Friday, May 27, 2011

Painam Nagar's Losing Battle with Time and Nature (Sonargaon)

Nature has a way of reclaiming their sovereignty, and this is all too evident in the neglected domiciles in an eerie street in Sonargaon. I like the way a Lonely Planet article on Painam Nagar describes this once lavish community:

The once elegant town of Painam Nagar is busy fighting a losing battle with nature, and with every passing year the trees and vines drape themselves a little further over the decaying houses. The result is a delightful ghost-town quality where the buildings appear to hang like exotic fruits from the branches of the trees.

I don’t have this description in my own LP so this must be a later version, but this poetically paints a surreal description of Painam Nagar.

From the Folk Arts and Crafts Museum (aka Sadarbari), we took a rickshaw north of the museum. It didn't take long. Karin and I were seated in front while Mafuz (our guide) was at the back – the proverbial “backseat driver”.

I was in my cotton shirt and jeans, Karin, all blond and a curious a sight to behold in her dark colored sari, while Mafuz was in an immaculately pressed long sleeved shirt, tucked under his pants. He looked very “official”. And the three of us sauntered around like three distinct peas in a pod.

Mafuz picked a house and wandered around with adequate authority, I'd suspect he owned the place had I not known otherwise. There was a household with an woman doing her chores – she was preparing something on leaves. When I looked closer, these were rice-based food, beautifully “designed” – on specially picked leaves. Were they desserts? Heck, no. This was food. Some of them, they eat; some they sell. They looked like frosted candies in their off-pink color. Mafuz reached down and offered us a piece to taste it. Weird. I expected it to be sweet, but it didn’t taste anything. Maybe this was one of those that acquire taste once you’ve eaten enough? The funny thing is, the lady kept working and didn’t even seem to mind that we were encroaching on her space, on “work” – and we didn’t pay anything for this visit. How much more “up close and personal” could you get?

The house stood like desperate relics; half the house facing the scenic lake has all but disappeared. We navigated through a narrow staircase. I was trying to keep a stable stance; didn't wanna fall into a sundry of accouterments that seemed second or third-hand, rusting in sweet salvation. At some point, it became too dark. I was still afraid I’d step on something I’m not supposed to. Our destination: the roof deck! From there, I could see a good part of Painam Nagar. We just sat and gathered our thoughts while Mafuz jumped on a ledge and started clowning around.


I liked Karin. She's from Interleukin, Switzerland. She was mild mannered and toothsome, and she had a sincere smile. She would intermittently regale me with some of her travel anecdotes: the German paraglider who dove to his near-fatal accident in Pokhara Nepal (Karin had to accompany him in Delhi where he was eventually flown back to Germany); her life as a relatively new physician; her passion climbing mountains; what is it like being a single woman traveling around Asia. She mentioned that 40% of a Swiss' salary goes to the government as tax; and that Switzerland isn't part of the E.U. (really?). She just completed General Surgery, and she's seriously looking into Visceral Surgery which, to be honest, I've never heard of. She's taken to wearing sari while navigating around, try to be inconspicuous, although I was sure she was not succeeding all that much. Glimpses of her life in a capsule.

I’ve actually made a friend that day. She has since emailed me about her unforgettable experiences traveling back to India, as well as her funny-scary stories visiting Andaman Island off the Bay of Bengal. Later that day, I bought a few Indian rupees from her for my onward travel to Kolkata (India) - I'd need local money for those meal stopovers - while she headed to the southern tip of BangladeshCox's Bazaar, this is Bangladesh's Bali, their Boracay, their Phuket.

A pond just behind this row of run-down mansions.

Karin of Interleukin, Switzerland

Intricate details on the ceiling of one of the mansions.

From this short strip of dilapidated mansions, we visited another one – a bigger one actually; the once luxurious abode of a nawab (a muslim prince), supposedly with underground tunnels that reach Dhaka (although we weren’t able to see this). Check it out on our next post. This is our date with a grim historical Bangladeshi chapter.

And this is the Eye in the Sky!

Mafuz, our tour guide, up a ledge by the roof deck.


Ola said...

On one hand sometimes it is good to read that sometimes nature wins with civilization, on the other a ghost-city can be a bit scary!
This mansion is still beatifully decorated!

Bradly Jones said...

wonderful pictures, honestly speaking a bit too wonderful, couldnt stay focused on the article with such great pictures. nice job!

call Bangladesh

eye in the sky said...

@ Ola: Agree hat it's a good thing when nature takes over an old civilization, like reclaiming what is truly their own. On being a "ghost town", it is eerie walking around this street... as though there are earth-bound spirits transfixed in these homes.

eye in the sky said...

@ Bradly Jones: Thank you. I appreciate your generous words, Bradly. These are among my favorite photos from this visit as well.

Trotter said...

Hi Eye!
Sorry for the absence, but the season has been too busy here in Lisbon...
Amazing story, wonderful shots!! But is it actually Interleukin?

Blogtrotter Two is gone to Corsica... Enjoy and have a superb weekend!!

eye in the sky said...

@ Trotter:

She did say Interleukin several times. Is this about the tax percentage from personal income?