For the best photo-ops in town… I make an excursion to Sadarghat, Dhaka’s main ferry pier on the Buriganga River. Nothing beats the experience of sitting quietly on the jetty — or aboard a tiny dinghy boat bobbing on the river — watching a multitude of people alight from gigantic launch boats, which pull in from faraway towns to drop anchor at the pier every morning. It’s one of Dhaka’s most enduring sights, and a fascinating window onto life on Bengal’s waterways.
Dhaka’s best-kept shopping secret is… a mind-boggling bazaar called Dhanmondi Hawkers’ Market, tucked between layers of urban jungle in the heart of the city off Mirpur Rd. This market, with row after endless row of tiny shops, is the place to go for some quality sari shopping. The best of Jamdani and Tangail textiles, made from the finest Bangladeshi muslin, silk and cotton, are on offer here, at prices ranging from US$50 to a steep US$600! My wife Roshni — a frequent visitor to the market — says the craftsmanship and quality found here is simply unbeatable. Some of the saris sold here eventually go into the wardrobes of Bangladesh’s leading celebrities, politicians and socialites.
My favourite season in Dhaka is… winter. For four months from November to February, the city gets a much-needed reprieve from the dreaded tropical heat. It’s also the season when the cultural scene in Dhaka comes alive with a string of art festivals and galas such as the Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka Lit Fest, Bengal Classical Music Festival, Dhaka Jazz & Blues Festival and the immensely popular photo fair Chobi Mela. For culture buffs like myself, it’s the best time to be in Dhaka and get a feel for the city’s vibrant arty side.
On the subject of art, Dhaka’s Rickshaw art… to me represents a splendid canvas of proletarian dreams, aspirations and obsessions, all masterfully painted onto the metal bodies of rickshaws by Bengali street artists. My top choices among popular motifs are lush vistas of rural Bengal, scenes of idyllic rural life, ornate renditions of birds and fish and ruddy-cheeked portraits of cinematic heroes, heroines and villains.
Whenever I need some quality alone-time… I go on an evening walk by the still waters of Hatir Jheel, the city’s biggest reservoir. In a metropolis infamous for noise, pollution and grime, the experience of strolling along a promenade by the banks of a placid lake, past merry groups of families, friends, lovers and aspiring musicians, is a joyously invigorating experience, providing a rare opportunity for quiet contemplation.
When I want to get out of the city… I steal a quick trip to Srimangal, in the heart of Bangladesh’s tea country. I love ambling aimlessly amid the town’s many tea plantations, breathing fresh air in the forested depths of Lowacherra National Park, and then stopping for a local lunch at Kutum Bari, the town’s most popular Bengali restaurant.