For the 'Dhakaphile'
There was a time, only a century ago, when most Dhakaites didn't have clocks to wake them up in the morning. They had roti-makers and their tandoors. Even before the sun rays could penetrate their 'andar-mahal', the crispy aroma of the freshly baked bakarkhanis would tickle their nostrils and make stomachs grumble, ushering in the morning.
Of course the scenario is totally different now. These days we wake up to honking cars, tinkling rickshaws and hawkers shouting at the top of their voices trying to sell 'taaza ilish' and whatnot. Yet, books that depict Dhaka as a land of Nawabs and Maharajas can take us back to that time of pure white bakarkhanis. At the same time, they also enrich our knowledge of Dhaka's mouthwatering past.
When it comes to talking about books on Dhaka, one writer rightfully deserves all the attention. Muntasir Mamun is said to be a walking encyclopedia on Dhaka. His numerous books bear testimony to that honour. In fact, the rise in interest, and number of studies on Dhaka in the last few decades is largely due to his work. With Dhaka celebrating 400 years, you can unfailingly fall back upon his works to quote from every now and then and stay with the flow.
Among Muntasir Mamun's popular books, Dhaka Smriti Bismritir Nogoree is a must-read for its detailed description of what was what in ancient Dhaka. From old and new Dhaka's geography and demography to locality, the book contains authentic information for fun reading or research purposes. At a price of Tk 500 it is a worthy addition in your collection. Dhakar Katha is a small but useful book available for Tk 50. For those who are really interested, the best buy would be Dhaka Shamagro, a book where most of his titles are included. Consisting of four volumes, these books will cost you 300 to 350 Tk each, and are available from any major bookstore.
Hakim Habibur Rahman in his book Dhaka Pachash Barash Pahley gives a detailed account of the lifestyle, culture, trades and culinary heritage of Dhaka. The book was published in the 1940s, and talks of a 100 year old Dhaka as seen and experienced by the writer. This is a unique book from that perspective, and is sure to grab your attention. Originally written in Urdu, the book has been translated into Bangla by Dr. Mohammad Rezaul Karim and is available at Papyrus for Tk 90.
Kingbadantir Dhaka by Nazir Hossain is another mention worthy book. It portrays Dhaka from a different perspective and includes loads of interesting historical facts. For instance, the book tells the story of how the name bakarkhani came into being - named after the great Mughal warrior Aga Bakar Khan and his beloved Khani Begum. The book is priced at Tk 250.
Other important titles that you might want to get hold of are Dhakar Pracheen Nidorshon by Sir Chalres Dowley, Romance of an Eastern Capital by F.B. Bradley, translated by Rahim Uddin Siddiky, Tawarikh-e-Dhaka by Munshi Rahman Ali Tayesh with translation by Dr. A.M.M Sharfuddin, Dhakar Biboran O Dhaka Shamachar by Shree Kedarnath Mazumdar, and Dhakar Katha by Rafiqul Islam. All these books should be available at major bookstores of Nilkhet or Aziz Market, Shahbag.
By Shakhawat Imam Rajeeb