I don’t understand how can I start and where from! But I think I have something to share. The newly built Padma Bridge and the happiness of southern people, the beauty of nature in this season, the villager’s daily life and their thinking, ‘chuijhal’, a local ingredient essential for cooking meat, and the story of searching for real ‘deshi murgi’, and a number of things!
On 8 July, I started my Eid journey from Dhaka to Bagerhat. It was a double-decker air-conditioned bus, with a fare of 1200 taka. If I remember correctly, when I first came to Dhaka in 1997 the fare was only 90 taka. And I feel cheated when I use their washroom in the Arambag area. No one is assigned to clean it. My humble question is, how does a giant transport company run without basic services?
Ok, let’s go for the bigger story! This was our Padma Bridge in front of my eyes, the most beautiful and happy moment of my journey history for the last 25 years! My mobile camera was on. I was taking a number of snaps and videos and then sharing it on social media instantly. Lots of comments and reactions came from my friends, relatives, and well-wishers and that was a joyful moment so far.
After crossing the Padma Bridge and Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga Expressway which is renamed ‘Jatir Pita Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Mohasorok’, the condition of the highway was not of that high a standard. The people of the southern region will be really benefited from the Padma Bridge if the Dhaka-Khulna and Dhaka-Barishal highways are to be four lanes.
It was just a three hours and 30 minutes journey from Dhaka to Fakirhat, the district of Bagerhat where my village home is located. My village’s name is Mulghar and it lies on both sides of the highways. It was at least 7 hours journey before the Padma Bridge with the enormous hassles and boundless suffering. And my mother was so happy to see me along with my family after 10 months.
It was the last week of the Bangla month of Ashar, but there was no sign of rain. It was sunny day with little white clouds and a bright moon at night. The green leaves and multi-coloured flowers in my village mesmerised me.
The next day morning, I went to Fakirhat Bazar, a big and traditional market in this region. Fakirhat is known for its shrimp cultivation and is called ‘Choto Kuwait’ for its wealth. I was looking for ‘chuijhal’, the traditional ingredient for cooking meat. It is a masala or spice that increase the taste of meat very differently. No one thinks in the Khulna-Bagerhat region of cooking beef or mutton without chui. Now the other parts of Bangladesh are showing their interest in this ingredient too. The sellers in the market inform me that the price of chui is 1200 to 2000 taka per kilo.
Then I go for real ‘deshi murgi’ (local free-run chicken) and I got it. We bought two for 1300 taka, weighing 2.7 kilograms. Then I look for Niru Paul’s sweets. A tall and thin Niru Paul kaka (uncle) is famous for his sweets specially rosgolla and perar sandesh. He has been making these items here for at least 60 years and has firmly established his brand. But I was informed that Niru kaka passed away and one of his associates now runs the shop.
In the afternoon, we went to a new place called `Mini Sundarban’ located at the Fakirhat-Chitolmari border. There is a river named Chitra, which originates from Bhairab. We have seen there a number of Sundarban trees like golpata and kewra. Though the Sundarbans is 80 kilometers far from here, botanists and naturalists think the seeds came from the Sundarban area floating along the river. A number of tourists came from the adjacent areas there and jhal muri, tea, and coffee are available. People are enjoying in their own style.
Eid day was also beautiful. The weather was sunny and we performed our rituals. The very next day, I left Fakirhat for Dhaka and it was also a three-and-a-half hour journey.
Finally, I want to add a point to ponder. The village people are richer day by day and they have built new houses. The land for agriculture is diminishing. I think, the need for multi-storied buildings for villagers is essential and not just in the future. It’s absolutely a present call. And we should think about it now.
Eid Mubarak to all!
Kazi Alim-uz-zaman is Deputy News Editor, Prothom Alo. He can be reached via [email protected]