Bangladesh and me !!

Ratan Datta
Ratan Datta / 7 yrs ago /
  22

 
                                                 Bangladesh and me  !!
 
 
Inspiration to write on a such a subject  came in the form of a request  from one of the Sulekha members. I wrote a  comment on one of her blog "Mutton Curry"  added that
people from Sylhet are famous for  their fine and delicate cooking. I mentioned Shillong,
Capital of Assam then was had very intimate connection with Sylhet. This Lady was born
in Shillong and lineage  would go to Sylhet and Coomilla. Soft corner is understandable. I too have the same soft spot. My father's side hailed  from Mymensingh and Mother's side
from Sylhet ,to be precise LAKHAI. A small pocket of Sylhet district  - had produced many highly illustrious sons and daughters and some played important roles in them Assam.
 
I was  a small boy in 1947 when Bengal and the Country was divided. After the dust of riot and partition settled down ( wounds though had not healed) ,my father decided to take us one last time to the places we hailed from before hassles of Passport and Visa was added. My father was posted in Shahjahanpur (U.P.) in those days. My father took is annual vacation of one month which expense paid leave and called "Home Leave", British Officers went back to England and hence it was called "Home Leave". Many Indians who reached the level of what was known was "covenanted officer" of some British Companies were also entitled take the home leave and go with family to England. British Co. Mangement liked it because they thought it made those Indians more loyal to British . My father was slightly different,he never took this privilege and had gone to England himself or with family. Another  think he never accepted was "drinking" as must for Social life. He went to Club - played Cricket and Tennis. If he went to the club in the  evening - he was in the Card Room playing Bridge with his friends sipping "Mitha Pani" - those who have been to a Planters' Club even in 1960s would know what it meant.
 
My father announced we would embark upon our "real" home leave. He promised that we would visit Mymensingh town, if situation was good may be to the Village - Singhroiil 
where the family came from and my Grand Father put his life time saving in buying land to add to what he inherited as small "Zamindari" and then Sylhet town where Grand mother from mother's side still shuttled between Sylhet and Shillong ,where her husband practiced law as a  Govt. Pleader.  It was few hours Bus ride ( one could hire Taxi too for comfort and odd time departures) away via Dawki .
 
The objective of this trip was for my parents to visit the places they belonged and was born and for  us the children ( four of us - 2 girls and 2 boys) to get a flavour of our roots. We reached Mymensigh Town after a long and tedious train journey. Some trains had First Class  and others had II class as the highest class. We crossed rivers by steamers.I don't remember the route we followed. My father was very keen that we eat the food he ate when he travelled as a student after his B.Sc. in " Dacca University " to Benaras Hindu University for few years. When you crossed the huge rivers by Steamer  options were - one could buy food from Cafetaria in the Steamer for upper class Passengers, then locals would come in small boats with food and one could order by shouting . The rice and what ever was ordered would be put in a White Enamel Plate with high brim and tied to the string hanging from the railings in Deck. All I can say, the food -hot rice & Mutton Curry or Fish curry (Eilish or Hilsa) was out of this World. One could
order "Dried Fish " ( Shutki) curry.
 
Another one place was Eating joints on the Steamer Ghats on both ends, which also served
meals with slightly elaborate spread - starting  from Dal and possible to have a meal of Rice and Dal and a green Chilli,which did not cost much. My father made us eat in one those thached roof joints - it was good but did not compare  with the stuff one could get from the Boatman - it had the touch of individual care but the other was mass produced.
 
We spent few days in Mymensingh and stayed with my uncle (my fathers cousin) who practiced law in Mymensingh District Court. He did not think it would be appropriate for all of us travel to our Village. So, the plan was dropped. We then went from there to Sylhet town stayed couple of days, my Grand mother ( my mother's Mom) was there to receive us.
We were told ther her brothers who had a Zamindari in a place called  "Pancha Khanda" insisted that my mother who was the eldest Child must visit her Mama's place ( Mamar Bari), my father agreed.
 
We were informed that it is going to be night long Boat ride. As per the programme one my mother's Mama arrived in the evening and met us . We had early dinner and we left the river ghat by a Horse Carriage. I saw two large boats. We boarded one of them  and found that it was a very spacious boat and covered portion was about 8/10'X 6/7' .We all lied down, my father was sitting outside at the read end so that he could smoke
 
My mother's Mama (our Grandpa) also was in our boat and he carried a gun. The other boat was loaded with men,  all carried lathis and  some kind of swords and two more guns. We were scared. My father explained that it was not unusual for boats carrying families are attcked by dacoits.There were several 4-cell flash lights. The other large Boat had 2 or 3 very narrow small boats in tow.
 
