Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
While you go through the chaos of Dholaikhal, at the edge of Tanti Bazaar, you will find a pond surrounded by the narrow streets that lead to Bongshal, old Dhaka. Bongshal pukur (pond)- as local people call it, has its unique charm reflecting the effervescent history of old Dhaka.
Amidst the urban hustle and bustle a pond like Bongshal pond, might seem like an unusual sight, a little out of step with modern life. But the way this pond has been serving as a communal facility for the entire locality might seem a matter of surprise to the rest of the Dhakaities.
Experts believe that this pond made an appearance in the 1908 version of the Cadastral Survey Map, and is one of the few remaining in Dhaka that is maintained by the community. “Probably sometime in the 1940s, this 6 acre pond was founded by Haji Badruddin Bhutto, a rich businessman of Bangshal who thought the pond could be a solution to the water crisis Bongshal was going through during that time,” says Abdur Rahim, the man who voluntarily works as the supervisor.
Beside its obvious charms as a natural haven, and a centre to relax awhile, Bongshal pond is widely used to cater for households of these communities.
But other than that, this pond is also making a positive difference in many people's lives.
How? By starting an effective method to raise funds that to be used for people who are in need. “Anyone can bathe here for 3 taka only. Everyday around two to three thousand people come here to bathe, end of the day when we look at our collection its not much to fulfil everyone's need, but we thought if we could channel it properly this could benefit the underprivileged people of our community,” says Abdur Rahim. The money that we collect from the pond goes to the fund of our local mosque first, and then gets disbursed according to people's need. For example, a few months ago, one of our neighbours fell short of money when his daughter was getting married. As soon as he approached us, we decided to help him with our fund.
The guards who make sure the safety of this place are also getting paid from this fund. “I do it voluntarily, for free,” says the ever smiling Rahim. “I sit here, and supervise the pond's activities, also because I enjoy the pond's serene ambience, and the cool breeze- something that is very rare in Dhaka.”
Bongshal pond also provides local residents with a place to meet and recreate. People- both from this locality and outside, come here for fishing- sometimes for competition, sometimes just for recreation. People taking a cool refreshing dip in this pond is a common sight to find, “in fact countless people have learnt swimming in this pond with their peers,” Rahim comments. “We also have a deep tube well maintained by the same panchayat (local committee). People living in this locality can come and collect drinking water for free from here.”
A safe and convenient water supply is, undoubtedly, of paramount importance to the well being of any society. While many communities in Dhaka find it immensely difficult to find or construct a safe water supply infrastructure, Bongshal pond, surely works as a blessing for the local communities.