Usually my Pahela Boishakh morning starts with the harmonious (or is it!) vocal of my dad singing along with the broadcasted singers from TV. The song is famous symbolizing song of the occasion from Nobel winning poet Rabindranath Tagore: “Esho he Boishakh esho esho” inviting the first month of Bengali calender ‘Boishakh’. Unlike other days, most Bengali people wake up simultaneously with the sun. So do I after bit of yawning, rubbing eyes and crawling around bed for a while of course. As I proceed to the washroom, crossing the dining hall I see mom already arranged our breakfast that includes Hilsa fish fry, soaked rice, onion, green chili and at least 5 types of ‘vorta’ recipe. This is called traditional Bengali breakfast: ‘Panta Elish’. Rest of the days of the year we prefer effortless American or continental breakfast Hahaha!
At the morning, people gather at Ramna Batamul (The great banyan tree) where performers from Chayanat (music school) sit on the stage beneath the tree and perform Bangla songs written praising the arrival of the summer through this month. You can have Panta Elish over there too. But I prefer the one my mom prepares. Then we head out to celebrate the day.
But hey! Appearance is very important factor to celebrate the day. This day is all about turning yourself into a true Bangali for a day. Forget about faded jeans and T-shirts for this day. I prefer the red Punjabi, white trouser, flat-laced sandal and a sunglass. Girls wear Sari with combination of the red and white color (mostly), a garland of flowers laced around their head and red bangles in wrists, which I think multiplies their beauty at least hundred times. Nothing can beat the beauty of a ‘Deshi girl’ right? Now it’s time for the grand parade. This colorful parade is arranged by the students of Faculty of fine arts, University of Dhaka (my Uni 😀 ) where thousands of people including hundreds of foreign tourists join every year. This parade is called ‘Mangal Sovajatra’ a parade that welcomes the good and scares away the evil. A Month of preparation, planning and making of festoons, banners, symbolic cartoon icons and idols finally gives shape to this grand parade.
Colors in the air, colors everywhere. You can see the nature bursting into beauty thus submerging you into her. This is the perfect day to hangout with friends and take photographs. We gossip till the afternoon and then head out to the band concerts arranged in several places. I guess that’s not a Bengali tradition. But hey! It’s all about enjoying the day till I get exhausted and then bump on my pillow.
I’ve always been a fearful brother to my siblings. It’s that I can’t remember the last time I replied to their questions without showing lines on my forehead and barking ‘come again?’ prior to that. I can easily get away with such attitude since I’m the eldest of three. They indulged me with their silent fright without an urge to complain. They obey me like a trooper does the man present at higher chain of command, they fear me like a prey does the huntsman but they love me for some reason I can’t think of. Given this condition; I thought I was most successful eldest brother. Though I cannot say that I felt satisfied; I never ransacked the possibilities lied on the other side… till now.
I think they ever wondered the existence of a ‘friend’ inside my tough shell. As they hiked closer to discover what they sought; they were pushed away by a sour holler from my side. Yes I know what you are thinking by now; ‘heartless’. I don’t blame you for that.
The youngest one; my brother developed an interest for art. I think he is pretty good at it; much better than many of his age. But I never praised him for that. Once he painted some of my portraits and wrote something sweet about me on top of that. He put those on my study table as surprise gift on my birthday. I scolded him hard for messing my table and made him throw those papers out from window. I think he was hurt because I didn’t see his face for next few days. And the younger one; my sister… she never gathered enough courage to submit the ‘poem’ she wrote about their loving brother after that.
There are many examples that match the above one. It won’t be wise to stimulate your hatred for me any further mentioning those.
Now a day I wonder about the possibilities. I think if they deserve a bit more from me. I think… and my ego stands as threshold against letting them in. Mom told me not to tighten the knot anymore; rope might tear but that’s not my concept of elder brother-ism. Anyways, I experienced something that day while loosened the knot a bit.
