-awaited main-line gas means there is a viable alternative to the outdoor wood-fire method of cooking, which is welcome during the hottest of days and the wettest monsoon.
On the plane on the way home, Simon asked me, wistfully, if he could, please, have four big brothers, ‘just like my new friends in Bhola.’ Clearly, Ali and Bhola’s Children worked their usual magic on all of us and I remembered over again why this is such a very special place and part of my very extended family.  I would say it was one of the best of visits… except that I say that every time...