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A palace lost in time

Location: Shyamnagar Rajbari, Shyamnagar, Satkhira.

Notes: “What was once a king's palace is now another man's loo” is probably one of the most historically correct sayings. Locals say that the Shyamnagar Rajbari was made by Zamindar Hari Charan Roy Chowdhury yet some books proclaim that it was actually Raja Pran Nath Roy Chowdhury who constructed this magnificent piece of architecture back in the mid-19th century.

The Rajbari itself is divided into two sections with a two-storied building in the front and a three storied building at the back. Sadly, much of the Rajbari now lie in ruins. Adding to the serenity of the landmark is a pond and another brick structure called the hawa khana where the zamindars spent their time sipping cups of tea, perhaps with their pinkies pointed upwards, much like the British rulers of their time.

History does state that Pran Nath Roy Chowdhury lived a lavish life with influence from the European clothing line, horse racing and other glamorous pastimes. The magnificence of the Rajbari only re-states the prevailing social inequality of that time.

Getting there:
Dhaka - Satkhira: From Dhaka take a bus straight to Satkhira, Shyamnagar. We went there by Hanif Non-AC bus and boarded from Kollyanpur. The fare per person till Shyamnagar is Tk.450 per person. There are several other pretty good buses going there including the Satkhira Express. The time required varies depending on the Aricha ferry but you should be able to make the trip within 8-10 hours.

From Shyamnagar to the Rajbari: Take a rickshaw from Shyamnagar (or a van) and ask to be taken to the Shyamnagar broken-down Rajbari. The ride should take about 15-20 minutes and the fare is around Tk.20.

Best time to visit: Avoid the rainy season. The road to the temple is mud laid and it can get very difficult to get there when it rains.

What to expect: Expect a very neat and traditional atmosphere. There is a mosque and a pair of temples right around the Rajbari, so the region is quite religiously imbued. Oh, and be wary of snakes. The Rajbari has become a den for them.

In your backpack: Water bottle, dry food, sanitiser, umbrella, glucose/saline, anti-venom medicine (for emergency measures) and torchlight.

Nearby places to stay: The closest place to stay is in Shyamnagar, Satkhira. The best hotel we could find there is Hotel Saudia which charges Tk.500-600 for their VIP Room which can accommodate up to three people and has an attached, tiled bathroom. Their cell number is 0171 145 0030.

Money matters: If you plan on staying for a single night, Tk.2200 should get you through the trip.

For photographers: The Rajbari is located on a relatively large field, which is brilliant for landscape photography, so be sure to take your wide angle lens.

Adventure rating: This will be a fun trip! 2.5 out of 5.0.

By Adnan M. S. Fakir
Photos courtesy of Finding Bangladesh. Check them out at facebook.com/ findingbangladesh.


Adopting a Pet

Sagir U Ahmed

The Puppy Chronicles II
Due to the heavy flow of Eid-related articles, we were unable to publish instalments of our latest column. However, we shall now be resuming this feature regularly which last appeared on the issue of Tuesday, July 10th, 2012.

In the last column we discussed the primary steps to adopting a new puppy. This week, we'll focus on the puppy's first days and discuss the all-important training methods.

The puppy's first days
When you collect the puppy, it is best for two people to make the journey so that someone can hold the puppy in the car. It may be a good idea to take some newspaper sheets in case he is travel sick.

If you have bought a puppy from a breeder, make sure that you get all the relevant paperwork -- such as the Kennel Club registration forms, pedigree certificate, dietary advice sheet, worming and vaccination details -- at the time of collection. Although in our country you might not get all documents at a time as the proper kennel and pedigree operation is not available here. But awareness is developing and a few proactive youngsters of Bangladesh have already established a kennel club for different breeds like the Royal Bengal Kennel.

If your puppy has come from a Rescue Initiative ensure that you listen carefully to any instructions given by the rescuer. If your puppy has already been vaccinated you should receive a certificate, as well as details relating to any medical treatment that he/she may have received. Moreover, if possible try to obtain literature related to feeding, basic training techniques and previous vet advice regarding future healthcare. Most rescuers will be happy to give follow-up advice and support should you require it.

