Overland to Bangladesh 1973 – Part 12: Jessore to Rajshahi
Jessore to Rajshahi
I gave the hotel boy 5 taka to get me some breakfast and was rather disappointed when he returned with an apple, a banana and a cup of tea. The apple, of course, was imported and cost 4 taka.
I walked to the bank and, to my dismay, was told they did not have the right forms to cash traveller’s cheques. The manager was both embarrassed and wanting to help, so he gave me 10 taka from his pocket to get the bus to Khulna, where I should be able to get them changed – provided I got there before 1 pm. I walked smartly to the bus stop and caught the 11 am bus just as it was about to leave. It was supposed to be a one and a half hour journey, so I should reach Khulna by 12.30 pm in time to catch the bank before it closed.
The journey actually took two and a quarter hours and I was feeling pretty gloomy for the last half hour or so. The prospect of being stuck in Khulna, still with no cash, my luggage in Jessore and with a hotel manager and a scooter-taxi driver wanting their bills paid was not a pleasant one.
I took a rickshaw to where the banks were. The driver didn’t find the United Bank, which was where I was headed, but he did find National and Grindlays – and, wonder of wonders, they let me in and changed my last traveller’s cheques!
I celebrated my success with an excellent lunch at a hotel in Khulna. It served English food, which is often a recipe for disaster, but in this case, my soup, toast, fish cakes and chips, roast chicken and greens, fruit salad, all washed down with tea, really hit the spot. I then caught the next bus back to Jessore. On arrival, I took a rickshaw to the station in case there was a message from Hassan. There wasn’t. However, I found out that there was a direct train to Rajshahi at 9 pm every evening. I went to the Telegraph Office and sent telegrams to both Hassan and Rajshahi University, informing them that I planned to get tomorrow evening’s train.
When I eventually returned to the hotel, there was a reception committee of concerned creditors. I apologised for the wait they had had and settled my accounts.
The train journey to Rajshahi was an indicator of how poorly the country’s infrastructure worked. The train arrived at Jessore three hours late, during which time I had a long conversation with the luggage officer. Unfortunately, my journal doesn’t record what we discussed, though it is a reasonably good bet that Shakespeare’s Macbeth came up at some point. It usually did with English speakers of a certain age in those days in Bangladesh!
Although it was billed as direct, I had to change trains at Ishurdi at 7 am. The Rajshahi train came in at 2.15 pm and I reached my destination by late afternoon. On arrival, I was taken to the university guest house, where I lived for the next year.
Here endeth the journey! I eventually caught up with Hassan in Dacca. He had not received my messages.