We were informed that we would travel on the river and then across what was know as "Beel" a huge expanse of water body and then may through a small river or canal
to "Pancha Khanda".
 
We reached in the morning and were received by the Elder Mama and a very large group
people who looked like valets deputed to look after us. Next 3-4 days just flew . We lived in small towns but but our life style was too urban for even the Zamindari style . This family owned Karimgunj Electric Supply Co. ( now in India ) but their home was oil lamps, Lanterns and Petromax and very powerful flash Lights. We saw lot of things ,which my father wanted us see. The local Fishermen came and caught lot of fish with net  but they were put various kinds cages made with canes and they were dipped into water and tied to post. So that they were dragged and fishes taken out through trap door and taken to the kitchen
 
Our return trip was a day journey and  when we passed through the "Beels" ,it was an unbelievable sight. Unless some one is familiar with water bodies in Bangladesh,it might be difficult for any one to imagine. We started early in the morning and reached  Sylhet in the evening. Lunch was mostly cooked in the boat and a few things were pre crooked..
 
Next day we left for Shillong via Dawki - First class was cars. But we were seven in the group, six of us and our Gramdma ( my mother's mother - Didima) . We we too many for one car. So we travelled II Class which  front two rows of the  bus which was separated by a partition. Seats and backrests had cushion and separate entrance. No crowding.
 
This was the first time we did travel on that route. It was beautiful. Dawki was busy market place. Lot of ladies were selling fruits and vegetables.
 
Shillong was Capital of Assam. Shillong  has always been underated as a Hill Station,reasons I do not know. If I am correct Shillong could be proud of having one of the highest Golf Courses in the World.
 
If my recollection is correct, Sylhet was a part of Assam in undivided India. Sylhet I am sure in those days certainly had high literacy as a result , all lawyers,Engineers and Doctors in Shillong were from Sylhet. Besides, Secretariat ,Govt.Offices,School and Colleges were full of Sylhet.
 
I have had the fortune of visiting Bangladesh between 1975 and 1995 atleast 4-6 times per year in connection with my work and travel by road. I saw Dhaka a few days before the Military Coup and assassination of Banga bandhu Mujibur Rahman. My self and my American colleague were walking on the street and were shocked to see the families begging on the street - it is not very often one can see such human existence.
 
We walked back to our hotel Dacca Intercontinental. We walked into the Bar. It was packed. Mostly youngsters - dozens of empty Beer cans lying on the tables and counters.It was filled with smoke - 555, Dunhill etc were the brands visible. One can of beer did cost
in Inter Cont.Bar 150 taka. As my friend came out of the bar and decided to go back to the room commented that there may be a coup or some thing when there is so much of economic disparity. I do not what made him say so , but it did happen.
 
My next visit to Bangladesh was after normalcy returned and I ventured to fly out to Chittagong. I am sure those who are interested in History of freedom Struggle against British Rule surely  is familiar with the name. Chittagong - I was thrilled that visited the place which had the distinction of being only place which was "liberated" may be for few hours. I always felt, we have failed to give due recognition to "Masterda" alias Surya Sen and his brave soldiers who made it possible. There are hearsays that when there guns jammed due to constant firing for hours,they used blood to lubricate barrel. I always thought that incident went grossly unrecognized in the history of freedom struggle. I dod not know how many Indians know about the capture of Chittagong Armoury  by a few brave hearts,who laid down their lives what at best was of symbolic value in the struggle aginst mighty British Empire.
 
As I came out of the Fokker Aircraft of Biman,I was greeted by the Director of the Company I was scheduled to meet. I would avoid too many details - since this is not a travelogue and I have a request to write about Sylhet- Shillong connection.
 
I have chosen to cover Bangladesh because I wanted some Sulekha members who have connection with Bangladesh to know - the way I see Bangladesh and what feelings are. I have no hesitation in saying that I felt I would have been incomplete as a "Bangali"  ( Bengali) , if I had not made that many trips to imbibe the spirit and psyche of a "Bangali".
 
