Journey To Trace My Roots at Bangladesh

4th Nov 2017

Old man & his 2 dots in the background of their ancestral home

Photo of Journey To Trace My Roots at Bangladesh by sanchari79
Day 1

I have once read somewhere a person can grow only as strong as your roots are. Me & my sister wanted to trace our roots & take my aging father to his birthplace- Barishal at Bangladesh which he left at the age of 8 years for years. Ultimately we decided to do this in 2017 once the climate became little bearable in Nov. We bought the tickets online a few months ago to get a good deal. However I discovered that inter travel within Bangladesh is best booked 2 months ago from the journey date since private airlines like Novoair, Regent etc are visible online only 45-60 days before the due date. The time taken by this carriers are least & are most cost effective & hence highly recommended than Biman Bangladesh!

Taking an ola early dawn, we 3 left for our much awaited journey through a jet early morning flight. Landing and passing through the immigration formalities were easy since we had reference of an Indian friend living at Dhaka and working in a senior designation at a farm of high repute. The entire day was spent exploring Dhaka at Dhakeswari mandir, Dhaka university campus, living the 'Bhasa andolan' history & statues of martyrs. I was impressed by the way this one of a kind language movement is portrayed through different mediums here with the due honor. Being in Dhaka means we have to do Dhakai jamdani shopping! We visited the den of sarees there- like the Burrabazar of Kolkata & picked up pretty pieces at attractive price :)

At 8.30 PM that evening we reached Sadarghat of Dhaka and boy what a busy place that is! Crowded and bustling with activity, I witnessed old style auction of seats of vessels. This vessels are a very good option for travelling to the interiors of Bangladesh like Barishal, Jhalakati, Chandpur etc which are crisscrossed by several networks of rivers. The giant ship is 3 storeyed - the ground floor seats are auctioned and are basically for the poor. The 1st floor have bunks & 2nd & 3rd floor have cabins- AC & Non AC , some first class with attached dinning halls & washrooms & private balconies. They have a centralized kitchen & small shops selling tea/ coffee/ snacks etc with a corridor like balcony overlooking the river- which is sometimes narrow & at times broad like an ocean . There is a beautiful deck on top floor on which you can feel the wind , the smell of the river and the adventure of travelling whole night on water.

This journey is one of its kind. Even excellent service at the 1st class cabins could not make me sleep in my cabin. We selected a full moon night for enjoying this trip at its highest peak & thanks to the- oh- so romantic moon on Padma river we hardly could come down from the deck! There were small rivers floating on the river for catching fish with small lanterns lit in them - the silverish hue on the water - the moon in its full form - ah- I was remembering Saratchandra's novel "Srikanta" - the adventurous episode in which both Indranath & Srikanta goes to catch fish in the middle of the night! Those of you who have read Bengali literature will probably know what is the thrill of living your teenage!

Coming back to practical things, the fish served in dinner was excellent- we had Hilsa, chingri bhorta & Bele maach . I mean all the fish (not only HILSA) that we had in Bangladesh are very sweet & delicious in taste. The same goes for the bhorta preparations. The ship reached barishal next morning at 5 maybe but we were allowed to sleep peacefully with AC on till 7 in the morning( Excellent customer service is my take from Bangladesh). We reach Barishal jettyghat & took an auto to hotel Sedona from where our search for Alta gram- the village in which my father was born began. Let me tell you we had no clue where was it located - neither we had any relatives left there to guide us. It was an out & out adventure by two ladies & an old man :-)

Day 2

We started asking the hotel boys at Sedona hotel about how to begin our search. They suggested to ask a boy who was from that district. After a little research we decided to go to the autostand & hire an auto - well allmost the 1 we see here , though a lot larger & run in diesel. The young boy agreed to go "Banaripara" but even he did not have any clue where Alta gram was! And our search started- google did not help nevertheless we were enjoying the greenery the moment the auto left the boundaries of the town. On reaching the Banaripara autostand we met an old shopkeeper who for the 1st time in our trip said yes Alta is here ! Wao we were excited to know the village actually exists till today at the first place. He even showed our autowala the way to reach the village following some bylanes of the village road. I never expected to reach the exact village that my father had left 70 years ago- I thought we will reach Barishal & will be able to show my father the creeks, trees etc of Barishal at best. To my wonder we actually reached the village in no time post crossing some creeks & we started asking to old villagers about" Roy Chowdhuty" bari- references of durga pujo celebrated with grandeur & district judge ( my great grandfather's brother was the 1st Bengali district judge of British India). The autowala joined us in our conversations & soon the villagers led us us to a dilapitated house with strict resemblances of a grand house suited to Zaminders! Most of my father's descriptions that I have been hearing all through my childhood allmost matched & I felt a little embarrassed since I had my own doubts in my mind about the existence of "Roy Chowdhury Zamindari". Being born & brought up in Kolkata, I though these were exaggerated facts & created out of imagination of my father to fascinate his little daughters! But Voila- I immediately traveled back in time & imagined my life over there!! We spent some time there chatting with the villagers- the local kids were amused by our presence & the adults were literally pestering us to have lunch at their home. Amazing hospitality of Bangladeshis I must say. Let me tell here the striking point- most of the villagers were Muslims - and they were perfectly friendly- extremely helpful & courteous. Some of them who are now living at the land that my ancestors have left behind even admitted acquiring the vacant land just like that and were willing to host religious functions for us in remembrances of our ancestors, if we wish so- knowing fully well that we are Hindus.

We already had what we went there for- my fathers face glowing with glory- his eyes sparkling with joy of seeing his birthplace & revisiting his childhood memories along with letting his daughters know the truth of the glorious past. We came back at the hotel all contented, beaming of satisfaction from mission accomplished & yes a little proud of who we were !