Tuesday, May 31, 2011
A Nawab's Princely Mansion - Surreal Visit Around Sonargaon (Bangladesh)
I wasn't sure if we were still on the street that made up the ghost city called Painam Nagar (Panam City) right in the heart of Sonargaon where an ancient city once stood proud. Painam Nagar was supposedly a single line of narrow street made up of 50 once-lavish mansions owned by rich Hindu merchants. They have fled the country ever since - to escape ethnic persecution against the growing Muslim population. We rode the rickshaw until we reached a crumbling mansion separated from the other dated, but lavish excrescences.
A PRINCE'S MANSION
Mafuz, my guide, knocked on a gate until someone opened it. These were the present tenants, and Mafuz seemed to know them. We were allowed in to wander around. This was relatively bigger than those on the street. We were told that this was once the elegant home of a nawab (muslim prince). In fact, it even has an annexed building that's almost overwhelmed by growing foliage, and slithering vines snaked around its dilapidated walls; bricks chipping off. The roof from the annex caved in years ago. A staircase leading nowhere looked like one of those Harry Potter magical moment that's left hanging between incomplete spells. I was told that this particular house has a sinewy basement, with tunnels that go as far as Dhaka. If in case this were true, then they have an even better tunnel system than Saigon's Cu Chi tunnels. We had no way of confirming this, but such stories stoke the imagination - and were always an interesting topic of conversation.
Once again, at the back of these mansion, was a lake or pond. It's mirror-image reflection of the nearby scenery - huge trees, blue skies, each item parading placidly like sweet poetry from this wall-less portion of the tired old mansion. Decrepit it may be, this once grandiose abode still managed to convey its past, albeit in calculated whispers. This surreal experience just cost me 50 taka - not as an entrance fee, but as voluntary gratuities for the opportunity to relive a rich past.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention this sensation of awe that embraced me all throughout this visit.
With my imagination fired up, we moved on to the next stop. Like an Eye in the Sky!