Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 6, Issue 34, Tuesday, August 23, 2011




Streets in focus

To assert that Dhaka has nothing in common with the Champs Elyseeses, Oxford Streets and Fifth Avenues of Paris, London and New York (respectively) is perhaps a factually true but nonetheless harsh allegation. We may be a far cry from any semblance of a global fashion capital, but we do have our own answers to high street (operative word) fashion.

With or without designer labels to validate them, Dhakaites often take for granted that our seemingly disorganised city has developed a zonal concentration in its fashion palette. From Mirpur Road to Bailey Road to Rankin Street and Banani 11, Dhaka has carved borders within its borders to segment clusters of malls and boutiques along certain street stretches.

Even the outskirts of the city does not fall short. In nearby Narayanganj we witness the spurring of BB Road, a major fashion destination of the port city, a fact that heralds the dawn of high street fashion.

This week Star Lifestyle stencils the personas of the streets that throw us into our fashion frenzies. Read through for our take on where the city's pulse will be at this Ramadan.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Bailey Road

Even before shopping districts emerged on the map of Dhaka, Bailey Road stood out as a cradle for Bangladeshi heritage, with shops selling local weaves and deshi attires. As early as the 1980s, this was the shopping destination for fashionistas who craved a local touch in their festival wardrobe. As time went by, constant additions made it the coveted zone for shopping, be it for Eid or other festive occasions.

Bailey Road runs through Shantinagar, connecting the Kakrail-Ramna Road with the Siddheshwari junction. Originally named in honour of Sir Steuart Colvin Bayley, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal from 1879 through to 1882, this road is synonymous to the cultural movement of the city and is aptly termed as Natok Sarani, or Theatre Road.

A hub of literary movements, the road houses a number of renowned schools, colleges and hospitals. And of course, there are numerous boutiques, book shops, fast food joints and restaurants.

Come every Ramadan, Bailey Road takes up a familiar form as different food outlets, lining either side of the street, open up makeshift stalls selling iftar assortments. The halim is famous, so is the jilapi. As the holy month progresses, and often even before it starts, the countless boutiques on the road take up a festive garb. Whenever you hit the street, you are greeted with slow-moving heavy traffic and the aroma of iftar delicacies, but it is the atmosphere of youthful exuberance that remains the hallmark of the place. You will find young people chatting, laughing, strolling -- hanging out with their friends and dear ones. The moment you enter Bailey Road, life becomes colourful.

As the sun sets, the lights light up and the designs, colours and boldness of the attires on the mannequins standing on the pavement of the busy street are highlighted. While hundreds sit on the footpath, a good number browse through the stores selecting their festive attire.

Tangail Sari Kutir and other shops selling local weaves have been familiar names on the street; recently popular brands in the order of Bibiana, Bunon, Kay Kraft, Anjans, Badhua, Sadakalo and many more have opened for business in the many malls that have sprung up on the road.

People of all ages flock to Bailey Road during Ramadan -- men, women, teenagers and children accompanied by their guardians. The variety of shops at the numerous malls on the street make it the ideal hunting ground for Eid, be it for attires, accessories or cosmetics.

This is a place for the well-off, and prices tend to be higher when compared to other shopping zones of Dhaka. However, the lure of Bailey Road lies in the fact that it is the true one-stop shopping destination.

By Mahtabi Zaman

BB Road, Narayanganj

Chashara town is the hub of all activities in the port city, Narayanganj. Although a good number of shopping centres have sprung up throughout Chashara, the Bangabandhu Road -- more popularly, BB Road -- remains the most happening shopping destination with three vibrant malls being located on this one, single road.

Eid means good business for the enterprises, the numerous boutiques and the retailers that have opened their outlets at the three shopping centres on BB Road -- Shantana, Samabay and DIT markets.

DIT market is a five-minute rickshaw ride from Chashara; if you prefer to walk, it will take you only 10 to 15 minutes. If you head down south from Chashara, there is the Shantana Market -- a popular destination for shopaholics of Narayanganj.

