The city grows on me!

Dhaka then was considered the happening place, One afternoon Baba came back from his office and said that he was under order of transfer to Dhaka. This made everyone happy because Dhaka was the “promised land”. Baba must have been relieved. He had led a nomad's life since graduating as an officer of the Bengal Civil Service Cadre. It all started in a small settlement camp at a place called Bhatar in the district of Bardhaman, close to Shantiniketan way before I was born. Incidentally, I saw the place while travelling to Shantiniketan by car a couple of years ago. Our driver took a diversion from the Kolkata-Delhi highway and hit a road winding through the villages of West Bengal. It was an arid land with quite an unknown rural landscape than what we are used to seeing in Bangladesh. We stopped at a road side teashop and I was amazed to discover that the name of the place was Bhatar. I reconfirmed that the place was a community development block in the Sadar North Sub-division of Bardhaman. I was so excited that I immediately phoned my younger sister in Dhaka to share the news my discovery with her. We, in our childhood, heard so many stories and episodes of adventures of our father as a young civil servant here that I felt very attached to the place.

So, Baba was happy on the news of transfer to Dhaka. I remember him telling my mother that with a year or two before retirement, time had come for us to settle down in a place where he could arrange for a good education for his children. I took the news with a mixed feeling. While Dhaka seemed inviting I was not ready to leave Kushtia yet. I was only beginning to discover the heart of the place and was enamoured by its surroundings. Its tall green trees, the narrow winding roads covered by red chipped bricks and gravels, the quaint looking bungalows and, of course, the Gorai. I went through the town and its outskirts over and over again all by myself. It was during this time that I realized one could live all by oneself provided they were in the midst of nature. And I became almost a loner. I was sadder because we were having to leave Didi behind. Her husband working in Kushtia had to stay back.

A few more days and we were Dhaka bound. We took a train from Kushtia to Goalondo, the famous steamer junction, and then through a 36-hour journey to Narayanganj. I always loved these river trips by paddled steamers but this time on I was too sad to even see all the passing sceneries on either side of the river. The day we left Kushtia Didi came to our house to say farewell. She held me close and cried like a child. These memories and a lot more of unexplainable attachments to Kushtia kept my eyes moist through most of the journey.

We finally arrived at Dhaka. Within a few months we moved from a relative's house, our temporary abode, to our own home in Ganderia. This was a relatively small house with a sizable expanse of free ground where Baba built his manicured English garden. My first task on arrival at Dhaka was to find places of my own interest around the city. Dhaka, then, wasn't half as vulgar in terms of un-organized development as it is today. I discovered a new dimension in the places of interest in the villages beyond the Ganderia railway station. One could walk across the railway lines leading up to Narayanganj one would be in the midst of the villages with swamps and paddy fields, vegetable patches and fruit trees--something that is hard to believe now. So, right here within the largest city of East Bengal I was glad to have found my favourite patch to dwell upon. My formal schooling began, for the first time here in Dhaka. In the beginning there was no seat available in the schools of choice in the city. So I was admitted in to Kishorilal Jubilee High School at Farashganj later to be transferred to a couple of other schools of 'better' breed. I had told earlier that I have always been a loner since my early childhood and, therefore, many of the children of those days did not take to schooling naturally. I preferred to walk off on solitary sojourns whenever I was let off from the school. There were a number of attractions around my school leading up to the river Buriganga. Though this river, in no way, matched the magic of Gorai in Kushtia, it was a river none the less and was a reason for me to visit it every now and then. Dhaka was where I grew up with mixed feelings of having and having not the pleasures of my life. But then those may best be kept for later.

Published: http://www.thedailystar.net/showbiz/showbiz-column/life-begins-dhaka-1330897