Abū Abd al-Lāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Lāh l-Lawātī ṭ-Ṭanǧī ibn Baṭūṭah alias Ibn Batuta recently visited Bangladesh after nearly seven hundred years. This week the Star brings you an exclusive travelogue in the words of this renowned traveller.
Last night I dreamt that I was roaming around the Buriganga. I was so intrigued by this dream that I decided to visit Bangladesh once more. It was around three in the morning. I was checking out routes on Google Map when my beloved wife came to me, rubbing her sleepy eyes, pointing to the map as she said, “Is it possible to see India from Bangladesh?” I could feel my anger rising but calmly replied in the negative. She frowned and said, “But they look so close to each other in the map!” I used to think in the same way once upon a time but now realise how foolish it is and so didn't reply to her questions.
So in the middle of the night, I called a travel agent and asked them to book a ticket for me on the Bangladesh Airlines. I got my visa and papers on time but when we boarded the plane, it just wouldn't start. After an hour, a middle-aged airhostess came to our cabin and I asked her, “Will we be flying today or will it take some more days to take off?” She politely replied, “Sir, our pilot discovered some arbitrary problems in the engine. So we had to change the pilot, and that's why we are a bit late.”
After this tedious encounter, I'm glad to say that we reached Bangladesh safely. The airport officials know me quite well but they did not release my goat that I had kept for fresh milk, and they also took away the butter bundle my wife packed in my luggage to keep me healthy during the journey. I know Bangladesh is a developing country but no one steals my goat and butter and gets away with it!
After Gandhi, I am the second person to have lost his goat in Bangladesh. When a government official came to receive me at the airport, I handed over a letter titled 'I want my goat back', addressed to the democratic Queen of Bangladesh. The queen is a very smart, learnt person. In order to strengthen her hold on the country and its people, she has employed many scholars, writers, poets and entertainers who are paid to praise the new leadership. These characteristics are very similar to the Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq, who kept the same species of entertainers near him so that they could keep heaping praise on him.
The newspapers extensively covered my visit. But I didn't like the picture they published. Most newspapers published a snap where I am carrying my goat and my entourage, which consisted of ten employees, walking behind me, distributing the burden of my beard between them. It was absolutely insulting.
On my way to the Buriganga, I saw many people drifting around aimlessly. When I had visited this region during the Tughluq era, it was a land of rivers and trees. Now I could see that people have become as fertile as the lands themselves! There are people everywhere. People who love to shop, people who are curious about everything, even a routine image of an old man with a long beard and ten servants seem to amuse them.
The Queen presented me with a huge bungalow and allocated some pocket money for me, which was not as much as the Tughluq had given me but it was still enough. I directly asked her for my goat but she said that the earlier regime had gifted goats to the poor people and in her opinion, too many goats led to a poor nation. As she didn't want to encourage poverty, she informed me that she had banned goats in Bangladesh. When I still looked upset, the divine Queen presented me with a cow.
Interestingly for the first time in my life, I actually saw black water. I didn't even know such a thing existed. The stench, the rotting ferries and dilapidated ships and colourful garbage seemed to add an aura of mystery to the river. (I have to praise the river since the Queen paid me a good amount of money). All in one, this was a mind blowing trip. If only my goat were with me to enjoy it!
As told to Ananta Yusuf
Disclaimer: All news, views, characters, persons and institutions in this article are purely fictitious. Any resemblance to anyone/anything real is purely coincidental.