Article: 262038 of talk.bizarre
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
From: Ken Johnson <>
Subject: Back From Bangladesh: My Diary, part 1 of 2 (Long)
Message-ID: <>
Sender: (C News Software)
Organization: Centre for Cognitive Science, Edinburgh, UK
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 12:21:59 GMT
Lines: 560
Status: O

I am just back from a month spent in Bangladesh undertaking some
computer training and installing a textual data base at the Small
Enterprise Unit of Intermediate Technology in Dhaka. This is the
first section of my diary for the month. Share and enjoy. Part Two
will be posted later.

Ken Johnson

Wednesday 8 November
Turbulence feels like being strapped into a sledge and being 
dragged  over rough cobbles by wild horses. This is an 
immensely long trip: almost exactly a quarter of the way 
round the world, much of it through turbulence. The longest 
section is the seven hour run from London to Dubai. The in-
flight movies were "While You Were Sleeping" and "Judge 
Dredd", so I watched Judge Dredd twice.
My new manager Aslam boarded at Karachi and met me. At 
Karachi the local forces of what passes for law and order 
appeared to have requisitioned every spare seat on the 
aircraft in order to repatriate illegal Bangladeshi 
immigrants who had been rounded up.  Though all were allowed 
into Bangladesh when we landed, the Bangladeshi government 
was later to complain that these Bangladeshis had been riding 
without valid travel documents and threatened to shuttle them 
back to Karachi. On the aircraft they gave me a white form 
asking whether there were in my hand luggage or suitcases any 
colour televisions, video recorders, video players, 
refrigerators, washing machines or microwave ovens. 
Newsreader, adopting magisterial tone: "Two hairdressing 
students from Stoke on Trent have been arrested in Bangladesh 
..  This is believed to be the biggest haul of refrigerators 
ever made by Customs, blah, blah, the students protested 
their innocence, blah, the refrigerators were discovered in 
the womens' handbags after an anonymous tip-off."
Arrived at Dhaka. At baggage reclaim the conveyor broke down, 
presumably under the weight of all the smuggled 
refrigerators. Airport staff continued to feed luggage along 
the bit that was still working and then kick it into a pile 
on the floor when it reached the broken bit and got stuck. 
Since the aircraft was full, over three hundred people were 
scrabbling to recover luggage off this pile, watched, but in 
no way helped, by several laughing officials.
Met at the airport by Aslam's brother, both mens' wives and 
children. While I waited for them to fetch their car from the 
airport car park, children begged me for takas which I didn't 
have; I gave one a disposable razor that they'd given me on 
the plane and the other a ballpoint pen with the logo of 
Portobello Job Centre. They seemed happy enough with this, so 
I guess that they were begging as a source of amusement 
rather than as a source of income.
They took me to my lodgings, a huge guest house on the narrow 
Indira Road, and I was introduced to Kabir, who was to cook 
and keep house for me. In the afternoon, the company driver 
brought Aslam and they took me to the ITDG office on Road No. 
13A. My place of work for the next month is a large, 
converted house. At a staff meeting in the afternoon I was 
able to introduce myself to everyone. I then learned that the 
local opposition parties had declared Hartal (translates 
National Kill Everybody Week) until next Thursday, so I was 
to spend the daylight hours of most of my first week indoors, 
hacking on a Compaq portable. During National Kill Everybody 
Week it is far too dangerous for foreigners to go out of 
doors. Life on Indira Road seemed to go on undisturbed, but I 
later heard that bombs had been thrown in the City Centre and 
there had been many injuries and arrests. The City Centre is 
about a kilometre away.
Staring out of the window of my lodgings I notice that my 
next door neighbour has two cows tethered in a makeshift barn 
in her garden. Indeed there is a complete agricultural 
complex there, also including chickens and indeterminably 
many little girls who stick their heads over the wall and 
watch me in silence any time I walk down the road.
