Dhaka's Pandora's Box
Photos: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
The definition of a market is an area or an arena in which commercial dealings are conducted. Now one can say that there's nothing remotely poetic about browsing through a market's shops— but what if a market gives the essence of the culture, the people and to some extent, the city as a whole?
For more than 60 years, New Market has catered to people of all class and age. From being a book lover's paradise, a child's toy heaven to the prime stop for weddings, New Market is the heart and soul of the Dhakaites. Standing right beside Dhaka University, New Market also observed many revolutions which seized the city. The market itself has an interesting story.
Year 1952. East Pakistan was going through one of its periodical bouts of violence and instability. After the central government of Pakistan declared Urdu to be the national language in 1948, a number of protests took place in the city, finally leading to February 21, 1952, where a huge number of demonstrators were killed by the police. While the year experienced the struggle for independence, this was also the time when the city was being more modernised.
Under the supervision of Nurul Amin, then chief minister of East Pakistan, New Market's first bricks were laid. Completed in 1954, New Market was originally intended to cater to the needs of the elite population of Dhaka, especially for the people living in Dhanmondi and Azimpur. Before New Market, Old Dhaka was considered the shoppers' hub of Dhaka, but due to its narrow lanes, intolerable noise and crowd, shopping was not a happy experience for the families going there. The emergence of a cleaner, more spacious market proved to be a pleasant change for the people of the city.
New Market is built on 35 acres of land with a space for 440 shops. However, only 25-30 shops were launched during the initial years of the complex, leaving enough space for people to browse and shop in peace. The design is triangular in shape with high arched entry gates on its three sides. During the 1980s, three more New Market blocks were constructed on the north under Dhaka City Corporation.The New Super Market was made for crockeries, Bonolata for kitchen market, Chandrima and Gausia market for varieties of fashion items and D block for groceries. Each was made with the capacity of holding over a thousand shops.
Though many shops have come and disappeared with time, stores like Zeenat Book Store, Modern Art House, Bashiruddin Tailors, are still there, standing in the corners of the market happily serving their customers. Interestingly enough, if you look around, you can find stores that have items like cassettes and old records. The market houses interesting looking homeopathy chambers in the alleyways of the establishment— making New Market look like a pandora's box filled with surprises. One of the main attractions of New Market has always been its food. Serving its legendary cream rolls to all generations. Olympia Bakery still stands in New Market with its head held high.
Today a fully air-conditioned shopping complex, New Market still offers us a true taste of Dhaka. Every bit of this establishment reflects the city's vibrant history and surely takes the customers on a magical shopping experience.