Travels in Bangladesh - The 9.10 from Laksam Junction
"What's your name?"
"Where you from?'
"The city or the state?"
"Have a nice day."
When you are asked in Bangladesh 20 times a day what your name
is and where you're from it's best to come up with a flat pack answer.
This trait is not particular to Bangladesh. Last night I went out to get my
Nepali mobile "recharged," a chap in the corner shop asked me where I was from, I politely replied:
"Scotland a land of glens, lochs, and mountains not as big as your Himalayas, but much older."
"What's a loch and who is glen?"
A few years back Belinda and I rode from Delhi down to Chennai. Every time
we stopped we would be asked where we were from, so it would be: Belgium,
Canada, Denmark when you reach the letter O you've only got Oman to choose.
However, Belinda scolded me and told me not to be so churlish.
Last month I was at Laksam Junction in mid-Bangladesh sat on an old wooden trunk.
Polished to a smooth finish by years of people taking a rest on its flat surface.
As I sat sipping my tea under the shadow of the canopy, in the centre road between the covered platforms a shunter was marshalling trains.
This amounted to uncoupling all the carriages; the engine reversing; charging forward at speed; and shuffling all the coaches about 100 metres up the track.
It reminded me of a giant physics experiment.
Two young veiled girls in their late teens came up to me and asked if they could talk to me for a minute.
I was so surprised I didn't expect women - young ladies to approach me.
They explained succinctly that they were Political Science students and were waiting for the train to take them up to their college in Comilla.
Throughout Bangladesh men and boys would come up to me and ask the same two questions, but time-and-time again it would be women that would be much more curious and inquisitive.
Gently asking why I was there, where I was going and what I thought about Bangladesh.
They went on to say that they had exams soon and were worried about having enough time to revise.
I don't think they had much to be concerned about.
They were knowing, self-assured and witty,
Throughout Bangladesh I saw so many girls going to school. If they are anything like these two the country should prosper.
As Political Science students I asked them what they thought about democracy in Bangladesh.
They turned to each other grimaced then turned to me:
"It's a good idea - if it could only work."
Since independence in 1971 Bangladesh has been controlled by two women:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League and the daughter of the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
And Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh National Party the wife of General Ziaur Rahman who was assassinated.
It would be safe to say they don't get on.
There are constantly at loggerheads and I often wondered how much more developed Bangladesh could be if they just put their differences aside for the betterment of the country.
We all turned when we heard the air horn of the approaching train.
With urgency in their voices they asked me if I would stay until they returned so they could take me home to meet their parents.
Sadly, I told them I would be leaving before they got back.
But would they please do me a favour and accompany a young man.
I had spotted him earlier pacing up and down the platform and I thought he was just impatient to catch the train.
He was going to attend an interview to be accepted for a mechanical engineering degree.
He was nervous.
They said they would and together the three of them boarded the train.
As the train pulled out of the station I thought there goes the future of Bangladesh.
I waved until the train was well out of sight.
Note: The picture of the two girls are the ones in the story and they asked me to take their photo.
To be continued.
Created by F Harvey Anderson, 5 February 2013.