Thursday 10 November
Discovered two cockroaches and many thousands of ants in the 
kitchen. I mentioned this to Kabir, who says he will get some 
Ant Medicine. As it is Hartal, getting the Ant Medicine is 
less than straightforward. The cockroaches appear to have 
been living in some cardboard boxes in the kitchen, so I move 
the boxes onto the verandah. Unlike Britain, here in Dhaka 
the poor people live in cheap apartments while the 
cockroaches live in old cardboard boxes.
I am pleased to discover that with my Sony Walkman I can 
listen to the BBC World Service here on Dhaka's one VHF radio 
channel. Sometimes there is no signal at all on that 
frequency; at other times there is chatter in what I presume 
is Bangla, but in the morning and late evening the World 
Service announces itself with its nursery rhyme jingle and 
its identification "This is London", probably unchanged since 
the War. Indeed, the ambience of the World Service is most 
redolent of the old BBC Home Service with its plummy voices, 
its mediæval taste in pop music and above all its assumption 
that I suffer from Alzheimer's, listen to the wireless while 
looking down the back of the sofa for my ration books for the 
thousandth time, and have to be humoured. For example, it 
never mentions Tony Blair without reminding me that he is the 
Leader of the British Opposition. It is as the world were 
populated by folk who had never heard of Tony Blair, which is 
hugely improbable, though many people probably confuse him 
with Lionel Blair.
Friday 11 November
Each day begins with the Call to Prayer. It begins with a 
bellow of "ALLAAAAAH!!" delivered at the sound-pressure of a 
nuclear shock wave through banks of industrial grade 
loudspeakers, and it continues for about five minutes. I am 
at a loss to describe what the Call sounds like, but you 
could liken it to being woken in the night by two cats 
fighting, to the tuneless baying of drunken football fans, to 
those dogs that used to howl along to their favourite tune on 
the Esther Rantzen programme, or to a Max Bygraves concert.
First day of the Muslim weekend. I am taken around tourist 
Dhaka, which includes the huge Aalong shopping centre and the 
Nawab Ahsanullah's Palace which is now a historical museum. 
Most impressive; the Nawab seems to have tried to be a good 
patriarch, and was responsible for installing the filtered 
water mains and drainage system into Dhaka. Bought a Street 
Map of Dhaka and discovered that my bit of Indira Road is not 
to be seen on it. As the alleyway where the guest house 
stands is identical to the countless other alleyways in the 
area, I dread having to find my own way home if ever I have 
to. The street signs are in Bangla, of course, and the 
numerals are not Western either. The symbols '0' and '2' are 
used for zero and two, while '8' means four and '9' means 
seven. The other numerals are all unique to Bengali. I have 
also noticed that big numbers are represented in a different 
style: there is no equivalent of "one million". Instead, one 
hundred thousand is one lakh and one hundred lakh is one 
crore. Thus, fifteen million four hundred and twenty thousand 
is translated into one crore, fifty-four lakh and twenty 
thousand, and written 1,54,20,000, except for being in Bangla 
To get back to door numbers, the problem is that all the 
houses in this part of the city have large front yards which 
are separated from the narrow street by high walls. The 
streets all resemble a back alleyway and they are 
indistinguishable, unless - I suppose - you live here. You 
could find your way by using the political slogans painted on 
the walls as landmarks, if you could read them. Sayeed: 
"Excuse me, my good man. Can you direct me to the lentil 
stand?" Ahmed: "Indeed I can, brother. Go along here until 
you reach 'Bring Back Stoning', then turn left - straight on 
until 'Hands Off Americans', and you can't miss the lentil 
stand, it's in between 'What Did 
You Do In The Revolutionary Militia, Daddy?' and 'No Pork'." 
Sayeed: "Thank you kindly, and may peace be upon you." Ahmed: 
"Peace be upon you, and be careful not to trip over a cow and 
send your lentils flying into the open sewer."
