Hay in a Sari
Hay in Bangladesh. Hay in a sari. Hay, whose symbol in Dhaka, it seems to me, is the multiple-branched banyan tree in the courtyard whose aerial roots reach from air to earth, drawing on as rich a culture as all that flourishes around it – writers, audience, festival-goers, ushers in bright Hay tee-shirts or saris. Dhaka is loud with language, car horns, streets teeming with people, battered buses, cars and elaborately hooded bicycle-rickshaws, banned, I am told, in most Indian cities. The people in this place are generous, charming and beautiful.
Volunteer students usher us to cars, venues, and onto stage for our several appearances. Anika Saba is assigned to me. She is an English undergraduate in her last year at Dhaka University, who shyly admitted she studied my wotk for A-Level here at school in Dhaka. She is never far away with tea, a hand when we are making our way on ground made rough by banyan roots, or through a crowd to a place in the front row of a concert.. Lat night we sat out under the stars to hear folk and rock music entirely in Bangla. By day we listen to writers, and are listened to by audiences who love their novelists and their poets, writing in any of the many languages of India. Many show a great interest in Wales, and the Welsh language. They compare parallel situations - bilingualism, the effects on a culture of colonialism – they question us with curiosity and intelligence. Yesterday there was a small pro-Bangla protest. Today we have watched a production of the play within a play scene from Hamlet, in Bangla and with a Bangladeshi setting.
In the closing hours of celebration, with dancers, music, colour, and the Prime Minister’s arrival even Hamlet will cheer up and join the cheer. The map of the known world has changed for me forever.