For the children in the family, this will be a very exciting time. It should be explained that the puppy is not a toy and that he needs to sleep undisturbed. This is a good opportunity to teach your children about responsible dog ownership.

Obtain a book from any renowned book depot which can assist you in basic training techniques or read up on Basic Dog Training, Socialisation and Housetraining fact-sheets from the Internet.

The puppy is bound to feel confused at first. Be gentle and kind and allow him time to settle in his new surroundings. Introduce him to the areas of the house where he is allowed to go and show him where his bed and bowls are located.

Make enquiries with your local vet about reputable puppy socialisation and training. Go to Youtube and search for breed-wise training videos.

Training your puppy should start straight away to avoid him developing bad habits. Teach him what is acceptable. Make clear and simple commands and show him what you want him to do. Lessons should be short and at regular intervals. Remember -- always reward good behaviour and ignore 'bad' behaviour. You can use some training foods during the sessions.

Play is essential and can be used to reward good behaviour. It will also give you the opportunity to build a good relationship with your dog.

Most puppies are anxious to please; therefore rewarding good behaviour is far more effective than punishing him for a poor performance.

If you don't have an older dog at home, try to find friends or family with a friendly, calm dog and let them have time together to play and interact on a regular basis. All puppies and dogs need frequent, safe interaction with other dogs to stay happy and healthy and learn normal dog behaviour.

To housetrain quickly, you will need to take your puppy outside hourly. Puppies have very weak bladder control and will need to relieve themselves regularly throughout the day. There is a fairly set pattern to this: immediately after waking, after exercise or play and after each meal. Always choose the same place in the garden. Remain with the puppy until he has performed and then give him plenty of generous praise. It is essential that he links the chosen area in the garden with reward. Remember accidents will happen. If you catch your puppy in the act, simply take him outside and then praise him for his efforts. Never shout or hit the puppy as this will cause confusion and is likely to make matters worse.

Place a suitable collar on your puppy and allow him time to get used to it. Remember to fasten it up tight enough, so that he cannot pull it over his head but remember to make adjustments as he grows. Attach the lead and gently encourage the puppy to follow you, using praise. If he struggles hold the lead until he realises that there is no escape, then gently coax him to move forward again.

In my next column, I will talk about a puppy's healthcare, feeding and exercise requirements. In the mean time send all your questions regarding today's topics or any other pet related query to lifestyleds@yahoo.com

Dr. Sagir's Pet Clinic is located at Lalmatia, near Meena Bazaar, at Dhanmondi Rd# 27.


Terrarium gardening

By Laila Karim

Terrarium: A small enclosure or closed container in which selected living plants and sometimes small land animals, such as turtles and lizards, are kept and observed.

A terrarium garden is a miniature version of an ecosystem created with living plants in a closed container, or within a small enclosure. It is a new version of innovative gardening, especially in urban settings and landscapes. Terrariums are simple to make, easy to care for and the choices for plants and styles of containers are endless. Innovation and style are the mantras of this type of gardening.

Create your dream garden step by step with clear glass container(s)
For this type of compact project, you need to be very strategic, innovative and must have the endearing will to be a gardener with a difference!

Selection of containers is the most important part
Any fancy clear glass jars/containers, even a used light bulb will do. These days our everyday utility products come with elegant, transparent jars and containers. You may use the mayonnaise, jam, pickle or pasta-sauce jars, tall or different sizes of glasses, old flower vases or even crystal pieces like goblets or vases, and/or choose the easiest option of all, i.e. a fish bowl.

Different sizes of fish bowls are available at our Nilkhet-Kata Bon Market of Dhaka city. You may also try places where science project items are sold.

The easiest way to create a terrarium display is to simply enclose a potted plant such as an orchid plant (or plants) in a chosen glass jar/container. If your container is secondhand, or was previously used as a terrarium, wash it out -- disinfect it with a cleaning agent, allow the container to air out for a few days before you plant anything inside it.

Choosing plants for a terrarium: keep it simple and don't overcrowd it!
For a multi-plant display, choose plants that have similar growing requirements for temperature, light and water. Slow growers are also preferred for this kind of gardening so that your terrarium doesn't get overgrown too fast.

Don't overcrowd the terrarium. Keeping it simple will have more visual impact and your plants will be healthier. Ensure that there is a variety of leaf texture, colour and height. Include a mossy groundcover and something taller such as a lemon button fern.

Preparing your terrarium supplies
Once you have selected your glass container and plants, you will need to collect your other supplies such as small pebbles, horticultural charcoal, potting soil and decoration objects -- the suitable plants are from orchid families, ferns from the lily family or asparagus fern -- all these are available in most good nurseries.

Placemat of your terrarium garden -- aesthetic look to be matched with the requirement of space, light and shade.

You will need to consider where to place the completed terrarium while choosing plants. It depends on the nature of the plants. Do your plants like a lot of sun or prefer shade? When Placed in direct sunlight it is important to remember that a glass container will magnify the effects of the sun and plants can become scorched.

However, your office desk may not provide enough natural light. Choose plants carefully for the location you have in mind, and pick a spot that assures your plants a reasonable amount of light. To give a natural look, decorate the garden-jar with non-growing elements such as seashells and rocks and mosses.

When ready to begin:
Layer the pebbles in the bottom of your container. Without the pebbles, the soil would become muddy very quickly.

Next, sprinkle the charcoal over top. The charcoal acts as a filter for the water that will gather due to the humidity.

Put some good quality potting soil into the container. Do not use soil from an outdoor garden as it may contain bacteria or fungi that will flourish in the humid environment. Put several inches of soil into the container enough to cover the roots of your plants.

Insert/put the seed, or baby plants as per your choice and let them grow under your observation. Once planted, ensure the roots are well away from the sides of the container. There should be a thick layer of dirt between the roots and the glass.

Give your plants a drink by drizzling water down the side of the container or using a spray bottle to mist the terrarium. Cover the terrarium (if it has a lid) and place it in a light-appropriate area. Watch the plants carefully for a few days to ensure they do not dry out as they re-establish their roots.

Over watering is the most common mistake, especially in completely closed terrariums. With fish-bowl arrangement, use a few tablespoons of water each month. However, a terrarium with moss may dry out quickly (moss is very thirsty!).

While choosing plants consider where will you place the completed terrarium - do your plants like lots of sun or prefer shade? Follow the need.

Thumb rule: Less is more; don't crowd your terrarium with the wish list. Your plants like other living creatures - need room to breath and grow and simple arrangements are always more pleasing to the eye! Try it and see the result !

Please feel free to send me email to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the garden issue. Email: lifestyleds@yahoo.com


Dessert stand

By Nazia Farzin Shafiq

Do you know how you can make your sweets, desserts and cakes even more irresistible? By presenting them on a lovely stand.

Warning: After learning how to make a dessert stand you might not be able to stop. You may end up with a very large collection of DIY stands in many shapes, colours and sizes. Let's start:

1 plate (4-inch plates make great cupcake stands)
1 candle stick, goblet or sundae glass
1 heavy book
1 can of spray paint (I really like the way gloss looks for this project)
1 can of acrylic sealant (Optional)
Newspaper sheets to protect surfaces while painting

Start off with a plate -- any plate will work but I recommend using one that has the colour or image you would like at the top of the stand as this will not be painted to keep the cake stand food-friendly. Affix the plate to a candlestick, goblet or sundae cup using glue for ceramics and glass.

Place a heavy book on top of the stand and let the epoxy set according to directions. After the epoxy has set, you should be able to pick up the stand with no movement from the candlestick or plate.

Make sure the plate is set firmly on a protected surface. This will allow you to spray paint the outside of the cake stand. I would suggest covering the top of the plate with paper or painters tape. Keeping paint away from the stand's top surface keeps ensures that your dessert will remain safe to eat.

Spray the entire outer surface according to the directions on the spray paint can. Take your time on this step and stand back far enough to avoid drips. Also, this step make take a couple of layers of paint so plan to make the stands at least a day in advance of your party.

Optional: After the paint has dried, spray with a sealant to make the paint on the stand more durable.

Before use, wash the top of the plate with dish soap and water.


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