The B K Das Road at Farashganj is an architectural treasure trove of Old Dhaka. We have interviewed Dhaka itself about this beautiful neighbourhood. From the influence of the French to the present condition of the heritage buildings and the Buriganga River nearby, we present you a glimpse of Dhaka's thoughts.
Dhakaiite: I am grateful that you agreed to sit for this interview, despite your busy schedule.
Dhaka: I am very busy indeed. But I always have time for a young chap to tell him my tales. Not many people these days have the empathy to listen to my ramblings, though. It seems they have taken me for granted.
Dhakaiite: I think people expect more from you. One common complaint is the traffic jam. Last week I went to B K Das Road from Gulshan, and it was three hours of commute!
Dhaka: People from all over the country come to me looking for work opportunities and education-an enormous pressure! But I try my best. How did you like B K Das Road anyway?
Dhakaiite: I truly loved it! It is a heritage street. There are a lot of old buildings; and they stand in such close proximity to each other that the neighbourhood seems to be a figment of the past.
Dhaka: B K Das Road is named after Bashanta Kumar Das- a tribute to a philanthropist. The buildings you see today were mostly built around the early 1900s.
Farashganj, where B K Das Road is located, is where the French had acquired the permission to settle, in 1740, and hence 'Farash' for French and 'ganj' for market. The French influence is apparent if you observe the front block of the mansion called Boro Bari; there are elements of Rococo art.
Like many such buildings, it is crying for conservation. Demolishment attempts, too, have been made in the past.
Dhakaiite: Many people would like to see rebuilding in the area.
Dhaka: It is a heritage building. Give compensation to the property owners. Instead of getting rid of such buildings, work with and around them. Turn this mansion into a restaurant, rest house or art gallery. I am old. I have a glorious history. Please stop wiping out my legacy.
Dhakaiite: Besides Boro Bari, there are other grand mansions on B K Das Road.
Dhaka: Yes, Lakshmi Villa is a beauty - grand and elegant. And Mongalalaya, also called Putul Bari, has intricate sculptures on its walls, and a beautiful courtyard. Courtyards are a common feature on B K Das buildings. There are contemporary smaller residences too.
The area is not just about residences. Bibi Ka Rawza, the oldest surviving imambara (a centre for Shia commemoration ceremonies) in Dhaka, is located here. It was established in the early 1600s, although the original structure is no more. Meanwhile, Sri Sri Priyo Ballav Jeu Thakur Mandir is a fantastic illustration of neoclassical architecture.
Dhakaiite: Do you have any message for our readers?
Dhaka: B K Das Road parallels Buriganga River. Today, she is in a miserable condition. I owe much of my success to her. You must save Buriganga if you respect me and want me to flourish.
Listen, I need to go now. I am extremely busy. Stop dreaming and start writing the B K Das Road article.
Dhakaiite: Wait, what?!
Dhaka: Wake up! It was nice talking to you. But both you and I have many deadlines to meet. Goodbye.
Dhakaiite: I overslept! And I am now late!
But I have a story to tell.
Special thanks to Taimur Islam, CEO and Biraj Vashkar Nath, Programme Officer, Urban Study Group, for sharing insights for the writeup.