POST TIME: 13 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Dear Dhaka
Shounak Reza

Dear Dhaka

I sit by the East River, watching the tall, sparkling buildings of Manhattan, waiting for the gentle riverside breeze to transport me to a surreal world. I really enjoyed my last visit to New York; it was an escape from the somewhat monotonous life I lived back in Dhaka. The visit to New York, contrary to my expectations, proved to be different. I never thought staying so many miles away from Dhaka for so many weeks would make me fall in love with my dear city all over again.

My mind flows back to the ever-busy Road 27 of Dhanmondi. I spent so many afternoons on this road, visiting cafes and restaurants. This road bears witness to the best summer of my life so far. I would often wake up to calls from my best friend and we would set out to explore our beloved Road 27 together. Our impulse made us do the silliest possible things. Being the bookworms we are, we once _ impulsively, I must mention here _ entered a grocery store to look for books. My AS exams had just ended and I had a lot of time at my disposal. I didn't realise back then how precious those moments were, how the beauty of those days would come back to haunt me over and over again. I lived those days to the fullest and took them for granted.

I look at the river. The clean, glittering river has no place in my heart. I think, instead, of the dirty lake I have left behind. How is Dhanmondi Lake doing? Has it become dirtier and greener in my absence? Does the lake miss me the way I miss it? Does it look at teenagers sipping lemon tea by its ¬¬side and think of me? I remember the idyllic afternoons I spent by the lake, ¬¬absorbed in conversations with friends about literature and films, about life and art. I thought my walks by the lake were aimless, that they had no purpose. I couldn't have been more wrong.

While bad experiences leave temporary wounds, bad memories seldom come back to haunt us. They do leave scars, but they cease hurting us after a while. Beautiful memories, on the other hand, keep haunting us. Will I ever get to live those moments again? The fear can be crippling.

My eyes well up with tears as I think of the little restaurant on Dhanmondi 27 that made me fond of Elvis Presley. They would play his songs as I feasted on the pasta I love so much. The place, whose walls were adorned with the faces of Audrey Hepburn and Marlon Brando, would transport me back to the 1950s. Not far from this restaurant was the fancy bookstore that always smelled of coffee. When will I get to visit those places again? When will I get to visit the places I know like the back of my hand? When will I get to visit the narrow lanes of Lalmatia once again? And the leafy Iqbal Road at Mohammadpur? And all those quiet and quaint roads of Dhanmondi? And that charmingly beautiful place where I used to learn French?

People turn their backs on Dhaka. They say it is not a happening city. They say it is too dull to be the capital of a country. They blame the pollution and the many other problems that caused the city to be named one of the most unlivable places on earth. But for all these things, I love my city. I used to say I had a love-hate relationship with this city. But isn't 'hate' a rather strong word? Can't you just disapprove of certain habits of someone you love dearly? You cannot hate something you love. I know for sure that, in spite of everything, my love for Dhaka will last till my dying breath.

Dear Dhaka, do you remember me?

Photos: Internet