Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sylhet 2009 (Day 3): The Other Side of the Fence

Monday morning we started later than we wanted to. We were actually pretty damn tired from the extended amount of walking on the previous day. We checked out of the hotel and kept our baggage at Nahiyan's place, and took a public transport known as tempo here in our country, towards Jaflong. On our way to Jaflong we feasted our eyes with the sight of the huge mountains that are visible across the border, over in India. Well, "the mountains are always higher on the other side of the fence", hehe. The shear magnitude of the mountain range clicked the inquisitive part of my mind, it made me wonder, what secrets lay hidden in those deep valleys covered with trees. There must be places within those mountains and forests that no one has ever set foot upon. Truly Allah's creation is way wider than our thoughts can be.

Jaflong is a place that combines sand, stone, and crystal clear water in a fascinating way. It is a tourist spot, yet the place is busy with labor, men picking up stone from the river bed. Stones of various dazzling shades and patterns form under the river bed, carried down from the mountains with the stream. The other guys again shed most of their clothing and got themselves in the water, while I was busy taking photos, as usual. But the clearness of water was enticing indeed.

We took a bus from there and got to Tamabil. It's just the very last point of Bangladesh in the east, and you can see the last standing milestone of Bangladesh and the two gates of the neighboring countries. We took some photos there and didn't make much delay, as the place is a little sensitive due to security reasons.
Next up we payed a very short visit to the shrine of Hazrat Shah Paran (R), another great preacher of Islam in the subcontinent. Over here the situation was a bit better than that of Hazrat Shah Jalal's (R). 

Back in Srimangal I was a little disappointed to find the tea gardens flat. Well that disappointment was washed away when we got to the famed Malinichhara Tea Garden in the afternoon. The whole garden was planted over the hills. We got ourselves a guide from the garden, and soon we were on our way to the top. As we were getting higher from ground level, the view kept getting better and better. The vast hills seemed to be wrapped around by the tea plants. Withing a little more than half an hour, we got to the top, feasted our eyes with the view, took photos, and got down again, this is only possible by true adventurers like us!

That pretty much concluded all we wanted to see in our trip. Still, taking a brief but much needed break at Nahiyan's house, we started to walk and reached the shrine of Manik Pir which is 225 steps above the ground level. On both sides of the steps there are graves. From the top we got a view to the whole city in the night.

For dinner we were invited by Nahiyan's father to his own restaurant, and the food was awesome and well needed for our over-night bus ride to Dhaka. Our bus, a Scania  from Green Line service, started on schedule at half past midnight. By dawn, we were back home.

Even days after returning from the trip, in my dreams, I find myself walking through forests, climbing hills, going to places I haven't seen before. Sylhet, with its mesmerizing natural beauty, has cast a spell on me that cannot be undone, and it may remain so for life. The trip made me wonder what amazing places are there in Allah's world, that I haven't seen yet. It made me feel small, and made me understand Allah's power of creation and supervision even more. This has been a remarkable journey for me, and maybe if I was a better writer, I could express it better. This was my first trip without any family members to watch over me, with my friends alone, so indeed is was a milestone for me. Thanks to Allah for everything.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sylhet 2009 (Day 2): Rock and Water

The spot that played the chief role in bringing us to Sylhet was the Madhabkunda water falls. On our second day, we started real early towards there in our rented microbus, right after Fajr prayer. The road to Madhabkunda was a beauty itself. Curving this way and that, climbing uphill and going down again, we wished all of our roads were like that. At about 8:30 in the morning, we reached the gates of the Madhabkunda Eco Park, from there a walk of about half an hour in necessary to reach the falls. While walking towards the fall, we already started to feel that we're really gonna like this place. We could see the water from the fall running over the rocks below, at one point we got down from the path into the water just to get our feet wet and take some photos. We kept walking and admiring the beauty of the place, and then we saw it. The water fall itself. The stream of water running down from the top of the hill is like the grand jewel in the crown that is the whole surrounding. The sight that was in front of my eyes only made me wonder how much more beautiful can paradise be? The wide encircling rocky hills, decorated with green, the sparkling water falling from high above, the pool of water at the base, the stream and the sound of pure nature, this is heaven on earth. I was taking a lot of photos as I was walking towards the fall, but when I saw it for the first time, I just put the camera in my pocket and looked at the whole place for a long time. Then I started taking snaps, and I couldn't stop.

