Bangladesh #2: People
Jamalganj to Hili
I’m acutely aware this blog is getting a bit repetitive.
I constantly wax lyrical about how nice the people are or how beautiful scenery is. Unfortunately Bangladesh will be no different.
Although the cycling is relentless and constantly challenging (as expressed plainly in recent posts), when you look up from the tarmac these Asian countries are theme parks of beauty, both the places and the people. But always the people.
The scenic natural beauty is not overtly impressive in north Bangladesh (unless you are a dogged rice fanatic), nor is there much sightseeing.
The beauty here is the people.
The way they accept you and smile at you, or the playful way they interact with each other, the happy children playing on their way to school or old men offering a wave from the plough in a far off field. They are proud to have visitors and that sense comes across in buckets.
We pass by cricket matches frequently, but on the eve of our great nations playing each other in the world cup we thought it appropriate to rest our bikes and ask if we can humiliate ourselves in contest.
And humiliate ourselves we surely did.
It was excellent fun with these talented young fellows chucking smoking deliveries past our ears.
There were close to 40-odd in the field, but the major contest was the fight for who got to bat against these English idiots. Consequently, we threw down some muck that was happily dispatched to the boundary where cows grazed in ignorant bliss.
Pedalling off we chatted about the obvious lack of opportunity for these young energetic and intelligent kids. We all agreed that given the opportunities we’ve had they would far surpass our questionable achievements. And they were better at cricket. Much better.
This country is crammed full of young brains and energy, just not opportunity. The communities seem happy places, but they have nothing, at least not what they deserve.
Not many miles away there is an uprising in one of the poorest regions. Petrol bombs are being thrown at the rich and powerful, and this frustration makes absolute sense.
Today is English vs Bangladesh in the World Cup.
In every town at least one little shop with have a small TV, very easy to spot which as a huge crowd will be gathered. The day was spent dipping in and out of these shops, and when spotted we would be rushed to the front, given a chair and asked our country? ‘We are from England, but for today we support Bangladesh’.
By the end of the second innings we had made our destination for the day and i was crammed into a tiny phone shop to watch the final overs.
Of course Bangladesh won resulting in phone shop, along with town, going crazy, people running through the streets and singing all night. A lonely evening for an Englishman in rural Bangladesh. But great to see.
As our week in Bangladesh came to an end, the final days moving up towards the border were mostly spent waving, chatting and having pictures taken with the beautiful people of this country. Kids would ask us to write our names on paper, men would stop and ask to have their photo taken, each day a stream of short interactions.
Bangladesh has so little of everything, be it infrastructure, industry, education, tourism. What they do have they seem to make the best of. But with a country of low resource and so many people crammed together, a broad positive result seems an almost impossible struggle.
This was a cherished and unforgettable experience, and it is the Bangladesh people alone that made it so.
Maybe that’s why i took so many pictures.
We hadn’t lost quite yet.
Bangladeshi’s are fairly terrible drivers.
Policemen with rifles casually draped over shoulders.
The danger selfie. Or delfie.