Photo: Prabir Das
If you constantly strive to give your best effort, you will be able to bring your dream to life. This is the mantra of Dipankar Das, the owner of Baatighar, one of the most beloved bookstores of the country.
Dipankar's dream was a simple but powerful one - to start a reading 'riot' throughout Chittagong, his hometown, by establishing a bookstore where readers are free to browse through the rows and rows of books, while exploring different sections of knowledge.
Today, after four years of its establishment, Baatighar, in the heart of Chittagong city, has become a home for thousands of book lovers. Not only in Chittagong, Baatighar's extensive book collection along with its maritime ambience, make it a popular destination for anyone visiting Chittagong.
A former employee of Biswa Sahitya Kendra, Dipankar Das, a Chittagongian ventured into this initiative solely for his passion for books. “I do not belong to a business background, neither do I have an affluent family patronising me. Starting a bookstore, without any prior knowledge in business, was surely a challenge. But my passion for reading and the dream to build a bookstore where people could browse around, sit, read and buy all the books they ever wanted, has driven me to start this venture,” says Dipankar.
Born in a village called Dhalghat, Patia in Chittagong, Das was introduced to the Mustafizur Rahman Public Library in Patia during his college days. He would spend hours at an end here, absorbed in the magic of books. Along with his friends, he developed a readers' association for like-minded literature buffs. In 1997, when Biswa Sahitya Kendra opened its branch in Patia, he became one of its organisers. After two years of arduous service in Patia, eminent educationist Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed bestowed upon him another responsibility – to be an active member of the organisation's new project, Biswa Sahitya Kendra Mobile Library. During his tenure there, he was blessed with the opportunity of mingling with different publishers and readers.
2001 can be marked as a significant year in Dipankar's life. 'Sayeed Sir', his mentor, requested him to take charge of a mobile library in Chittagong. He returned to Chittagong and discovered with utter surprise that in Dhaka he could enlist two thousand members over a year, whereas in Chittagong, he could recruit the same amount of members in only three months.
“I knew Chittagong had a large number of readers, but did not have a proper bookstore,” he says. “I started thinking of a place which would be culturally vibrant and at the same time, would be able to meet the universal standards of a bookstore.” With the meagre savings he had and loans from his book lover friends and family, along with his incorrigible optimism, he sailed his ship in 2005.
He launched his long awaited bookstore Baatighar in an area of around a hundred square feet only. No matter how shabby looking and tiny it was, Baatighar added a fresh intellectual dimension in Momin Road, Chittagong, by offering an unusually rich collection of books. Within a few days, Batighar was able to lure a huge number of readers from all walks of society. But he couldn't be happy yet; his goal was to give readers more space to think and more freedom to choose. Once again, with his savings and with
the help of a bank loan, he decided to expand his store.
And now here it is: a whole new Baatighar on the ground floor of Chittagong Press Club.
Beside its huge collection, readers acclaim Baatighar for being so spacious and commodious. The shop has a maritime theme, decked with decorative knick knacks resembling ships and ports. Instead of conventional windows, Baatighar has portholes. The place is a veritable adventure land with hanging ropes, a wooden wheel, a shelf shaped like a lighthouse surrounded by rocks, warm fresnel lights (the oblique lights used in a lighthouse) and a cargo container used as a counter table.
Dipankar aims to develop a bridge between the readers and Baatighar. Hence he maintains a directory of the regular readers and patrons, and offers them regular updates on what's new in the shop. Patrons can also place the orders of any book that they want, and Baatighar tries to import them directly from the publishers.
The way a lighthouse guides traveller, the way the beacon symbolises hope by spreading its beam, Diponkar wants his Baatighar to be an icon in a similar vein.
And for bookworms in Dhaka, here is the good news. Baatighar is going to launch a branch in Dhaka within the next six months.
With that, let's hope that Dipankar's vision of developing a nationwide reader's society through Baatighar comes true.