During a photographer friend's visit from London last week, we decided to take a walk through old Dhaka. It has been many months since I photographed Dhaka streets and I had forgotten how full of life this city is. Taking my friend around to some of its highlights reminded me of its vibrance.
We got dropped at the corner of Bahadur Shah Park at 7 a.m. and started walking. The park was humming with hundreds of people. They came here for their morning walk, making rounds around an elliptical path enclosing a memorial to soldiers executed by the British during the 1857 rebellion. The park also holds what appears to be the only obelisk in Dhaka, given to a Dhaka Nawab in sympathy by his European friends when the Nawab's son died. We chatted with some of the fitness buffs working out under the obelisk before heading out.
Presently we came to Sadarghat, Dhaka's river terminal on the Buri Ganga. The ghat was just waking up at this hour and sleepy vendors set out their wares for passengers going on a launch trip: fruits, bread, bottled water, sunglasses, toys.... Walking to the back of a tall launch we climbed to the roof for a panoramic view of the river. I was pleasantly surprised by the flocks of seagulls in the sky.
Back from Sadarghat, we headed towards Shakhari Bazar, a neighbourhood once well-known for its conch (shakha) craftsmen. For a photographer, the road, its people and stores, bathed in subdued light, all make photogenic subjects. But we got distracted: just before entering the Bazar, we turned left into Pogose School, established in 1848 by an Armenian, Nicholas Pogose. I have been there before to admire the fine facade of the school building but this time we fortuitously ran into Mr. Aftabuddin, mathematics teacher, who very kindly showed us around. Inside the building we admired the antique furniture in the teacher's meeting room and saw portraits of the school's illustrious alumni such as poet Shamsur Rahman and stand-up comic Bhanu Bandopadhyay.
From the school we walked through Shakhari Bazar road. I wanted to show my friend the original triple-arched buildings but they were mostly gone. We did find one towards the end of the lane. Another feature of the houses here is that they are very narrow and correspondingly deep; we could easily ascertain this by looking through the entrance hallway of many houses.
We still had a little time so we looped over to Laxmi Bazar and walked along the splendid wide avenue. There are a number of schools here including St. Gregory's School. During my school days, I was captain of the St. Joseph's basketball team, and coming here brought back memories of epic clashes with our rivals. This morning, however, the streets were filled with daily school-related rituals. On a bench outside a school sat several anxious mothers while their children sat for examinations inside. A father straightened out the tie of his son's school uniform. A boy, waiting with his mother for a rickshaw to take him to school, turned suddenly shy at the sight of two photographers across the street and clung to her.
On our way back we stopped at Al Razzaque restaurant for a well-earned breakfast of vegetables, brain masala and oven-baked fluffy nan bread washed down with rich milky tea. Thus ended a lively morning in old Dhaka.