Saturday 12 November
First day of National Kill Everybody Week and I stay indoors; 
the jet lag has also hit me and I am desperately tired in the 
morning so I spend several hours in bed. My bed is a cane and 
bamboo four-poster with a mosquito net. In the evening, my 
colleague Alamgeer takes me to visit his auntie; she 
introduces her sixteen year old daughter Mithila, who speaks 
perfect English and is most pretty. Other women seem to be 
hiding in the back room of her flat; every now and then one 
of them peeps round the door as though by accident, and 
scuttles off. Alamgeer visits his relatives often because at 
the house in which he rents a room the women won't allow him 
into the kitchen. If he had been married he could have sent 
his wife into the kitchen, but as a single man he has to buy 
food on the streets or visit relatives. I imagine that many 
Western women deeply envy their Islamic counterparts this 
arrangement. Auntie tells me how concerned she is that I do 
not have a wife, and asks me whether I would consider 
marrying a Bangladeshi. I don't think she has any particular 
Bangladeshi in mind.
Wednesday 15 November
I go to the bank to change some money. They ask to see my 
passport, which I haven't brought, so they won't sell me any 
Conversations here run deep. I have already been asked my 
views on divorce, abortion, Northern Ireland, the Gay Times 
blasphemy case and Salman Rushdie.
Thursday 16 November
I bring my passport with me this time and I go to the bank to 
change some money, but this being Thursday they closed at 
lunch time. Am I imagining it, or are banks the same the 
world over?
Friday 17 November
A one day weekend, because in order to recover the work lost 
during National Kill Everybody Week ITDG is going to open its 
office tomorrow. Those responsible for it believe National 
Kill Everybody Week to have been such jolly fun that they are 
going to have another one in the middle of December.
I am taken by car to Savar, a small town perhaps 30 km to the 
north of Dhaka, to visit a poultry farm in which Babur, one 
of the directors of ITDG, has a stake. The farm comprises 
quarters for two employees (the third lives in the town with 
his family), a cattle shed, two poultry houses, a vegetable 
patch and a fish tank. The farm is perhaps half an acre in 
extent. It has endured a couple of unfortunate failures 
recently: a venture into cattle had to be curtailed because 
there was not enough fodder for twenty-two head and the 
number of cows was reduced to seven; then broiler-chicken 
production failed because there was no market for the meat. 
When I visited, the poultry sheds were empty, but a shipment 
of chicks was expected from India; these would be used for 
egg production.
The fish tank is a half buried, open-topped cubical tank 
about four feet (1.3m) along each edge. There were twenty or 
thirty catfish swimming in the tank. When the water is 
changed, the used water pours along a channel and irrigates 
the vegetable patch. The vegetable patch has also been a less 
than total success because there has been less rainfall than 
its managers had hoped for. There is no mains water, so the 
tank is filled from an old-fashioned hand-cranked pump.
A British smallholder trying to produce meat economically 
here would certainly try pigs, since they eat whatever can be 
brought in, fatten reasonably quickly and require very little 
space. However, this being an Islamic country, the 
manufacture and consumption of pork are both streng verboten.
Back in the flat, the pile of cardboard is still on the 
verandah so I attack it with my new spray-can of Ant 
Medicine. Half a dozen cockroaches, each the size of a 
chicken, rush out coughing and wheezing and try to kill me by 
running away and hiding in dark corners. Continue to attack 
relentlessly with Ant Medicine until they are all dead. 
Spraying a cockroach with Ant Medicine makes it jump into the 
air and squeak, which sounds funny but actually these insects 
are perfectly vile. I again suggest to Kabir that it would be 
a good idea to remove the pile of cardboard and burn it, but 
he leaves it there anyway.
Later I am visited by a bright yellow lizard who runs up and 
down the living room walls wearing a seraphic smile. Kabir 
says she probably has an eek in her. I think lizards lay 
their eeks in soft ground, so she must wonder what we see in 
marble floors. After perching high on one wall and watching 
us both for a few minutes, Liz rushes off and can't be seen 
anywhere. Liz has an amazing gift for running up and down 
smooth vertical surfaces. I didn't think any animals except 
flies could do that.
