Imagine a place in the middle of hustle and bustle of Old Dhaka, where one can relax with family or friends, or even walk around a lush green courtyard.
If needed, one can speak to the chef about the fish of the day or the entire menu. If you are an adventurer at heart, you can even spend a night or two there, appreciating the serene and radiant surrounding.That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
Then again, this place -- Beauty Boarding -- is more than lodging or delectable delicacies. Visiting it is like having a complete experience, where food and aesthetics are blended together in its rich tapestry of history.
The boarding is located on Shris Das Lane, an alley that used to remain abuzz with book-binding shops, printing press, newspaper office and restaurants. The adjoining Bangla Bazar, the largest hub of book publishers in the country, still gives a glimpse of the glory days.
Established in 1949, Beauty Boarding is one of the very few enduring boarding houses in Dhaka -- a place where young and eager minds from across the country used to stay while pursuing their dreams.
It still is a boarding where one can pay a reasonable amount of money for food and lodging, ranging from Tk 250-550 per day. The boarding used to be the most vibrant literary den for writers -- a place to hang out and discuss their work.
The place boasts of an impressive list of patrons, who either stayed in or dropped by. Shahid Qadri, Shamsur Rahman, Syed Shamsul Haque, Al Mahmud, Hasan Hafizur Rahman, Sayed Atiqullah, Alauddin Al Azad, Abu Zafar Obaydullah, Sanjib Dutta, Nirmalendu Goon, Abul Hasan and Helal Hafiz are just to name a few.
Legend has it many of these luminaries penned their immortal works there.
The boarding is also etched in the country’s history. As the political situation became tumultuous in late 1960s, it had to stop its literary and cultural activities. On March 28, 1971, Prohallad Saha, owner of the boarding, along with 16 staff members and guests, were killed by the Pakistani army.
“Bangla Bazar was the hub of publishing houses in the 1950s. Upcoming writers used to throng the area and Beauty Boarding offered them a place to unwind and have a home-cooked meal,” Samar Saha, son of Prohallad, told The Daily Star recently.
He and his younger brother, Tarak Saha, run the place now.
Upon walking through the small gate of Beauty Boarding on a weekday afternoon, a rustic two-storey yellow building -- shaded by trees -- welcomed this writer.
There is an office on the ground floor, next to a dining hall while the upstairs consists of rooms.
“We haven’t changed the place much… People still visit us to have a sense of its history,” said Samar. It was almost 2pm. He smiled and said, “Enough talk. Let’s have lunch.”
Onto lunch we went.
The dining hall has rows of tables and chairs on both sides. The menu, which varies quite often, is written on a board behind the counter where Samar proudly stands and greets visitors while sharing the beauty of Beauty Boarding and how it has withstood the turns and tides of time.
The metallic plates and glasses shine brightly as one awaits food. The food is aplenty, flavourful, aromatic and spicy -- a combination that can never go wrong.
The server, a genial man, is great at what he does. To be more precise, Bimal walks around with bowls of curries, bhortas, lentils or bhajis and serves those quite generously upon request.
“Its rustic charm, aged walls, heritage -- there’s a strong sense of pride to it -- makes you part of something special,” said Moni Akter, a master’s student, who along with her friends dropped by to soak in the history.
“Don’t forget the food,” quipped her friend Shanto Alam.
Beauty Boarding still stands tall and remains popular for its affable atmosphere and reasonable prices. After a pleasant gastronomic experience, one can walk around this beautiful and proud landmark of our city, and of course, get busy taking selfies.
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