Mom took my sister to the tuition. It was my responsibility to look after my brother. He finished study and nagging to take him play but I got a new John Grisham novel and didn’t want to leave. He had no other way to entertain himself except for painting; sitting by my side on sofa. After a while I noticed he started painting on my hand. The context of his painting didn’t fit in the a4 size paper I guess. As I said earlier; they always try to discover the presence of affection inside me. That was a notion. Once I thought to produce a bark but I didn’t. I was exploring the other side and it felt heavenly that day. Soon after that I was his “Rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock” partner. Then he was rehearsing funny ‘Oggy and the Cockroaches’ hindi dubbing playing ‘jack’ and ‘cockroaches’ while I reluctantly played Oggy. As days passed, we did pile of painting together while my novel remained unfinished.
My sister noticed the wind of change and there she was with her diary of poetry and expectation of getting praised. And I couldn’t disappoint her. She deserved that.
Things have changed. Now I respond to their call with line not on my forehead but a curved one on my lips… that you call smile. I don’t bark anymore, no longer I am an agent of terror in their eye and now I have a reason to explain their love for me. That day I let that form of love to paint on my palms and now it has conquered my heart. Now I know; it was a heaven on the other side… the side I live in now.
If you think a day long trip for 7 dollars (per head) is not possible; read this article (transportation, 2 meals, entertainment and light shopping included!!! Now tell me do you think you are imprisoned like some pathetic characters in the ‘drama of exhaust’ and you are dying for a break? When I said ‘break’, for a while, you swam across those big Eid, Puja, Chirstmas vacations in dream until your conscious scolded saying “Not happening bro!” Relax. It is happening. Gather some friends, pack your bags and all of you get ready to retire for a day. If you are planning to do that, even a week later with loads of planning and with a big circle, forget it. It’s never going to work. “Hut Hat” is the right motion that I would recommend for dudes like this. Logic is, eventually you are going to surrender to nature for a cure as this city damages your soul and sucks up all joy. Don’t let it be severe.
According to famous travel magazine ‘Lonely Planet’ world knows Bangladesh as a cheap travelling destination (yet to whisper many). You don’t have to whisper to mom for money so that your dad can’t hear or swing your tongue before boss like faithful dog to collect the amount. Your pocket money can back you up without difficulty. Now you are ready to rock anywhere within 80km radius. I have a name for it “7 dollars for salvation”.
Before you set out for it, simple blueprint is necessary. Use Google map for it. Target a district. Search places of interest. Pin those in map. Consider distance among those, leave the rest to your brain. It automatically will make a sequence. If you have GPS enabled device then you are blessed. When you roam around and find worth visiting places that are not listed in Google map then tag it. Google map provides ‘My map’ option where you can mark your places. Avail that and don’t forget to share that with friends. If you do that, you unknowingly contributing to tourism. I think I don’t have to tell you how to share. You are not that ‘dumb’ right?
Places we visited:
So; I welcome you to visit my country Bangladesh. The most inexpensive tourist destination ever.
We are developing a relatively new concept in the field of tourism and naming it ‘Campus Tourism’. By the sound of it you probably can realize what’s it about. This is a tourism activity of a group or a person around the campus of some institution. Of course, the institutions holding with larger amount of elements that interest tourists and fall into the segments of tourism product be subject of the discussion. I’m privileged that my institution ‘University of Dhaka’ holds awesome amount of tourism products to initiate our plan for campus tourism. In fact, the inception of my country ‘Bangladesh’ and role of my university in that is inseparable. I take pride in it’s call for revolution and democratic evolution that shaped my country. This institution is mainly home of dozens of historical & archaeological tourism products. Let’s dive into some of those:
- Bangladesh national museum: The museum contains a large number of interesting collections including sculptures and paintings of the Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim periods as well as inscriptions of the Holy Quran in Arabic and Persian letters and Bengali works in the Arabic script. The museum also has a rich collection of old coins, metal images, books on art, silver filigree works etc. It displays the lifestyle of local and indigenous tribes. It is open from Friday to Wednesday, 9 am to 6 pm.
