We were planning to come to Bangladesh for a very long time. Going to Bangladesh is life long dream of my wife. All our life we have heard about the famous hospitality of people from Bangladesh.
Although we live in India, our parents were born in Bangladesh and my wife can speak fluent Bangal. I don’t know any Bengali of our generation in Kolkata who can speak like her. That itself shows her love for the country. However Mohua dropped at the last moment - since she did not want to be in Bangladesh during Bakrid or Qurbani Id which will follow Durga Puja (actually some of her friends created the fear psychosis) .
First October is Saptami of Durga Puja in Kolkata. After the whole night pandal hopping with Arindam, Abhik : Arko (last moment replacement of Mohua) and I got down near Marquis Street in the morning to catch the bus of Shohag Bus Company.
We booked the bus ticket around one week back from the office of Shohag - it is on Mirza Ghalib street (almost at the crossing of Marquis street). They also exchange Bangladeshi currency apart from dollar. They offer good rates. We bought some Taka from them . The fare is Rs 1400/- .
Shohag Paribahan - 23 Marquis Street, Kolkata- 700016; (033) 22520757, (033) 22520696
Probably the phone no. of travel agent is 90388 16238 / 6541 77 88 / 9239 51 51 91 - Himadri Bose.
The other good options are Shamoli Paribahan and Greenline. All are based in Bangladesh.
The first two have cornered the lion's share in Bangladesh bus service and are most popular.
Because of dearth of time we had to employ a travel agent for our Bangladesh visa. We were told from various sources that is impossible to get visa in one day - unless you employ them. With hardly any time left we had no option. The office of the travel agent is located near Airlines office on CR Avenue - very near to Bow Barracks.They did it in 3 days.
The same for Bangladeshis are very difficult and they have complained to me that there is huge corruption at the level of Indian embassy and they have to pay many times more than actual visa fees and even that does not ensure the visa, because of a "quota" system and even after standing for the whole day at the consulate office. It is hell - I have been told.
There are various options to go to Bangladesh :
1.Train : No daily service. Longer journey time. Complicated and lengthy Immigration. Cheaper than bus. Moitree Express has time consuming immigration process both at India as well as at Bangladesh borders, slow movement, late running, non availability of food in the train etc. etc.
Trains from Kolkata to Dhaka depart Tuesdays and Saturdays and the reverse departs Tuesdays and Sundays.
2. Local Train+ Rickshaw+Bus combo:
Here's how you can travel by train to Khulna, rather than to Dhaka, on any day:
From Sealdah station, take local train 33815 SDAH BNJ LOCAL at 05.55 to Bongaon Junction, arriving just before 08.00. It's important to take this early train, as leaving it later will mean you'll probably miss the train on the other side of the border.
From Bongaon, take a shared rickshaw (Rs 20 approx) to the frontier at Petropole or Haridaspur check post.Walk across to Bangladesh, then take a cycle rickshaw to Benapole train station (10 taka).From here, a service runs daily to Khulna at 11.45, via Jessore. The journey to Khulna costs 30 taka.
These are local times - note Bangladesh is 30 minutes ahead of India when we went.Probably the time is different in winter. The advantage of this way is tha,t if you want to visit both but don't want to have to back-track (i.e. go Dhaka-Khulna-Dhaka) then this is it.
The Bangladesh Rail website now shows the Benapole-Khulna train departing at 12:45. Immigration was easy and you get help if you need it.
3. Bus: Daily service available. Active help from the Bus Operators during immigration clearance at the border. Shorter journey time. AC luxury bus. But Expensive. We opted for bus. There was not train on that day (Wednesday, October 1 , 2014).
The buses ply from Kolkata to Border i.e. Haridaspur(in India) in the first leg of journey and thereafter from Benapole (in Bangladesh) there will be another bus (not the earlier bus) to carry the passenger up to Dhaka. However, the Bus Operators would issue a single ticket and guide the passengers from one bus to other. The bus left at around 8 AM from Marquis street -mini Bangladesh in Kolkata.
