by Munem Wasif
Puran Dhaka, or Old Dhaka, was a rather unlikely subject. For it existed all around me. I live here. It was almost trying to find the unseen within the everyday. Old Dhaka had made me appreciate properly cooked greasy food, the sleaziest of slang, and it is where I had come to rediscover the same small town pulse of holding on to things than letting go. My own childhood years in Comilla, a small district town surrounded by mostly rural settings and steep with customs and old world lifestyle, had made me not just appreciate but rather feel at home with relations which emboldened from the duration of time spent and bordered on tradition more than trend. But through the frames, my Old Dhaka started to divulge unseen lives and throw back at me more agonising questions of assimilation, and even worse, deletion.
As I started to see, the world that was just ordinary and domestic started to unravel in an intricate web of ages-old wisdom and tradition. Festivals, like Holi celebrated with all its grandeur at Shankharibazaar, which had seemed as just fun with throwing colors at one another revealed with all the bonds of belonging, spiritual continuity and rejuvenation. It ceased to be a mere Hindu festivity, but more so of celebrating the joy of being. Old, regal structures which had just seemed as edifices were now symbols of 'living art'.
The common sight of mothers' bathing their children in the small courtyard and tired, old horses pulling carriages, which had long ceased to be any 'real' form of transport, were becoming dots in a matrix where living meant progressively building on what you have and not deleting structures, customs, ways of life which had come into place over centuries. It took time, but with every passing, I realised why Sumitra Debi of Bonogram wants her own house and those surrounding it to retain their own place. They were not houses, they represented her sixty hears in this world. It is time and the lives. Lives lived within the confines of walls breath with those structures and their collective consciousness makes the fragments into a whole.
Words such as family, tradition, belonging mean a lot here. In fact, they are what bind. The ether filled with collective growth is one that cannot be touched or seen. It is lived. Old Dhaka ceases to exist as just an area, and the streets I have called my own become one singular space which I call home.