The growing up years!

Dhaka was already getting crowded and there were a very few places where one could seek seclusion. So my visits to the outskirts of the town became frequent. During this time, while in town, I picked up friendship with some original Dhaka dwellers. These people, even today, are known as Dhakaiyas and are full of wit and humour.

For reasons best known to them the original residents of Ganderia called the locality 'Ganderia country'. I remember being herded into a group of people of all ages to be marched to the Dhaka stadium in support of the East End club in a soccer league match shouting the slogan 'Ganderia Country Zindabad' zealously. During this time, I made some acquaintances with the original Dhakaiyas. One of them was Wasek. He was a vegetable vendor in Sutrapur bazar. So was his father who was very affectionate towards me. Wasek used to sell vegetable in his father's shop in the mornings and his father in the afternoons. Wasek used to hit the Dhupkhola maidan to play football with all of us. He was not much of a football player but there was no dearth of enthusiasm in him for the game. He was a great admirer of the East End Club and dreamt of playing for the team some day. Wasek was short and stocky. It never seemed like he would ever make it to a respectable football team. But for him there was no lack of enthusiasm. I made it a point to always buy fresh vegetables whenever I was asked to do this daily chore by Maa. Wasek had his inimitable way of hard selling his stuff. He called his carrots 'Nurjahan' after the name of the famous Pakistani crooner who was his favourite. If you asked him why this strange name? He would break the crispy carrot in the middle and say 'doesn't it sound like a note from her songs?' I became friendly with some other original Dhakaiyas during this time. Salahuddin was one of them. Popularly known as 'Saula' he was a couple of years older than I and affectionately looked after me as my elder brother. He was a football player in demand for the 'B' division team of the East End club. Salahuddin tried to teach me a few tricks of soccer. There were a few others among the locals that I held in high esteem. Idris bhai the linkman of the East End Club soccer team was a wizard in his craft. He had to pitch against the mighty Kala Gafur from the Makran coast in West Pakistan to get a place in the then East Pakistan team which he did and and won. Khaleq bhai was arguably the fastest sprinter in the province then. We used to hold our breath when he would dash down to the finishing line of the hundred-metre sprint, clad in his characteristic ultra-marine blue satin shorts and dark red vest.

One extraordinary expertise all Dhakaiya women had in common was their skill in culinary art. They were particularly good in meat cooking. The mothers of my friends loved to feed me all kinds of Dhaka delicacies. Sutli kabab, made out of beef, which is still available in old town area of Dhaka or an occasional treat of Morog Polao, Nehari, Tehri or even beef or mutton curry used to taste like they were cooked in haven and were just out of the world.

I was a thoroughbred Bangla medium student while in school with hardly any intellectual incentive from the school. Our favourite were children magazines like Shuktara or Shishu Shathi published by the Deb Sahitya Kutir of Calcutta and of course books like Thakur Maa'r Jhuli. It was not until later that I came across very apt translations of Jules Verne, Jonatan Swift, Walter Scot, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas or Daniel Defoe.