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|Volume 12 |Issue 04| January 25, 2013 ||
The Smelly Past is Best Forgotten
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
It's been a while since we left our old home in Karwan Bazar and moved into this shiny new building that we love to show off to our friends and foes. Funny, how we can adjust and adapt so easily, forgetting the details of the past and retaining only snippets and images.
If you think this is going to some sentimental path down memory lane you couldn't be more wrong. Today I had to take the roundabout road through Karwan Bazar's narrow alleys. Honestly, I do not miss that area one bit. It was grungy, smelly and so difficult to walk around in. I remember once I had to walk through a back alley to get to the bank and it was just laced with sticky grime - a mixture of rotting vegetable remnants and mud. My shoes were caked in the stuff and I was almost in tears. Going out of the office didn't just mean walking over sewerage water overflowing from the drains, it had the smells to go with it. It was hard to say what odour would waft into the nose on a particular day. Would it be stale curry smells from 'hotels', would it be the 'drainer halwa' (strange, black sticky stuff dug out from overflowing drains to be left in the open for days), rotting fish or chicken droppings, or cattle smells from the make-shift Eid cattle market where our parking lot used to be – these the intoxicating smells that attacked us every time we decided to take a walk.
Today as I was forced to take that road to get to the office I was filled with dread, especially fearful of a particular narrow sliver of an alley. It was one which began with a huge open garbage dump and also served as a public toilet. I remember fiercely looking the other way whenever the vehicle I was in would take a short cut through that ugly, stinky, path. I had learnt the hard way – after witnessing the grotesque scene of man, and nature and a heap of smelly, noxious, raw garbage. It is perhaps Murphy's law that whatever you dread most will always pop up in your face when you least expect it – the woman throwing up lunch from the bus next to you, the vile cockroach on the ceiling, the man answering to the call of nature while looking around to see if there was anything interesting happening...
Today, after so many years, the driver of the vehicle I was travelling in decided to take that particular horror of a street. I was talking on the phone and so didn't have time to twist my neck away and almost screamed when I realised where I was. But to my utter surprise it was not a filth monster that was staring at me but a quickly constructed shack that said 'Kajir Office'. What a relief! What pure joy though I would not step into that 'office' for a million dollars, knowing what I know of its origins.
I decided to be a bit masochistic and rolled down the window to get a whiff, expecting to faint. It was not the best of smells but not the worst either – a mixture of shorn wood from the tiny furniture shops, bhapa pitha from Pitha Ghar -a stove and a few utensils rather than the house of pancakes and well yes a little bit of garbage. I would live.
Today I came through Hatirjheel and it was literally a breeze. The clean, clear roads, the glistening water – it was the best ride I had taken in a long time. It made me optimistic. If they could transform a marshy, unkempt, chaotic mess like Hatirjheel into this swanky, elegant area, surely they could do something similar for Karwan Bazar (like it's revamped, chic underpass), where part of our lives was spent.
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