or you might come out of the closet...but more about that later.
Our story begins in an apartment in Dhaka where yours truly in an attempt to broaden Arhaan's mental horizons points out to the birds that come every morning to eat the bird food we scatter for them.
What are these big black birds? I ask of Arhaan.
Junglee kawwa (wild crows), pipes up the father helpfully.
As opposed to the more domesticated crow which has become a household pet, I note wryly. This wont do, it just wont do, if I were to kick the bucket untimely and it were left for the father to raise him ( channel Sunil Dutt in Dard Ka Rishta as he mournfully laments not knowing any lullabies and identifying the members of the animal kingdom in our case). So the good mother packs a bag for her and the baby and decides to accompany the husband on some work trips...all to educate him about the world outside the Box with Moving Pictures (she is not buying any of the dad's stories about How All this Was Outside My Bedroom Window in Guwahati every time she would stop at the rhino or elephant enclosure in the zoo).
So our first "file as attachment" road trip was to the small town of Saatkhira (claim to fame it borders the famous Sunderbands and the Indian border post ). We were put up in the Muzaffar Gardens, which can be best described as Government Rest House meets Mr Muzaffar's Vision of Hampton Court. "give me garden paths to walk through and water channels to look at. And sculptures. And a Zoo. And inspirational things to read" .
Arhaan wonders at the Attack of the Giant Stork
The result a menagerie and some very sad foxes and small animals in cages (I refused to look at them and hurriedly wheeled Arhaan's stroller to look at some goats and rabbits which had the run of the place).
But we did stop by to ponder the meaning of this in front of the zoo.
and this in front of the restaurant (what they lack in aesthetics they make up in a case of self humour eh?)
We had to stay indoors most of the day as it was the weekend and the Gardens open their gates to a paying public. Twenty five tourist buses, the boy who brought in Arhaan's kichdi to our room, declared. Into times fifty if you count the occupants. Screaming through the garden paths, posing with the giant sculptures, teasing the animals mercilessly. There is a small bazaar set up near the gates, selling all things plastic and popcorn. The plastic comes with squeaky horns and tinny music (Damn you China for coming up with the children's mobile phone that plays Nimbooda Nimbooda...Arhaan was gifted one. There is also the doll that borders on the Bride of Chucky) The visitors litter the water canals and encourage a generous use of loudspeakers and loud music. But this is their day out, and it is not that I have paid any taxes and can beg of the government to provide some other entertainment for them. But I feel bad for the Sunderband tiger, they say the tigers have grown mad drinking the salt water. I think its all the Pepsi, pop corn and plastic floating down the river and a steady diet of dhoom dhoom dhoom over the loudspeakers.
The trip to the border check post was a revelation ; as to understand why we need all the drama of changing of the guards, the moustache twirling and sloganeering at Wagah/Attari. For otherwise one will realize how much of a children's game of "tag, you are it" these crisscrossing lines come to. We looked at the silly little road over a ditch...no man's land, the good soldier on this side of the border called it, we were allowed to walk across a bridge but only so far . Basically where the trees ended and his Indian counterpart was sitting and watching us (he is in the white building behind my shoulder).
No man's land he repeated to us, not India, not Bangladesh. Hmm, tau phir I declare it in the name of Pakistan no? Shades of Manto's Toba Tek Singh. I watched as a man wrapped up his bag and walked back home across the border. He works this side of the border during the day and then goes back home come sunset. Quite a pretty sight it was, him with his bag slung over the shoulder, a bamboo mat under his arm and the birds swirling over his head as they too returned to their nests.
Sadly there is also no truth-in-advertising, we did play dumb charades for a number of Shahrukh Khan songs but no one called up All India Radio to play any of our requests.Damn you Aman Ki Asha.
The Sunderbands this side of the river were as pretty (and sadly as uneventful) as our river cruise through it when we were in West Bengal. Only this time we were in a fishing boat and stopped across at many of the small villages struck by Cyclone Ailia earlier. Arhaan behaved and made his own amusement so I could look around and "have my own thoughts". I am glad I had tagged along as I could see rural Bengal in all its beauty before shrimp farmers take over most of it with their aspirations towards modernity (and a lot marble and jaccuzzis). There were the little altars to the Forest Goddesses as our boat would turn a corner between the trees and pockets with such untamed beauty I just didnt want to jinx the day. Our next trip will hopefully be a "planned steamer trip" out of Khulna with relevant paperwork so we can venture further in the forest.
I am King of the World says Arhaan at the start of the cruise
and is sadly Sleeping Beauty by mid afternoon
The Ferry On Our Way Back
On our way back to civilization we took a detour to Bagherat, our driver breaks it down as Baag the Bengali tiger and Haat which is a shop. In the times of the British this was the "tiger bazaar" where they would auction tigers to the gora saheb and other contenders (sadly there was no Aircel so no one could blog, tweet or sms about this). There were no tigers today so we stopped to see the Sixty(and counting) Domed Mosque which was very pretty though they had cemented the inside pillars so to maintain as they say the original bricks. There were no guides available at the time and I was left wondering why the mosque faced another mosque (albeit one domed) 50 m across the road from it. Was there an argument when the one domed was built, and an angry member of the congregation stomped off in a fit of pique and decided to build a Bigger and Better one (phir tuadee chup kardee , dikha ditya na a true shut up call as the Punjabis would put it). I will never know.....
And this weekend Arhaan and me ventured out of Dhaka again and bummed around at a very interesting community farm- training venue structure run by Proshika. We both pottered around exploring tube wells and duck ponds and counting cabbages and papayas. I caught up on my reading in a pretty gazebo looking across some rice paddies while he crawled and followed ants and sadly stomped them with a pudgy figure (if the Soul chooses its Own Truth rather than inheriting how his parents speak to God, sadly we can rule out Jainism for Arhaan. It will also be difficult for him to be Buddhist after his Finger of Death road kill over the afternoon). I was sighing over the phone to my sister that it was ironic that I found true peace in a space our grandparents had run away from for a better life in the cities... here I was, crossing so many continents and time zones returning to a moment in time somewhat full circle. But it could be that we were doing Village Life Lite and the asal "picture" can be quite different from the trailor , no?
The training was sadly a bit stressful for Gman (which brings us to the "outing" comment earlier in the post) and one evening he returned to the room quite reeking of cigarette smoke.
Have you been smoking, asked the eagle eyed wife with the nose of a blood hound.
Nahee yara, beykaar may X moonh may phoonk raha tha ( translated as someone was blowing smoke down my throat for no reason at all)
I dont know what to worry for more..him sneaking a cigarette and lying so HORRIBLY to cover it up or perhaps quasi-coming out of the bi-sexual closet?!!!!