Sunday, March 15, 2009


Bangladesh Rifles headquarters is at Pilkhana, Dhaka, where the recent mutiny and gruesome killings took place. It is also close to Dhanmandi. Whole of Eastern Bengal, now Bangladesh, together with a part of Indian state of Assam , whole of present day West Bengal, Orissa and a part of present day Bihar constituted Sube Bangla of the Mughal Empire. Roughly , a suba was like a later day British administrative province. Mughals initially placed a subedar in these subas for administration, military affairs and revenue collection. Subedars generally were from the army. In the time of Mughal’s decay these administrators were described as Nawabs and Sube Bangla’s capital was at Murshidabad. These Nawabs started betraying increasing independence when they realized that the Delhi emperor’s grip is weakening. Another Nawabi domain sprang up in Dhaka after Murshidabad started declining after the Battle of Plassey, 1757.

Notwithstanding all these political events, landmarks within the region with their Farsi, and in a reduced scale, Arabic nomenclatures stayed throughout centuries, through British imperial days and even today. So, the Pilkhana, the parking place of war elephants, Topkhana, the parking place of batteries of cannons, Baroodkhana, the magazine lingered on till today.

Thus , I used to wake up in a vacant shop at Kazir Bazaar, get out for toilet in a masonry rubble called Baroodkhana and take my showers under spilled water of a very big water supply tank at topkhana, little bothering about Barood or Top of bygone days. Then once again back to Mamu’s snacks-cum-tea stall for my daily chow of very greasy paratha and equally greasy khasi gosht, cooked last evening. Very stale and delicious. Then take out my rickety bicycle and out thanking the Kazi of some centuries back for ordering erection of this cluster of shops, one of which was providing shelter to an anti-state commie, marked prominently in police records. Neighbourhood people took me for a police spy and left me unbothered. Then I would be through Zindabazar via Bandarbazaar, leave the cycle somewhere and board a bus of pre-Second World War vintage of Chevrolet or Dodge make. This would clutter along and stop for half a minute before the Dargah of Peer Shah Zalal, and Muslims or Hindu drivers alike uttered their silent prayers. Then I would get down somewhere and get in on a gashti country boat tied to a pole at a river bank and row out for some place. Many years afterwards it dawned upon me gasht in Farsi meant patrols. Those boats were designed for police patrols in the riverine countryside.

I had no idea of Farsi but my grandfather had. He was a renowned mokhtar in that part of our district with a fairly good grip over Farsi. This was the language used abundantly blended with local languages or dialects in law courts and Hindu lawyers were quite familiar with Farsi, even its script. Life at that time surely had been a grandeur of rich blend.


fleuve-souterrain said...

Very very nicely written! The history of the times mixed with humour is fantastic. You hsould write more such semi-personal accounts. ENjoyed it a lot!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it to the core. It is once in a while one gets to read such nostalgic write ups and I am glad I got this opportunity. It is amazing how much one learns from small little things in life ..I definitely did .. thanks for sharing with us. Regards and keep sharing :)

Rhett said...

The old and the new blended anew. I hail from Lucknow and have similar stories to tell.
I enjoyed this immensely. Nostalgic through being plain descriptive -- I much admire that skill.

Old Man River said...

dearest commentators, thank u all from the core of my are refreshengly young and with this kind of attitude u ll never be hopelessly is where a sort of story merges with confucius said by ignoring the past u never can define the, once again thank u all for appreciating my efforts.i follow ur blogs also.

Rhett said...

I think I speak for all when I say that it is a privilege and an honour to read you and know you. You are like your handle suggests -- old man river.