Taeb-ul-Haque, a resident of the city, said, "The markets you will find in Chashara are specialised, catering to your particular needs. As Chashara is a small town, everyone knows where to get bargains."

At Santana market, you will find some of the happening fashion houses of the country. Those who opt for trendy dresses and saris of local heritage, favour this shopping destination. As a matter of fact, fashion house Rang initiated their business in this very shopping centre before spreading throughout the country and still remains a popular choice of the people of Narayanganj.

At the Santana Market, two floors are occupied by innumerable boutiques. There are also shops for shoes, fast food, cosmetics, and beauty parlours.

Students form the bulk of the buyers at the shopping centres in and around Chashara. Nadira an HSC student of Narayanganj Mohila College said, "When we get time after finishing our classes we often come to the fast food joints with our friends and for window shopping. Spending time at BB Market is one of the most popular leisurely activities of the youth of Narayanganj.”

It would probably not be wrong to state that after Santana Market, the Samabay Market comes to a close second position. It is established at the opposite side of the Shahid Minar and beside the Samabay Bank. All sorts of dress materials for women are available at the ground floor, while the first floor is mostly dedicated to men's attires and laundry services. This place also serves as the haven for the tech savvy youth.

Remaining true to the doctrine that shopping centres at Narayanganj are specialised, the DIT market caters to the home furnishing needs of the womenfolk. This market however does not limit itself to such products only. The huge three-story complex is basically the combination of a 5-6 smaller markets, which are situated side by side. Starting from dressing and feeding needs of babies, to kitchen materials and dresses of all kinds, this market is for everyone. And during Eid, it takes a festive look.

Banani 11

Riding through Banani Bridge, feeling the breeze and gazing at the lake uplifts your mood and sets the proper frame of mind. Welcome to Banani 11, a street dedicated to leisure, food, fashion, style and hangouts.

Banani 11 is one of the trendiest places in Dhaka. The street is flooded with fashion houses and boutiques. It boasts many of the popular fashion brands in town, such as Rang, Nogordola, Bibiana, Shadakalo and Deshal. There are several smaller and lesser known boutiques owned by small entrepreneurs too.

Many of the fashion houses feature traditional clothes and accessories for all ages. Prices are reasonable too.

However, many complain that although these fashion houses are doing well, most -- obviously not all -- of the small boutiques owned by amateurs do not offer good products, both in terms of quality and style.

But shopping is just one of the dimensions of the street. Banani 11 is an excellent place for hangouts. Numerous fast food centres and lounges have opened up. The whole street is packed with lounges, ice cream parlours, restaurants, fast food joints, fashion houses and boutiques.

Therefore, it doesn't require much to understand the appeal of the road during Ramadan. Window shopping is heavily practiced in the shops of this road. With all the boutiques offering exciting and creative products, people love to roam around from one shop to another, occasionally deciding to buy something.

No worries if it's time for iftar. You have a wide array of options to choose from.

Many people come to the street after iftar too, to have dessert. “I live in Gulshan-1. So sometimes after iftar, my brother and I take a rickshaw ride through the peaceful Banani Bridge to go to one of the ice-cream parlours,” muses one.

People come to this place to chill. No one is typically frustrated and worn in Banani 11. This is the very charm of the street; it's a happy-go-lucky and nonchalant place.

A friends-day-out is the best way to spend time at that road during Ramadan. Start the afternoon window shopping and chatting. And when it's time for iftar, hop in one of your favourite places. Then go to an ice-cream parlour to have dessert. Finally, end the day by walking past the bridge to help you digest the hefty meal, or alternatively take a rickshaw ride with friends.

Mirpur Road

Mirpur Road is one hell of a long route indeed! And shopping malls have mushroomed crazily all over; an endless line of marketplaces. The road is therefore an extremely busy one this season. It is an endless machine that continually runs collectively, catering to the needs and wants of consumers from all walks of life. And the interesting thing about the road is the variety it provides: be it in terms of people, consumer segments, type and category of products and what not. You get more or less everything on Mirpur Road.

