Well there was still a week to go for The Toddler's school to resume after term break. And I was getting nervous that the construction workers working on the roof next door were going to scream that the Toddler could sing Bob the Builder only so many times (and even a Aye Bob! sounds cute only the first fifteen times). Before they could declare that they were jumping off the roof ; as well as hearing news that the Man had some cyclone shelters to check out, I did what I usually do in a situation like this, pack my bags. One of these days I have to learn how to entertain a small child, but seriously travelling seems so much easier.
Perhaps the drivers read this blog. Or maybe word of my discontent travels fast. Driverji this time around turned to us with a triumphant smile and put a cassette for Alamgir on for us. So the Toddler was introduced to Golden Oldies like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VELT6p6oqM0
which I always thought was one of the party songs where only the protagonists two are allowed to be in on the lurve in the air, and everyone else has to sit all stiff on high back chairs under duress (of not being given any dinner or birthday cake if they make any inference Hey Do You Think that Guy on the Piano is Singing The Song To That Girl There?)..there are times when Evil Honcho One or Daddy Dearest is allowed in on the lurve, but even then they have to stew in their juices, turn around that walking stick in their hands, chomp on that cigar and wait till the song is over dammit! It is only when the final chords are played that you can announce an engagement, cue for the Taj Mahal replica as birthday present slipping from hands into a million shattered pieces, ufffff. Imagine my surprise when I youtube for the link and find out this lovely video. Its 1977. We were wearing saris. And there were bindis. And blue water! Also Pakistani wives looked out for husbands returning from work with binoculars!
The other song played that day
was THE rebels r us song for school trips of yore. Imagine a bus load of ten year olds building up towards Duniya Ki Rasmo Ko Tor Tor Chaley and you get the picture. Though it was a pretty lukewarm rebellion as ten minutes into arriving at the picnic spot the teachers asked us to look straight and NOT LOOK TOWARDS THAT LOt as a group of boys were there with their stereos. Oh the music, and the sun shining down, and the one lone figure stamping it out on the rocks (which years afterwards was replicated by Hrithik tandav dance Roshan in Fiza). Eyes averted we meekly made a line and walked up the river bank.
Anyways, where was I? Yes, in a car enroute to Cox Bazaar and St. Martins. Alamgir is playing on the car stereo (with the driver discretely lowering the volume when the songs get over and the Pakistan word is mentioned in the promotional material--Pakistan kay top hit, Pakistani geet volume et al). I also identified how one of the duty drivers is pretty fond of the Highway Inn chain for tea and pee breaks while the other one patronizes the Time Out chain (my vote? well Highway Inn can be quite the squeaky wheel of asking you to sit upstairs Nili biri sir nili biri, what a view, what a view and we will add 20% extra as you are sitting upstairs but they happen to be quite OK and have very decent bathrooms. Time Out are called Time Out as their staff frequently needs to take one. Squabbling lot all of them).
We pass Chittagong, make a mental note to stop on our way back to rummage around in their "marine antique"/junk shops...and by late evening arrive in Cox Bazaar. Alamgir had very successfully put the Toddler to sleep so we congratulate each other for a road trip well done.
The next couple of days are spent relaxing on the beach for The Toddler and me one day, and being the attachment file for two days as we tag along with Gman and explore some of the coastal communities.
Our day on the beach proved that if you carry your own water, you can spend a day out with a kid on 100 taka alone. The Toddler and me spent 50 on renting a beach chair with umbrella (which is very useful as we spent the day alternating between running out to the water and my lying down while The Toddler messed around with the sand), 10 taka on a dried out starfish (which was full paisa vasool as he spent quite some time holding it out to the sky singing Twinkle Twinkle while I could catch up on newspapers) and the rest of the 100 taka on a whole lot of coconuts. The beach? yes it does seem to be the longest unbroken beach, coastal line what have you. It is also a very Muslim beach, which can be quite nice at times when you are on your own with a kid. It might also mean watching a bevy of burkhas going into water and then slip-slopping back to the shore. You will also witness auntyjis in flashy embroidered saris going waist deep into the water getting surprised haw there are waves here and they will take us down? and walking out all composed not even a sari pleat out of place.