I was to visit the Tea areas of Sylhet. We drove in a Landcruiser (Toyota) ,not so kind terrain to reach Sylhet. I told my friend about my soft corner for Sylhet. He had arranged for us to stay in the Director's Bungalow of Tea Co. owned by the well known Kabir family. We were going round in Tea Estates and come back to this Tea Estate and spend our evenings. The staff was super and headed a super cook. A Sylheti by origin was settled in a small place called Kakojan -near Jorhat in Assam.When I said I go to Jorhat 8-10 times an yearand pass through Kakojan,he became very nostalgic and told his story.How his forefathers moved to Assam while working for a Tea Co. and how he moved back after the partition as an youngster.He spoke Sylheti bus was delighted to spaek a few sentences in Assamese ( Ahamiya). He poured his heart in his cooking for 3-4 days we stayed.
 
Tea Industry - major area was with British Companies like James Finlays,Shaw Wallace and Duncans. Ispahanis also had several Tea Estates. Besides there were several other small Tea British Tea companies. Sylhet Tea was better than the Cachar Tea and some the Estates I visted were very well maintained.
 
Very large percentage of Managerial staff of Tea Estates were from Sylhet. My connection with Sylhet got me instant acceptance. Hospitality in Bangladesh is some thing one must experience.It is like being in live concert to really feel and appreciate Ghazal, one must be recipient of the hospitality to know how it is .It not not show off ,it is from the heart. My mother's side hailed from a small place called "Lakhai"- which was
famous and Datta Family was welknown for it produced many worthy sons for Sylhet.
 
I felt for the first time in my life a that person who was a total stranger and may be just polite to a visitor ,instantly acceped me as one of them the moment I mentioned my linkage with Bangladesh,especially Sylhet.I did not feel in minutes that I was visting the place for the first - whether it was an Agency House General Manager or the owner of a small Restaurant at Srimangal ,a small Tea town.
 
I made many many trips to Bangladesh- Dhaka, Chillagong, Coomilla,and Tea areas of Sylhet including Sylhet town. All that I would like my Sulekha friends to know that all Bengali speaking population in this World must visit Bangladesh on two occasions -
 
                -  Poila Baishakh - Bengali New Year Day
 
                -  Bhasha Dibash
 
I have been in Dhaka on both these occasions on several times. My first time in Dhaka in Poila Baisakh  made me realize what is Bengali New Year. Yes - as kid I some seen some activity in Kolkata ( then Calcutta) ,which has diminished further.
 
But in Dhaka it is spontaneous - "Prabhat Pheris" since morning. Huge gatherin Ramna. One must personally see. See how spontanously various groups do their programs.
People moving from one spot to another.It is an experience to eat Pantha and Eelish Bhaja.
 
Bhasha Dibash is another occasion must be present to feel it - not musch to see when starting from President ,Prime Minister visit Martyr Tomb for laying wreaths. I was really moved a when I saw a man in Lingi and a vest stood in line holding  just one flower ,that is what he could afford from meage income.
 
I always felt the political leadership in Bangladesh failed to utilize the bond which bound all Bangladeshis togethers  to the Nation /Country ahead instead chasing petty political
goals.
 
I would fail in my duty if I do not may mention a  few things  and they are -
 
-  I was in Chittagong once and my host/friend was little disturbed that he had to leave 
    alone for a few hours because he had to attend a reception ( Wedding). He wanted to
    if I would come along ,he was confident that his friend will be deghted to have a guest
    from West Bengal. I said I have problem but I must take a gift - he said I need not
    because the families will not accept a gift from me. My friends wife  had some  
    reservation because it was all Sylheti affair. When they heard my Sylhet connection
    they were not willing to discuss it any more.I just got into the car and before I
    realized what was happening,I was surrounded  a group who were entrusted to look
    after me. I was made to share a table where other 3 were local dignitaries and I
    ate the Murgi Biriyani from the large Thali kept in each Table which had 4 chairs.
    I am not too sure how many of us would do the same to a strangerwho just arrives
    a guest?
 
-   The hospitalilty of my friends in Dhaka and Chittagong. May be I will write a blog
     on hospitality I have experience in Bangladesh
 
-  If are out in in strange country - be it airports in Saudi, or malls in Dubai or streets
    USA or Canada or UK ,if any one comes forward to talk to you after over hearing your
    conversation in "Bangla" ( Bengali ) - I promise he or she will be a Bangladeshi. It will
   not be much maligned BONG from Kolkata or West Bengal. I am the Bengali
   bashers would either go crazy after experiencing the hospitality or become a
    Bengali fan and may even support Saurav Ganguly.
 
