Recalling Roots | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 27, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:46 PM, January 30, 2017

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Recalling Roots

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During my childhood years, whenever my family would plan on visiting my great-great-grandfather's zamindar house (also famously known as Boro Basha locally) situated just beside the Eid'gah Maath in Jinjira, Keraniganj, deeply rooted memories come rushing from within. Back in the 90's, travelling to our zamindar house included a part where we had to cross over to the other side of the Buriganga River by ferry. A bridge had not been built yet. From the fear of drowning, crossing the river was the only part I dreaded about in the whole journey. Otherwise, with every visit to my root, with every experience, I always learnt something new about the history behind my lineage.    

Zamindar Khan Shaheb Haji Emdad Ali, my great-great-grandfather, was a self made man. He became a zamindar not through lineage. Rather, back in the British era, he bought a handsome amount of land to acquire his position as a zamindar. He also maintained good contact with the governers of the British Empire and was awarded with the “Khan Shaheb” title. Some of the estates owned by Zamindar Khan Shaheb included the prominent Gonimiyaar'haat in Jinjira, a portion of the Dhaka's Moulvibazaar, the haat-bazaars and more. Most of these properties are still owned and looked after by our family. There were ups-and-downs as well. At one point, my great-great- grandfather tried to establish his own business in Assam. However,  incurring loss, he had to come back.

The Boro Basha is two storied itself and covers a huge area. There was a pond too. Although a lot of it has been refurbished, but most of the original style and architecture of the zamindar house still exists today. There is a controversy regarding the exact date on which the house was established. However, since the beginning, exteriors have always maintained its pink color. I heard my elders mention that once, a banyan tree got uprooted during a heavy storm and fell upon the house, causing damage to a huge portion of it. During the monsoon season, the canals around the house would fill up with water and the house would appear to be ship-like. Zamindar Khan Shaheb was scared of earthquakes. To deal with his phobia, a large and lavish teakwood house was built on the porch and he would reside on its first floor.

Back in those days, my great-great- grandfather also dealt with the leather business and flourished in this arena. Even though Zamindar Khan Shaheb Haji Emdad Ali was a well-off and powerful zamindar in and around the Jinjira area, my great-great- grandfather was a generous man by heart. There was a Musafir Khana within the Boro Basha where he would often distribute seasonal fruits and feed the needy. The people under him were fond of my great-great-grandfather as whatever land he owned, most of it were given away free of cost. And the other interesting fact which made me respect my great-great-grandfather even more is that, instead of following the usual ritual of asking people to come to the Musafir Khana, he would send gifts to their houses. I look at it as a kind gesture from his part. Also, one third of the earnings from his estates were sent to a charity fund and he ensured this process throughout his lifetime. Zamindar Khan Shaheb was especially fond of helping students continue their studies.

If I were asked what made my great-great-grandfather feel concerned and wish for the well-being of the people under him, then perhaps I would say, it was because, he never forgot about his own humble beginning.

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