Standing on Jasimuddin Road Circle, the heart of Uttara, one can expect to be easily overwhelmed. An explosion of activity coupled with the bright neons of the most famous brands, speaks of the restlessness that pervades Uttara. What was once an underdeveloped suburb full of fields, plantation and fisheries, is now a fast growing urban destination.
The locality has rushed to shed its so-called ‘backward’ identity but even then resemblance to the days gone by exists. Uttara has changed dramatically and drastically but if you close your eyes and drown out the sound for long enough, you can still hear the birds, the rustle of the crops and the laughter of the children from the villages which once dotted the entire area.
Uttara’s development has indeed been sudden, akin to that of Mohammadia Housing Society, except on a different direction. While Mohammadia Housing Society promised affordable housing to the masses, while being very close to the heart of the city, Uttara held an altogether different promise. It began as an escape, a respite from the drudgery of concrete, with the streets lined with trees and water bodies and fields visible in almost every corner.
Uttara was the promise of peace and this attracted the middle-class and the elite both. As the citizens moved away from the city, the city began to move towards the citizens. And the city moved frantically.
Within a short span of time, the first shopping complexes began appearing in Uttara, right adjacent to the Tongi highway. RAK Tower, Mascot Plaza, Rajlokhi Centre and Fashion Paradise all opened for business in a largely untapped locality. The largest Aarong store, its flagship store in fact, almost debuted and then Infinity Mall followed. The options for shopping to one’s hearts content began to increase and this was just the beginning.
As Uttara’s population rushed from a few thousand to over a few hundred thousand, educational institutions followed suit. People moving to Uttara affirmed that the majority of the families with school-going children made the shift because of the fact that there are just so many schools with bigger, better and more elaborately structured campuses there in Uttara. Scholastica, Aga Khan, Sunbeams, DPS STS, Turkish Hope, The Message, South Breeze International, Rajuk Uttara Model College , etc. all built campuses in Uttara and these campuses come with actual playgrounds, which is sadly a rarity these days in Dhaka.
Hospitals, spas, hotels and every other necessity imaginable also opened set up shop in this fast growing locality. The foodies made an entry too and this resulted in an influx of fast food chains and high end restaurants, shaming the famed Banani 11, with the variety Uttara has to offer. Kebab Factory, Mainland China, Thai Emerald and Mesquite Grill, to name a few, all launched themselves in Uttara and have since not looked back. Following the trend, the corporate sector also turned their attention towards Uttara as the next commercial hub. MNCs, buying houses and telecommunication firms have now all established themselves.
With every new restaurant, beauty salon, school or residential plot, a piece of Uttara’s history gets lost. But it’s a sacrifice for the greater good, carefully orchestrated in way of giving importance to modernisation and preservation in almost equal levels. Uttara’s bright lights, growing traffic and spas may have reduced the water bodies to ponds and the fields to non-existent but there remain pockets of serenity in every street. The locality has come a far way and still has quite a distance to go. When you snap back from your reverie standing in the middle of Jasimuddin Road, the age old trees in the background seem to whisper the truth; the surface may have changed but the foundation hasn’t.