The ubiquitous shopping malls  

Shihab Sarkar     | Published: March 09, 2019 22:11:58 | Updated: March 23, 2019 12:51:54

Dhaka Government New Market was once among the city's must-see tourist attractions. A satisfying tour of the city would remain incomplete without visits to Lalbagh Fort, Meer Jumla's cannon at Gulistan, Ramna Park and Dhaka Airport at Tejgaon. In the mid-1950s, New Market found a distinctive place on the list. This modern market comprising almost all kinds of shopping outlets, set up in a single enclave, eventually emerged as a structural pride of the city. As time wore on, Dhaka New Market became integral to the domestic life of the middle and upper middle-class people. With the shops selling clothes, shoes, jewellery, stationery goods, bakery items, and books in particular, scattered across Dhaka, the city-dwellers found it quite convenient to get all these things at a single place. After independence, New Market lost its tourist attraction, as a number of shopping centres sprang up in other areas of the city. But yet the visits to the open-air, circular array of shops did not lose appeal.

Over the last few decades, the place of New Market among the Dhaka shoppers continued to diminish --- except on the eve of the two Eids. As Dhaka gets beset with debilitating traffic gridlocks, people residing in far-away areas have been compelled to shun New Market. As a new development, hardly any populated area in the city is there now that does not have at least one multi-storey shopping complex. Beginning from the northern Dhaka comprising Uttara, Gulshan, Badda, Banani, Rampura-Malibagh to the whole southern expanse including East and West Dhaka, the whole metropolis is filled with shopping malls.

The historic city of Dhaka has long been known as the City of Mosques. Outsiders can now safely call it a city of 'shopping arcades'. But there are problems in Dhaka. This city periodically fails to pass muster in terms of purity and genuineness expected from various merchandise. In spite of the mushrooming shopping malls throughout the city, the clients at some of them allegedly continue to be sold counterfeit products. Leaving aside the ill-reputed units foisting phony goods on the unwitting clientele, allegations have lately been arisen against a few clean-image shopping complexes. The character and operational style of these complexes are changing fast. Buying or renting a space at a widely admired shopping complex and donning the guise of an honest trader, unscrupulous people are bringing disrepute to the thriving business.

Of many extraordinary attributes, the Dhaka New Market has nurtured one since its founding in 1954. Its shops are still free of the vice of selling adulterated items --- be they women's wear, shoes or jewellery. That many people still feel irresistibly drawn to this market lies mostly in this fact. The market has already passed 65 years. New-age architectural onslaughts continue to target it. Already, a few modernist quarters have proposed replacement of the present one-storey market with a high-rise one. They find the 35-acre area of the market a misuse of valuable space. Conservationists have been seen opposing the plan vehemently. To them, Dhaka New Market has already won the distinction of being both an historical and architecturally important site.

However, there is a strong prescience that the conservationists will eventually be overpowered by the architectural school that advocates the maximum use of space. Buildings accommodating shops and business establishments --- the shopping malls, occupy a prominent place in Dhaka's cityscape.  But these malls also spawn problems. Mushrooming in the city's every nook and cranny, they are blamed for a large segment of Dhaka's traffic snarl-up.




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