The city grows on me!

Dhaka slowly grew on me and I started exploring all around it. Its lanes and by lanes were simply fascinating. All those old houses lining on either side of the lanes attracted me most. Each of these houses seemed to have a story of its own. I always loved to imagine. And I kept on imagining stories that befit these grand houses. It all started with my own locality Ganderia. And then, as started adding years to my age, I sauntered across the areas like Wari, Armanitola, Tantibazar, Narinda, Badamtoli, Banglabazar etc. Gradually I went beyond the confines of the old town and ventured out to areas like Ramna, Palashi, Azimpur etc. Ramna, with its evergreen vegetation fascinated me. This part of Dhaka, I was later told, was designed by an erstwhile curator of London's Q-Garden. Some of this area still holds on to that character.

The areas in the older part of Dhaka used to be called 'Mahalla' by the locals. Each Mahalla had a Sardar controlling it. There was a time when these Sardars were very powerful. Qader Sardar, the owner of Lion Cinema of old Dhaka, comes to mind as being a patriarch. Gradually, the bureaucracy introduced by the British must have tarnished their muscle. All things told my love for the villages east of Ganderia seemed ever so strong. Almost every evening I went there to be in the company of the rural atmosphere.

Baba occasionally took us out for ice-creams at a restaurant called Britannia in what is known as the Gulistan area now. Or was it the cinema hall that was called Britannia and there was an ice-cream shop there I do not clearly remember. There were very few varieties of ice-creams there. But our taste hadn't become so discerning yet to have longed for assortments. I always preferred vanilla and was pleased to have that when offered. Maa was a very good cook. And to the best of my knowledge, it was not like "the food that I 'thought' my mother used to cook" syndrome. She was genuinely a culinary expert. So, at home we grew up having delightful food specially on week ends. My father was very English in his disposition and habits. we had to learn how to put a poached egg on toast with fork and knife and eat it without the egg yoke seeping on to the plate. This, I later thought, was ridiculous. But then, for Baba, it was like old habits die hard. One other thing that he held very close to his heart was his village of Ratanpur in Brahmmanbaria that he had to leave very early in his life first for the sake of his studies and later to pursue his career. We went to Ratanpur at least once every year. They used to be grand going home. We used to look forward to these visits. We usually took the river route from Sadarghat to Ramkrishnapur in Comilla and then by country boat through rivulets and canals to our village. We invariably took to the so-called upper cabin of the motor launch late at night and went to sleep and used to be awakened by the sound of waves breaking down on the hull of the launch mixed with the hum of motors. We reached Ramkrishnapur by about noon. Chicken curry and and rice cooked in inimitable village cuisine awaited us in the country boat. This simple meal seemed just extraordinary. The scenery a as we paddled across toward our village was pristine. I have started going back to my village since 1997 again and try to be there once in every two months. I love these trips enormously. That said, the journey remains painful. True we are able to drive down to the village but the road condition through the villages remains abysmal. A seventy plus kilometre drive takes more than four hours. And every time I go I promise to myself, 'not in another year again'! But then a couple of weeks pass by and I feel like making the trip desperately.