The visa processing at Haridaspur and Benapole took a very long time because of huge rush due to Bakrid. The visa processing at Benapole is extremely corrupted. Never in my life I have seen such level of corruption. The touts are openly entering the visa office - talking to the visa officer - openly giving the passports to the visa officers for a fee, violating the queue.
We were supposed to reach Dhaka in the evening - same day. But because of transportation of cow during Bakrid the route is extremely busy and reached at 11 pm.
We got down at Gabtoli bus station where buses to and from the Western half of the country, including Jessore, Rajshahi Division and Khulna Division plies. At Goa-londo Ghat still there is no bridge and the bus gets on a barge. Because of long queue of "cow lorries " it took unusually longer time. The very term Goa-lawndo (Goalando) Ghat brings lot of memories to me. Even some famous Bengali eateries in Kolkata these days sell a dish called Goa-londo chicken or steamer curry. Since it was not time for dinner, I could not find it!
Goalondo Chicken curry / Steamer curry or boatmen style chicken curry is a very special dish made with fresh chicken and basic spices. This chicken curry used to be made by the boatmen on these river routes. There were very limited resources to make the chicken curry in boat or steamer. So this chicken curry usually made with fresh basic un-ground spices.
Goalondo Ghat is a small town on the southern banks of Padma or rather the confluence of Padma and Brahmaputra, in Bangladesh. Way back in 1871, the Eastern railways established a train line from Kolkata to Goalondo. To go from Kolkata to Dhaka, one would take a train from Sealdah Station which would reach Goalondo ghaat after an overnight journey. There you would then change to a steamer which will cross river Padma to reach Naraynganj or Chandpur. Once at Narayanganj, you would then again take the train to Dhaka.
Goalondo was a major transport hub with daily service steamers connecting it to railway service in Narayanganj, Chandpur as well as to steamer services to the regions of Sylhet,Barishal from where you could then proceed to the tea plantations in Assam.
The Goalondo Ghat to Narayanganj was a long boat ride ( more than 7 hours).The boatmen in these steamers used to cook delicious food for the passengers, in their unique style. The stories and songs of these boatmen have been retold in many Traditional Bengali Food tales. Imagine the boatmen are preparing their mid-day meal while singing Bhatiyali songs ( songs from the villages of Bengal ) as the steamer goes through the river. These were men probably from Sylhet or Chittagong regions famous for their cooks.
With sparse ingredients in hand they cooked a chicken and potato curry. While they cooked with onion, garlic, mustard oil and lots of red chili ,the fragrance of steaming hot rice and the bubbling curry wafted around the boat, the flavors intensified by the boatmen's songs, songs of the joys and pains of the mighty river. Goalondo Steamer Fowl Curry. Apparently one research saysdry shrimp paste as the magic ingredient which the boatmen used. Very logical, as dried fish(shukti) or dried shrimp paste was very popular among the Sylheti cooks and it was an inexpensive ingredient that could be carried on their boat journeys.
The condition of road is very good - I must say. Better than India.Bangladesh has a land area of 14,600 sq Km - which is less than double compared to West Bengal (88,000 sq Km) and a population of 170 million (17 Crore) compared to 91 million (9.1 crore) in West Bengal - that makes the population density of Bangladesh and West Bengal similar at around 1000 people per sq Km - far higher than density of population in India at 386 people per sq Km. Even per capita income of Bangladesh ($1300) is not very dis-similar to India($ 1690 ).
Many people in India think that India cannot progress with such a huge population. What is important is not the population but the population density and Amsterdam is a classical example given by economists - the population density of Amsterdam is 4 times more than Bangladesh or West Bengal. Even the population density of Netherlands is more than that of India.
I am giving some excerpts from the famous Historian Ramchandra Guha’s writing on Bangladesh in 2015, after his recent visit .
