Madhabpur Lake, in Srimongal.

After our jungle treck in the Lawachara rain forest (see my post yesterday), and a vaguely Indian lunch in a Srimongal restaurant (the Nan had the fluffy thickness of brioche, very different from Indian Nan, but the dal was just the way I love it, with lots of coriander, not too dry, and not too liquid either), our guide took us to a tribal village, and then to Madhabpur Lake.

Apparently, people indigenous to the states of Bihar, Orissa and Assam were brought to this area by the British to work in the tea gardens, and pineapple, rubber, and lemon plantations. These ethnic minorities seem to live in isolated communities ; most practice Hinduism, some are Christians, and their prospects are very limited. We saw a young woman at a weaving loom (picture below) : the cloth they produce is for Aarong, a fair trade organization established by the BRAC NGO and a well-known and beautifully supplied shop in Dhaka, and most cities around Bangladesh.

Our children had an absolute ball playing with the village goats. I'm not sure the goats enjoyed their visit quite as much.

After the village, we headed for Madhabpur Lake, the short journey offering a few more photo opportunities.

Tea shop, one of many. Just as in India, rare is a corner without a small shack selling tea - usually served in a glass.

Nothing had prepared me for the sight of the lake and its surroundings. Carpets of purple lotus flowers hem the borders of a lake with multiple arms, so wide we could not see the whole expanse of it. A very short hike takes you to the top of the low hills planted with tea bushes, and from there, the view is simply breathtaking. We were there just before dusk, and watched the sun go down, its reddening disk reflected in the water below. As we waited for some of our companions still taking pictures, I joined our guide, a very tall young student from the area, who was sitting by the lake. He told me that a few weeks earlier, he had taken his girlfriend to this very spot, declared his love, and asked her to marry him. Which is why he sat there.

The following day, as we were walking through tea gardens, I asked him about his fiancée. She’s a student like him and they met at university. Of course, I had to ask him about arranged marriage in Hindu communities. He told me this was no longer compulsory.

Next post, we’ll go back to Srimongal for a bit of boating in the Baikka Beel (Wetlands), and for the children (to their immense delight and their parents’ dismay) a fully clothed dip in the river running at the foot of the Red Hill, after going through a tea garden and a rubber plantation.

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