The first thing that you notice about Bangladesh is that it is a river delta. The land is flat and green and there is water everywhere, whether it is ponds, ditches, canals or rivers. There are occasions when there is water on both sides of the road, and the road is usually single-track, with only a few passing places. The similarities with The Netherlands, except for the width of the roads, are quite striking. As The Netherlands means the Low Countries, so Bangladesh could be translated into English as “the land in the water” or “the land surrounded by water”.
All this became very apparent when we were taken out to a country village in Lalmonirhat District by the Principal of Uttar Bangla University College to visit a school, of which his brother was the Headmaster, and to talk to the students about what we were doing in Bangladesh. The Assistant District Commissioner and the Chief Magistrate for the area were both visiting the school, and our visit was timed to coincide with theirs. This was important because it meant that we could explain to them directly about our work for the Charities Education International Project, and why the project matters. Given that the Assistant District Commissioner and the Chief Magistrate are two of the most important Government officials in the Lalmonirhat District, of which Kakina is a part, it added hugely to the respect in which Uttar Bangla University College is held in the area.
We were also taken on a short trip to see the border with India, along the banks of the River Mala. The border is somewhat undefined. There are parts that are definitely Bangladesh, and some parts which are definitely India, and some land in between which could best be described as unclaimed. There was also a reminder of Bangladesh’s War of Independence in the shape of some sharpened wooden stakes booby-trapping part of the Bangladesh bank of the Mala, presumably as part of the attempt by Pakistan to keep the Indian army out. I should have asked the Principal if my assumption was correct.
One of the more interesting things about this trip was meeting veterans of the Bangladesh War of Liberation, and this is the 45th anniversary of that struggle. These people are very proud of their achievement, very proud of their country and determined that, in their lifetime, they will see Bangladesh taken out of poverty. Their ambition for their country is both astonishing and admirable.
I think that all three of us feel honoured to be assisting in the achievement of this their objective.