Monday, February 8, 2010


Like so many younger Bangladeshis, Momen, a tenth grade student is still full of hope and ambition.

More importantly, he is a young man living in a house in one of the oldest streets in Sonargoan, an ancient capital of Bengal. The three of four hundred year old home has been his family’s house for three generations. And, alive to his environment, he is a fount of knowledge and experience of this remarkable place.

His guidance and commentary is not the usual highlights, dry and dusty, academic and often historically dubious, like that of the usual older generation of guides, invariably sent to escort tourists from Dhaka itself.

But perhaps it is his appreciation of his surroundings that comes through in his commentary, sharing his enthusiasm.

Curiously, a walk down the ancient main street might almost be a stroll through Europe. The architectural influences reflect the ebb and flow of the political fortunes of the nations who influenced ancient Bengal. It seems more like a film set than a vibrant, living remnant of a distinguished past.

Momen’s vitality, somehow, brings the place more to life. And his guidance is, of course, the very essence of sustainable tourism… involving local people in visits to their homes and environment.

He led us past the long, picnic party lines waiting to enter the museum and more obvious sites. We were able to wander the places we visited largely undisturbed.

Young Momen’s interaction with visitors like us has stimulated his ambition to further education, the effect of cultural exchange that might otherwise be closed to him.

He is also indignantly aware of the neglect of the great buildings around his home, and fairly skeptical of the whereabouts of the ancient carved wooden doors and shutters that, three years ago were summarily removed and have not been seen since. He is anxious to see them returned, restored.

Apart from the houses and mansions of the main street, the two palaces and the museum building, as well as the variety of religious buildings demand time, and a measure of crowd control, to be fairly considered.

There is, however, no doubt that a great period of the history of Bengal is reflected in these slowly decaying buildings. From the Frenchinfluence that disappeared following the 1757 battle of Plassey, one of the most vital encounters in the growth of the British Empire, when the French influenced Nawab of Bengal was defeated, despite his French allies, by ‘Clive of India’, to the neoclassicism and Italianate architectural influences of the late 19th Century Raj.

A place, convenient to Dhaka, well worth the time spent getting there, and where Momen, or his friends, can be found to bring the history alive!

1 comment:

  1. are there any places to stay? wud be nice to spend a night there, air conditioned room will be nice..