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Himalaya

Day 123: Dhaka to the Delta

Dhaka, Bangladesh 
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Fellow passengers, going down into the delta.
Michael Palin - HimalayaIshraq has invited a friend of his along, a delightful lady called Mahjabeen Khan, but known to all as Moni. She is probably not far from my own age, but is blessed with a good head of glossy dark hair and intensely dark eyes. She was born in Guwahati, Assam, but at Partition in 1947, her family, being Muslim, moved from there to Sylhet in what had become East Pakistan. Looking back now, she can see that trying to turn East Bengal into a part of Pakistan was a terrible mistake.

'They wanted us to behave differently, look differently, eat differently, dress differently. We were always a secular country.'

She and her seven siblings, six sisters and one brother, were sent to high school in Dhaka and encouraged to study a musical instrument. Moni discovered a talent for singing as well as playing and turned professional, until she married an ambassador and spent 15 years in Washington and Bangkok. Her husband, Abu Zafir Obaidullah Khan, was not just a diplomat and scholar but one of Bangladesh's leading poets. Her story seems to paint a portrait of a charmed life and it's quite a shock when Moni reveals that before she met Abu Zafir she had spent 12 largely unhappy years in an arranged marriage.

But before all that, when she was 13 or 14, she and her family took the Rocket Service when they went on holidays down south. She remembers its formality: the crisp linen tablecloth and gloved waiters in white uniforms with braided epaulettes, brass buttons and matching white turbans.
Dhaka, Bangladesh 
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 123: Dhaka to the Delta
  • Country/sea: Bangladesh
  • Place: Dhaka
  • Book page no: 279

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  • Around the World in 80 Days
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