Before I came to Bangladesh I considered the pros and cons of blogging as a way of sharing stories with family and friends. I worried though that a day-to-day record, by virtue of its very inclusiveness, could be tedious to read and come across as overly self-indulgent. Indeed, the idea of any kind of public, ‘personal’ blog seemed both self-indulgent and narcissistic. I questioned too whether such a process would merely feed into current disturbing trends towards voyeurism and exhibitionism. But then I remembered my friends telling me how much they had enjoyed, and looked forward to, reading my letters during my last extended (pre-Internet) period abroad. It’s hard to believe now that I used to write so many long freehand letters. (I remember too the thrill of collecting bundles of post at designated post-offices along my route.) However, since then I have a lot more friends scattered around the globe and ‘writing’ now feels alien without a keyboard. Upon reflection, I thought it might be a little more interesting for you, the reader, if I posted less often and retrospectively. So, by selecting from my journal I hope to be able to illuminate the past from the vantage point of the present. I am trying to keep the tone and flavour of my original diary notes. Hopefully, my entry (albeit hesitant) to the world of blogging will help me to stitch together a picture of Bangladesh for those who might be interested, admittedly, of course, as viewed through my own personal lens. The exercise might also militate against my tendency to write too often in the abstract.
There is one problem: one of the main reasons behind the blog was to stay in touch with family and friends. In this regard I am failing miserably. In fact, the ‘blog’ is now proving to be an obstacle to keeping in touch, because I keep deferring e-mail contact until such time as I can include the link. It is now more about sharing experiences, even if a little belatedly.
In my defence, it is very easy to find excuses for not blogging in Bangladesh. Frequent power cuts and poor (or no) Internet connection are just two. (The simple act of trying to send an e-mail has been known to almost reduce me to tears!) Furthermore, there is always something new to experience in Bangladesh and I never want to miss a thing. Any free time that remains is spent keeping my journal up to date and so I constantly procrastinate when it comes to blogging.
In any event, I hope I can bring some of my experiences in Bangladesh to life through this ‘blog’ – albeit retrospectively. I know though that words can be a blunt enough instrument at times. I am always struggling with the inadequacy of language – whether it be the written or the spoken word – to express the ‘essential’. It seems to me that every day we do a lot of talking but say little: it’s as if we feel obliged to fill the silence. (It rang true then when I read that Carlos Fuentes described writing as ‘a struggle against silence’.) One of the reasons that I love to write is that it gives me a way of negotiating meaning: it is through the act of writing (and reflecting, and dialoguing, and revising and revising again) that I create a form of ‘knowing’. And like the writer, Michener, ‘I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions’. There are experiences though, that, for me, possess an inexpressible and at the same time essential silent beauty, or poignancy, or sublimity. Perhaps the essential is incommunicable, or is it that the unsayable is essential? For now, the answer remains a mystery and my quest continues. (Maybe it’s a little like the slippage that occurs between languages when there is no word in one language to adequately describe the meaning of a word or concept in another.) In the meantime, I have a lexicon of words at my disposal, which, with the help of photographs and other media, will describe what can be articulated, in a way that will hopefully enable you, dear reader, to share something of my experiences in Bangladesh.