Across the world, names mean something. The names of people, places, even countries and continents reveal an often unsuspected history.
England speaks volumes as the Land of the Angles, a people known to hail from the northern lands of mainland Europe, or Bangladesh, as the , with a history of thousands of years, rather than 38 years since liberation, then so much is in the name. Land of Bengal
Arriving at the tiny community of Jahajpura, half way between Teknaf and Cox’s Bazar along the breathtakingly beautiful longest sea beach in the world, the translation raises
Hollywood style visions. Burning ship. A kind of ‘Master and Commander’ experience from the film of the Patrick O’Brien novel.
The image of a battered galleon, beached and burning after an encounter in which the nations of Europe fought out their titanic struggle for domination of the riches and trade of
Asia, springs readily to mind.
It transpires, however, that the reality is somewhat more prosaic. Pura means ‘burning’, Jahaj means ‘ship’. But it also means ‘ship of the air’. Airplane!
Speculation about the age of the community is rapidly foreshortened. It was not a small sea edge community watching, uncomprehending, as huge ships wreathed themselves with gunsmoke to the deafening sound of canonfire, and battered each other into submission; rather, it is a community born in the age of air conflict.
Nevertheless, this tiny community that ekes out a living from the sea, the beach, and cultivation of rice and vegetables, and where they still build sea going craft that look as though their pattern derives from Viking times, bears, through its name, testimony to a brief, traumatic, time when their peace was shattered by a conflict of which they probably had little knowledge and no understanding.
The ‘ship of the air’ it transpires, was probably a Japanese warplane, shot down by a Spitfire from nearby Cox’s Bazar, where Indian pilots were based. No doubt that shooting was watched by more contemporary villagers with no knowledge or understanding of the conflict!
When history is in the name, then a greater appreciation of travel is possible. And it never really takes long to discover some, at least, of what that name can reveal.