A Stroll through the Winding Lanes of Life
Strolling through a lonely trail.
For the last couple of months we at the Star City had been planning to go on a trekking trip. But several times the plans were foiled due to our regular work pressure. Many times we planned a trip but had to cancel it because we did not have enough stories to fill the pages. Eventually, however, we did find a day for our little adventure.
Our plan was to walk all the way (around 25 kilometres) from Dhaka to the bank of the river Kaliganga in Keraniganj. There are two things on earth which appeal to me the most; one is reading and the other is walking. Generally I try to walk in spite of the fact that the walkways in the city are in shambles. Another trouble is the errant rickshaws which pay very little respect to the pedestrians.
Still I walk because I cannot help walking and besides there are many things on earth you can discern while walking which you are bound to miss if you are sitting in a car or a rickshaw.
But this trekking trip was free from these two obstacles. So, I was deeply fascinated by the idea of walking through the village lanes to an unknown destination.
We started at 8 in the morning from Dhanmondi on foot. We took a dhol (drum), a flute and a khonjori with us. It was a group of eight. We went through Rayer Bazar, Hajaribagh, Shikder Medical College and eventually reached Basila. Zakir Bhai started taking photos of us walking.
We took a boat from Basila to reach the other side of the river Buriganga. I read in newspaper articles that the water of the river stinks and it had turned black. But it was the first time I saw the black water under which all kinds of effluents were flowing in from the tanneries.
For the last thirty years, this river, the city's only lifeline, is taking up the tannery effluents as a dutiful solvent. In the course of time she had been bound to kill all her aquatic features. Now, it is our duty to put a stopper on the waste conduits and give her the due respite.
Walking by the Kaliganga.
We got down from the boat on the other side and started walking through a village, Noyabazar Moddher Char, in Keraniganj. People were watching with curiosity. They asked where we were from, where we were going and whether we were from TV channels. We replied that we were journalists but not on duty.
Morshed Ali Khan, our team leader, charted the way through the villages so that we could avoid the main road and acquaint ourselves with the village life.
We reached a village school with a river beside it. We took our morning tea at a tea stall and started again. We passed vast tracts of land waving paddy, mustard, coriander and many unknown flowers. There were small patches of vegetable garden from where women were plucking pumpkins.
We started walking and reached a market place. Here we saw some converted baby taxis which once plied the streets of the city. They were stripped of the roofs and called 'helicopter' by the locals. From there we started towards Aatibazar. Someone said that in the next few years the urbanisation would be so extensive it might reach Aatibazar. Then people in Shahbagh would say 'I am going to Aati'!
On our way towards Chondipur we noticed a ramshackle tent at a distance and decided to take a break. We sat in its shadow and took some refreshments. Watching us sitting there some villagers approached. They sent for Shukur Alir, a 'gatok' (a village singer), when we said that we wanted listen to a song.
The gatok came with his dhol (drum) which read 'Shukur Ali, village: Chondipur, district: Dhaka, Allahu, Manobotar joy hok (Let humanity triumph). He sang several songs while some of our team members took part with dhol, flute and khonjori. It was very surprising to me that all of a sudden we would find a village singer while taking a break and start singing with him as if it was very normal.
As we were walking through the village a man accosted us on our way. Hearing we were from The Daily Star, he took us to his house and gave us a treat of homemade muri (puffed rice), murki, batasha, kodma and tila. It was a pleasant surprise to have such a nice breakfast from a complete stranger. We filled up our empty bottles and packed the remaining muri-murki in a gamcha and resumed.
We found a pond almost covered with hyacinth. The small pool looked so pristine and lonely beside the meandering trail it seemed almost untouched. Some Dahuks were sitting on the hyacinth and flying around the pond. There was no living being save the Dahuks at the site as far as we could see. It was so calm and peaceful it was hard to believe that the chaotic city we live in was only 20 minutes away.
A pristine pond on the way.
Walking through the village track we reached a big banyan tree. Its sprawling branches were covering the surrounding place like a canopy. There was a small idol clad in a red sari at the bottom of the tree. The tree is a centre of village fairs and worship of the idol. There was a poush mela just the previous day. We regretted missing the fair just for one day. It could be our one in a million chance to attend a real village fair.
We took another break at a tea stall and then descended on the vast tracts of farmland. We filed in along the aisle of the field making a beeline for the main road. The field was like a collection of vivid colour patches. There were patches of yellow mustard flowers, different types of purple flowers waiting to be turned into vegetables, tomatoes, pumpkins, corianders and little kalijira plants.
After walking for half an hour we took the main road. Crossing a bridge under which Dhaleshwari River flowed. We took some pictures of ducks swimming in the shrinking river below. If I had not known that it was a river I would have not believed because it was looking like a dead canal. Someone said that trucks ply on the riverbed at night.
At last, we reached the village Kharakandi beside the river Kaliganga, our destination. We freshened up and had our lunch at a house and took some rest in a big yard. Then at 3 in the afternoon we started for Kaliganga River. A man was making 'chhana' in a big square pan by the river.
When we reached the riverside the water was sparkling from the afternoon sun while big engine boats were plying gently upon the luminous water. The water was so clear the bottom of the river could be seen.
We trooped in the boat and perched on one side with other villagers to reach the other side of the river. There were some newlywed brides who were watching us with curious eyes like the Pankouris perched on the polls in the
midst of the river.
Getting down from the boat we started walking along the riverbank. After walking one and a half kilometres we reached a nice place where there was a riot of yellow mustard flower on a highland.
We took a break there and munched on the remaining muri-murki wrapped in the gamchha. After some group photos,we boarded the boat to see the sunset from the other side. Everybody enjoyed the quickly fading rays of the sunset. But I could hardly fathom its beauty as my mother was shouting in my cell phone to come home in ten minutes when I was standing by a riverside in Keraniganj.
We started for home after the sun had set and took two helicopters which took us to Noyabazar where we first landed from a boat. The helicopters seemed to me as real choppers as it took only 25 minutes to get there; by foot it would have taken a whole day. We wrapped our heads with our scarves as instructed by our team leader.
It was six in the evening and the lights coming from the construction site of the third Buriganga bridge was lighting up the place. The workers were oblivious of the dark and were working like bees in a beehive.
There were several boats lined up on the bank waiting for passengers. We took two boats and reached Basila in two minutes. From there we reserved a human hauler to get to Dhanmondi, ending an eventful day of our lives.
It was a long walk but I had enjoyed it so much that I could hardly feel any weariness. It was a stroll I will treasure for the rest of my life. It had let me see so many things in a day that I would not have experienced in a year. It was more than a simple walk. It was a stroll through the winding lanes of life.
The writer is a reporter of Star City.
Photo Credit: Durdana Ghias
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