Ever ready Fred
In the month of August monsoon rains over Southern Asia steadily deposit their liquid gold into the great river systems, and much of the resulting flood passes through the country of Bangladesh on its way to the Bay of Bengal. During dry season the country is crisscrossed by hundreds of channels in this delta region, but by August the swelling channels spill over and interlock. At this time the river Padma at the mouth of the great Ganges becomes a vast ocean fifteen miles from bank to bank. It was at this time my first auditing trip to Bangladesh was scheduled.
Fred traveled with me on river boats as we visited various locations. Now Fred was an interesting character who’d been in Bangladesh during their war of independence and it had taken its toll. Records for audit were in short supply and Fred and his family had been under immense pressure and desperately needed a holiday.
The whole population of Bangladesh had been traumatized by war events, prior to the country’s independence. Rivers had been awash with bodies during those unfortunate times, and even now, as we traveled, we were warned frequently by boat captains to be wary when the river boat docked at each port. Lawless elements armed with automatic weapons were known to board these boats, and it was wise to hide anything of value you didn’t want to lose. Travelers were warned by the captain of the craft whenever we approached a river port so we could consider our options in the event we were boarded by criminal elements.
We were on deck with animals and merchandise, and tried to find a comfortable place to bed down for the night on our bed rolls. Fred felt it would be safer there on deck in case the boat capsized. This was a common occurrence it seemed. At least we wouldn’t be drowned in a cabin should that happen though we were frequently rained on that night. It’s hard to sleep under those circumstances.
I’d been dozing fitfully in spite of the inconveniences, but occasionally forced myself to full consciousness to check things out. In the moonlight it appeared to my tired eyes Fred had left a book open as he slept on his side. I reached over to touch it just to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me. There was an instant response. Fred leaped up like an uncoiling spring, seized my arm, and glared into my face at close range. Almost as quickly he sank back to the deck and was soon sleeping peacefully again. My heart rate hit danger level during this event, and it took time for me to calm down and doze off again.
Next morning I laughingly asked Fred why he’d reacted so violently, and how he could return to sleep so quickly after his sudden spurt of energy. Fred couldn’t remember anything unusual happening, and I suspect he thought it was I who’d been dreaming.
Such was the tension everyone lived with during those unsettled times after Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan.
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