For the Muslim women I saw or spoke to mostly wore saris, whether writers and scholars in Dhaka, or peasants in the countryside. To be sure, school-and-college-going girls wore the salwar kameez, and a few adult women sported (if that is the word) the burqa.
Bangladesh has a massive Muslim majority, and
its Constitution defines it as an Islamic Republic. Yet language and culture
are far more important to the nation's identity than religion. I spent long,
drink-filled, evenings with two distinguished professors of literature: one,
named Fakrul Alam, has translated the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore and
Jibanananda Das; the other, named Kaiser Haq, has recently completed a book on
the cult of the snake goddess in rural Bengal. These choices were natural, not
self-conscious. These were not 'Muslim'
scholars studying 'Hindu' subjects, but Bengalis seeking to bring to a wider
audience the literary and folkloric heritage of their homeland.
is much less Islamicized than Pakistan. Beards and skull caps are more common
on the streets of Lahore than in Dhaka.To be sure, Islamic fundamentalism is by
no means absent in Bangladesh. Bangladeshis who went to work in the Gulf
countries brought back the austere, unforgiving, ideology of Wahhabism,
preaching its doctrines to village audiences. In the towns, free-thinking or
atheistic writers have been murdered, or (as in the case of Taslima Nasreen)
forced into exile. Religious bigotry remains a threat in Bangladesh; yet it is
a far greater threat in Pakistan.
In three visits to Pakistan, I have witnessed how cowed the minorities
are. The situation in Bangladesh is not so dire. After four days of
intense conversations in Dhaka, I decided to leave the city…….We drove through
villages lush with paddy fields and bamboo groves, and rich in bird life. The
beauties of nature had left their impress on popular art; a truck we passed had
a pair of magpie-robins drawn on its back hatch.
I have travelled through the West Bengal countryside many times,
occasionally by car, more often by train. The
24 Parganas and Birbhum are green; Tangail and Manikganj even greener. In
western Bengal, there are many ponds; in the east, some large rivers too. Another difference is that while in the
Indian part of Bengal the countryside is largely bereft of modern industry,
here textile mills and even the odd pharmaceutical company dot the landscape,
their workers sourced from nearby villages. As for the cities, while Calcutta's days of
industrial glory lie firmly in the past, Dhaka is a major global centre for the
manufacture and export of garments….Bangladeshis have shown a surprising resilience over the
decades. They have made impressive strides in manufacturing, done far better
than India with regard to health and women's rights, all the while renewing
their literary and cultural traditions.
The Hindu middle classes of Calcutta have traditionally looked down on
the Muslim peasants of East Bengal, seen and represented by them as uncouth, unproductive, uncivilized. In
truth, the despised bangals may be much better equipped to handle the complex
challenges of the twenty-first century. Where the book-loving bhadralok produce
a steady stream of scribes and scholars for the American academy,
the peasants of what is now Bangladesh have become workers and entrepreneurs,
contributing immensely to their own country's economy. Meanwhile, their vigour
and energy have also been manifest in the creation and the expansion of major
civil society organizations, such as Grameen and BRAC, which run banks,
producer co-operatives, telecom companies, and even universities, and which have absolutely no counterparts on the
Indian side of the border….. they (Bangladesh) have shown more entrepreneurial drive and
constructive social activism than their counterparts to the west.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Bangladesh was widely regarded as a
paradigm case of a nation whose poverty was a direct consequence of
over-breeding.Influential biologists like Garrett Hardin urged that all aid be
stopped, and the Bangladeshis be left to die, as perhaps they deserved to.
Given the inhospitable
conditions (civil war, cyclones, and sectarianism) in which it came into being,
the economic and social advances made by Bangladesh are noteworthy.
is much to admire about Bangladesh today: the advancement of its women, the
creativity of its entrepreneurial class, its superb civil society organizations, its many gifted
artists and writers. But further progress, whether economic, social, or
cultural, has now been put in peril by the arbitrary and sometimes vengeful
conduct of its government.