Road traffic here is quite different from any I have ever 
seen or imagined. Start by picturing two stock car races in 
opposite directions, and to that add about fifty per cent 
rickshaws, a couple of ox-carts and dozens of people trying 
to cross the racetrack. At the moment of writing I have not, 
yet, been involved in any collision on the road except being 
crashed into by the rickshaw behind, which doesn't count, 
especially as he did it several times on purpose. Everything 
overtakes on whichever side offers the greatest chance of 
getting ahead. Red traffic lights are disregarded unless the 
road is so busy that you would have had to wait in any event. 
When turning left or right into another traffic stream it 
seems customary to expect oncoming traffic to weave and avoid 
you rather than to wait for a gap; you rely on the other guy 
having good eyesight and excellent brakes. Rickshaws never 
carry lights and the rather faster autorickshaws rarely do, 
so it cannot always be possible for a car driver to see the 
traffic coming towards him. Everyone honks the horn every few 
seconds, so at the side of a main road the noise of car horns 
is, literally, continuous from dawn until dusk: I mean an 
unbroken blare varying only in intensity and the direction of 
its source.
On the roads the pollution is choking; it smells as though it 
is mainly diesel fumes from lorries and from the spluttering 
two-stroke engines of the autorickshaws. Still, there is no 
city in the world where traffic runs through the centre at 
more than 30 km per hour, so Dhaka's traffic system is 
probably as efficient a people mover as any other.
Saturday 18 November
I bring my passport with me again and go to the bank to 
change some money. The exchange rate is about Tk 63 to the 
pound, which means that the Taka has risen about 14% against 
the pound in the last year or so.
Sunday 19 November
News reaches me that the smug, self-righteous bully Roger 
Cooke has made a television programme alleging that 
Bangladeshi children are being kidnapped by gangs of ruffians 
and sold into prostitution; furthermore, Bangladeshi parents, 
he says, regularly break their childrens' arms and legs in 
order that the children may be more effective as beggars. I 
retail this yarn to ITDG staff, who are familiar with the 
problems and customs of the rural poor throughout Bangladesh, 
and they laugh out loud. If Roger Cooke really wants to find 
child abuse, under age prostitutes, juvenile thieves' 
kitchens and so forth for the public entertainment, they 
suggest, he should turn his hidden cameras and concealed 
microphones and deceitful accomplices on the childrens' homes 
run by the British Social Services, who have every reason for 
wanting to distract attention from their own atrocities. But 
the finest beach in the world, the comfortable climate and 
the ferocity of the English libel laws have between them 
impelled this loathsome Chief Superintendent Lockhart manqué 
to accuse the defenceless peasants in the second poorest 
country in the world of these most disgusting crimes; and 
while collecting his enormous fees Mr Cooke seems not to 
notice that there are no bars here and prostitution is 
The position of women in Muslim society is practically a 
dissertation subject. I can only write up my own 
observations: namely, that Bangladeshi women are often 
remarkably pretty, and although they never show bare arms or 
legs they often flash bare midriff and they deck themselves 
in fluorescent sarees: red, green, yellow, purple or sky 
blue, often embroidered with mirrors so they flash in the sun 
like jewels. They carry themselves absolutely upright and 
move silently through crowds of men; in a group, they will 
talk to each other but not to outsiders, nor do outsiders try 
to talk to them. Trying to attract the attention of a woman 
you don't know is a grave social error.
The woman who prepares the dishes of rice and vegetables that 
we eat at lunchtime in ITDG always dresses from head to foot 
in a brilliant red saree with yellow embroidery. She has 
never looked directly at me once: if she is bringing 
something for me, she always looks down, or to one side: an 
unnerving act of deference. I often see women riding on 
rickshaws, or sitting on sidewalks in groups of half a dozen, 
just chatting together; surprisingly, the customers at the 
food stalls in the bazaar seem mainly to be men. Homes have 
space for the women to gossip without the men being present: 
where several apartments share a central atrium, this is 
given over to the women. I can't imagine how boy meets girl 
here. Perhaps you just have to know someone who has a woman 
he doesn't want.