The pleasure got on to a much higher level as soon as we put ourselves in the water. It was cool, and yet it didn't hurt, it was just relaxing, it seemed to carry away all my thoughts away from me. I felt like there's just me and this place, and nothing else. I can swim, but I'm not confident about it, so all I did was sit in shallow water and take a few dips. As we went real early, for more than an hour we had the place totally to ourselves, just the six of us. I was busy taking photos of nature alone, while others where taking there own pictures for their facebook profiles, hehe. After staying there for about two and a half hours, against our heart, we started to head back. There's a watch tower which gives great view of the whole place, we got on top, and it looked as if I'm looking at a piece of art, come alive out of the canvas. Subhanallah. Guess who's the artist?

Our microbus took us to a bus stand in Maulavibazaar, where we took a bus and reached Sylhet City by the after noon, where our friend from AUST, Nahiyan picked us up. He helped us getting a hotel room in the viscinity of the Dargah of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R), the most visited shrine in the country I guess. We visited the shrine later that night.

After filling our starving stomachs with some food, we headed out to look around the Sylhet city, guided by Nahiyan. We saw the Keen Bridge, and the famous Amjad Uncles's Clock.

Before the Isha prayer we perfomed the Ziarat of the grave sight of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R), who was one of the key preachers of Islam in the subcontinent, and has been the medium of Hidayat of a large number of people. After coming to Sylhet, it was an unavoidable duty to pay a visit to his shrine. I knew the the dargah was full of Bidaats and non-islamic rituals, but I never imagined it to be so bad. The things that people are doing in the name of this noble person, was absolutely unacceptable according to Shariah. I don't wanna get into details here, but the scene inside the dargah cannot be fitted into any particular religion, as if these so called Khadems had invented a whole new religion using the name of this mighty hero of Islam. May Allah give these people Hidayat, and May Allah give peace to the grave of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R).

Me and Pulak stayed up late, walking in the streets and gossiping, while others went to bed early. A very eventful second day of our trip had come to an end.

Read about Day 3 of this trip!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sylhet 2009 (Day 1): Wake Up and Smell the Tea !

Me, Pulak and Rumman have been calling each other constantly, planning a trip to Sylhet. We all needed a big break, a breath of fresh air after the turmoil that we went through last month. We planned to go to Srimangal directly, instead of going to the city of Sylhet first. We wanted to have some fun on the way, so we booked train tickets. On the night of April 10, Friday, the six of us, me, Pulak, Rumman, Imran, Kanon and Rocky all gathered at the Kamlapur Rail Station in time. As scheduled, our train started for Srimangal at 10:00 p.m.

Our seat arrangement was the best we could ask for, six of us facing each other. The whole night we spent awake, gossiping, laughing and constantly hitting on each other. We had some great laughs while playing chor-pulish, a famous pen-and-paper game in our country. It was a moonlit night, so as the train passed beyond the urban areas, the surroundings got more and more spectacular. I spent a lot of time just looking out from my window into the hills and forests that lay beyond. We reached Srimangal well before dawn, and we went straight to the rest house which we had already booked.

The first morning at Srimangal we gave for Lauachhara National Park, it's a semi-evergreen forest 'supervised' by an organization called Nishorgo Support Project. The 'park' was more like a forest than we expected it to be. After walking about half an hour into the heart of it, the environment became pretty amazing indeed, with dense trees on both sides and typical forest like silence. But our timing wasn't ideal to catch the sight of any wild animals. All we got to see was some monkeys and lizards. Nonetheless the walk inside Lauachhara was pretty enjoyable.

