Aziz Super Market: A World of its Own
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
To just about anyone, the dark halls of the building and the eccentric looking people hanging about in the long verandas will look slightly outlandish, maybe even blank and to some, even scary! However, for the younger folks in Dhaka, the Aziz Super Market is a haven, filled with books, stationary, food, music, designs and so much more. The birthplace of many a poet, filmmaker, musician and writer; students, even today, find themselves being pulled into this three-storied building to simply think and express their minds, if nothing else.
26-year-old Shejan Syed is a Masters student of Dhaka University and has been a regular customer at the Aziz Super Market for a long time. "I am not exactly a customer, since I don't really buy anything here," admits Syed. "This is more like a meeting point for my friends and me. After a day filled with work, classes and other commitments, we need to meet up for tea and shingaras. We know where to meet -- the tea stall behind the Aziz Super Market, or one of the food stores inside in case someone is really hungry. There is no need for a phone call or text messages to fix up the meeting or the adda. Everyone knows where everyone will be!"
Shama Muneer, studying English at a private university in Dhaka, says that the Aziz Super Market is practically a sanctuary, especially for students of literature both in Bangla and English. "There was of course a time, hardly half a decade ago, when almost all the floors were filled with bookstores," says Shama. "Now, the number of bookstores has decreased and shops with apparels are everywhere."
Even the boutique stores have a style of their own. Many of the shops are run by students themselves, and the designs happen to be colourful, trendy and not to mention affordable. "I shop mostly in Deshal, which is of course a huge brand now," says Smrita Chowdhury, student at the Dhaka Medical College. "Deshal had started out here at the Aziz Super Market, before spreading out in other parts of the city. The designs here are not only trendy but also comfortable with regards to the fabric material and fitting."
Aziz Super Market also houses quite a number of students. With ready flats and apartments, plenty of students and young people prefer to live here because of the reasonable rent and of course the close proximity to some of the cultural centres of Dhaka city, namely Shahbag and Dhanmondi.
The market also happens to be the perfect place for students who are always on the look out for funky tee shirts with funny messages on them. One of the shops that people visit and buy tees from is Shopno Baaj, run by the young musician Joy. "I am inspired by whatever I see around me, especially on campus," says Joy. "As a student of Dhaka University, I have witnessed different events there, both life-changing and inspiring. Many of my motifs are of famous people and their quotes. I have tee-shirts, jackets, not to mention shawls and 'hoodies' for the winter season."
A group of medical students are seen in their white lab coats, stepping into one of the food stores at the Aziz Super Market. As soon as they enter, the whole place seems to bubble with existence and the students themselves are also very much at home! "This is basically a space which is shared by all kinds of people, of all ages," says Maruf, a first year medical student. "Nobody will look at you in a weird way or ask you strange questions here. I find that everybody here prefers to mind their own business."
"I like the Aziz Super Market, because at least a few times a month I go there to buy books and then I actually sit there and read! This is something that you cannot do anywhere in Dhaka city," says Syeda Shermin Huda, a student of BBA at North South University. "I love to read and am part of a reader's club that my friends and I created together. Every month we meet up to discuss a book, and the books on the list are always almost available at the Aziz Super Market. What I do is, I grab the book, make some space for myself at a food store or a friend's boutique store, order some tea and start reading. That's how I get most of my reading done in this busy city!"
And there is so much more going on in there -- students resting there after a peaceful procession, a group of young corporate workers enjoying tea, not to mention catching glimpses of famous poets of the contemporary times like Marjuk Russel and Shahan Kabondho -- the Aziz Super Market is thriving with colours and activities.