The symphony of our times

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Category : Munshigonj, Shelley

ANOTHER unforgettable experience was travelling by boat on fast flowing rivers. During the decades of 1950s and 1960s, our area Bikrampur, Munshiganj was only insufficiently connected to Dhaka

by road and highways. As a result, our main means of travel was river transport. We usually accompanied our parents in the journey by motor launch from Dhaka’s Sadarghat to Bikrampur’s Taltola. We first travelled through Buriganga and Shitalakhya near Narayanganj. It was then time for a U-turn at Abdullahpur/Mir Kadim to enter the river Dhaleswari which took us to Taltola. Green fields sprawled along the riverbanks. The river itself was full of streaming waters flowing and radiant in silvery sunlight. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour journey, Baba kept us joyful by narrating charming tales. There was no dearth of tasty snacks including bananas, sweets, salted peanuts, etc. At Taltola, tasty tea and sweetmeat stalls were venues for our entertainments on landing. We had also a treat of Bikrampur’s famous sweets and tea with thick milk.

During our childhood we covered the four miles from Taltola to Kushumpur on foot. Ladies and girls travelled on big palanquins or small ones called in Bikrampur dialect ‘Mafas’. Walking such a distance was not easy for us in that tender age, it was even more difficult during the hot summer. The district board road stretched from Taltola, passed by the old Malkhanagar school and reached our first stop at the village of Kakaldi. There we rested a while on the cemented courtyard of a primary school shaded by a large banyan tree. At the same time we consumed the chira-muri that we brought along and washed it down with cool water of the school’s tube-well. Then there was further walk down the un-metalled road to the Ichhapur bazaar, adjacent to the old and famous Ichapur high school. On the opposite side of the well-built Ichhapur school now stand the buildings of the relatively newly established Bikkrampur KB Degree College founded by baba, Principal BM Rahman. The college was founded in 1970. The buildings were mainly erected in 1980s and 1990s. We remember that baba dreamt of founding such a college even when we were children and he was serving as a government official. Now, it stands as a memorial to his dedicated service to the cause of education in rural areas. That college was not there in the 1950s or 1960s.

In the 50s and 60s, however, rickshaws and vintage jeeps began plying the district board road. In consequence, it became much easier for us to travel from Taltola to Ichapur and Kushumpur. Today it is a different story. Thanks to the Dhaka-Mawa highway and bridges on Buriganga and Dhaleshwari, one can travel by car to Kushumpur from Dhaka in about one and a half hour if, of course, the traffic in Dhaka is free from the proverbial jam. But in yesteryears the four-mile walk down the un-metalled road in summer or winter was a challenging experience for us, the children. After a short halt at Ichhapur, we had to cross another one and a half mile of snaky village road to reach our shady village home. Grandma Akramunnesa, whom we called Bujan, Dada, Chacha-Chachi along with cousins received us smilingly. Cool lemon drinks, delicious fruits and sweets helped us relief the fatigue of exacting journey. Then it was time for delightful play followed by testy dished at lunch, tea and snacks in the afternoon and delicious dinner at night.

During the rainy season the journey was a bit more comfortable. The ride was by our private boat with hood and made cosy and comfortable with bedrolls and pillows. We crossed the distance from Taltola to Kushumpur along the canal that meandered beside the District Board road. Needless to say, tasty snacks satisfied our palates all the way. However, long or dreary the roads were, at there and always stood our dear homestead. That shady corner was as replete with affection, as the hearts of our Dada, Bujan, uncles and aunties.

Regular visits to the village made us calm, close to many and varied trees. A tall rain tree distinguished our home. It was very much the mark and symbol of the home estate as it raised its proud head over the other trees. As a result, one could discern the location of our home by spotting the tree from the distant district board road.

Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, founder chairman of the Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh and editor of the quarterly Asian Affairs, was a former teacher of political science at Dhaka University (1964-1967), former member of the erstwhile Civil Service of Pakistan (1967-1980) and former non-partisan technocrat cabinet minister of Bangladesh (1990).

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