The aerial distance from Kolkata to Dhaka is 249 km, while the road distance between Kolkata to Dhaka is 327 km and by Train it is 375 Km.
Our host is Lamaya Siddiqui. Her father Lablu(da) and Munni( boudi ) are extremely nice and hospitable. Labluda is actively involved with football and is a commissioner (equivalent to Councilor/MLA here in Kolkata).We reached their home at 11.30 pm by cycle rickshaw. Their home is very near to Ramakrishna Mission. It is in Gopibagh, located in old Dhaka. Like most Bangladeshis, they come to Kolkata for marketing because it is cheaper. They allocated a separate AC room for us !
Today we went to Ramakrishna mission with Labluda to see Durga puja there. Labluda is actively associated with Ramakrishna Ashram. After spending some time (Labluda arranged for Sim card for Arko without any documents ! ).
Because Qurbani Id is just round the corner we saw cows being transported to Dhaka from all over the place and almost all the play grounds or vacant places were used to keep cows (for sale).The person who are selling the cow has basically come from the villages - they are very poor - so sometimes they are mugged by applying some lotion to make them blind temporary - so we saw warning " be careful of mawlam party" - so to take care of this problem mobile company called B cash or Bikash - they take the money from these people and give them a code and when these people go to the village and show that code, they get the money - so the mobile money transfer system is very much in use in Bangladesh like Kenya (Mpesa).
Incidentally very near to Labluda's house is a playground of famous Brother's Union club and the ground is chock a block with cows.Everywhere we saw posters like Goru Chagoler Birat haat (i.e. Big cow and goat market). In front of the small lane of the house of Labluda there were full of cows - sitting there - all of which are to be sold in few days time.Some TV crew came and interviewed him - how come this is allowed in small lanes where people stay - making it difficult for people to commute. There seem to be only one activity in Dhaka - buying cow. All that people are asking is - "Kato - How much" . After paying the seller you have to pay "hashil" which is a form of "local tax " for selling the cow !
|Brother's union club ground|
|Labluda in front of the bylane of his house|
We, then, took a cycle rickshaw to go to old Dhaka near Sadarghat which is nearby.Cycle rickshaws are the most popular form of transport. Negotiating a fare beforehand is essential as a foreigner. While going to old Dhaka, we saw cycle rickshaws everywhere . It is very colourful here.On the back is mostly written "Mayer dowa" or "Allar dowa ".
First we went to see Durga Puja at Bangla Bazar area in old Dhaka and after spending some time there, we went to Sadarghat River Front. It is a huge river port on the banks of the Buri-ganga River. one can take a Boat Ride from Buri-Ganga to various places from Dhaka - some of them are going to Barishal , Hularhat, Sundarban, some are going to Khulna. Since it is nearing Bakrid or Qurbani Eid - so the place is chock o block with people - they are going back to their village spend time with the family. To go to Barishal you have to pay Taka 480 and Tk 300 in first and second class respectively, while the ride to Khulna will run Tk 1010 for first class and Tk 610 for second. The Khulna trip takes 26-30 hours.
After spending some time at Sadarghat we went to see famous Ahsan Manzil (it was closed - we saw it from a distance), then we decided to have biryani from Haji.
Haji biryani is very very famous in Dhaka; at Haji biryani shop I asked, what else is there, apart from biryani. They said there is only one item Kachchi Biryani - it vindicates my theory that biryani should be taken alone and one should not have biryani with Chaap etc. They also give lemon with biryani and the rice is not exactly Basmati - it is more towards Gobindo Bhog - it's not very rich like the one we have in Kolkata - so you wont feel uncomfortable after having it, but it must also be said that the biryani in Kolkata is in a different league. I can have this Dhakai biryani almost everyday without having any stomach problem, but the biryani in Kolkata you cannot have it everyday. The Biryani costs Tk 130 . The polao here is called Morog Polao.
