I was lucky to be invited as a guest speaker in the conference of SAARC countries, which held this year in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. At first I was not sure if I will be able to make upto it, but I am so happy that I did. Dhaka Metropoliton area is the 11th largest city area in the world and home to 14 million people. It is an old city rich in culture and history, and the birthplace of world famous fabric “muslin” .
The whole conference was arranged by armed force, so everything was extremely regulated. We reached on Hajarat Shah Jalal international airport early in the morning and already Army Captain Sadat was waiting for us. He took us to the Kuprmitola Golf club guest house, one of the greenest area of Dhaka, where our stay was pre-booked. And here are the pictures of my room 🙂
Dhaka has many golf clubs, but this one considered to be the best. And I totally agree. The club is run by the chief of Bangladesh army himself. The course is strategically challenging and playable round the year with an area of 126 acres laid out for professional golf. I loved it because of the soothing green all around. In the maddening crowd of Dhaka, it is really a visual treat and heavenly experience.. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful. You would really feel at home by their warm and hearty welcome, which is hard to find in western world. I must mention of Arif, a boy working in the hotel to support his studies and was kind enough to take care of every guest.
The hotel staff took us for shopping to their best shopping mall Jamuna future park. The mall is the largest of its type in South Asia, and also the 11th largest in the world with a total area of 5,450,000 square feet. The complex is spread across 33 acres of land in Kuril, Baridhara, situated on the Pragati Sharani, neighboring posh residential areas of Dhaka city like Gulshan, Banani, and Bashundhara.
Next day, I had my lecture in the post lunch academic session. I arrived and listened to other lectures while I met the Professor & HOD ,from Dhaka Medical College. She was so kind to give us her car accompanied by two lovely lady lecturers from her department. They took us to the Shaheed Minar, or the Martyr’s monument, located near Dhaka Medical College remembering those who lost their life during the protests on 21 February 1952. Now, if one thing I wanted to see in dhaka was this monument. The language movement in pre-indipendence from Pakistan is an important movement in the history of the subcontinent and significant to all people world over who love their mother tongue.
In 1948, the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan ordained Urdu as the sole national language, sparking extensive protests among the Bengali-speaking majority of East Bengal. The government even outlawed public meetings and rallies. The students of the University of Dhaka and other political activists defied the law and organised a protest on 21 February 1952. During the movement ” ভাষা আন্দোলন” police killed student demonstrators on that day. The deaths provoked widespread civil unrest. After years of conflict, the central government relented and granted official status to the Bengali language in 1956. In 1999, UNESCO declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day, in tribute to the Language Movement and the ethno-linguistic rights of people around the world. Even today, there is a big celebration to recognise the victory of “Bangla language “on each February and to salut the students who laid their lives during the movement. It is still a place of great emotion and pride for 300 million native speakers of the language “বাংলা” .
Our next stop was Dhakeshwari National Temple, a Hindu temple, seat of the goddess of Dhaka. There is one school of thought that the name of the city has been derived from the name of the goddess. The original 800-year old statue was taken to India. There remains the replica of original idol in Dhaka, which is beautiful as you can see. The temple was severely damaged during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and damaged further during the Muslim mob attacks of 1989–90, and over half of the temple’s buildings were destroyed. The main worship hall was taken over by the Pakistan Army and used as an ammunitions storage area. Several of the temple custodians were tortured and killed by them .
A significant portion of the temple land has been lost due to the Vested Property Act and confiscation by the Bangladesh Government, and the current premises are considerably lower than the historic reach of the property. Muslim mobs have attacked the temple complex many times, with the last major attack taking place in December 1992, following the demolition of Babri Masjid in India.
The people there were so nice that they gave us “Prosad” (meaning the sweets /edible foods first offered to a deity and then after her blessings given to the worshippers) as they heard we came from another country to see the goddess.
Then we visited the Aparajeyo Bangla ( অপরাজেয় বাংলা) , one of the most well known sculptures dedicated to the Bangladesh Liberation War, located in the campus of Dhaka University. The phrase means “Unvanquished Bengal”
On way back we saw Doel chattor, a common road junction in Dhaka, after the name of their national bird. We also saw the “Three leaders Mausoleum” , a monument having burial of three pre -liberation political leader. But I could not take the photo. So, here is one from google
Being satisfied with our short trip, I came back to the conference hall and delivered my talk. During the sessions I found little funny though, that most of the delegate ladies were busy uploading photos in Facebook and they talked about shopping and shopping. Most of them did not even plan to visit any of the heritages of this great old city. After the academics finished, they took us to the hotel and after some refreshment we were provided a car to reach the dinner venue. The same venue was hosting the marriage anniversary of Bangladesh Cricket Team Captain, so we met some celebrity as well 😛 .
We had an wonderful dinner with some local delicacies. I am sorry I could not click the photos of awesome Bengali cuisine, because my colleague would have thought I am too crazy 😛 .
Next day after heavy academic discussion, we had a nice lunch followed by the famous Bengali desert, ” Rosogolla & mist doi” . I had my evening flight, so I needed to pack up. But as the Prime minister of Bangladesh was coming to chair the evening session, all roads were closed. Our organising secretary, Brig General, arranged a VVIP road pass for us and we reached airport on time through a path, even not seen by most of their countrymen. I am so overwhelmed by their warmest welcome, mouthwatering cuisine, rich culture and academic extravaganza, that I am definitely going back to Dhaka in future 😀
And I hope my readers enjoyed this entirely different South asian treat !!
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