I'm told that the tradition of the "bride price" persists but 
polygamy was abolished recently. It is generally taken for 
granted that the abolition of polygamy is a move towards 
womens' liberation, but I would not be so sure. It is, 
arguably, better for a woman to be the fourth wife of a Nawab 
than the only wife of a rickshaw puller, while the rickshaw 
puller will stand little chance of taking a wife as long as 
richer men can take as many as they want. Islamic divorce, 
which was available on the man's request on grounds of 
adultery and in comparison with which the British "quicky" 
divorce is ten years' penal servitude, has also been 
abolished in favour of a longer drawn out civil process.
Miss Bangladesh is an icon here. You see her picture stuck on 
walls, on posters, on calendars and on magazine covers 
everywhere. She is quite pretty, with milky-coffee skin and a 
sort of girl-next-door sweetness.
Monday 20 November
The international conglomerates whose products I have so far 
recognised here are Cadbury, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and 
Procter and Gamble. Safeway is a pest exterminator, and 
advertises on posters that say "Safeway" with a picture of a 
huge cockroach and a telephone number. Several cafes have put 
a "Big Mac" on their menu, and the one I tried was actually a 
passable version of it, though the bread was sweeter than I 
expected. There is also a Chinese restaurant on Mirpur Road 
called Magdonals, but the real Macdonald's has yet to arrive 
Tuesday 21 November
Great moments in the history of computing No. 94: 
Demonstrating the INMAGIC documentation logging system, I 
observe to a group of six students that there is a field in 
the data base for the ISSN number of newspapers, magazines 
and journals. Met by blank looks, I blarney that every 
newspaper, magazine or journal has an ISSN number nowadays, 
and send the group on a five-minute treasure hunt to find 
some. Then I examine the resulting pile of printed matter: 
not one of the journals they found has an ISSN, not even the 
South East Asian edition of Time Magazine. Later that day I 
come upon a tatty American magazine which has an ISSN, but it 
is too late to be of any use. It contains an article "Ace 
That Interview!", full of helpful suggestions along the lines 
of "Turn Up For The Interview!", "Say Good Morning/Afternoon 
and Shake Hands!" - I never would have thought to do either - 
 "Look Interested!". No wonder I'm unemployed: so much to 
The food here is beginning to pall.  For one thing, I have 
had travellers' diarrhoea and spent an hour or so of each 
night in the toilet. For another, Bangladeshi food is not 
really to my taste. You get lots of rice and various 
vegetables, which are richly spiced so they taste only of 
spice. The Bangladeshis are very proud of their fish and 
offer it to me often, but it is of a kind through whose flesh 
run thousands of sharp, tiny bones. It's like eating a razor-
blade sandwich. I can't chew these bones and if I don't 
manage to remove them all while the fish is still in my 
mouth, then they catch in my throat and make me retch. Prawns 
are served with the shells still on. Kabir cooked me meat 
once and I enjoyed it. Since then he's asked me, several 
times, "What I cook is dinner?" I: "How about meat?" Kabir: 
"I make you fish, good." There is also revolting dried fish, 
which smells like glue. I am grateful for the fresh fruit 
which Kabir puts in the refrigerator: apples, bananas, 
oranges, pineapples, papayas. I get on fairly well with 
fruit, but I would kill for a take-away pizza. With bacon, of 
This evening brings a marvellous respite. Four of the staff 
here take me in the ITDG minibus to the Sea Food Restaurant 
in the Diplomatic Quarter.  In this excellent Chinese 
restaurant I have a chance to talk with Iqbal, the local BESO 
representative.  He has first-class English and we talk 
easily; the food is so marvellous that until we leave the 
air-conditioned building and the heat hits us again I quite 
forget we are in Bangladesh. Once outside, the restaurant 
security guard goes into the car park and a few seconds later 
the minibus arrives to take us home. Our driver has been 
sitting out here all the time waiting for us to finish 
Thursday 23 November
I have been invited to the Ambassador's Reception, which 
means lunch with the British Deputy High Commissioner. 
