In 2002 during a missions trip to Bangladesh, I passed through a town named Chandpur.
Like all towns we visited in Bangladesh, our party was the biggest thing around, with everyone crowding around us to stare at the ‘rich’ white people.
The opportunity to peddle their wares inevitably arose, and you felt like their lives depended on it…
The Charlatans of Chandpur
He waits at the side of the road.
I approach, and the starter turns over, the pistons dance,
the exhaust coughs out.
Stupidly, I climb aboard.
A wooden bowl? No thanks. Ten already at home.
Pocket calculator? As useful in Bangladesh as a snake bite.
How about some jute table mats? I sigh.
The rumbling want in his stomach drives his bartering,
accelerating; as smooth as a V-8,
nippy as a hatchback,
powerful as a Mac truck.
We twist and turn over every rocky undulation, needing no directions
– I am impressed with the fuel economy.
I laugh at the absurdity of it all, and he enjoys being laughed at.
As we slip into overdrive I purchase his inflated laughter;
a snigger is tossed back as change.
Changing down, we arrive at the destination:
I disembark, loaded with his wares,
and watch him pull away –
suddenly realising I have again been taken for a ride
by another one of
the Charlatans of Chandpur.