My very good friend Kruti, as you may remember from my post a couple of days ago, has allowed me the opportunity to guest post on her fine blog here. As regular readers know, Kruti has taken a break for a few days and tasked me with the job of keeping you entertained until she gets back.
Again, in my last post, I made mention that I used to live in the neighbouring country to Kruti’s India. Until very recently I was living in Bangladesh with my wife and two children. We had six wonderful, wonderful years there and it has been the most heart-wrenching decision of our lives to leave.
Living in Bangladesh
You don’t find too many Brits living in either India or Bangladesh. The main reason, I think, is that India and Bangladesh are, for most of the year, insanely hot! This is especially true for Bangladesh – the world’s biggest delta – where so much water and silt from the Himalayas is deposited there (indeed the country wouldn’t exist at all without all that silt) that the humidity for half the year is through the roof!
For us weak and weedy white guys it’s far too much!
Despite this, my family and I loved the heat (well…I loved it and my wife tolerated it!) and loved the people of Bangladesh all the more. We first visited in 2006 and instantly felt a kindred spirit with the people so much that we returned to live permanently in 2008. I was a teacher before I became a writer and worked at a local English Medium school (which is how I met Ria – more on her in a minute) and my wife ran the Rehab centre at a hospital NGO called LAMB. LAMB was a wonderful place to live and work and was a haven of peace and love not just for us but for all who visited there. Not surprisingly, I took a lot of photographs – which is how Sonali came to be born.
Sonali is my first published book though I have a long-awaited novel just waiting for my publisher to organise themselves to produce it! Sonali is a photo-memoir book made up of pictures taken during my final year in Bangladesh. Most are from the region around LAMB in the northwest of the country though some stretch down as far as Rangamati in the southeast.
I wanted to emphasize the beautiful ‘golden’ nature of the land (‘Sonali’ means ‘golden’ in Bengali) and did this by taking colour out of the photos. My point was that the true ‘golden’ quality of the people can be seen even without the golden sun beating down. I added a few effects here or there to highlight certain parts of the photos – such as the yellow turmeric colour of a bubbling curry or the ancient ‘other worldliness’ of a tribal people dancing but otherwise the pictures present ‘sonar bangla’ without the need for colour at all.
I’m no photographer (!) but I was pleased with what I’d managed and still feel proud of the pictures I produced. So far the book has been highly praised by purchasers around the world and I’m pleased that it has contributed towards raising thousands of dollars for a very special cause.
This is Ria and I:
Ria is a girl I first taught at LAMB when she was just 11. I’ve watched her grow up into an intelligent, loving and beautiful young lady. After completing her O level exams with me she moved to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh aged just 16 to begin her A levels. Moving away from all your family and friends at such a young age is not easy but Ria coped wonderfully to pass her three A levels well. Her A level in Business Studies she had to teach herself because the school in Dhaka couldn’t provide a teacher. Education in Bangladesh is not good on the whole and this is not an unusual situation.
Ria did so well that she was given an unconditional offer from the University of Lancaster here in the UK to study Business Studies as a degree. This is where my wife and I became involved because we live near that university and could offer Ria a home to live in and people to speak Bengali with!
To do this though, we have had to raise thousands of dollars/British pounds just to produce the first year fees. Now we’re working on the second year fees too. All the profit from sales of Sonali are going to the fund to help Ria get a good education in a country where the degree counts. Her hope is to return to Bangladesh and improve working conditions for women over there. You may recall the Rana Plaza disaster last year which killed over one thousand women. The conditions for garment-working girls in Bangladesh is not good – made worse by the greed shown by clothing outlets in the West. Ria wants to see women valued more, treated better and respected in the business world as equals to men. I couldn’t agree more!
You can help Ria by donating direct to her charity fund site.
Alternatively, you can help both of us by buying a copy of Sonali! It’s available both as E-book pdf and as a softcover version. If you buy a book please do leave a review at the bookshop, on my website and/or at Goodreads. This will help encourage others to take a look too.