Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Srimongol has a corner that, to paraphrase the Poet Brooke, is forever Scotland.

The strong links between Bangladesh… literally, the land of Bengal, and Scotland, forged through the Jute trade that found a home in Dundee, are well known. A recent BBC programme explored the enduring emotions of those still living in Scotland who spent ‘the better part of their lives’ in this corner of the Indian subcontinent.

A less widely remembered price of Empire, perhaps, is the tea connection. From the mid nineteenth century, tea became increasingly important to the development of India, and remains a vital part of the economy of Bangladesh.

Under the clear skies of the part of North Eastern Bangladesh where tea gardens and rain forests abut the border with modern India, can be found the last resting places of yet more of the ‘Scots who made the Empire’ It is not hard to understand how some of the places they left in Scotland for their careers in Bengal appear mispelt on their monuments. The youth of so many whose eternal rest is in this foreign field suggests that they may not even have had much opportunity to establish themselves even with colleagues before succumbing to the climate and diseases. Perhaps the only surprise is that their monuments even came close to locating their far off homes.

Heritage Tourism is one of the prospects now unlocked, both to a Bengali diaspora who still feel associations with ancestral lands, including those who felt safer to migrate after partition, or those who fled the Liberation war and its troubled aftermath.

But also those whose forbears left their mortal remains forever in Bengal.

The sense of the price paid by young British people to secure and develop the Empire, losing their lives in these distant lands, can easily induce some melancholia in the visitor, reflecting upon the cost.

It is a sense that also invades the tranquility of the War Graves at Comilla and Chittagong, where, wandering the neat rows of monuments, perhaps the most striking thing is the youth of those who came, and never returned home.

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