I was thrilled to find phuchka here and tried some. It is similar but not that good ! I saw Sadhana Ousadhalay shop, which I have seen opposite Priya cinema since my childhood !
After having our biryani it is already evening - we decided to go to main place where Durga Puja is being held by the Hindus - Sankhari Bazar and Tanti Bazar (both located at the same place) - almost every 15 metres there is a Durga Puja. I've never seen such a high concentration of Puja in my life. My friend in Kolkata, Kallol regularly comes to Dhaka, since some of his relatives stays at Dhaka. At Sakhari Bazar I happened to bump upon a person who knows Kallol's father - we discussed many things with him at Sakhari Bazar . We even had Bhog. He said that they don't have any problem in Dhaka but the only thing which they don't like or when they feel sad is when, there is atrocity by the majority in Bangladesh on the minority i.e. Hindus the big brother in India doesn't come to their side .
Today Labluda took out his car to to show us the city by his car . We went to Banani, Gulshan. Gulshan is like Alipur, Southern Avenue of Dhaka. We also learn that some Marwaris also stay at Gulshan. From our car window we got to see the parliament of Dhaka. The architect of Parliament is quite famous and is from outside Bangladesh. The we saw the martyr's place - Central Shaheed Minar, This monument was built to commemorate the martyrs of the historic language movement of 1952. Hundreds and thousands of people with floral wreaths and bouquets gather on 21 February annually, paying respect to the departed in a solemn atmosphere. The Bengali Language Movement, also known as the Language Movement was a political movement in former East Bengal (today Bangladesh) advocating the recognition of the Bengali language as an official language of the then-Dominion of Pakistan, in order to allow its use in government affairs, as a medium of education, its use in media, and to maintain its writing in the Bengali script.Today 21st February is celebrated as international mother tongue day.
One of the relatives of Labluda has a house in Gulshan and they mostly stay in US - so sometimes he goes there to look after the house. Then we went to Munni boudis mother's house where her relatives are coming to have the lunch together (normally most of the Sundays); so we chatted with them for quite some time and had lunch with them. They are really nice people - one of them is a bike enthusiast - he had some long chat with Arko and explored the idea to travel by bike in India. Except Munni Boudi most of them are wearing Hijab.
After lunch we decided to go to famous Dhakeswari Mandir or temple in Dhaka to see Durga puja in the evening . We had some tea at the street. Where ever we have gone, we have found that people are very happy knowing that we are from Kolkata/India.
Mohua always wanted to come to Dhakeswari to see Durga Puja, but that is not to be. When we went there it's very hot there. We saw some Muslim girls with burqa taking pictures of Durga !
Over there we met a guy called Sagor and talked for some time and are still in touch with him. Then we returned back home. If you ask a rickshawallah "will you go to Gopi Bagh (gopi Bagh Jabe ?) " then they will charge you more - so I asked " Gopi Bag Jaba ? " in local tongue - then the price would be local price !
At the Mandir we met a couple from Barishal. I asked them what is the genesis of the term "Aite Shal, Jaite Shal, Tare koy Barishal" . They were clueless. Later I have heard it is because of presence of numerous rivers over there !
Some of the places where one can go in Dhaka are :
-The National Assembly, Parliament building
-The National Museum
-Cruise along the river Buri-ganga
-Dhaka University campus
Today we decided to go to the birthplace of our ancestors - Comilla , our 'desh' to see what remains. For that we went to Sayedabad bus station - where buses to and from the eastern half of the country, including Sylhet Division and Chittagong Division plies. There were no good AC bus available because of Qurbani Id. We left at around 9 am. Everybody is going to their "desh". The bus fare is around 200 Taka and it took around 2.5 hours to reach Comilla. Comilla is a city in eastern Bangladesh, located along the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway. It is the administrative centre of the Comilla District, part of the Chittagong Division. Comilla is the second-largest city of eastern Bangladesh after Chittagong and is one of the three oldest cities in Bangladesh.