There were lovely sunsets and once again I hummed Main Aur Meri Tanhai to THE camera that I need to buy. Tum hoti to kaisa hota indeed.
The coastal villages were beautiful. And once more I will allow the pictures to do the thousand word ode to their beauty.
There were also butterflies galore which proves that perhaps the pesticides have not got to all of them here.
And then onwards ho to St Martin's Island. The view from the car, Dont Jalous as they say.
On to a ferry and yonder is Panchi Badal...Koi Sarhad Hamey Na Rokey the Bangladesh-Myanmar version.
Sharing the ferry with us were day trippers, tourists, and students from a local madrassah on a Doing Good trip, they all disappeared once we touched land never to be seen again so apparently the island is big enough for all of us.
The place we were put up in was basic; it had a generator that runs between sunset and 11 pm but as I keep on saying there is so much of Friends one can watch, eh? Not when you have a view like this.
Later in the day we took a speed boat to Chera Dweep, and lets say on our way back to the jetty I was hoping each and every one of the madrassah students was praying for my soul. The Toddler looked up and whispered why? But before we get to that we got off our speed boat at Chera Dweep, found there were none of the narrow canoes that take you ashore, and had to paincha up to wade our way through, walking up to the most desolate beach ever. It was beautiful, it was surreal, it probably meant a boat load of tourists and islanders respected the tide and wind, but it will be as they say in the books an afternoon that will stay with me forever.
Somewhere between the abandoned shacks, there was a wizened old man who cut us up some coconuts and pointed out the fruits of the sea. We walked around, took pics of coral and the pillars erected by the British as they conducted their great surveys, efficient lot all of them.
Then it was back to the boat, I asked GMan whether we should just hike back to the other end of the island, he went Eh, lets take the boat. Note to the Wise: I now think he might have probably muttered Its Just A Wave when the tsunami came roaring. We did make it to the other end of the island after one roller coaster of a boat ride, collected our Bad Parents certificate, and decided from now on we respect the sea.
The next day was spent visiting the people, and I discovered a beautiful hospital that was waiting for medical staff since forever (and I replug my plea that we should encourage medical students to have some outside interests than academics. Surely they could spend the long evenings-there is nothing to do-here reading at least?) . We also encountered stern men in checked shirts who were condemned to be teachers in government primary schools at birth or perhaps when they first hissed And What Is Thees?
The Toddler participated in a friendly Bangladesh vs I Who Am Rest of the World cricket match with school kids he encountered.
St. Martin's? well what else can I tell you. The island loves Saudis and Pakistanis. There are Myanmar refugees a plenty who have married here and work in Saudi Arabia. The elderly are let out to stand at the corner come afternoon to beg for funds for the mosque. There are no cats but dogs aplenty and a hundred stories which have to just wait for now.
One more night at Cox Bazaar and we were on our way back to Dhaka. Some notes on our 15 hours car ride back.
1) They say that at one point Lord Krishna opened his mouth wide and showed the whole universe to his mother.Well lets say that is the Chittagong Highway for you, minus a four wheeler and the odd buffalo or so. On our way back we passed wandering sadhus, dying rickshaw pullers, animals, road accidents, jubilant students, trucks, trawlers, picnickers, wedding processions, road accidents and junk yards. A mighty truck that taunted us and would force us off the road put on the breaks to avoid a mommy hen with its chicks crossing the road (severe case of Baby Brain I tell you Mother Hen). Dont worry the story ended well and there was no KFC that night.
2) We were stuck in traffic jams and had to listen to the match commentary for Pakistan-Canada on the radio. I can safely say the commentator was fresh back from handing in his immigration papers at the Canadian High Commission. Welcome Boundary, Welcome Boundary! and when Pakistan turned the match around his monotone resembled a funeral dirge.
3) The Toddler did OK but he did tear up most of our newspapers. The Dad said it was OK, it is all part of anger management.
And now I should sign off and press publish. The Toddler wont get picked up from school himself. You look at these pics until I return.
|It Aint All St Tropez I tell ya!|
Edited to Add: Did I give you as I did dear Surabish the impression that I was sans The Man? No, no when it comes to the Toddler we NEVER leave home without him. In fact Baba is packed in before the bags, him being the Baby Whisperer and all that!