On the veranda, varnished cane chairs and small tables are strategically placed for shade and view, and gas lamps are lit as the evening falls. As the crickets emerge, punctuating conversation and drowning the mosquitoesâ€™ whine, we sit back and admire the gardens; extravagantly watered, bright with flowers, and a swimming pool discreetly curtained by manicured hedges. Light-footed bearers serve ice-cold drinks, tea, and biscuits from a linen napkin on a silver tray. Later on, as it grows dark over the hills and the heat of the day disperses, a two-tier trolley is wheeled out smoothly and silently.
â€œHow is this done?â€ Hasina wonders. â€œAnne, do you see trolleyâ€™s like this in your country? We try one in London but it is so noisy.â€
â€œWe had one just like that in 1978,â€ I say. â€œIt was the rule for all aspiring middle class households.â€
â€œAnd did the wheels squeak and rattle?â€ Hasina is interested.
She nods. â€œHere, the wheels would not dare squeak.â€
Spending a weekend on one of the many tea plantations in the north-east of the country was like stepping back to an age long gone and an experience very few visitors can achieve without 'contacts'. For me, it came about - as did so many other things - because of the kindness and hospitality of the Hoque family, definitely my adopted family in Bangladesh. One day I hope to find a way to repay them... they are happy to 'star' in the book; I'm hoping they still feel that way when they'v.e read it! I hope so.