We time travelled. It was a Friday in the city of Dhaka. The city was awake and abuzz as it was the only day to get a lot of work done in the middle of too many general strikes and blockades.
Four of us were on our way to this place called Beauty Boarding. The whole point of the journey was to go there and eat fried hilsa roe. One of us called ahead and made sure we get that.
We were travelling from the new part of Dhaka to the deep interior of old Dhaka, an equivalent of time travel. We encountered a lot of barricades on our way and actually took a very long winded route past Bakshi Bazaar and Central Jail to get to Bangla Bazaar, the general address of Beauty Boarding. Everyone kept telling me that Beauty Boarding is in Bangla Bazaar.
The streets progressively got narrower and narrower and a point came when we wondered if the rather large van we were in would fit into the alleys.
Time travelling to the period when I took my father searching for suitable publishers for his books, I was staring at all the little shops thinking of my time with him in Dhaka. The small trips to a painters place, a day spent on a boat, random bookshop visits. Suddenly the car took a left.
And there we were, face to face with a façade that proclaimed Beauty Boarding.
Quickly the bad boys of Dhaka got to work. Selfies taken, we marched inside. It was a scene out of a turn of 18th century novel. A dilapidated building, with a lovely green courtyard, pigeon hole resembling rooms and a community dining hall.
Beauty Boarding is one of the last remnants of the boarding houses where young men from all over the country used to come and stay in their quest for fame and fortune in the big bad city. It is a one stop solution, For a ridiculously throwaway price, a person gets to stay as long as he wants and eat three square meals. Lore has it that some people never left Beauty Boarding all their lives. They certainly have an impressive roster of seminal thinkers who made Beauty Boarding their place to hang out.
Food took a back seat despite the very excellent albeit over fried hilsa roe and the nice fatty boal fish. What took center stage are the ceilings with wooden crossbeams, the most efficient Moloy, the server, the constant chatter and occasional shout for more rice or more veggies or more fish, the regular diners, the not so regular wide eyed people, the ever smiling faces, the sense of belonging, Tommy the friendly dog and a definite desire to come back.
On our way back we stopped at another beauty, Beauty Lassi and Faluda. Both lassi and faluda are not on my must have list. But we stopped for what turned out to be the best darned limeade I have tasted. Fragrant king lime, sugar and water. Pure magic.
As the Australian cricket commentators are given to say, you beauty.
Photo: Kanishka Chakraborty