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.