Lost Beauty of the
I be praising what is lost and make my remembrance dear?"
" Should I be expecting my memory to offer me its heart
to the shrine of the dead past?"
such as these have been troubling me ever since I have seen
the present state of our water front after a lapse of 30 years.
Old friends still living in the neighbourhood of the river
and elsewhere in the city have told and retold the story of
disfiguremernt of the fascinating river. They relate how they
have helplessly watched the horrific process of wilful degradation
of the beautiful Buriganga and its sublime environment. The
Buckland Bandh that we had taken for granted, no longer exists.
It is now history, a story of the long past. This calumny
was the result of lack of foresight of owners of ship yards
who built their industries on the water front at their sweet
will, giving the landscape a messy, unkempt look. Now, hundreds
of passenger launches are anchored haphazardly all over the
river that resembles a junk yard; illegal concrete structures
of all kinds have been built in and around the river and many
more areas of the water body are in the process of being encroached
right under the very nose of the authority concerned.
these acts add up to the worst kind of defacement of our heritage
undeterred and at the detriment of our sensibility. The seed
of this calamitous perpetration was sown by the first post-British
regime. They permitted setting up a retail market for household
accessories by blocking off one third of the Coronation Park.
After the Liberation War, the rest of the park was gobbled
up in no time, thus the grabbing of public along with private
properties around the country began in full swing. Is it the
naivety or the ineptness of the concerned that brought the
water front to such rot?
front once so endearing to Dhakaiyas (not Dhakaits) now turned
into a source of frustration and toothless anger. How can
one forget the exceptionally beautiful and delightfully enchanting
view of the river front with its embellished and elegant palaces,
the Coronation Park and red-bricked Northbrook Hall along
the well-cared after neat river front and the view of the
mile-long Buckland Bandh with hundreds of electric bulbs twinkling
all along the water front in the quietness of the dark night?
bank on one side of the asphalt walk way and the two-yard
wide green strip on the other side, stretching all along the
mile-long Bandh was a cherished venue for hundreds of morning
walkers. The asphalt walkway laced with trimmed grass exuded
a lustre of its own with beautifully designed wrought iron-framed
wooden benches placed at regular distances. Incidentally all
those walkers had their respective offices, residences and
institutions, within a distance of less than a mile, except
the Dhaka Intermediate College and the University of Dhaka.
They were from teaching, legal, judiciary, administrative,
trade and commerce professions. This community of walkers
made this exercise of theirs' integral to their daily routine.
We the young people of the time, however, religiously avoided
older generation's hours at the Bandh and favoured afternoons
extending into evenings at the location for our kind of enjoyment
that included walking, visiting the adjacent gym, whiling
away our evenings, until street lights were on, on benches
in the company of friends with the accompaniment of roasted
peanuts and chanachur. As a part of conducting a
guided tour of the city for our family visitors of near and
far off places we always started with the river front and
a boat trip. We seldom missed a chance to tell our guests,
how glorious was our water front. We learnt swimming in the
river and there we had our regular weekend swimming spree.
A few of us, the truants of the Moslem High and near by Collegiate
schools, spent a couple of hours on a boat trip whenever we
city administration of the time did not permit any power-driven
commercial vessel, except the ones carrying jute for bailing
at Narayanganj, to ply on the river. This would have disturbed
the calmness, serenity and excellent symbiotic relationship
between natural surroundings and adjacent palaces, such as
the Nawab bari (Ahsan Manzil), Ruplal House, Lal
Kuthi, Raghunath House and the North Brook Hall to the north
and the Lalbagh Fort to the west and expanse of crop fields
on the other side of the river. There were, however, a few
small size official motor launches lying anchored in front
of the Ahsan Manzil, notwithstanding the presence of small,
medium and large country boats and the occasional appearance
of a couple of large and medium sized handsomely built, colourful
wooden house boats. Locally called Bojra and Panshi
respectively, with ornate front and side windows, they belonged
to rural- based Zamindars and rich people.
was and still is operating, a steamer station, known as Badamtoli
Ghat, at the west end of the Bandh where from smaller paddle
boat Lepcha and the like plied between Dhaka and Jagannathgunj
ghat on the eastern bank of the river Jamuna. The
boat had a stopover at Manikganj and served every other day
using the Dholeswari river-route to cater to Northern districts.
Presently the river service has been withdrawn as the river
bed is silted and time-saving highways became operational.
relaxed ambience of the whole place was created by zoning
off the commercial, cotton and jute industrial infrastructures
and the inland river port at Narayanganj, ten miles away to
the east. Dhaka and Narayanganj were called the twin cities.
Unlike the present day larger paddle boats, Rockets, namely
Ghazi, Ostrich, Kiwi and a couple of others, used to ply from
Narayanganj, carrying both passengers and cargo to and from
Goalondo ghat to the south-west districts. Others
went to Khulna to the south taking the Barisal route. Commuters
travelling between Dhaka and Narayanganj had three options
for travelling between Dhaka and Narayanganj--by all season
road, the Buriganga or the Eastern Bengal Railway.
seekers have always loved a couple of hours in a river excursion
on country boats. There are marked differences between the
river cruise of the past and the present. In the bygone days
the river water was clean and clear, considered to be safe
for drinking and swimming. Upper and middle-class Hindu and
Muslim families alike, took advantage of the summer season
for a boat trip in the privacy of moonlit nights. Such outings
had an added attraction of picnicking on the boat with freshly
caught fish from fishermen still at work. Now the water is
stinky, filthy and bluish, making it a most unworthy place
for a river cruise. The river is now an unsafe place also
because the mastaans of the capital are on the prowl.
In spite of the threatening environment young people of today,
find the river cruise romantically alluring.
sad but true that the magical, balmy evenings around Buriganga
are gone forever.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005