Yesterday was the start of a 3 day festival, called Chakma Raj Punyah, which I think translates to Chakma King’s Festival. Or something. As far as I can tell it’s something that is meant to be held yearly, but due to logistical and/or technical issues this festival hasn’t been held since 2003. So I’m lucky to be here this year to witness it.
The Chakma King has traditionally received tax from all people in his kingdom (or circle, of which the Chakma King is the circle chief for Rangamati and also parts of Khagrachari). All the headmen of each mouza (or district) gathered yesterday to symbolically pay their constituency’s (I’m well aware that my terminology is somewhat lacking here …) taxes to the King. And please liberally add ‘I think’ into all statements of fact in that description, because, as always, it’s quite hard to ascertain exactly what is going on.
Nevertheless, here are some photos.
Chanchu and I got into the VIP shaded, seated area. Which is easy to do when one is a foreigner in this land. During our pre-departure VSO training we had a case study session where we are presented with scenarios such as ‘You have contracted malaria and are taken to the local hospital. There is only one doctor, and hundreds of waiting patients, some seriously ill. You are rushed to the front of the queue when you arrive. How do you react?’. And we all say ‘No, I should not get special treatment just because I am a foreigner/white. I will wait my turn in the queue, like everyone else’. As IF. I do think we all believe that’s how we’d react before we arrive in country (and given a hospital situation, I still might) but I, for one, am MORE than happy to get a comfy chair on account of my foreign-ness. Yes, I doubt I’ll be winning Volunteer of the Year award any time soon…
And speaking of VIP, I was interviewed by TV news channels yesterday. 5 to be precise. A friend of Chanchu’s asked if I’d mind being interviewed, and I, thinking he was a newspaper man, said sure, why not. Next thing I know, 4 mikes are pointed at me, along with a camera getting way too close to get a good angle of me. They asked for my thoughts on the festival and how I was enjoying it. I started with ‘Well, I’ve only just arrived, and nothing has actually happened yet…’, but clearly THAT was the wrong answer, so I ended with ‘so many very important people enjoying the festival from all over the country, with lots of marching bands and festival activities, it’s all very exciting and I am so glad I am able to experience this amazing occasion’. When another guy wondered over later to ask for another interview, I come over all ‘sure, where do you want me? Is this angle good? Where is the makeup girl?’.
I will I adjust back home, where I can’t skip queues, or get into VIP areas and aren’t interviewed by news stations just because I’m there. I expect my ‘reintegration’ will involve a serious fall back down to earth, back onto a planet where I’m ignored in the streets, no one asks me where I’m going and small children don’t follow me around. It’ll all seem so… dull.
Tonight I’m meeting The Other Foreigner in Town, to play bingo at the festival. Don’t reeeally understand how exactly this will pan out, but bingo it is. Then travelling to Dhaka tomorrow for a few days, and to celebrate New Year. Twice.