Eighteen of us gather in Ninfa's Restaurant in the diplomatic 
quarter of the city: four High Commission staff, Aslam, Iqbal 
 and twelve BESO volunteers from various projects all over 
Dhaka. The food is Thai, and of the most magnificent; the 
Embassy staff have brought supplies of wine and beer for us, 
though no Ferrero Rocher.  I sit to the right of the First 
Secretary and opposite the Deputy High Commissioner herself, 
and within conversation distance of a specialist in hospital 
management and of an expert on architecture.  The architect 
is Professor Hugh Danby of the University of Newcastle upon 
Tyne.  Years ago ¾ 1971, I think ¾ when there was a sit-in in 
his department, I covered the story for the student paper 
"Courier" and interviewed Professor Danby. It is indeed a 
small world.
At the lunch Iqbal hands me a folder containing half a dozen 
sheets of BESO headed notepaper.  Back at the office I use 
these to prepare certificates for those ITDG staff who have 
been coming to my Wordperfect sessions. They are more pleased 
than I expected to get some recognition on paper of their 
Friday 24 November
Today I take my first trip on Happy Ride Bangladeshi Railway 
for a visit to Mymensingh, 120 Km north of Dhaka. Farhad has 
drawn the short straw and is to be my travelling companion 
for the day. He can't understand why I don't want to go by 
bus. Dhaka's central station is a surprisingly magnificent 
concrete building, designed along the lines of a cathedral 
with a tremendously high vaulted ceiling and bright lighting, 
in a plaza thronged with rickshaws and beggars. The platforms 
are wider than I am used to, probably because of the need to 
cope with large crowds of passengers; the track is metre 
gauge and largely overgrown with grass. You expect  Thomas 
the Tank Engine to chug into the platform at any minute. 
Several hawkers offer us magazines, bottles of mineral water 
and what look like packets of crisps. We can't find the 
carriage in which our seat is booked, so we board the nearer 
of the two dilapidated first-class carriages and occupy two 
seats, which are comfortable though well-worn leather 
armchairs. The char-wallah tells us that, yes, these are the 
right seats, and fetches us tea and a breakfast of fried 
bread. It is very tasty.
The land on either side of the railway through Dhaka is 
largely occupied by shanties, the horrific slums. Huts built 
of rush matting and with bare-earth floors are sited very 
close together, and there is no supply of drinking water nor 
adequate sanitation, so the results can be imagined easily 
enough. Each hut appears to be home to a family of man, wife 
and children. The shanties seem to stretch in a narrow belt 
for four or five kilometres along the railway line. After 
today, every time I see a Western aid worker squabbling with 
a rickshaw puller over a matter of two or three taka 
(fivepence), I expect I shall find myself wondering whether 
the rickshaw puller lives in a shanty of this kind. I Once 
the city is behind us, we pass through rice paddies and 
occasional stretches of bright green forest. Our top speed is 
about 45 kph.
We reach Mymensingh in just under two and a half hours, and 
we have time to visit a local sweetmeats shop, wander round 
the bazaar and take a rickshaw across the recently built road 
bridge over the Brahmaputra. Rather than build this bridge as 
a plate-girder bridge or other old-fashioned design, the 
designers of this bridge built it as a modern suspension 
bridge; this means the road has a noticeable vertical 
curvature, the roadway sloping upwards from each approach to 
a summit in the middle. Probably the designers just forgot 
that most of the traffic here is rickshaws, which have great 
difficulty climbing up to the centre of the bridge and then 
roller-coaster down the other side at breakneck speed.
When we return to the station, the clerk in the dingy booking 
office tells us that the 16.20 to Dhaka is running three 
hours late - such are the logistics of operating over a 
network of single track - and we plan instead to catch the 
17.20, which is running only half an hour late. On the 
platform I am approached by a succession of nutcases asking 
for money in exchange for displaying various disfigurements. 
When the 17.20 arrives at 18.00, we are again unable to find 
the carriage in which our seats are reserved, so we occupy 
two seats in a definitely different first class carriage. 
These seats also have different numbers from those reserved 
for us, yet again the char-wallah assures us that these are 
indeed the right seats. Nobody else seems to think they have 
booked these seats, although the carriage is full.
