Imagine taking a step back in time.
Back to a time when blacksmiths forge tools, sharpen knives on stones and cut keys by hand.
A time when meals are cooked on the coals of a mud stove and where fishing nets hang from bamboo frames as they are lowered into the water.
A time when bricks are formed by hand and laid out in long rows to dry in the sun before being baked in the fire.
A time when nurses still wear white hats and where medical procedures are a generation behind.
A time when horse-drawn carts, bicycles and rickshaws clog the roads, not cars.
A time before LG and Fisher Paykell, when clothes are washed on rocks on the water’s edge then laid out on the straw to dry.
A time when water is pumped from the ground and carried back to the house in a large urn, usually balanced on your head.
A time when everything is weighed on a scale with counterweights – from a single potato to 80kg bags of rice.
A time with no refrigeration so each day you make the trip to the market to buy the fresh ingredients for the day.
A time when children play with old tyres and fashion cricket bats out of pieces of timber.
A time before coffee machines and cafés, where people meet at a roadside tea stall for a hot brew and a chat instead.
You don’t have to look too hard to find all of these time-warps and more in Bangladesh. A country where the industrial revolution and machinery has not made people and manual labour redundant. From shovelling sand, to harvesting rice, to directing traffic, to digging up roads, to chopping down trees, to sweeping the streets, to transporting food to market – these jobs are all done by people, by hand.
The result is this sensation that you have somehow landed in another dimension. Only the appearance of a mobile phone or the odd wifi signal reminds you that you are in fact in the twenty-first century and not the 1950’s.
It is this simplicity and preservation of skills that I have loved to watch this past week. However, I have realised fairly quickly what a lazy, easy life I have compared to the average Bangladeshi. While my job is mentally taxing, at the end of the day I have spent eight hours seated in a comfy chair, not hunched over, harvesting rice or planting vegetables.
I know I live a privileged life in the lucky country, but sometimes it takes experiences like these to remind you of this and to make you take stock.
Sadly, for me it is almost time to return to 2014.
x Sonia x