It was after 10 years that I was venturing out of Dhaka. The chance was administered quite unexpectedly with a sudden change in events and it occurred to my mother out of the blue that we should be paying a visit to our hometown Kishoreganj. Obviously I was excited. Ten years, ten years! What could have possibly remained intact in those long years? Not to mention myself who had towered several inches taller within the count of those days.
Kishoreganj is a small town in Mymensingh district. Unlike Dhaka it felt like you could have a tour of the whole town in a single day and recall where's what (in Dhaka one would probably get lost in the diversity of the concrete, narrow alleys, open roads and amongst the crowd of over 10 million). Population seemed scanty, roads wide and welcoming at spots with trees at sentinel-just the ambience that impels one to hum along a favourable note while strolling down the road gazing up at the clear blue sky. You can absolutely never do such a thing in Dhaka for fear of the sinister open manholes lurking here and there.
Next morning of the arrival, the much-awaited opportunity to explore around came sometime before noon after dropping my mother to the bus station from where she had to go to Dhaka immediately for work, I turned on the spot and took in the scenario.
Never had I ever been so grateful to have the ID of a journalist. It allowed me to do exactly what I longed for interact, investigate and interview. Some of the kids running about actually took me to be a mentally unsound wanderer (to be whiling away there, not knowing where to go and worst of all to be in the unconventional jeans and T-shirt garb) and did not believe otherwise until I stated my identity as a reporter.
I was mesmerised by the pastoral beauty and had been sprung into reality only noticing at length the premises of an orphanage for girls. What had really drawn attention to this particular place was the infrastructure: for a small town it was quite classy, neat and clean. I was told that exactly 100 orphan girls were being educated here and provided with food, shelter plus other benefits. Reflecting on the fact that these girls who could have possibly been devoid of many things are helped in building their dreams in a six-storied flat where they have T.V, get vocational training as well as coaching besides being able to attend school-the verity that such a system actually exists here was heartening.
Kishoreganj had changed in the passing years. Well that's an understatement, because actually it's more of a makeover. Memory recalls, there were definitely not the high rise buildings with Thai windows, the pay call shops and even, the big billboards of Grameen Phone and City Cell. Yet the place had preserved its simple, natural beauty and heritage. Brightly coloured flowers were almost everywhere. The absence of the high rise buildings which actually made most places look bigger than they were was a welcome change to somebody used to the catcalls and havoc of the busy metropolitan life. And the food-oh-you have got to know about the food. I mean Dhaka with prices of essentials soaring high, is really the place of a few affluent individuals who can actually afford the over-priced food, the less fortunate have to make do with meagre portions of bad food. But in Kishoreganj the food was wonderful and reasonably priced, the variety of sweets was especially worth mentioning. The best part was that at various eateries one could see people from all backgrounds sitting in the same eatery, tucking away some delicious item on the menu.
It might have been sheer good luck that all the people I met were so amicable and helpful. Curiously almost all of them warned me that the people here are cunning and dangerous most of the times. I probably will not forget the Press Club President Shaheen Khan who was so renowned yet humble. In the city there are so many constraints of protocol but here access to the highest authority of an institution has been made so easy for the convenience of the poor that it was an exemplary note in my opinion. Then there was Subon, the really soft-spoken young man in his late twenties who claimed to be a terrorist! I also encountered a student Noyon when I made a call from one of the shops; He approached me and spoke out in fluent English that he had understood everything I said (which was somewhat exasperating as I had made a personal call).
The best thing to note about this community is the faith that the people have in their leaders There is unity and sincerity on both sides to develop this town.
The night before my departure my mood became gloomy thinking of the prospect of going back to the horrors of Dhaka city but despite the depressing thoughts, a little lamp of hope had been ushered into my consciousness. How had this happened? Something about the countryside that I had long forgotten came into my view: those little bugs that glow in the dark. They were near the hedges of the road, in groups, elusively flashing their splendid light. Something in that sight brought back my hope. After all, what is hope but a little ray glimmering in the dark.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008