Back from the forest, we had lunch and got ourselves a quick nap. In the afternoon, we got out again to look around some of the tea gardens at Srimangal. I was a little disappointed to see that the tea gardens here are mostly flat. Then in the evening we went to the Nilkantha Tea Cabin to taste the famous multi-layered tea. After waiting for a long time, the tea arrived, and indeed it looked out of the ordinary, with six layers of tea visible separately. It didn't taste as good as it looked, but the change in taste from one layer to another was evident.

At the night, we all walked about the Srimangal town by ourselves. It was pretty amazing to see that even at 10:30 p.m. the town was still alive, with people moving around and shops still open, whereas Dhaka becomes a ghost town after 10.

So came the end of the first day of our Sylhet trip. And from the looks of things, we were expecting a great couple of days ahead of us.

Read on about Day 2 of this trip!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Barisal 2009 : Revisiting My Roots

It really came out of nowhere. On the noon of April 1, the day my exams ended, I was peacefully playing Burnout Paradise on my PC, when my uncle Shapanku (Shapan + uncle = Shapanku!) gave me a call, telling me that he was going to our village at Barisal the next day for a very short trip, and he asked if I wanted to go. I was looking for whatever chance I could get to refresh myself from the stress that I was in for the last month, so I jumped at it. Our trip was already planned, so the next day, April 2, I left home with my uncle in the afternoon, towards Sadarghat, where we were supposed to board the launch Sundarban-7.

Night at the river: My uncle had booked a VIP cabin for us, and the room was pretty nice indeed with air conditioning, double bed, sofa, impressive decorations, a separate veranda and toilet. It was as cozy as it could get. The ship started at 8:45 p.m. After some time, when the ship had left behind the city lights and was deep into the river, the sight that unfolded was beyond my ability to describe. The dark water all around, the star filled black sky up above, the thin black line showing the land on both sides, and as the jewel on top of it all, the glowing half moon, lighting up the whole place, and its mesmerizing reflection on the water. The dark flowing river was lighted up here and there by the lights of the small fishing boats. Sometimes there was absolutely nothing around, nothing to break your sight. The scene without anything to see is a sight you can't forget!
One thing that I noticed with great interest was the class difference that's visible within the launch. There we were in the nice and cozy VIP cabin. Then I saw the first class cabins, which have barely enough space to fit in a bed and a TV. And then I saw the lower class deck. A floor running from end to end, people lying on floor as they wish. Some sleeping, some gossiping, some watching the common TV. The contrast was quite stark.

Dawn at Barisal: The sleep was quiet indeed, with the slight vibration of the boat helping the cause. At dawn I woke up to the sight of the famous Kirtankhola river of Barisal, our launch had already reached the docks. Right out of our window I saw a Rocket for the first time. It's actually a steamer with two large pedal wheels on both sides. These have been running since the British rule in the country, and they have the amazing reputation of never sinking.
We got off the launch after having a brief breakfast. A microbus was already waiting for us to take us to our village. After 2 more hours, we finally reached our destination, Fuljhury.

Morning at Fakir-Bari: There I was again, at our village at Fuljhury, Mathbaria. Last time I've been here, I was probably two years old, so it's pretty obvious that I wouldn't remember much. Fakir is our family title, and the area that consitute our places or estates is called Fakir-Bari. This was the place that my family has come out of. My father, uncles and aunts have all grown up here, before they moved to Dhaka. Fuljhury is village in its purest possible sense. It is a kind of a village that comes to our mind when you read stories based on rural Bangladesh. The beauty of it is something else totally. The closest things to modern life here are the few solar panels I saw over the tin sheds on some houses, which just provide enough power to run a light, a fan and a TV occasionally. The relatives who live there are supposed to be well known to me, but unfortunatly they're not. So I was trying my best within the short time to get acquainted. It was nice to see their reactions when they got to know who's son I am, hehe.

I felt attached to the place somehow, I took the liberty to walk around the place all by myself, with my camera off course. The human brain works in amazing ways. I don't remember seeing anything of that place, but when I walked into one of the rooms of a house, some part of my brain suddenly clicked, and I thought I remembered that smell, that smell of inside a house on the village.
My uncle is actually conducting the construction of a new mosque at our place, and also the work a new building that we're planning to make around our house. If that's done we'll get ourselves a permanent picnic spot, and Inshallah a constant coming and going will start again.
After the Jumma prayer we had our lunch, and quite a feast was prepared for us. After filling up our stomaches we sat for some time in the porch of our school, which is a primary school within a few paces to our houses. This place was my favorite because of the constant cool breeze that makes you forget anything else.Time flew by, and it was after noon, and my short trip to Fuljhury was almost over.