On the way south one of the passengers produces a portable 
radio from which  a female voice can be heard speaking in 
Bangla. Gradually nearly all the passengers in the carriage 
except Farhad and myself are drawn to this voice, standing 
gravely and listening in silence. It is Khalida Zia, the 
Prime Minister of Bangladesh, who has decided in view of the 
state of affairs here to resign and ask the President to call 
a General Election. Any British politician in the same 
position would be banging on about look here, it's a mid-term 
depression, it's a blip. Paxman: "But the opposition parties 
have been boycotting Parliament for months, haven't they?" 
Smug man in suit: "Oh, it's just a little local difficulty." 
Paxman: "And Bangladesh is still the poorest country in the 
world." Man, guffawing: "Where did you get that one from, 
Jeremy? We are now [wags finger] the second poorest in real 
terms, I'll have you know, and this recession is world-wide: 
the only reason we are so poor is that all the other 
countries have more money than we do." Paxman: "Well then, 
Mr. Man, does it really not concern you that half the 
population is at risk from diseases carried by polluted 
water?" Man: "I have talked to my rich friends about this, 
and we expect the number of starving peasants to be in single 
figures by the end of the year."
The young woman seated opposite me is trying to read while 
this broadcast is going on, but a man is kneeling on the seat 
beside her straining to bring his ears closer to the portable 
radio. Unable to achieve this at the first attempt, he tries 
to do it by reaching across her and taking hold of the head-
rest that she is leaning on, levering himself upwards. This 
forces her nose into his armpit. She continues to try to 
read, quite uncomplaining.
As for the phrase "Happy Ride Bangladeshi Railway", I saw it 
painted on a station near Zia Airport and hoped it might be 
the name adopted by the national railway network. Sadly, I 
did not see the phrase at all today; it must have been 
painted by the local station master. The carriages of the 
trains we rode today are labelled "Inter City" with an 
arrowhead device. 
Saturday 25 November
An extra National Kill Everybody Day is called for today in 
honour of former President Ershad who is languishing in 
prison suffering from jaundice. His supporters say he ought 
to be allowed to languish in hospital with jaundice like 
everybody else has to. I am confined to barracks again while 
outside, fifteen people are injured, nineteen are arrested, 
and two bombs are set off. The Bangladeshi Observer describes 
these events under the headline "8-hr hartal passes off 
Monday 27 November
Three men in overalls arrive at the office carrying a 
promising pile of boxes. These do not, as I had imagined, 
contain ITDG's new network server, but the company has 
decided to lend us a server until the one we ordered arrives 
from Singapore. They assemble the machine, instal Novell 
Netware and have the whole machine ready to go in half a day. 
Sadly, we still have no network cables as these are all in 
Kathmandu or somewhere awaiting customs clearance, so the 
workmen switch the machine off and go away.
In the evening I am invited to say hello to the British Trade 
Delegation to Bangladesh, which has been staying in the 
Sonargaon Hotel here for a couple of days listening to 
speeches. The reception takes place in a marquee on the lawn 
of the Deputy High Commissioner's Residence, which is 
decorated with strings of Christmas tree lights.  There are a 
number of members of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce here, all of 
them senior figures in local industry, and a writer from The 
Economist. Waiters ply us all constantly with canapes and 
drinks. The British Trade Delegation seems mainly to be 
looking for sales to the natural gas and road construction 
industries. I hope all these new roads will not be fatal 
competition to Happy Ride Bangladeshi Railway.
Thursday 30 November
Almost the whole of ITDG is away at a meeting on rural food 
processing, so I am able to complete the user manual for the 
SEU system undisturbed. Just finishing when Said ul Haq of 
USAid arrives and asks for a demonstration of it. I give him 
a copy of the system (sadly, of course, it is  useless 
without Inmagic itself, which I can't give him because it is 
licensed software) and of the newly finished documentation. 
He stays for a demonstration of the system and seems 
impressed by what it does. Fame at last.