Spend an hour cruising around the alleys of Uttar Badda in Mitu’s rickshaw, completely lost and surrounded by dug up roads. There is a nice vibe in these little local areas, all of the world is in the dirt alleys that are too narrow for cars – vegetable sellers, chai wallahs, barefoot construction labourers, and a bazillion people asking themselves if a white woman really did just go past on a rickshaw.
Hanging around, as Mitu asks directions and contemplates life for a bit. Young boys start getting a bit braver, and venture out. A few smiles later, and we are surrounded by curious little chaps.
After disclosing my nationality, I’m treated to some excellent demonstrations of bowling and batting (sans bat, sans ball). Australia will win the cricket tomorrow, they assure me.
Men simultaneously stack plies of bricks on their heads and keep an eye on all the novelty.
Step two in breaking the ice is teaching kids to take photos of each other with my phone.
OK, we are all friends now.
Unusually, one young teenage girl is on the outskirts of all the excitement. Gently invite her in to have a turn with my phone. She wants to take photos of the two of us together.
Mitu seems to have remembered where we are, and bundles me back into the ricksaw.
Little hands keep popping up demanding to be shook by the friendly little chaps as we move off. That is until Mitu gets sick of it and yell at them.
Once my UN mission is complete, straight back in Mitu’s rickshaw, and heading home.
When the small explosives were thrown at me in January, Mitu went out of his way to protect me. That’s a fairly solid way to build trust with someone. Since then, I call on Mitu whenever I need a rickshaw. It works well.
It would work considerably better if he spoke some English, as my Bangla is embarrassingly non-existent.
For a while now, I have been sponsoring Mitu to attend basic literacy classes. He has school two mornings a week, and will occasionally show me his exercise book filled with his very careful letters. He has asked a number of times for me to meet his family.
On the way home from Uttar Badda we stop at his home. It is a very neat little room where he lives with his family. It has two pallet type beds, a ceiling fan, a small shelf, concrete floor, and no window. I sit on one of the beds as his wife cuts me up an orange and a pineapple.
It’s a bit awkward, but things get easier when I hold his six-month-old baby – who proceeds to grab at my very white face with a look of complete fascination. Yep, I really am that white!
OK, so we are cool with the baby.
Mitu’s seven-year-old daughter starts edging closer and closer. Eventually, she is happily siting right up against me as we quietly practice the alphabet. It seems there is no distinction between the letters ‘N’ and ‘M’ – I’m cool with that. To cement the friendship, I give her the no-fail camera phone lesson. It goes down a treat.
The grandmother (I think) presents me with very hot tea. After I blow on it, she stands next to me and cools it down by rhythmically scooping it up in a spoon and pouring it back in.
This goes on for some time. I happily sit on the bed and hold the cup.
Mitu’s wife sits on the floor and feeds her baby. A very fat cockroach gets flicked away. I indicate that I have these in my house too – everyone laughs and approves.
Time to go, I’ve been here for an hour –
Mitu’s rickshaw is stuck in the alley, and he can’t get it out. Mitu’s wife and daughter hold hands with me as we walk along the alleys – they are beaming, and it feels like the entire area is staring as we happily make our way.
This was a good day – I’m happy.