- Chobir Haat: It is an open-air market where artists exhibit and sell their artwork, which is on display for customers to admire and buy what they like. The Friday market is an open-air market, or rather open-air exhibition that continues from 3pm-8pm. Beautiful paintings are inexpensive in comparison to their value. Most of the Fridays there are open-air free concert also where you many local artist sing Bengali folk song.
- Suhrawardy Uddyan: A Popular Park. The oath of independence of Bangladesh was taken here and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheik Mujibur Rahman gave clarion call for independence on this occasion on the 7th March 1971. The place is famous for its lush verdure and gentle breezes. Eternal Flame to enliven the memory of the martyrs of our Liberation war been blown here recently.
- Statue of Independence (Glass tower): Translated as Freedom Monument is the exact place where Bangabondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman delivered his historical speech on 7th march 1971. With his speech, Bangladeshi Nation got the enthusiasm for our great Liberation War in 1971. To recognize the historical memory, this statue been made.
- ‘Shikha chironton’ and ‘Shadhinota Terracotta Mural’ : The eternal flame symbolizes the spirit of independence that will forever guide us to the light of salvation and the terracotta showcases the passion exhibited by our countrymen in 1971. Both of these monuments stand in Suhrawardi Uddyan.
- Mausoleum of National Leaders: Located at the southwestern corner of Suhrawardy Uddyan, it is the eternal resting place of great national leaders, Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Haque, Hossain Shahid Suhrawardy and Khaja Nazimuddin. Known in Bangla as ‘Teen Netar Kobor’ this is the place of graves of three national leaders who contributed to shape this country at difficult times.
7. Mir Jumla’s Gate (Dhaka Gate) Mir Jumla (1660-1663) was a prominent subahdar of Bengal under Emperor aurangzeb. Mir Jumla’s name is connected with a number of constructions, the first of which is Mir Jumla’s gate, lately known as Ramna gate, on the Mymensingh road near curzon hall and to the west of the old High Court Buildings. The gate was probably meant to guard the city from the north. He also had to guard the city and its suburbs from Magh attacks.
8. Doel Square: Doel is the national bird of Bangladesh. Within few years of independence of this country in 1971, there was a surge for defining national identity. As a part of that program several sculpture with national symbols were built around the city. This stands in Dhaka university area near the roundabout of ‘Curzon Hall’ on the way to TSC (Teachers-Students Centre).
9. Curzon Hall: These days Curzon Hall is a part of the school of science of Dhaka University. Curzon Hall meant to be a town hall, was named after Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, who laid its foundation in 1904. A year later Bengal was partitioned and Dhaka or Dacca as it was known then, became the capital of the newly created province of East Bengal and Assam. Following the annulment of partition in 1911 it was used as a premise of Dhaka College, and after the establishment of the University of Dhaka in 1921, the decision that made to please Muslims in East Bengal as a compensation for the annulment of the partition, became part of the university’s science section and continued as such till date.
10. Central Shahid Minar: Symbol of Bengali nationalism, this monument was built to commemorate the martyrs of the historic Language movement of 1952. Hundreds and thousands of people with floral wreaths and bouquet gather on 21 February every year to pay respect in a solemn atmosphere. This is a monument in honor of the language martyrs of 1952. On February 21, 1952, many students and political activists were killed as Pakistani police force opened fire on some protesters who were demanding equal status to their mother tongue, Bengali. The place was near Dhaka Medical College and Ramna Park in Dhaka. The minar has five pillars made of pure marble stone upon a 14 feet high stage. The boundary on both sides contains lines from poems of famous poets engraved in iron letters
11. National Poet’s Graveyard: Revolutionary poet Kazi Nazrul Islam died on the 29 August 1976 and was buried here. The graveyard is adjacent to the Dhaka University Mosque.
