A nostalgic collage of memories
Asjadul Kibria | Published:
July 21, 2016 20:07:47
October 17, 2017 21:30:31
Dhaka has been changing fast, especially over the last two decades. Many features characteristic of the city have disappeared. Lots of those who grew up during the 1970s and '80s in the city now find it non-accommodative. They grew up in a city which had clean air, green trees and tranquillity. There were lots of shortcomings and lack of modern amenities. But in those days, people, especially the younger generation, had their own social space. Towheed Feroze, a journalist and communication specialist, tries to draw a collage of those days in his book titled Dreams of Dhaka.
It is a compilation of 25 short pieces, some of which Feroze wrote for different newspapers. Together, these pieces present a vivid picture of the lost things nurtured by the people of Dhaka. The writer categorically says in the foreword: "Dhaka in that period had a different credo. Life was dominated by things, events that no longer exist and this book is a celebration of that lost life." Readers can also feel his deep sighs when he says: "That Dhaka was a tranquil city where lights went out after nine, people walked or sat by the roads for hours and mothers, aunties spent time gossiping on the rooftops from where one could almost touch the vast blue sky above. Can the modern day Dhaka residents see the whole sky?"
The title of each piece is impressive enough to presume what the author wants to say or describe. For example, 'Television '80s: Genie, bring me a colour TV!' or 'There is a green chilli in my desi burger!' or 'Will's Kings, Bogla, Capstan and Rizla delights.' The author brings the readers back to the time when having a black-and-white TV enhanced social status, while the colour TV owner became a king in his locality.
In those days, reading was the best pastime while going to the movie was also trendy. Feroze describes his attraction for Masud Rana, the first Bengali spy thriller series written by Qazi Anwar Hossain, along with 'Dasyu Bonhur', 'Kuasha' and other benevolent robbers. He doesn't hesitate to mention the attraction for 'choti' or hardcore sex stories as well as porn movies called 'blue films' displayed on VCR secretly in Begum Bazar and Thatari Bazar areas in old Dhaka. But his narration of the Bengali movies, made during the 1970s and the '80s, is quite interesting. He rightly mentions the names of some hit movies like Barud, Dost Dushman, Mintoo Amar Nam, Sharif Badmash, Pagla Raja, Fakir Maznu Shah, Golapi Ekhon Trene, Simana Periye, Emiler Goenda Bahani and Johny. The fascinating account, though short, of the Bengali movies shows how vibrant the movie industry was back then despite lots of limitations. The author also touches on the highly popular football matches between Abahani and Mohamedan, the two most widely supported clubs in Bangladesh. The craze of football was unparalleled.
In the 1980s and early '90s, college-going youths in Dhaka were very much attracted to the band music, and there was some sort of fad to get teamed up in a musical band. Naturally, most of the efforts did not see any success but they would keep many youths busy with guitars, drums, keyboards and other musical instruments.
Love affair or romance between male and female youths is another area the writer illustrates by reminiscing about his personal experiences. He says: "Love in the past, or let's call it Prem 80s style, had a character of its own." This included love letters written with the help of friends, seniors and poetry books and the desperate attempts to draw the attention of girls on the rooftops.
Politics has always been very much present in the daily lives of the people in Dhaka. The author points it out rightly and outlines a sketchy view of it that shows how the 'red flag of communism', the fever of the time used to arouse youths and how the craze later faded out due to the collapse of the Soviet-style socialism. The left-leaning youths switched sides to obtain a visa for the United States. Feroze nicely writes: "Che took a backseat; Ronald Reagan was on top ... They smelt of cologne, not sweat and they were all lined up for the TOEFL test at the Notre Dame College....Surprisingly, the leftist books, manifestos and biographies that sold like hot cakes from the late 1970s till the late '80s began to disappear from the roadside stalls. Inflamed by desire to subdue capitalism, young men did not scour the second hand bookshops for socialism-extolling books anymore. They were more involved in stocking up their vocabulary for the upcoming TOEFL or IELTS tests."(P-143) The piece titled 'Down with the imperialism but the US visa' is probably the only article in the book which provides some deep insights about the transformation of socio-economic thoughts. Towheed Feroze also points out how a good number of left activities survived among many in the later days thanks to their strong knowledge-base and language skill, especially that of English. According to the author, "Most leftist idealists lived in their own world where no one challenged their views or provoked them since they had the biggest weapon in their stock --- mastery over English language. The interesting thing is many avid capitalists often hung out with leftists because such company gave them sort of cerebral fulfilment. Money was beginning to become powerful but intellect also had its own place. The exalted position of education was firmly held by the socialists." (P-144)
The book is a lucid and pleasant read. There are a few small factual oversights, linguistic slips and printing errors. Nevertheless, the book is definitely a 'nostalgic dive.'