Caravan of Mercy SSP Jan / Feb 2013 – Day 5

Today is going to be an easy day..just visiting places and doing things we have done already.. Nothing new to think about… I did not have a shower this morning, Fajr namaz first.. I Went to sleep in the clothes I was wearing all day yesterday…a beautiful short walk to madrassa for Fajr namaz.. There is a grave that i walk past, its Moulana Abdul’s (our cook) father. Moulana Abdul’s father started the, madrassa in this area. Today there are 400 becoming haafiz and/or aalims. Caravan of mercy have been sponsoring 30 orphan kids for the past 3 years, wuzu khana, ramzan food distribution and water pumps around the, area… Ronnie, cuts a cow after namaz.. Moulana confirms we having a bbq tonight..Wicked..

First stop, girls maktab..about 40 girls praying.in this maktab and is coming under Caravan of Mercy donation from next year.. Moulana tells me a lot these maktab start-up but don’t have enough money to continue. He tells me of a story where somebody from South Africa y established 600 maktabs but a lot of them have closed down due to financial problems…the kids all stop…Moulana requests one of the girls to pray…lovely sound and tajweed… Moulana is impressed….this is a well run maktab…. There is a water pump here provided by caravan of mercy serving the area….Moulana asks where is the mosque here…why don’t they use this place for namaz as well and have a imam to stay here…Mufti Nazrulislam says it’s too expensive making a quarters for the imam, setting up electricity etc… Moulana accepts…this makhtab is on the road side on the opposite of the river banks, this whole road is packed with people during the rainy seasion..I can begin to imagine this…

We stopover at the cournish ‘ghat’. A sort of public place, undisturbed view of the river bank line, the place is empty…I stand facing the river, the river bank curls round from my left to behind me and then in front of me before curling back round..It’s impossible for me imagine the water lever bring up to the edge of where im standing..the river is currently 20 to 25 foot below me…there are loads of square blocks at the bottom of the bank to stop the river from punching into the bank during the raining seasons the bank is sloped intentionally in a way to guide water from left to right to try and stop the water entering the Sirajgonj city… In the center of this port area, people are putting up some stuff, I think they preparing for a visit from Shaikh Hasina, the Prime Minsiter. District Comissioner told us this when we went for tea yesterday to his home, he is currently helping prepare an entourage of 1500 people and 60 cars to cater for this visit.

Went to Mufti Narziulislam Makhtab to see the kids. The kids are given English educatiin here too..nothing like uk but it’s,better than nothing. Kids say synchronised salaam as we enter…we hear two girl praying.. sounds amazing..they are about 6 -8 years old.. this is amazing….Maktab is getting ready for women sewing class.. It’s almost ten am.. Sajid seeing someone having a shower from a water pump..It’s cold at ten here. We are taken back at the thought of having cold showers every morning…some things just hit you a little at the right time and moment, this was one of them….

We then go to another makhtab. I don’t know where I am, all I know is where ever I am, where ever I have been this past morning, wherever I look gets flooded….so I’m told…still, a part of me does not believe what they say about the floods….a part of me thinks all the Muftis’ and,Moulana’s,have got to together and made up a story and then played it to me..i know,this is not true….The Quran is a fact., but my imaan in it is low.. in the same way the floods here, the sufferings here is a fact..but my belief in it is low, not yet convinced…does it need to be convinced..what if I’m not convinced and then on the day of judgement I discover it to be a truth fact….why is not what I have seen enough to make me act for the better. I choose to believe something else is true, the made up truth allow’s me to be lazy without feeling guilt…..Shaytaan has worked for a long time on me. So any initiation of a good action coming out,of me starts with me believing or convincing myself the fact to be a lie…this can’t be true, you don’t need to do this..I need to beat this thinking out of me… There loads of Saree factories here as I walk to this maktab …manual weaving machines Ronnie,tells me there is one person doing four things on the machine, says this is the definition of ‘manual skilled labour’. Whilst walking I see fantastic bamboo bridge made by Red Crescent from the Arab world, it looks strong….survives flood but the bamboo effect makes it look comical..about to drop….

There are lovely hanging raw cotton on bamboo washing lines….different colours.. they look lovely hanged out to dry, something put in movies to set a colourful scene …. We finally reach the makhtab, there are orphans kids here too, loads of kid but there is only one teacher……

Off to another place to give out cow and goats. We stop at railway line, walk over it and reach a slow drop in the land scape as we approach.. The madrassa and its’ coutry yard comes in to view.. a beautiful place.. Cows to the left and goats to the right..it’s green and trees cover the front of the madresa mango trees along the side of the court yard..one of those places you think you would settle after a hard life.. We don’t waste time here.. quickly get the recipient list… We continue to build our photo album…but we do less photos. I’m just tired or bored of taking photos whilst giving or may be I’m beginning to feel guilty.. Not sure which one yet.. …Moulana is asking each person their family size and condition before deciding to give a single cow or a cow with a calf..