The Comilla region was once under ancient Samatat and was joined with the Tripura State. This district came under the reign of the kings of the Harikela in the 9th century AD.
Mainamati ( Môyna-moti) was ruled by the Deva dynasty in the 8th century AD, and during the 10th and mid-11th centuries. In 1732, it became the centre of the Bengal-backed domain of Jagat Manikya. Mainamati is located almost 8 miles from the town of Comilla. Mainamati is an isolated low range of hills, dotted - with more than 50 ancient Buddhist settlements of the 8th to 12th century A.D.
Salban vihara in Mainamati, is one of the best known Buddhist viharas in the Indian Subcontinent and is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. There are a number of Buddhist sites in this region, dating approximately from 7th to 12th centuries AD. Comilla Cantonment is located nearby .
Mainamati is named for the Candra queen of the same name, mother of the Govinda-chandra. Mainamati is only 114 km from Dhaka city. We got down little before Comilla town. We took a rickshaw to go to Salban Vihara Mainamati.
|Salban Vihara in Mainamati or Moina moti phonetically|
We went past Cantonment area. I have heard Baba used to come here with his brothers for picnic. We saw some ruins of Buddhist area and after spending some time decided to return to the main road connecting Comilla town. There we had our lunch.
Comilla is very famous for Rashamalai . There are at least 10 Matri bhandar Rashamalai sweet shops here - the original one is in the main town....surprisingly the famous Rashamalai of Mrityunjoy - opposite Lansdowne Market,Kolkata is the exact copy of that shop.
What Saktigarh is to langcha, Comilla is to Rashamalai.
After having our lunch we quickly left for Comilla town by bus. I have heard Comilla used to called Land of banks and Tanks - as so many banks and large sized ponds were available here. It is the place where numerous banks started in East Bengal - Bangladesh. Even today's UBI had it origin at Comilla and it was founded by one of our acquaintances. One of my grandfather's in laws started a bank and failed - which was common those days.
After reaching there it was difficult to find Bagicha-gao. We heard so much about Ishwar Pathshala where my uncles had studied.We heard it is still there - but not as famous now. Even Utpal Dutta was also from Comilla. You are bound to be nostalgic in a place like this. Anyways today's Comilla is nothing exceptional. It is a small town. People generally go to Dhaka etc for higher studies. Chittagong nearby is a power house. Many big business houses are located there - since it a port city at the extreme South East of Bangaladesh. If you move little further from Chittagong you will reach famous Cox Bazar. Comilla is the main town before reaching Chittagong.
Map of Our tour
Now looking at the map it is now clear why some of our relatives used to stay/go to Tripura quite often.
After searching frantically for sometime, I could not find our "palatial house". I could find the shib-mandir or shib-temple. But where is the house ? I asked somebody near "our" house - where is Ananda Kanan ? They said it has been demolished. I saw a big hoarding which says "sale of plot at Ananda Kanan" . Good thing is they have retained the name !
|House used for guests - still exists|
|Pictures before demolition of the house taken from their mobile|
|Pictures before demolition taken from their mobile|
Later I went inside the place and could find only one house in a big compound. On further query to the members of that house - it turned out to be the place, where guest used to stay. This house was given for rent - before that Ranjit jethu (uncle) and others used to stay. This is an ordinary house. The main palatial house has been demolished and that part was to be sold for Taka 21 crores !
On telling them my father and grandfather's name, they let me in. They offered to have lunch with them. Our grandfather sold this flat to this family. They welcomed us to "our home" .
|What was once "our home"|
Baba (Father) had visited the house he had grown up in, some time back in 2001 and had even had a meal with the new residents.
