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Last day in the village

August 17, 2019

I am sitting on top of my cousin’s extension under the shade of the mango tree in the mid-day sun with a gentle breeze.  The mango tree is in full blossom and in a couple of months they will be ready.  The boroi tree has taken over half our roof and is bearing so much fruit, some of which has been harvested and set out to dry. I can see the blossoms of the grapefruit. The coconut and beetle-nut trees are surrounding the building. There are Jackfruits trees with their fruits on their way.  I look up to see the eagle’s still roam supreme. They soar over our Baari making their ‘thee, thee’ sound as they are true guardians. I see one of them attack a crow….a natural pecking order is resumed.

Jackfruit

This takes me back to the last time I sat on this roof and wrote some of my thoughts. Much has changed since then, I sat here over a decade ago, and my cousin has managed to build a further floor to his extension. My plan is to develop our house in the next few years with my brothers. The focus has been on our residence in Birmingham. I hope in the next few years the financial pressure will ease so we can improve our section of the building.

People from the village often comment on the fact that we don’t have a suitable home – they add ‘you need to leave something for people to remember your brothers by’….I reply by saying that we can be remembered by our words and deeds.  I should add that books will outlive most buildings. As one day, I plan to write an account of my time here.  Within my life time, I have seen so much change.  The mud huts with thatched roofs have all disappeared. They have been replaced by houses constructed with tin and bamboo for the poor. People with money have built ostentatious houses out of concrete with various designs. Many of them with more rooms then they need and some instances houses are locked up until the householders return for fleeting moments.

I visited the local chairman’s house and he tells me he has 19 bedrooms with an en-suite.  Whilst there, his house is being tidied up. He tells me that his son will visit with his father in law for three hours and they will arrive by helicopter from Dhaka.  I guess they won’t be needing a room then?  His son’s father in law is a millionaire, thanks to the garments industry.  My brother tells me that the chairman’s fortunes changed 20 years ago or so when he had a stroke and his house in London was made mortgage free.  Still, it’s impressive to see that in three generations a local villager has become the local chairman and his son has married into the top echelons of Bangladeshi society.

All of this is to show that they have done well out of being in the UK and abroad.  I think we should do more to preserve the heritage of our land and its people…will there be funding to do that type of work in Bangladesh as they have in the UK?

I have simpler plans to build on top of my dad’s property adding a further floor with four rooms with mod cons. I spoke to my daughter yesterday on what’s app and told her that we now have electricity, she excitedly asks if we have a flush? I reply “not yet baba, we will soon though, that’s the next project”. 

I saved the last day to visit my father’s graveside to pray. I am fortunate to be joined by my only surviving uncle. Every time I visit, I give my dad an account of myself and ask for his approval. It’s always emotional. I am joined by mum and she heads back to the house. I ask everyone else to leave so I can grieve in peace.  Whilst I take in the air I can smell some flowers, I tell myself that my father has acknowledged my presence….

It is nearly 13 years since his passing and I still grieve for him every now and then. I return home to find my mum in floods of tears. I don’t console her as I should, as I will become emotional as well and I want to hold myself up in front of a room filled with people. My uncle heads out and says his goodbye, I walk him to the road and he becomes sad and says, “all my brothers and sisters have left me, I am here alone and the only thing that I can do is pray for them”.  My uncle in his eighties now and is in relatively good health.  He looks like a shifu master from one of those kungfu films.

My uncle Mostapha

I will leave my mum behind for a couple of weeks in Bangladesh, I know the good bye will also be an emotional affair. Whilst here with her, she has followed me around like a lost puppy offering me food. I shall miss her more than she knows. I recall one afternoon when I laid on the bed suffering from a head-ache.  She covered me with a blanket – I am still her little boy after all these years.  I am really fortunate to be able to spend this much time with her in one stretch. Life takes over when I am in the UK and I don’t visit often enough…maybe that will be the change that I make.



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