Letter from Kakina

This will be my last letter from Kakina.   We will be leaving for Dhaka in a couple of days.   So have I achieved what I came here to do?   That question is really quite difficult to answer.

The first thing to say is that Kakina is not Glasgow.   The electricity supply can best be described as problematic.   It cuts out, without any warning, several times a day.   This could be for a few minutes or a much longer period.   There is no way of knowing.   All you can do is switch on your battery-powered lighting (assuming that you have remembered to recharge it) or light candles or sit there without lights.

There are no street lights or pavements, and you walk with the flow of the traffic, not with the traffic coming towards you.   This explains the cacophony of noise as bicycles, motorbikes, rickshaws, auto-rickshaws, cars and lorries ring bells or toot on their horns to tell you to get out of the way.   Then there are the animals walking along the road – everything from poultry to goats, cows and, on one occasion, an elephant.   Needless to say, the elephant treated the traffic with a lordly disdain.

When the sun goes down at 5.30pm every day, the countryside around Kakina is plunged into darkness.   This is why the College closes at 3.00pm, so that people can get home safely.   Kakina itself is not dark; or rather the streets where there are shops are not dark, because the lights from the shops make it possible for people to see.   Unless there is a power cut.

So, what about the library?   By the time I leave, 2500 books will have been catalogued.   The cataloguing of the Bangla books has begun now that the librarian has the equipment to do this.   The catalogue can now be printed to share with the staff and students.   This printed version can also be updated as more and more of the books are catalogued.   The catalogued books are on the shelves in subject order so that they can be retrieved when they are required.   Suggestions have been made for improvements to the library’s equipment, all of which are dependent upon our fundraising ability back in Scotland.   There is however no reason to import library trolleys and kick stools, as these can be made in Kakina by a local carpenter.   The library is now in a much better position to assist the students in their learning, it is in a better position to help them to transform their lives and the life of their community.   The library can and will make a difference.

And what have I learned.   It is too early to be sure.   There is, however, one thing that I already knew which has been confirmed.   People should not be judged because of their gender, the colour of their skin, or the clothes that they wear, or for any other superficial reason.   They should be valued, as Martin Luther King said, because of “the content of their character.”

The people of Kakina are curious, friendly and welcoming.   That is what I value.   That is how I will remember my time here.   That is why I am so glad that I came.

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