My grand dad (Dadu) was no zamindar. He was a poor but brilliant student - one of the legendary Acharya PC Roy's students. He did his Masters in Chemistry and was the Principal of a Teacher's Training College, Dhaka, but made his fortune by writing a Geography text book which earned him a lot of royalty. He wrote it on the request of an English administrator, who believed Dadu could be entrusted with anything academic. And then he built this house. At one point of time he used to get a royalty of Rs 10,000 (In 1950s an educated people used to earn around Rs 200 per month)! He was a teacher of extra ordinary quality. Even my uncle (Amlan Datta ) , who was a legendary teacher was all praise for his as a teacher.
|Now I know why Mejo Jethu was a legendary debater !|
On learning that we planned to go to Chittagong - they said our daughter stays in Chittagong. You can stay with her !
Pishe-moshai (Uncle) had some doubt about the building being "sold" , when he was deputy high commissioner of Dhaka in 1959...when they showed the signature of dadu (grandfather) and thakuma, he left without any question. She still remembers the name of Baba, Mejo Jethu (Amlan Datta) , Dadu and Thakuma ! The fact that Baba visited them in 2001 and had fish from "our" pond - they remember it !
We had tea and some snacks with them. We were told how this plot has become bone of contention. There was a feud between 3 brothers and wanted to kill the present residents (one of the brothers) for the property. But they survived. Two of the brothers stays in Dhaka and the one of the brothers still live in Comilla and they have shifted to this part of the complex one year back - after that main house was demolished. They are waiting for right price to sell the flat/land and they expect around Tk 21 crores for their portion, including this one. They used to carry guns with them at some point of time. Now things are normal. Soon their flat will also be demolished. Then they will probably move to Dhaka.
When we went to the famous lake with their younger son - Dharma saga, it was already dark . He studies in Dhaka.
He had some pictures of our house in his mobile before demolition. Much later he had sent a video of our flat before demolition.
video of our ancestral house click here
Now it is time for us to go back to Dhaka. We bought some famous Rashamali from the sweet shop. We took a bus to go back home in Dhaka.
Some of the illustrious people who are from Comilla are :
1.Buddhadeb Basu - legendary poet, novelist, translator, editor and essayist
2. SD Burman
3. Utpal Dutta
4. Amlan Datta
I had plan many people like Baba's friend Ahmad Rafiq - but could not make it for lack of time.
Some websites and blog :
Today I left for Khulna by bus (from Gabtoli Bus terminal) and Arka decided to go back to Kolkata - because of some urgent work at home. His bus is in the evening. So he went to the famous Basundhara shopping mall.
Today I went to their ancestral house at Damodar, Phultala to celebrate Bakrid. All their relatives gathered their to celebrate Id.
I left for Khulna. It takes around 7 hours to reach Khulna. Babu - Kamar-uzzaman stays in Khulna. Babu's wife Shanta is Mohua's friend and she has stayed in our house in Kolkata. Their son's name - Ayan - is given by Mohua. Babu is a Professor of History at famous BL College or Biharilal college.I reached there in the afternoon. He was waiting for us at the bus stop at Kabir Battalar More, Notun Rashta - Shimul Tower. His house is not very far from the bus stop - actually less than 400 metres. Since tomorrow is Bakrid , his wife Shanta has left for their ancestral house at Damodar, Phultala - which is around 30 minutes by auto from here . Babu has come here solely to pick me up from bus stop. After helping me to settle and serving the lunch, he left for his ancestral house. He gave me the key of his house. He had given me the direction of his ancestral house from here and invited me to join them tomorrow for Bakrid.
I was also supposed to meet our friend Abul Kalam Azad, Principal of several colleges (Khanjan Ali Group colleges) in Khulna - because of Bakrid - somehow we could not meet him.
Khulna is clean and pleasant and not busy. I left for nearby New Market at Khan A Sabar Rd, and had my dinner there. I saw many sweet shop named after Sat-khira. I had chinese. Chinese was not bad. After spending some time, I returned home by auto rickshaw. I watched some TV programme. There was some live programme of Anjan Dutta in one of the channels.