My last visit to Dhaka and Sylhet was in 2003,when I was consulting for a US Co. If I can afford a trip, I would like to visit Dhaka and Chittagong any time.If any one wants to
visit Chittagong - please don't forget Cox Bazar - one of the finest beaches I have seen.
I think ,Cox Bazar beach is one  of the longest beaches. Correct me if I am wrong.
 
For those who visit Dhaka but do have friends to take care must  vist -  "KASTURI" - glimpse of Bangladeshi Cuisine. I will end it,I do not know If I would live up to the expectation of my friend who requested to write about about Sylhet.
 
Any one who wants to reconnect, contact any member of Srihatta Sanmilani - very organized network of Sylhetis all over the World- be it Delhi,Mumbai or London or NY. I am proud of my heritage and Sylheti connection.





RAVI / / 11 months ago
RAVI

Dear Ratan Datta,

Very well written blog. The descriptions took me to those places where you travelled. But how's Bangladesh today? Developing or...stagnating? India did a lot for liberation of Bangladesh. But presently our country is not maintaining a good relationship with that country. Poor political leadership.

ravi.

Pl read my latest blog.


Ratan Datta / / 11 months ago
Ratan Datta

Dear Mr.Ravi,

Thanks for your visit and comments on the blog posted years back .India did help in liberation of Bangladesh. Apart from humanitarian considerations against atrocities of Pakistan rulers ,India had another Military compulsion - one should not have enemy at both end.
Relations started getting sour first due to corrupt business men in both sides ,bad material were sold at very high price. Subsequently relations and politics have been influenced by radicals at both ends.
Bangladesh certainly has developed from East Pakistan days. Corruption and radical section of the society has been the road blocks for development and progress of the Country.
I will read your blog .

Regards.

R.K.Datta


Purnima Dutta / / 11 months ago
Purnima Dutta

Dear Mr Datta,
I am also from Lakhai and my grandfather lived in Karimganj, and known to be a nationalist in the pre-independence era. His name was Srish Chandra Dutta. I think it would be worthwhile, historically, to start a website/blog for the Lakhai Duttas just so that our children are aware of one aspect of history that they might be able to relate to, or at least appreciate. As for others, it is one more source of information for historians - a valuable site providing information on so many aspects on the life of people living in Sylhet-Shillong. Please let us do something about it; I can work on setting up the website,hopefully with help from other tech-savvy Lakhai Duttas, if there are enough of us interested in the project. My email id is dpurnimaddn@gmail.com; please let me know. There is a book called Srihatta Pratibha which talks about Lakhai as well as my grandfather, and I think there is a book on the Lakhai family tree too. The internet has many sites that help out with the family tree online, so that anyone missed out can point it out to the site administrators.
Lookiing forward to your mail,
Purnima Dutta


Ratan Datta / / 11 months ago
Ratan Datta

Ms.Purnima Dutta,

I would certainly write to you today/tomorrow.

God bless.

R.K.Datta


Ratan Datta / / 1 year ago
Ratan Datta

Dear Trina,

Thanks .I will write to you. You may delete the comment so that your e-mail id is not floating.

God bless.

R.K.Datta


Trina / / 1 year ago
Trina

Thank you very much, Jethu/Dadu. This generation of my side of our family has ten first cousins, from Nirmal Chandra Datta, and we are all very interested. I do believe my Boro Jethu, who resides in Loughborough and the only one well-versed with the internet age, is also trying to document our branch, though that was a few years ago and I'm not sure if anything's happened on that front yet. The little black book tradition which my Pishis keep seems to have died with the last generation's documentation.

here is my email address: trinadatta@gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you!
Pronam.


Ratan Datta / / 1 year ago
Ratan Datta

Dear Trina,

Thanks for visit. I am very happy to find another member of " Lakhai Datta Bari ". I am also very happy find thye number of people my blog attracted. You would have noticed two more comments from members of "Lakhai Datta Bari ". I did write to Abhijit and was the end.

I have no idea about the suggested "website".I am too old to take the initiative.However one of Mamas at the suggestion of another older Cousin is working on updating the late Mahesh Chandra Datta branch of the Family tree.

I was involved in sorting out a family dispute about sale of of a family property in Silchar. Came in contact with many,whom I just knew by name and never met or met when they toddler.
I asked a question to the eldest member - my Mama - are we really interested maintaining the connection as member of "Lakhai Datta Bari ". One of my Mama even published a Book on tracing the family tree.Some have copies.
In the era of "I ,me and myself ",I doubt if people today are serious about . I do not have too much faith on Social network site like "Face Book ". However ,I would support any initiative taken to get a family members together. You can give your e-mail id through a note.I will forward the link of family tree and also put you in touch with My Mama who has lot of information and trying to update the Late Mahesh Ch.Datta branch.

