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    Volume 8 Issue 99 | December 25, 2009 |

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The Room with a Dirty View

Aasha Mehreen Amin

My mother has a room with a view of the wide expanse of the Gulshan Lake. The serene, picturesque view of a lake where little sailboats plied and the sun turned the water to liquid gold, silver or copper according to its cycle, an idyllic setting for a writer like my mother.

But when I go to visit her nowadays, she no longer revels in the luxury of having such a view as it has drastically changed over the last year or so. The 'island', on the opposite bank looks so much closer and is choc-a-bloc with tin roofed huts - a boshoti that seems to be expanding, encroaching upon the precious lake. Will it be any surprise if one fine day we see the 'boshoti' being cleared and in its place some shiny new high rise with an enticing name like -Lake View Tower or Lake View Shopping Mall...

There is more. On this side of the bank the view is completely destroyed by the floating garbage accumulated at the banks making one long, filthy lining of this desperately choking water body. Even on this side clever house-owners have conveniently 'extended' their backyards to take portions of the bank, building huts just to keep it occupied until the next bright real estate idea comes up. Soon this too will be a 'prized plot in Gulshan' vied by thousands and priced at crores of taka. Again part of the lake will be the casualty.

It is actually quite a joke - the idea of a lake view. Just go on a short ride to Gulshan's most exclusive spots where you will come across so many luxury apartments sporting appellations like 'Lake Shore' and 'Lake View' and yet there is not even a sliver of any lake in sight. This is because the Gulshan-Banani-Baridhara Lake has been literally devoured by greedy real estate developers helped by shameless officials, who, for wads of cash, have allowed this beautiful lake to be eaten away.

There is hardly any lake left in Gulshan these days just as there are hardly any gardens, forget flowers, in this residential area that was once adorned with elegant homes with landscaped greenery. This lack of green however, has not deterred the developer and you will still find grandiose titles akin to 'Garden View' or 'Green Resort' to continue the delusion.

Yes we do need to be a little delusional, perhaps a few hallucinogens could do the trick, to continue to believe that Gulshan, meaning 'garden' is an elegant residential area, especially when we pass by those pot-holed, chassis breaking roads that everyday, the residents drive by, the unsightly piles of rotting garbage municipal trucks sometimes ignore, mounds of sand from killer trucks, incestuous spaghetti tangles of the myriad cables -which one is for the illegal channels, which one for the telephone lines, the electricity?

Inside those apartments some have created their cocoons to forget the ram-shackled state of a neighbourhood that was once the object of envy. But not for long. Hideous fumes from burning garbage mix with the unsavoury loudness of microphones spewing out political tirades or psuedo-religious sermons (you can't really tell the difference) along with the boom boom of hedonistic hip hoppers who couldn't care less if someone is ill or trying to sleep. Other neighbours manage to contribute to the cacophonous orchestra by grinding spices and letting their kids lose in the middle of the night!

All this in a way, go together with the general decay of this once, tranquil neighbourhood. Yet one cannot but dream that somehow even whatever is left of that timid, helpless lake, remains, to provide an inkling of a view of the lake.


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