The morning following my meltdown, we departed Calcutta and India, en route to our last and final stop, Dhaka, Bangladesh. My mental state was still not good and I had in mind that Dhaka was going to be difficult, what with the orphanage and more poverty.
Perhaps my mental state accounted for why I had such a bad experience at the airport. We were checked in for our flight without a problem. It was when I got to security checks that I lost my already diminished sense of humor. Which Tim, the beast, found tremendously entertaining.
Tim was screened in record time by the chaps processing male passengers.
I, on the other hand, was stuck behind a great queue of Burmese ladies returning to Rangoon (as it still was) with huge baskets of whateverthehell they had purchased. There was a communications deficit and the security-check lady was sadly lacking in anything approximating common sense.
At JFK, I would find myself, on any given day, passing a dozen times back and forth through security and I had little tolerance for the procedure, so my mood sunk very low. I saw Tim watching from a distance. Fine for him. The rate the ladies were moving, I would be lucky to catch the flight.
Finally I got processed and marched toward the gate area spitting bullets, something embarrassingly loud and uncomplimentary about security and aviation in general. Tim howled. I did give credit to the security lady for her lack of cheer. “If I had to live in Calcutta I wouldn’t be very cheerful either!”
At the end of this joyous journey, we rode into Dhaka with such speed it was hard to notice the scenery pass by, but I seemed to think it was less depressing than I had been expecting.
Bangladesh came into being as a result of the Pakistan-India war that had caused Tim to be temporarily stranded in Calcutta, all those years ago.
The capital is located in the middle of the main drainage area of South Asia. The two main rivers that meet just beneath Dhaka confusingly seem to have numerous names which change depending which side of the border you are on. Suffice it to say the area is rather wet.
The main rivers are best known as the Ganges and Brahmaputra.
Not much left in the way of vegetation. 🙁
Whatever the rivers are called, the combined volume of water at certain times of year can become quite problematic. Bangladesh seems sadly disaster-prone with cyclones and earthquakes not to mention the dreadful human atrocities that have occurred.
However, our visit was unexpectedly cheerful. Our hotel, recommended by a colleague was basic but very clean and efficient and for $20 a night, who could complain!
At last, the morning came for us to seek out the orphanage we had come all this way to visit. I will admit I was nervous.
For one thing, Tim and I are not exactly child-oriented. And the word “orphanage” doesn’t exactly suggest great cheer, let’s face it. So an Asian orphanage sounded to me a bit grim. Boarding school had been bad enough, after all.
The Dhaka Orphanage at that time was funded and run by a Canadian charity. See my post of March 15thwordpress.com/block-editor/post/catsincambridge.net/5707
It was consequently an astonishing experience for both of us to visit these happy, well-cared for children. Many of them were toddlers. They were kept naked and bald as a matter of pure practicality. Baldness eliminated the problem of lice, and nakedness reduced by a vast amount the laundry!
The babies were adorable, all running around together and the moment they spotted someone new they ran to you with their hands extended “mummy, mummy, daddy, daddy!” they clamored, asking to be picked up. We were quite overcome.
Tim picked up a tearful little lad that was missing an ear. He put his head on Tim’s shoulder and I thought he would never let go. I ended up sponsoring him for a while, but eventually his family came to take him home. Many of the children were not in fact orphans. They were simply children whose families could not afford to keep them. But they all seemed happy and healthy.
As chance would have it, there was a British Airways crew in town who were big supporters of the orphanage and the following day they had organized a boat trip for the kids, so we were invited to join them.
Off we went, in the back of a Bedford truck with 39 screaming children.
The adults were paired up and we were each assigned the responsibility of keeping track of 8 kids.
I was terrified I might lose one, or for that matter that I might gain a local street child! Except that the orphanage children definitely looked healthier and cleaner (well they did in the beginning!).
Each group had a little sampan and we trolled up and down the river and had a picnic lunch. The kids all did kid things, which included a lot of climbing all over us.
They were hungry for hugs and strangely I found I had plenty to give.
Our trip started with a lot of sadness, over the poverty and deprivation we saw, and I had been very down-hearted, but the orphanage worked wonders on my mood.
Raising funds for the orphanage had begun as a little thing. It had touched something in Tim’s kind heart and his efforts got many others motivated, so that our target of $1000 became almost $20,000. It sounds a paltry amount now, but 35 years ago it was quite a lot, and in Bangladesh it would go a long way.
For me, the experience was priceless.