God bless.

R.K.Datta


Trina / / 1 year ago
Trina

Hi everyone.. I am from the Lakhai Datta Bari too, the one that possibly traces back to Chakrapani Datta. Any progress on the website that has been suggested? Recently my sister (first cousin) met someone at a random party also from the Lakhai Datta Bari and I too, learnt my friend has a friend from our family tree. It would be great if we could have a website, or alternatively, a facebook page connecting this extended family! Look forward to hearing more.


Ratan Datta / / 1 year ago
Ratan Datta

Dear Abhijit,

I do noit know if the relation would "kaku" or " Dada" . We would find that out .I am sorry for being late .I had gone to Kolkata on22nd and came back last night . I will write to you.
I gone on a mission to resolve a family dispute over sale of property in Silchar.
I posted a blog on what is happening in Bangladesh and WB, came back to find that blog has probably been read by eight individuals. One it was written in "Bangla" and it was assessment what is happening in "epar Bangla ".
I found many Bengalis can not read Bangla, others are not interested in Bangla and some not interested if some one is asking them to take mirror test.

Ms.Purnima Dutta's suggestion was good. If we can have a website for "Lakhai Datta Familiy ".
One on my Mama,he wants to update our branch of Datta family tree.

It will be great ,if we stay in touch.

God bless.

R.K.Datta


Abhijit / / 1 year ago
Abhijit

Dear Kaku,

Since you are older then me so I am addressing you as Kaku. My name is Abhijit Datta, I am too from Lakhai Datta family. My Father name is Dr Ajit Kumar Datta, and I am the Grand Son of Late Dr Avinash Chandra Datta. Its good to meet some one from your own family. I am not so well versed with the relationship, so please do pardon me. I am providing you with my email id : abhijitdatta151@gmail.com . I would be glad if you can drop me an email.

Pranam
Abhijit Datta



couples

Monsoon Romance Contest

View Popularity Board

Contest Entries

Priyadarshi Dutta
Monsoon makeover
 By Priyadarshi DuttaNikhila stood in the terrace of her top floor flat in Dadar looking at the waterlogged patches of the road. The rains had heavily walloped the Mumbai the previous afternoon.
2 weeks ago
Vignesh Karnam
The Dawn of Rain.
 The rain always gathered all of my courage. I always loved the rain. I stepped out on a whim and noticed myself melting in the presence of another being. The presence so divine and lovely , I
2 weeks ago
Alka Girdhar
Mellowing Monsoons
 The rain fell incessantly in a continuous noisy torrent, but its seemingly immaculate fall was a mere puppet in the hands of angry gushing winds that made it sway this way and that way, this way
2 weeks ago
MeghnaVinod
THE LOVE OF MY LIFE IS HERE
 THE LOVE OF MY LIFEBangalore. 13 February. 6pm.Samiksha: It was raining. Raining hard. I could hear the raindrops falling on our tilled roof pitter patter. I just stood there enjoying the slight
2 weeks ago
TheBigThinkg Blog
The Lusty Love..
 I looked at her longingly..There she was, probably with her little son next to her..I am new to this village. I had come here with four of my friends. The sacrifice festival of this village is
2 weeks ago
novelideas
SPEECHLESS
 I waitfor this distant horizonto gather scattered petalsof crimson glory from its canvassinto a spongy blanketbillowing to spread its wingswith the whispering zephyrI wishnow to be let into those
2 weeks ago
chitra viswanathan
The magic of the rain after a storm
 “Swetha, are you ready ” asked her mother, Prema. “It is getting late. It will not be nice if we go late to receive Venkatesh.” They all got into the car. There was great
2 weeks ago
Tripti
All I want is you..
  26th June, 2014 Mumbai 18:30 hours"Feeling numb." "As I pen this down, I''m sitting closer to the entrance, staring outside my tent so that the wetness hits me. I''m not enjoying it,
2 weeks ago
Shalini Prasad
The Magic the Rain Brings - Part 3
 This year, people expected a lot of rain. To say that they were disappointed would be an understatement. The monsoon season was as dry as the summer. The farmers were suffering, the lakes were
2 weeks ago
aruna
In Reference To Monsoon Romance Contest
 To day is the day of birth day of Krishna.How we can forget him when we talk of romance here.He gave a new look to love. Radha was his lady love though he never married to her.When we are facing
2 weeks ago