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Bangladesh

In 1999 I retired from teaching and was enjoying retirement. Then a personal event changed the direction of my life. I found myself living alone again and in a small house. I became hermitlike. At the urgings of my sister, I decided to seek work overseas.

I applied for a job teaching English in Hong Kong. I flew to Sydney
for a job interview. Eventually I taught in England for almost two years. Buoyed by this overseas experience, I sought a teaching job in Bangladesh.

I spent fourteen months as Head of the Australian
International School
in Dhaka. During this time I met many wonderful people and learnt so much.

In writing this story, I thank the people of Bangladesh, and the urgings of Jo Casey, a teacher at AusIS in Dhaka, whose comments encouraged me to continue with the writing of this story. I especially thank Julie Gee whose love and support carried me through.

Crash! The huge white animal thundered onto the paving and the sound echoed throughout the first floor car park. It seemed like its rib bones were crushed into a thousand pieces as it hit the paving.

Moments earlier, the Brahman swayed with fear as ropes were thrown over its bulk and tightened around its feet. These ropes were tied to trees either side of the short drive way that lead to the apartment block. With much heaving and shouting, men, who seemed dwarfed by the beast, caused the animal to fall.

Across the road, in front of the Swedish Embassy, another cow was uttering its final, fearful bellows as it awaited the same fate. Its eyes bulged from its skull as it strained against ropes around its neck and then sadly emptied the contents of its bowels onto the ground.

The head of the fallen animal was wrenched back to reveal a red and yellow sash around its neck. The sash was cut and discarded as a quick prayer was uttered. With one slash, its neck was opened and copious red blood spurted out.

The animal kicked as life drained from its body and it gave feeble attempts to break free. One of the men began hosing the blood as it ran across the pavers and streamed towards the dusty road. Further slashes of the sharp knife ensured the animal’s demise.

Almost at once, men scrambled around and over the carcass. They began to cut into the animal with sharp knives. Methodically the body and entrails were parted. Work began to expertly strip the hide.

Soon it was stretched over a stack of other hides near the heads of several slain animals. Nearby were smaller black carcasses of goats which now hung between the trees and dripped blood onto the ground.

Within minutes the Brahman had been cut up and large sections were slung onto narrow shoulders and carried across the road to a makeshift butcher shop. Here in the middle of the cane poles and Hessian bag walls which rose about waist high, sat men hacking the flesh into smaller pieces. Even more men picked up the smaller portions and started off away into the city.

Rod watched this spectacle with amazement. He thought, If only Marcus and Murph were here to see it too !’

His father, Michael , moved around the ceremony taking many photos with his new digital. Every moment of this event was to be caught.

Rod briefly thought about shielding his eyes from the gory spectacle but watched in awe. He didn’t know it but this event was being repeated thousands of times, on this Friday, throughout the country.

Three Germans, working for a UN aid agency stood with their guide and also took photos. Rod spoke with them, as he moved away, and made his way down the street to where their driver, Zoltan, who sat waiting and reading a newspaper. When Zoltan saw them coming he jumped out and opened the door. As Michael got into the front seat, he gave a small yelp of pain.

“What’s up Little Boss?”

“Oh, nothing…. just a pain in my leg.! Must have slightly twisted in one of those large holes along the edge of the road.”

“Right, I’ll be around tonight and give you a massage.”

Travelling back to their apartment, Rod was deep in thought. What he’d seen this morning was another piece in the jigsaw of the culture that made up his their life. What a fantastic path they’d travelled since leaving home. Where would the path lead next?’ Where will it continue for him and his father?

* * *
* * * * * *

The final rays of sunshine skimmed across the Indian Ocean and shadows began to form on the still warm sands of Scarborough
Beach. A few clouds of deepening crimson scouted the horizon.

It had been a hot Australian summer’s day. Three boys were amongst those staying on the beach to soak up the coolness brought by the strengthening sea breeze. Fishermen were beginning to set rods and cast lines into the gentle rolling surf. It was about now tailor swam close to the shore chasing schools of white bait. Sharp baited hooks and spinning lures flashed through the ocean waiting for them.

Rod and Murph sat facing the sea as Marcus raced out of the surf and up the gentle slope to where they sat. The boys dangled their legs over the sand ridge which had been sculptured by the continuous cycle of the waves.