Back at base camp, quick shower to get ready for the wedding day..the District Commisioner Assistant has come specially to visit Ronnie, he impressed the District Commissioner yesterday..they are chatting.. I sit to be respectful….I try to talk or say something just for customary contribution to the conversation but the DC assistant blanks me completely so I slowly and quietly leave the room unnoticed…when big people are talking small people should just leave…

Moulana is upset with mufti Naziulismal that the ‘starter packs’ are not ready… We help pack the starters pack suitcases, their ‘goodie’ bag… Each getting one quality loonghi, two ok loonghi..one good saree..two ok saree, Soap box, comb, a can of Hajr oil and some other stuffs….in addition to the bedding and kitchen utensils…Nikah time; back on stage with wedding hat again, Sajid and,Mamajee are also in the act….second wedding jokes ring around the stage…why are the dulabhais looking so serious so.. i dont know, hopefully us wearing the wedding hat on makes them more comfortable…as long I think it makes people smile then I don’t really care if I look a little stupid..I come off the stage to hear how the individual nikah paper is done and again the fun continues, I’m asked to sit down next my dulabhais and the hat is back on my head. Interesting perspective view from here; there are people on stage.. It’s my special day but these people are on stage..I don’t get to go on stage….ok kutbah time..who are these people..I got over ten people,on stage and I think I know two of them (if I was a local)..one,is,dc assistant saab and the other mufti saab, out of the local perspective..……I begin to miss my wife…I miss my whole family, my nieces and nephew.. weddings are family time.. I look to my right and I see there is camera here too, no wonder dulbhais are looking so serious.. I’m on national tv ..S***..this is going to be funny…hope my in laws don’t take it badly if they see me on tv sitting down as if I’m getting married again…

After Asar namaz we give the ‘starter packs’ out..I don’t want to take photos..I feel bad looking at the poor….really bad..I speak to Moulana about this..he tells me my feelings are right..but these people are so poor that they see these things as gifts…we try to make their day special that is why we should try to make them laugh, brighten up their mood and get involved with them…Moulana is good at this…he begins with shouting to the grooms who is going to give my Bangladesh damaad, referring to me, a Walima dawat.. Only one dulabhai raises his hands…everyone laughs..but they all raise their hand slowly..they are just nervous.. Moulana then each ask their names and knows the meaning of each person name….translates the meaning of their name and relates it to each of them…they all smile one at a time… He gets to a person..around 40 years old..Moulana shouts what’s your name in urdu receiving a reply “Shahjahan” …Moulana says “SubhanAllah, aaj shahjaahan kor Noorjahan mil jayegi” everybody laughs…Shahjahan can’t hold his laughter so much so that he has to cover his face….it was good to see this…there was so much charity in this effort of making someone laugh from Moulana.. This is Shahjahan’s second marriage.. when Shajhan tells us that his wife and kid are dead from his first marriage, we are all paused with shock and sadness except the locals, it nothing new for them,..how do you lift the conversation from here…Moulana says to Shahjahan they are not dead..they have gone to Allah…Shahjalal smiles ..

Shahjahan and Noorjahan jokes carry on..

Just before Magrib we hear there is a hartal happening tomorrow, no one knows for definite yet, after Magrib namaz it is confirmed there is a hartal (stike) on the roads so no driving tomorrow..we are due to go Kumirgram..plans need to change..

I’m just lying down writing my blog..Ronnie,and Sajid are knocked out jn the room on their beds…Mamajee,walks through the door gesturing somebody else to come in.. here we go..who is it… It’s national tv… Mamajee convinced them to interview me… Mamajee tells national tv who to interview, where to stand, what questions to ask, orchestrates my speech. I’m just spurring out words.. words that are true but I’m just saying them… Mamajee is taking over.. he is controlling the media now…whilst in the background Ronnie and Sajid are knocked out sleeping..

After Esha namaz we go for a bike rikshaw ride with the rikshaw drivers from the rikshaw distribution earlier today. The most exciting place to visit by my tour guide is a British built bridge with no pillars…

Moulana Talha starts the bbq, the attendees are Moulanas, future Moulanas, Muftis and us boosroogs. The bbq meat is lovely with spicy baked beans, this is our 3rd meal with no fish….everyone is dong kidmat..to the point that a student is followingme around with a plastic chair…

we do mashwera and decide we should leave for our 6 hour journey straight away as the (hartal)strike begins at 6am lasting until magrib time..we pack light and leave for Kurigram at 12am.. 270km towards the northen country border.. the caravan has been joined by a mini caravan containing all the muftis and moulana….

The driver drives like a nutcase, nothing new but we’re still not use to it..we are just bouncing from left and right from overtaking manoeuvres.. Up and down from bumps and holes, and back and forth from fast acceleration and hard breaking…The side window is opened to get dome fresh air in…then suddenly Moulana Shoaib is vomiting out the window, a big stripe of vomit down the side of the car… We do mashwera after mashwera.. apparently, Moulan Zaharuddin says, this driving is normal, so we carry on… I’m tired and sleepy… Knocked out and have a terrible sleep but at least I slept……i feel sorry for people who were awake during the journey… Made it.iRonnie tells me Moulana Zaharuddin has been slapping, pinching and feeding the driver to ensure he stays awake.. We quickly do wuzu using the water pump fitted by caravan of mercy..The water is warm which is amazing…local tells me it’s like that…during the day its cold and during the night it’s warm……

We knock out straight after fajr namaz…today’s plan is to do the distribution of cows and 25 nikahs…it’s gonna be a long day..

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