Racing through the night: We were supposed to catch the launch at 8:00 pm that very day to head back to Dhaka. We left our place behind schedule. On the road, our microbus started to give some trouble and we got scared of missing our boat. The road to the dock was a scary ride indeed. As we were getting late, our driver was tearing through the rural roads, and all the light there was, was that of our own headlight. Fortunately we reached in time, and gladly we all got on to our cabin. The launch started at half passed eight towards Dhaka again. The journey back was pretty similar to that of the previous night. And moreover, this time we were too tired ourselves to enjoy much. So we slept earlier this time. By 4:30 in the morning, we were back at Sadarghat.

My short trip to our village cannot be measured by the short length of 8 hours that I've spent there, it was far more significant. This was my trip to revisit my roots. A trip by a new generation Fakir to the place of his origin. And I'm confident it's going to be the first of many. Thanks to Allah for this amazing trip.

Check out some photos from the trip in my web album.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Those 9 Days (March 24 - April 1)

March 24 was the day before my brother's wedding, the day of his 'Gaye Holud' ceremony at our place. Should've been a great day for me, but it was also the day before my Semiconductor Devices semester final exam. So up till the evening I was switching between studies and arrangements. But after evening I had no chance to study. The program went pretty good thankfully. I was free to study at almost 1 o'clock at the night. I did my best to prepare for the exams, studying for a little more than an hour that night, and after the Fafr prayer the next day. So the preparations weren't so good, and the exam was nothing better. The exam didn't go any better than I was prepared for, but at least I wasn't scared of failing.
That very day after the evening, our whole family left for my Bhaiya's wedding together. But things took a turn again, at least for me. My sister was feeling sick from the morning, she was constantly vomiting for some reason. When me and one of my aunts were on our way to the community centre, we got to know that her condition was not good at all, and she must be taken to a hospital immediately. So we turned our car towards Elephant Road, while the rest of the party went on. Long story short, we reached our sister's place, took her to the nearest hospital and she was given saline. After staying there for some time as her condition became stable, me and others left her to the care of my brother in law, and went to attend the wedding at the very last moment. I reached there a little before midnight, and most of the guests were gone. Nothing much was left to be done except for taking our new Bhaabi with us and getting home. So went the all important day of my bro's wedding, So much for celebrations, hehe.
The next two days went like a flash. 26 March our house was full of people, as usual, and I didn't even try to study for my next exam. 27 March was the day of Walima. The party was great, a lot of known faces gathered there, many of those I haven't seen for a long time. Particularly our neighbours from Elephant Road, it was great to see them all together. Five of my friends from AUST Nobin, Pulak, Kanto, Rumman and Farhan went as well. We had a good time indeed.
So that leaves only one day for me to prepare for my Telecommunication Engineering exam. I tried, but I knew it wouldn't be enough to get anything respectable. Moreover, this time the question was prepared by Monzoor sir, and all the students knew it was gonna be a nightmare. Little did I know that it would be worse. When I saw the question next day, I felt as if I was looking at a question from a totally unknown course. Never did a see a set of questions I'm so unfamiliar with. Most of the examinees who studied all 3 days, were also shocked with the question, so it's pretty obvious that I would feel much more horrified as I couldn't study anymore than one full day. That day's exam was probably the worst exam I've ever attended (so far), and I'm actually not sure if I'll pass or not. May Allah save me.
Then it was back to the easy ways again. The last exam was scheduled for April 1 and I was able to prepare for it pretty well, and the exam went better than I expected. It was finally all over.
Those 9 days were few of the most mentally straining days I've had to endure. When you take a lot of things and put them all in a blender, the juice that comes out doesn't necessarily taste good. I'm just glad it's down my throat. Thanks to Allah.