This morning began with Shazi Anwar, our wonderful host, picking up from our hotel, and Richard going to the airport to prep. the aircraft and sort out the flight clearances whilst I heasded off to the bank to speak to all the staff from all the branches in Calcutta- some 380 of them!
I was expecting a somewhat qiet gathering on arrival, but found them all wiating by the enterance to the bamnk, with myseof being we3locomed by the sound of amyriad conch shells being blown in my honour, whilst I was formally greetid with a beautiful shawl around my shoulders, and I was approached by a person bearing a hors-shoe shaped wicker tray with three earthenware bowls on it, one containing insence sticks, another a bowl of oil with a lit cotton wick sybolising a gift of light, and the third bowl containing vermillion that was placed on my forehead. I was then showered with beautiful fore petals as I walked tyhrough the crowds of bank staff, with the conch shells playing loudly, a great sign of honour, marking an auspicious person and occasion. (audio MP3 file attached)
To say I was taken by surprise was a massive understatement as they then started clapping and chanting my anme- a very humbling experience to be welcomed so warmly, and I was just sorry that Richard was not there to shar in the occasion.
After a welcoming address by Shazi I ha the oportunity to speak to the assembled staff for an hour, with Sjhazi presenting both Riochard and myself with colour paintings of Calcutta to take back to reind us of our wonderful time with them all.
Thank you so much, SCHB Calcutta!
At the airport I really struggled to get through security to join Richard on the other side, with them demanding boarding cars, flight numers, air tickets. Atttempting to tell them I am actually a pilot geading off to my own aricraft simly left them talking toghether in their natigve tongue, exhasperated by this silly blind man standing there with his white stick- I even began to think how stupid it all souded, and decided I would try something compoetely different next time, lke my friend is over there lling for me, or something more plausale.
Shazi and her colleagues managd to get clearance to come out to the microlight to say cheerio to us, watching us, pouring with sweat on this very hot and humid morning, putting on our layers of fleeces under our thermal flying suits, adding a balaclave over my face wet with sweat running down it, with us explaining that, at 9,500 feet, we would need the warm clothing!
We took off feeling very special, and humbled by all the bank had been doing for us absolutely everywhere we have gone on this flight so far- thank you all so very much!
My flight gidance system was not ooperating very well this morning, with my compass and angle of bank not functining, leaving me with limited information to fly by, but the flight was very pleasant none the same, with a pleasant mildness even at 9,500 feet, and Richard describing the atmospheric soup wewere flying through reducing our vsion.
Our approah into Dhaka was reversed for half an hour, with the AC sending us back for 30 minutes, due to the airport bieng closed for thatperiod- aVIP coming in apparently!Our landing brought the stifling heat back to us, and I ended up protecting the aircraft from passing Jumbo Jet slip streams, and I was then engulfed by all the pretty air hostesses from a recently landed Air India flight from Delhi.
They had apparently read the newspaer articles doing the rounds in India with our photo, and all wanted to say hello and congratulate us for our progress to date- I was so bemused by the visitation that I forgot to get a photo of them all!Richard arranged hangaragte with the local airo clup, who very kindly provided us with hangar space, and, after a long, long taxi to the oposite side of the big airfield. we cleared customs, beig met once again by our wonderfully hospitable bank, this time in the form of Shahmasud Imam,M, Head of corporate affairs in bangladesh, accompanied by bys colleague Saqib Sarkar.We were amazed to hear thast stories of our arrival and acompanying photos have already appeared in no less than 18 national newspapers around the country today.
As we headed for the car an American journalist by the name of Joe Class came over, saying he had read about us in a Dubai magazine, and congratulated us- what a small wold it is.At the hotel we were almost immediately involved in a long TV interview, partly in our room and also downstairs in the lobby.
We then were approached by a dleegation of different disability charities in Bangladesh, who had just read about us in the neswpapers, and presented us with a really beautiful bouaquet of flowers- they ha found out our hotel somehow, and we weredeeply touched that htey had gone to all the trouble of coming to greet us, and we enjoyed speaking to htem for about 20 minutes before they departed- what precious, kind epople here!Richrad ad I then headed off for something to eat, with the evening getting quite late, before we headed up to our rooms to get some sleep after catching up with our webhsite updates.
It is now after 0315 hours, so, please can I leave you to do the spell-check on this- the volumes of mistakes perhaps speakes for itself!
Kindest regards to all,
On the way to the car!