Last weekend, the girls and I headed out of Dhaka for a much awaited day trip to our housekeeper/ayah's (Mrs. Mokta) village. Chris got unexpectedly called out of town for work, so sadly missed our outing. For weeks, Mokta's family were aware of our coming, and they were so excited when we finally arrived.
To beat the traffic, we chose a Friday (work week here is Sun-Thurs) and departed at 0700. Our driver, Bijoy, and Mokta's middle son, Almamand, escorted us to Sonargaon, an important Hindu and Muslim city founded around 1281. You can check out the Wikipedia link above, if you want to learn more.
We parked at a CNG (like a little taxi) stand, where Mokta and some family met us. All packed with food, gifts and essentials, we hiked our way back through the alley ways to her family's home. She lives in Dhaka, but her eldest son and his family live on her land in the village. Her grandson stays in Dhaka with her, to enjoy the advantages of better schooling. They live in a corner of the village, her brothers, sisters and family all next door to each other with an open community area with a shared kitchen and bathroom facilities off to one side. Her son is also building (all himself) a new home for his young family.
While Mokta tended to Avocet (and the ladies passed her around to play), several of us journeyed into town to see Lok Shilpa Jadughar (Folk Art & Craft Museum), built in 1977, and a street of ancient buildings in Panam City.
Panam City is such a historic area, with amazing architecture and beauty, but there is currently no protection from tourists or vandalism. I hope it survives for future generations to enjoy.
After our little adventure into town, we returned to a large lunch in the village. Mokta, her friend Marian and her daughter-in-law Rashida had prepared a giant meal. We had brought along a baked 17 lb turkey, fruit and cupcakes, along with snacks and gifts. Ceiba enjoyed the excuse to eat with her hands, as everyone here in Bangladesh does. And after lunch, we played some more and walked about the village.
Most people here have no photographs of themselves, so I was more than thrilled to change that. At first upon pulling out my camera, everyone gave a small grin, but it took only minutes for the group to be a buzz, waiting for their chance with the camera. In Bangladesh, one is taught to give a straight face for a pose, but each time they did, I'd lower the camera and smile. They would giggle and follow suit. We had a wonderful few hours visiting and taking photos, which I'll send back with Mokta to distribute.
Mokta knows how I love Bangla weddings! Her niece was going to a wedding, so allowed us to escort her. Basically, we crashed the wedding, but offered our well wishes and a gift to the couple. The brides here are so elaborate. No matter the wealth of a family, no expense is spared to lavish the new couple.
We topped off the day with a drive through the rice paddies and a stop at another family member's home just in time to miss the day's festivities. Their son's "cutting ceremony" (circumcision) had been done earlier in the day. The tents were coming down as we said our hellos, but they still welcomed us in for a seat, a visit and some fresh fruit. Each time we visit, hospitality abounds. I sometimes feel we are intruding, but Mokta reassures me they are honored to host a foreigner in their home. Plus, it gives them good stories to share with their friends in the following days.
We headed back home to Dhaka around dusk. Half of the village escorted us to our car. One of the young girls held my hand the whole walk to the car and said how she'd miss us. We could not have had a better time, only missing the company of Chris. The hope of a restful drive home while the girls slept was a pipe dream... they were awake all the way home. We all slept well in our beds after an exciting day of exploring yet another beautiful corner of exotic Bangladesh.