Babu has four brothers - one of them is a judge, one has a business and stays in Dhaka. He brought his car from Dhaka.
I saw the namaj at the local mosque and it was time for Qurbani. They sacrificed a cow , two goats. It was done by a specialized person. There is a technique one should follow - a lay man would not be able to do that. After that the meat was weighed and divided among the villagers with arithmetical precision - everything was noted down in a diary - to be shared among the villagers. I had a chat with the youngsters in the house in the 1st floor after lunch.Their house is probably the only proper pucca house in that village and they are a family of some repute in that village. They stayed back and I went to Babu's house in the evening at Khulna.
Today in the morning I left for Shat Gombuj Mosjid (The sixty dome mosque), in the Bagerhat district. It is one hour travel from Khulna. I took a a bus from Sonadanga bus terminal .It is one of the two UNESCO World heritage sites of Bangladesh. Honestly it was bit of let down. The other being Paharpur. It is similar to Katra masjid of Murishdabad. After spending some time there I decided to go to Sundarban - which is at nearby Mongla. The major part of Sundarban is located in Bangladesh. I took a private launch lined there to go to Sundarban.
When I reached home it is already late evening.
Today I went to their home after taking my luggage. After spending some time there I went to Fultala, Khulna - the place where Tagore's wife Bhabo-tarini debi alias Feli alias Mrinali-debi was born. Her father was a paid employee of the Estate of Jorashanko Thakurbari. Rabindra-nath's father also married Sarada debi from Dakhsin Dihi, Khulna. I wen there by a cycle rickshaw. Babu accompanied me upto this.
Source: Internet - picture taken by Aminul Hassan
Then I left for a place to see Otter. Even the local people do not know this place. Here people use otter to catch fish. The place is in Noapara. After lot of effort I reached Noapara by a shared auto rickshaw. A part of the journey is by shared motor bike. I finally reached this place. I talked to them for quite some time. I learnt, I am the only non white foreigner to visit them for quite some time. BBC came here to do a documentary. This place is near Jessore - so most of them are Hindu. In fact concentration of Hindus is very high near Jessore - border state with India (from where my mother's side came)
But I was late. There was no return Bike. Normally it is used by two pillion riders. Since I was getting late I booked the whole bike and reached the main road. In spite of my valiant effort I missed the border crossing by 10 minutes ( I hitchhiked a car of an officer of immigration department). I stayed overnight in a dingy hotel in Benapole and it was real pain - since there was nothing I could do.
Next time I will go to Sylhet (which is very beautiful and most people of Dhaka go there for spending their holiday and my grandmother is also from Sylhet and a road is named after father of my Grandmother - JC Choudhury),Chittagong, Kushtia (and Pahapur).
Today early morning I crossed the border and took an auto to reach Bonagaon train station and reached Kolkata after 2.30 hours.
In Bangladesh, in no particular order, the following ought to be experienced, according to a list given to me by a friend - which i am reproducing here :
1. Cox's Bazar city and sea beach ( world's largest unbroken sea beach)
2. Inani beach close to Cox's Bazar
3. Saint Mrtin's Island
4. Bandarban City
5. Nilgiri resort ( in Bandarban district)
6. Kaptai Lake ( Kaptai)
6. Chittagong City and sea port
7. Comilla Lalmai Pahar ( historical site)
8. Sylhet City
9. Jaflong ( in Sylhet)
10. Srimongol tea gardens
11. Modhupur Forest
12. Sundarban Mangrove forest (world's largest mangrove forest)
13. Lalon shah shrine in Kustia district. Shilaidaha Kuthi Bari is in Kushtia District in Bangladesh. The place is famous for a country house made by Dwarkanath Tagore.
14. Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge and resort
15. Mohasthan Gor ( Bogra district)
16 Sonargaon, the ancient capital
18 Buddha -Vihar