Jennifer Who?

Anytime I'm asked to speak about Bangladesh, one of the questions is always: "Bangladesh?  But Why?"  Here's a light-hearted travel piece, variations of which I've often used for publicity...Bangladesh? Why?When Jennifer Lightfoot’s granddad won her a dream holiday in the local newspaper, she was unbearable:“You’ll never guess where we’re going,” she crowed. “You’ll never guess because it’s really erotic –” (she was ten; she probably meant exotic. But given her later career choices, maybe not).She gave me a clue as the Mini-Traveller pulled off with the whole family squashed in, goggle-eyed. “It begins with H and ends in N,” she yelled. “Ha-ha! I bet you’ll never go anywhere I can’t guess…” Twenty years on, Jennifer Lightfoot can eat her sunhat.If I invited her to swim at the longest sea beach in the world, to trek rare tigers amidst the earth’s largest mangrove forests, to refresh her taste buds beside verdant, rolling tea...
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Khalia Village, January 2002

A playing field stretches out in front of the school, a cracked and arid carpet sprouting stiff and prickly grass at variance with the lush palm trees framing it and the tarred road opposite. During the rainy season, Munnu says, this field is deluged by floodwaters leaving patches of subsidence that make playing games erratic. “So we wait now for our tools,” he finishes, leading us to the school steps and motioning us to sit. Tools?“Digging,” mumbles Christine. She speaks up. “Suez said we would be digging.” A delicate silence ensues whilst the brothers look at oneanother, clearly hoping the other will speak first.. “Well?” demands Christine. “Is Suez right?”Bachchu and Munnu both nod slowly.“What kind of digging?” I pray for a little light weeding. “We make flat the Khalia school playing field,” Munnu states with endearing honesty. “What?”“We...are going to level the field?” asks Christine slowly, examining the lines and...
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Incidentally...

It's now D-Day Minus 6 (allegedly) for the baby.But wait - that doesn't come into the story for a long time yet...
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Dhaka City, January 2002

The harsh bedroom light is snapped on. Rehana is ushering in a tall, thin woman with short, greying hair and a friendly if bemused smile; the same look I have had on my face all day. “Christine from Australia.” Rehana says by way of introduction. “Anne from Ireland. You sleep here.” She points to the bed in which I lie, and I obligingly move over to one side. Before Christine or I can say anything, my friend Shahardot, who is lugging two suitcases, launches a huge square canvas bag into the room. He points at me in recognition, laughs for old time’s sake, and demands money from Christine. With Rehana watching avidly, Christine changes into the long johns that contrast nicely with my oversized purple T-shirt. She opens her canvas bag and from its depths, and like a modern Mary Poppins, she shakes out a full-sized duvet and pillow. We lie...
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The Modern Reader - Interview

Here's an interview I did for the LL-Publications newsletter. You can subscribe to it by sending an email to subscribe(at)ll-publications.com  or learn more by going to http://www.ll-publications.com/newsletter.htmlhttp://www.ll-publications.com/TheModernReader_Issue2_Feb2010.pdf
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