Maybe I’ll get my chance to learn a little more Bengali this weekend when I hit Dhaka for a conference. It’s a one-day event and – given that I’m slotted to return on the 16th - I get barely two full days to absorb a tiny bit of the country my father called home. But as someone very wise once said, two days is better than nothing. So hey-ho-a-merry-oh, off to Bangladesh I go.
I’ve been to Bangladesh only once before, almost 15 years ago, enroute to India with my family. I remember very little about the country itself. My most vivid memories are of monkeys (so many monkeys) and of eating rice-I-did-not-like. The rice, since you ask, is not like the Basmati we’re used to. It’s called ‘mota bhat’ literally ‘fat rice’ and that’s what it is. I also remember it to be somewhat tasteless and in dire need of extra salt. But then I was an awfully nitpicky little snot when I was young, chances are this time round it shall be wonderfully delicious. I remember being awfully annoyed at the amount of seafood they ate, those Bengolis - almost as if it was a personal insult to my allergic-to-seafood self. But that was more than compensated, I remember, by the joy of eating fresh, beautiful pineapples straight from the tree, into my plate.
Food aside, I also remember (of all odd things) walking down Coxs Bay (reportedly the longest beach in the world) and then going shopping (I was never, I believe, too young to shop) in Cox’s bazaar. I remember a green, green drive up and down hills from Dhaka to Narainganj (is that how its spelled) to Chittagong to Cox’s bay and then back. I remember the house my father grew up in. I remember hearing stories of a farm (which we did not see) which had a stream running through the back they all used to swim in a long-long time ago.
I remember meeting uncles, and aunts and little cousins (all of whom are still there). Actually, I recall very few of them, except one cousin who had just gotten engaged (actually, maybe he was my father’s cousin). I remember the engaged couple particularly because there was sort of event and my cousin/uncle’s fiancée sang a song for him, an old Indian song that said (among other things) ‘humein tum se pyar kitna, yeh hum nahin jaante, magar ji nahin sakte, tumhare bina’. I fell in love with the song, and my love (for the song) outlasted theirs. Last I heard, she left him for some man in India. But oh-well, such be life.