12. Aparajeyo Bangla: Translated as ‘undefeatable Bengal’, Aparajeyo Bangla is perhaps the most famous sculpture in Bangladesh built on the theme of Independence in 1971. It is located in front of Faculty of Arts & Humanities of Dhaka University. The two male figures represent a villager and a city dweller respectively and the woman with a first aid box – all contributed to the Independence in this country. There is no restriction to get in and take picture of it since it is considered as national piece of art.
13. Razu vaskorjo: Sculpture against terror installed on TSC roundabout, Dhaka University. It was funded by private donors and overseen by students to make a point against political violence among the student activists which is a serious problem among the public universities in the country. The sculpture is dedicated to a student killed by political violence.
14. Gurudwara Nanak Shahi: This Sikh temple is out of few still found in Bangladesh and is administered from India. There is no resident Sikh community left in Bangladesh but in recent years, country received a good number of Sikh visitors mostly on work in Bangladesh. The gurudwara was founded by a missionary sent to Bangladesh by Baba Gurditta, Son of Guru Hargobind (6th Guru) within 17th century and was completed in 1830. Religious celebrations include weekly prayers every Friday. Social functions such as Baisakhi are celebrated. Old relics-an old handwritten volume of Guru Granth Sahib, a portrait of Guru Teg Bahadur are preserved here.
15. Shoparjito shadhinita: Translated in English as Self-earned Independence, ‘Shoparjito Shadhinota’ was built in early 90s in front of TSC (Teachers-Students Centre), Dhaka University. At the time of inaugurating the sculpture, hardliner Islamists threatened to destroy it. Ms Shikdar who created this sculpture, promised to strip anyone whoever approaches to do so being present at the spot early morning on the day of inauguration. Nothing happened and the sculpture is still standing with pride
16. Shadhinota songram sculpture: The sculpture ‘Swadhinata Sangram’ is the embodiment of the consciousness and struggle of Bengali’s. Eminent sculptor Shamim Sikder erected this grand sculpture. Holding the national flag on the top, the huge statue shows faces of several historical persons. The artisan has also created one hundred and three small sculptures around the altar of liberation memorial sculpture. Images of prominent persons and different scenes of Bengali culture have been included in the garden. Four phases of history: 1952/69/71/75 been represented including the history of the Liberation War.
17. Road accident memorial: White statue of a smashed microbus set on black stone under blue sky surrounded by green row of trees. Renowned director and filmmaker Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munir had passed away on 13 August of 2011 in a road accident. A sculpture of the car carrying on the day of the accident is used to build it. The sculpture is established in the VC Square of Dhaka University near the teacher-student center.
18. Greek memorial: A small yellow building that looks a little like a Greek temple faces the campus wall near the TSC (Teacher-Student Center) of Dhaka University. It looks old and was in very bad state until the 1960s, when university authorities renovated it. A mysterious inscription is written on the frieze above the entrance to the building. “Happy are those whom you chose and took with you”. It refers to the nine gravestones, which are embedded in the walls. Four written in Greek, four in English, and one is in both languages. They belong to Greek families who lived in Dhaka 150-200 years ago long before the establishment of Dhaka University in the site.
19. Bangla academy: Bangla Academy , Bangladesh’s national academy of arts and letters is an institution devoted to the development of language, literature and culture of our country. Bangla Academy building, formerly known as Burdwan House, contains an exclusive colonial style of late 19th and early 20th centuries. Originally a two storied building, it is rectangular in plan, the central bay holding the main entrance portico being projected out. A wide arcaded verandah runs in front of the building at both levels with balustrade railings. The arches are all semicircular which conform to the 19th century style. The wide verandahs not only act as shading devices but also protect the rooms from rain and provide easy circulation with adequate lighting and ventilation. The semicircular open balconies add spice to the beauty of this simplistic building.
20. Moder Gorob: Language martyr’s monument situated in the premise of bangle academy. This monument is dedicated to the soldiers of 1952 language movement; young people from different background protested valiantly demanding the same right.
It’s going to take a whole day to roam around my campus and get to know the prideful history. So, make schedule for a day, put it in your itinerary and enjoy ‘Campus Tourism’.