Posted on May 5, 2019
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After the events of last night I fully expected a night full of tossing and turning. I thought every noise would wake me from a sleep that was in reality just a disguised form of consciousness. But I was wrong. I had a restful full nights sleep. I can probably attribute that to the emotional drain of the evens just hours before.
My decision was made before I fell asleep. I’m heading back to India.
If the police are so concerned about my safety then how can I not be equally concerned? I am not sure who is who or what the new day will bring. But I am sure that I don’t want to live in constant wonder of what evil may lurk here.
There were two deadbolts on the door. Not strong deadbolts that would instill a sense of safety but deadbolts that could be bypassed with a swift kick from a five year old. The outside of the door has a stronger lock to be used when I am gone from the room.
In the back of my mind the thoughts that I am actually a prisoner still lingers. I am in my ‘cell’ and the outside world swirling with the unknown is just beyond that door. I get ready to get some breakfast. Sliding the wanna-be deadbolt at the bottom of the door and then the one at the top I push the door and instantly feel resistance.
It won’t open.
Immediately the fear that I am locked in from the outside causes a sudden rush of panic. I quickly look down and notice that I didn’t fully disengage one of the deadbolts. I slide it all the way open and push the door not knowing if I was free to go or not.
With a sigh of relief the door opened and I made my way to the lobby. I am going to breakfast I told the man behind the desk.
“Please. Sit” he said as he gestured towards one of the couches. The smile on his face looked friendly enough but who am I to know if the intentions were genuine or if something else was going on.
He summoned the English speaking guest and had him escort me to breakfast. We talked about Bangladesh and I expressed my concerns about staying in the country. He didn’t need to say much but it was enough to have me change my mind. I assured myself that the events of the night before were more a mass of confusion based on me being tired, the language barrier, multiple unknown people involved and the seemingly extreme concern for my safety. It is funny how the mind works when set in the right circumstances.
Time to get on the road.
I readied my bicycle with a number of police next to me. One of them had a stick which he used to push people back. I don’t mind the crowds that I attract and I thought this was unnecessary but I am clueless about my role in this little security endeavor.
Seven police crowd into some sort of tuktuk/truck with the stick-wielding Buford Pusser wannabe planted firmly in the back. There was a little comical skirmish as the police found their place in the vehicle which made me laugh.
I soon found out how thing would work. The police would escort me on the entire trip. About every ten miles or so a new crew would take over. Some were on motorbikes, some in trucks. Some with shotguns, some without. I would stop wherever I wanted to eat or drink and they would follow suit.
At one point the rain started coming down pretty hard. If I were alone I would just keep going with my rain jacket to protect me but the two officers on the motorbike had no rain gear. I stopped at the first place I found that could shelter all of us. I wonder if they would have just followed me if I continued or if they would have had me pull over so they could get out of the rain.
All in all the police have been good. One time when I stopped for food and drink one of the officers paid for my purchases and said “You are my friend. You are my guest”. Down the road more officers would pay for my food and drink as well.
When we arrived in one town I was taken to the police station where they had lunch prepared for me. Every stop comes with lots of conversations. People are curious about my trip and they will congregate and ask questions if they speak English. I found out that Google Translate does pretty go with Bengali.
Although I feel a little constrained in what I do I am getting better at just doing my thing and expecting the police to go along with me. If I see a picture I want to get I will stop and get it. If someone wants a selfie as I ride by I will stop and allow them to take some selfies.
Do you think the police know what to expect when they are told they are going to follow an American on his bicycle? After they get some selfies at every crew change I get mine. I interact with the local people just as I would if I was on my own and the police seem to enjoy seeing the interactions.
After doing a little research and posting questions on bicycle forums on Facebook I found out that this practice is not uncommon. While many cyclists in the past have not had escorts many recently have. The police told me escorts have increased since the bombings in Sri Lanka just a few weeks ago. Those attacks put the police herevon higher alert.
I guess I was happy to hear that I am not an unusual case. While I feel safe wherever I go I feel that the Bangladesh government does not want any bad press if something were to happen to a visitor so they err on the side of caution and use their resources based squarely on prevention. How successful that is will be something I can answer after I cross the border back into India.
Advantages of a police escort.
There are some benefits to having a police escort. At times I feel like I am in the Tour de France leading the pack as I head for the Champs Elyse in France. At times I get many waves and people shouting hello but the crowds are nothing like the Tour de France.
When I need to change some American currency for Bangladesh taka I hop on the back of the police motorcycle and he takes me for a ride searching the city for a currency exchanger.
When I need a SIM card – they know where to go. After we walk into a lobby full of waiting customers the customer service rep punches her magic code into the kiosk and we get number C0001. Next!!
Where should I eat? Who knows better than a cop? They take me to the places they like so I never have to wonder if my choice of a restaurant was good or bad. There is something mach about walking up the stairs to a rooftop restaurant behind a guy carrying a shotgun. From now until the end of time I can always say I am not a mob king, but I played one in Bangladesh.