In the capital city of traffic jam, the green auto-rickshaw called CNG (read CNG-run auto-rickshaw) is one of the most common transports for middle class people. There are at least 30 thousand CNGs for 20 million people of Dhaka, although only 15 thousand are approved. However, amidst thousands of CNGs, Tapan Bhowmik's CNG adds a new dimension. Above the little green auto, plants and flowers are waving in the wind. It is an amazing scene. The auto grabs everyone's attention as it passes by. In a way, it is the world's smallest rooftop garden, you could say. It is different because it doesn't stay still like others, it moves. It is a mobile roof garden.
Tapan Bhowmik is a local resident of Dhaka's Goran Harbhanga junction. He goes to his garage early in the morning where he keeps his CNG at night. It is not his own. He drives it on rent. Taking permission from the owner, he turned his auto-rickshaw even greener by turning it into a part of nature.
One morning, while looking for Tapan in Goran, I got to know that he is very different. He is very organised and fond of beauty. The other locals told me that Tapan has a different sense of beauty. Just like others have found something new in him, his younger brother Sushanta found him different since childhood. In boyhood, Tapan even organised his cycle in a way that it grabbed everyone's attention on the road, Sushanta says. He did the same thing to his CNG now.
Tapan's CNG is a treat to the eyes. Wherever the CNG stops, people gather around. Thus, I roamed around the quiet and secluded Hatirjheel area on his CNG. I talked to him while roaming around. I got to know the tale of making mobile roof garden.
Tapan told me he got inspired by watching Chhad Krishi (rooftop agriculture) presented on 'Hridoye Mati O Manush Daak' programme. He also wants his favourite city to be green as well. He wanted to contribute to green revolution. He wanted to make people aware. In his words, if anyone gets inspired to fill his balcony or rooftop with greenery seeing his initiative, it would be his greatest achievement.
I asked him how he made this mobile rooftop agriculture. He stopped the auto-rickshaw and showed me the roof. He described how he filled a steel tray with soil and placed it on the roof. He planted different trees full of flowers and leaves there. He aims to plant fruit and vegetable trees too.
Dear readers, to know how much scientific or what trees are suitable for four-inch-thick soil on the roof of a moving CNG, we talked to horticulturist Md Kamruzzaman. He said that this initiative is totally scientific. It is not impossible to grow bush fruits and gourd vegetables here. Nowadays, fruit producing plants are available in the nursery, which grow 7 to 8 inches of height. There are some red chilli which can also be frown along the rail on the roof, says Dr Kamruzzaman. He also says, if you use coco peat instead of soil, the roof will be lighter. He stressed on putting a railing over the top.
Tapan Bhowmik is truly a different kind of person. He is not only creative, he is a man of great understanding. Thus, he turned this CNG into something else. He has turned it into a special transport having all kinds of facilities and services. There is plenty of arrangement inside. What do you expect as a passenger? There is everything. There are mirror, hairbrush, nail cutter, water tap, mineral water bottle, video monitor, fan, clock, mobile phone charging facility, tissue, pillows, fire extinguisher etc. He also keeps three daily newspapers. He even keeps books for the passengers to read. There is also Wi-Fi service. Moreover, he doesn't ask for extra fare for any of these services. However, passengers often pay him extra 10 or 20 taka on their own. He is satisfied with that.
Life is not only about livelihood. The needs and desires of Tapan are different. While talking about it, becoming a little emotional, Tapan says that he used to be a goldsmith. However, later his eyesight got weaker and he no longer was able to do it. Then, he chose driving a CNG to make a living.
Looking at the CNG, you might feel an urge to plant a tree. That's why, wherever this CNG stands, people stare at it with astonishment. To have breakfast, I went to a restaurant at Moghbazar with Tapan. Soon, the place got crowded. Everyone was so eager to have a look at the CNG. Some were taking pictures. Some were touching it. Some were even taking 'selfies' while the other CNG drivers came with many questions to ask. I liked what CNG driver Shariful Islam said. He never saw Tapan's CNG before. However, he heard about it. Hearing about it, he decorated his CNG with plastic flowers. He also shared interest to plant trees on the roof soon. Some CNG drivers said that this initiative of Tapan is actually very effective for restraining the attack of muggers. Many of you know how muggers cut the roof of a CNG with a knife and take away stuff from passengers. Moreover, this CNG is also cooler than other CNGs. Thus, passengers as well as the driver can be comfortable. I also told them if they can place a small solar panel on the roof along with trees, then they can have necessary electricity for fan and light inside.
During the 80's, after inspiring promotion of rooftop agriculture on Bangladesh Television's Mati O Manush (Soil and People), this is the second series I am running which is being aired on Channel i. Meanwhile two years have passed with this second series of rooftop farming. Varieties of new initiatives of rooftop agriculture make me very hopeful. I feel glad to find such a different and creative nature lover like Tapan Bhowmik. It is truly exemplary for other drivers what he has done to keep his love above everything else. Everyone should come forward from their respective positions to make a green city.