"A small fry bustles in shallow water"

Bangladeshi Proverb


It was late morning now. The temperature in Sylhet had settled at almost balmy forty five degrees celsius and the skies were devoid of any clouds, just tinged with a yellowish haze that was caused by the 1.2 million inhabitants shuffling around the yellowish dust that seemed omnipresent and the thousands of diesel powered rikshas thundering through the streets. Even though it was now the middle of the twentyfirst century, cars and trucks were still mainly powered by hydrocarbons, as the government of Bangladesh never managed to establish an infrastructure suitable for electric individual- and public transport, and so continued to be one of the largest importers of oil in the world until the floods devastated the country.

Since the 2048 floods the government of Bangladesh had ceased to exist, and with Chittagong wiped out and Dhaka severely affected there was not much left to be governed anyway. More than two thirds of the original 300 million Bangladeshis had sought refuge in the surrounding countries, venturing in long, dangerous treks on foot, bicycle and truck as far as Indonesia to the east and Afghanistan in the West. Most Central Asian- and South Eastern Asia countries now had sizeable Bangladeshi minorities (there were now 30 million Bengali refugees living in Kandahar province in Afghanistan, outnumbering the local population by one in thirty and as a beneficial side-effect completely stopping any residual fighting) but India had finally given into the geopolitical demands of the surrounding nations and completely sealed the border. That left 100 million residuals in Bangladesh proper that now had shrunk to ca 80.000 square kilometer, pushing its population density even further.

Jamal was aware that there was no future for him here. Even though his skills as an environmental engineer were sorely needed, there was no governmental or private entity left to employ him. The proceeds from the sales from his flat were - though quite handsome for Bangladeshi standards - not sufficient to continue financing his life here forever. The meagre wages he received from the university were just enough to pay for his food, but everything else had to come out of his own pocket, and with the hundreds and thousands of refugees now populating the region prices had rocketed. He knew he had to get out of Sylhet and make it to one of the remaining industrialised nations. He was sure his skillset would be sorely needed in one of the embattled North Atlantic countries, but getting there would be tricky. Sylhet airport was now a tent city and since the floods there was no more air traffic in and out of Bangladesh anywhere. One option would be to trek through Manipur to Myanmar and try to buy a seat on a plane out of Rangoon or Naypyidaw, but since the Indian government had sealed the borders, the only way to get there was illegally, and the rumour mill was rife with stories what the Indian border patrol did with illegal immigrants.

Rumours were one of the problems he had to deal with daily: since the collapse of the central government there was no money left for the municipalities to maintain the power plants, and electricity had to be produced by individual households with ancient Chinese photovoltaic modules that were smuggled in via Nepal and Bhutan. These provided enough energy to supply light and airconditioners, but there were almost no telecommunication facilities in the whole of Sylhet. Even the Universities satellite dishes were useless since they were unable to pay Sky Asia for their monthly bandwidth. Wireless mobile communication was impossible since most of the mobile masts had been scavenged by the refugees to raise semipermanent tent structures and all fibre-optic and copper landlines were useless as the Indian telecoms who owned the infrastructure ceased maintaining them due to the Bangladeshi government ceasing to pay for them. There was nevertheless a single, heavily fortified UN outpost in Sylhet outpost that coordinated the meagre foreign aid response. With a bit of luck and some cash he might be able to convince one of the aid workers to send a message to Bente.

He closed the shutters on his windows, grabbed his backpack, stuffed a couple of oranges and a large bottle of water in it and locked the door behind him. Outside his room the corridor was full of smells from the broken lavatories and his colleagues who hadn't washed themselves for some days now (the water supply was rather sporadic) and he took the stairs to the ground floor. Before venturing outside the sturdy doors of the engineering department, he fastened his facemask and his sunglasses, made sure no skin was exposed to the sun and with trepidation stepped outside.


Qaqortoq: Chapter III | Qaqortoq: Chapter V

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