Home > Asia > Bangladesh > Fishful thinking: What local friendships can do
local friendships

We wholeheartedly thank our dear Paola for sending us this beautiful and poetic article, which she wrote while she was living in Bangladesh.


My experience of fishing is limited. In the sixties, when we were teenagers growing up in Tanzania, my older brother enjoyed harpoon fishing.

‘You go with him,’ my mother would say to me, ‘just in case’.

So I would float under the scorching sun in an inner tube over a reef in the immense Indian Ocean, far from the shore. A long rope connected my tube to my brother’s waist. He’d disappear underwater, and resurface every now and then with a rock-cod, lobster, stingray or moray eel, which he secured to another rope fortuitously out of reach of my toes. Goodness knows what I would have done in an emergency in those pre-mobile phone days. Being The Titch, I never got to fish.

So recently I was delighted to receive an invitation from my friend Sister Gloria.

‘I’m going fishing with my family; would you like to join us?’

A chance to relax with a Bangladeshi friend! Would I miss it? It took me two hours to cover the twenty or so miles to the village of Bhadun, in the industrial suburb of Gazipur District, just north of Dhaka. The roads were more chaotic than usual, with Muslims preparing for the upcoming Eid-ul Azha festival. Business was brisk at makeshift roadside cattle markets. And that same day, Hindus were flocking to temples to observe Durga Puja.

Off the main road, a raised track flanked by carpets of pink waterlily-covered marshes led to a different world, a Roman Catholic retreat centre.

Father Terence, who wore a T-shirt bearing a picture of a fish and the words Fishful Thinking, welcomed us. Sister Gloria, her three sisters, and their families, had arrived earlier in the day. After a simple lunch of spicy chicken and dahl, we strolled through the vegetable garden to the to the pond.

As we stood on a low step, out feet in the water, shoals of tiddler tilapias swarmed to snack on our feet. Free skin therapy, I thought.

Our rods were bamboo canes, with a line, float and hook. Our bait was chapatti dough. The tiddlers were expert at just nibbling off the bait, but occasionally squeals of ‘Boro, boro, boro!’—‘Big, big, big!’—filled the air. I was delighted to catch two boro ones.

We fished till dusk, with Sister Gloria’s tiny niece happily rolling chapatti dough into mini-marbles for us.

‘Shall we swim?’ I suggested. Everyone was keen.

‘What shall I wear?’

‘Anything you like,’ Sister Gloria said, ‘except a bikini.’

I opted for leggings and an oversized T-shirt; everyone else swam fully clothed. The half-moon reflected the surrounding vegetation in the water, and the words peace, peace, peace, shanti, shanti, shanti rang through my head. We swam, we splashed, we giggled, we floated.

Once we’d showered and changed, we gathered in the garden around the statue of Mary to recite the rosary.

The rosary was a regular feature of my Catholic boarding school days, but the formal religion of my childhood, despite years of practice—or perhaps because of it—has been neglected for years.

But this was different. With the evening call of the muezzin from the mosque on our left, drums pounding at the Durga Puja celebration on our right, the symphony of crickets in the trees above, and the foxes yapping in the distance, the quiet recitation of the rosary in Bangla seemed just right.


Paola Fornari
Originally published in The Oldie

Since you are here...

...may we ask you to buy us a caffe ? We are joking of course, but there is something we would like to tell you. You might have noticed that Expatclic has no ads or paywall. For 19 years we have been working voluntarily to provide quality contents and support to expat women all over the world. However, keeping such a big website going has some costs, which we partially cover with team member’s fees and donations of those who appreciate us and wants our work to continue. If you could give even a tiny contribution to cover the rest, we would be immensely grateful ♥ You can support us with a small donation, even a small one. Thank you so very much.
Notify of

0 Commenti
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments