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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | June 24, 2005 |

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In Retrospect

Remembering the

Days in Wari

Syed Waliullah

With the passage of time pleasant and subliminal memories of our youthful days peter out of our memory lane later to surface when we enter the age of a senior citizen. With this new phase comes along the emotive state when we tend to share our stories with others.

On entering college we started to shed off our school-day restrictions and enjoy our newly found truncated freedom from the closely watched regulated life. This freedom of ours took us to an uncharted heavenly spot in the Kamalapur region. It turned out to be a serendipitous discovery long after we, the mama bhagney duo, began our family approved regular rendezvous with Wari and Sadarghat.

When we, for the first time, entered the modern neighborhood, Wari, it was already blooming with its characteristic beauty not found elsewhere in the town. The visits to this colourful, if not frequent, were regular because Dr Nandi, the famed family doctor and the legendary man of benevolence, lived there at Rankin Street. This man ran single handedly a daily gruel kitchen for thousands of famine stricken victims in Bikrampur when millions of the province of Bengal were dying of malnutrition and pestilence. The end result was that five million citizens perished due to the unprecedented scorched earth policy of the Allied Forces.

This fascinating residential area, Wari, located in the north-east periphery and the west of the Christian cemetery of the historical town of the Moghul period. The neighborhood was already sixty years old by the time we stepped into it. It was built in 1876 and was the first of its kind, with well-laid out straight and parallel streets (with no lane or bi-lane), running water, sewer and a drainage system. Beautiful homes, mostly one-story buildings (only three of them were two storied) came up with decorative green creepers, variegated flowery pergola (arch) on the main entrances wafting fragrance of jasmine, magnolia, rojonigondha and gondhoraj that intoxicated the passers-by. Oleander (Roktokorobi) in red and white, and Bougainvillaea in red, purple, pink and white had no sweet smell to offer but their riotous colour added to the magnificence of the environment. Neat streets (cleaned twice a day and washed once every day) on the outside and fruit trees of all kinds and colourful gardens inside spacious lawns with flowerbeds. Eucalyptus and Krishnochura trees were added attractions of some of the homes. Its clean and healthy atmosphere and the life style of residents with good taste gave the place its distinctive name, Sanatorium. Residents used to pay a higher rate of municipal taxes for the extra services they got from the municipality. Most often than not, the chairman of the municipality was elected from this community.

The beauty of Wari was further accentuated by its exceptional Botanical gardens, the Baldha gardens, an exclusive private enterprise, with collections of innumerable botanical species from all around the world. This was another priority tourist attraction of Dhaka, a unique and unbelievable exotic creation of Zaminders of Baldha. The gardens were always crowded with locals and non-locals alike. It was and still is the pride possession of Dhakaiyas. The gardens may have lost some of its luster with the migration of original owners cum creators with vision, but it still remains to be all inviting to lovers of nature and 'love birds.' Its streets never suffered from traffic congestion, even today, while rest of the city is exasperated and seething with debilitating traffic congestion.

The community was well-known for its wealthy families, high ranking officials and professionals. Scores of young people were sent away to Kolkata for higher and professional education. These young men and women used to be the trend-setters of town, wearing the latest fashions from Messers Whiteway Laidlaws, a British owned mega-shop of Kolkata. Traditionally, pairs of young men and women were seldom seen on the street, notwithstanding married couples and siblings. This community produced Protibha Bosu, famous literary figure of the undivided Bengal, wife of another master of Bangla literature, Buddho Dev Bosu, who dared to be critical of his contemporaneous, Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. The other big name of the community is the second Noble Laureate from Bengal, Professor Amartya Sen. With the partition of the sub-continent the whole community migrated to India, lock-stock and barrel.

We used to venture out to Wari from not so crowded and far off Laxmibazar. Moving farther north-east we crossed the old Dhaka-Narayanganj Railway track in to the open and bushy area of Tikatuly and Kamalapur region to the north east, sprinkled with small forests, ditches, water-holes, and a vast semi-swamp. Spending an hour or two on a small island in the middle of the swamp, was simply invigorating. In spite of the fact that we had to wade quite a distance to reach the spot, our visits had always been exceedingly pleasurable. We would sit quietly under the shade of a bower by the very old and dilapidated pond.

The spot was surrounded by bamboo thickets and a variety of large and small trees, creepers and bushes located somewhere around Kamalapur. We listened to the lovely chirping birds, whistling magpie -- a love-lorne dove's call for its mate. It was no less fascinating to watch a kingfisher hovering over the water and swooping down to pick up its prey or a few egrets basking on top of a nearby tree while a couple of them leisurely waded in measured but graceful steps to pick up a snail, an oyster or a small fish. A Pankouri (web footed long necked black Cormorant) sat on a bamboo pole in the middle of the pond, as if in trance. Some times we were pleasantly surprised to listen to the cacophony of a flock of parrots flapping their wings and jostling with each other on the branches of the banyan tree while eating its fruits and dropping partly eaten ones. There were Horikol/Horials, a variety of pigeon family with greenish ring around its neck also seen to eat the fruit undisturbed by the near by noise. Seldom did we miss a woodpecker pecking away bits and parts of a tree of its choice.

Everything around us was quiet and serene with the rustlings of leaves or shivering sounds of tree branches. A few yards away there was an old Sheora (wild) tree on the edge of the pond, most of its roots were out in the open but precariously clawing the sliding land. It was not an unusual sight for us to see some wild animals of small variety, from our vintage spot shaded by Kathmollica (a rare variety of a very sweet-scented wild flower belonging to the species of jasmine). We saw a jackal jogging away at a distance or a squirrel or two heartily running from one to the other branch of a tree or two, a mongoose moving away quickly from a nearby bush, possibly with some urgent business in mind.

For us it was like heaven on earth. Whatever the season and whatever time of the day we had chosen for our arrival at the spot we would feel calm and tranquil in the complete absence of any sign of distress, despair or dissonance.

Never do we, in our declining years, forget the beautiful world of mother-nature, dotted along our memory lane. "Remembered joys are never past."

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