Here's a toast to the holy city. The city of beautiful rain, the beautiful city of rain. The green city.
To the places with memories.
All the times we fiddled with our phones a little too much and had to take them to Karimullah Market, only to be lost in the sea of a thousand tech-shops, and all the times the same thing happened when we were looking for RAM sticks at Planet Araf. The smell of newly printed books and leaflets at the libraries and publishers of Raja Mansion that we can only sniff but rarely buy. I can't forget to mention Baatighar. The times we went to Al-Hamra, not to buy anything, but begging our parents to buy us a yo-yo or that remote controlled car. All the times we pretended to be interested in the food of Spicy Restaurant, only to catch a picturesque view of the whole city from the top of City Centre. All the times we went to Latif Center to buy CDs from that one shop in the entire city.
To the city of rain.
The beautiful smell, just before it rains.
It doesn't always make us feel the same way. Sometimes, we'd just like to watch and hear and smell it from the balcony, or maybe even read a book while doing so. Other times, we can't help but go to the rooftop and let it drench us. But then again, there are times when life isn't so gentle to us, and the rain is just there to ruin our days and we have to do three hours of classes in wet clothes.
To the food.
All the lunchtimes at Panch Bhai restaurant, trying out all the unknown bhorta, the only way of distinguishing between them being the taste, while we waited for the begun bhaji. All the afternoon snacks at Panshi, ordering the beef chaap after waiting so many hours. All the evenings, getting hot jilapi from Foyez Snacks after the endless cruel hours of coaching, or the hours we spent at the lawn of Palki, just enjoying the glasses after glasses of lemon juice, maybe give some people the look for smoking in public. Doi chira from Sufia, khichuri from Bhojon Bari, Nuru bhai's chotpoti, Artisan's hot chocolate, and President's biriyani. How can we ever forget Arcadia's food court?
All the times we walked the 1 Kilo Road with someone special, knowing that they liked us back, but never having the courage to actually admit it to each other. And all the times we hung out at New Zealand and Australia, two places named by students who felt stuck in this small town, a way to tell themselves they were travelling the world every day of their lives. All the times we bunked classes in the name of extracurricular clubs, only to share shingara from Central Cafeteria, and fuchka from near the campus' Shaheed Minar.
To the holy land.
All the times we went on adventures, trying to find all 360 of the shrines scattered throughout this vast maze, while a secret chamber of our heart knew that we'd never catch them all. All the visits to the mazars of Hazrat Shahjalal (RA) and Hazrat Shah Paran (RA) as children, the beautiful hours spent feeding the birds and the fish. All the hundreds of different mosques we prayed in, and running out of them after prayers when the elderly tried to make us stay for another hour to attend further religious discussions.
To the rides.
To all the bicycle rides to Temukhi. The group tea parties at Bacchu Miya's tea stall after a long ride to the airport. Maybe even Baishtilla, if we'd been still yearning for a little more adventure. All the while gazing at the tea gardens at both sides. The long-awaited rides to Bypass that we never eventually went on. All the time we spent doing downhill biking competitions and making compilation videos of those. All the biking groups we made, that we no longer use now. All the slow rides inside the city. If this isn't the best city for cycling, which is? The city is big enough to feel like a ride, and small enough to have cycling as an actual method of transportation.
To the tea gardens.
All the times in childhood we thought we could just pluck the tea leaves from Malnicherra, Lakkatura, Tarapur, and make tea directly from the leaves. And all the times we got lost in each of the tea gardens.
To the walks, the roads, and the bridges.
All the traffic jams in Ambarkhana Point. The regular protests and movements of the youth in Chowhatta. To the lonely, quiet walks in Housing Estate. To the hangouts in Eidgah, be it during the day, the night, or the afternoon. How much time have we spent at Eidgah? Then there are the romantic walks in Eco Park. And yes, I saved the best for last. Who can ever forget the midnight walks in Chanchal Road? All the first hours of the day, standing there by ourselves at the Keane Bridge, with a cup of rong cha in our hand, feeling the trembles of the bridge. The last hours of the day spent at the Kazir Bazar bridge, having jhalmuri with our closest friends, watching the sunset. All the afternoons at Temukhi Bridge, going to the outskirts of the city and calling it a day.
All the tours to Bisnakandi, Jaflong, Sreemangal, Ratargul, Shadapathor, Bholaganj, Tanguar Haor, Hakaluki Haor, Baikka Beel, Madhabpur Lake, Tamabil, Jaintia with friends that we'll never forget no matter where we end up in life.
Then there are times it feels a little too cramped and small. As if you want to get away. Like all small towns, a part of you wants to leave, to fly away, and a part of you wants to stay forever. A paradox, like all cities.
But then it gets better. All the known faces, and their smiles of familiarity. We don't just have sincerity, we exude it. Something about this city makes it feel so safe, so cozy.
This is home. Here's to Sylhet.
Asgar Azwad is a student of Economics in Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org