To start with, there is New Market, selling an extensive array of things. On the opposite side is Nilkhet, where you may want to drop by if you need some novels to read in the lazy Ramadan afternoons or during a trip you're eyeing in the Eid holidays.

During this time, Mirpur Road indeed gets over-crowded. We live in a country where population density is wildly high. The pavements on Mirpur Road are enough to prove that! Street shopping on the pavements is at full swing. Numerous shops catering to innumerable people make it a lively and exciting place. Bargaining and haggling spearhead the whole notion of celebrating Ramadan into action.

Moreover, the fact that many of the shopkeepers sing to lure customers is another aspect that heavily contributes to the whole carnival.

Dhanmondi's share of Mirpur Road is a good place to shop. Rapa Plaza features top brands like Time Zone, Rich Man, Cat's Eye, etc. Plaza Arcade is a nice place for teenagers to hang out. It also has an impressive collection of tee shirts for boys and girls. The outlet of Aarong is a remarkable one. A rather large showroom occupying many floors, the store, as always, is a hot spot for shoppers. Mirpur Road has showrooms of more or less all of the popular fashion houses. Your last stop (if you started from New Market that is) will be Prabartana in Mohammadpur, offering you traditional Bengali attire, accessories and decoration pieces. To end your shopping session, buy some delicious pithas from Prabartana in-house cafe called Adda. Every year, some of the shopping malls beautifully decorate their buildings with lights. This also brings a festive and joyful environment indeed, making the road a vibrant one, beating the pulse of glee and joy of shopping during Ramadan. Selling street iftar too, is at full swing from late afternoons.

All in all, Mirpur Road is enough to quench your thirst for Eid shopping. With all the lights and crowds and songs and the hustle bustle, Mirpur Road becomes an alluring place indeed, a shopaholic's delight.

By M H Haider

Rankin Street

During the days of the colonial Raj, Rankin Street at Wari, Old Dhaka developed as a residential area for the elites. With spacious roads, and mostly one or two storied houses on either side of the streets, Rankin Street flourished as a residential area in Wari. The Baldha Garden -- the famous botanical garden of Dhaka -- was situated next to the road and added to the fame of the place.

Recently, Rankin Street has come into the limelight for a different reason. As boutiques and fashion houses have invaded the streets of 'new' Dhaka, Rankin Street has taken up the name for fashion flavours on the older side.

It was almost ten years ago, that Aarong opened their outlet in Rankin Street, Wari and ever since countless other fashion houses have followed suit. Now you can find renowned houses like Nipun, Swarong, Nabarupa, Rupashi Bangla and at least 30 other small to large shopping outlets on the street. From women's wears to men's clothes, these stores have a wide assortment of designs, which multiplies multiple-fold during Eid. And of course there are children's clothes, which wind up the total shopping experience that is Rankin Street.

Mohammed Jasimuddin, owner of Rangayan, an outlet there said, "The prices of dress materials at Rankin Street are more reasonable than that of the Bailey Road". Those who come to Rankin Street after verifying market prices at other locations buy products of their choice with considerable ease.

Apart from boutiques, the places also houses showrooms of renowned names like Bata, Apex, Archies, Mr Baker and countless small time beauty salon ventures. Tahmina Islam, a housewife found shopping at Rankin Street had this to say, "It is very easy to compare prices here. Everything is available within a walking distance of each other. From renowned brands to lesser known boutiques, there is plenty on offer and as a buyer we can chose."

Rankin Street can serve as an excellent destination for your shopping needs this Eid, or any other festive season. However, it is the clothing needs of the buyers that this place caters to. If you have a desire to buy other products for the household, Rajdhani Supermarket is just a walking distance away!

By Mahtabi Zaman


Do they know its 3 am?

Last Ramadan, we noticed how it was becoming a trend to take the family out for, of all meals, sehri. Now, going out en famille after 2 am in the morning into an all but deserted city might not seem like the best idea, but when memories of the daytime traffic pop up like a recurring nightmare, it won't seem the worst.

So, it was to investigate this side of our city that yours truly ventured into the eerily empty streets with a friend last Tuesday. The gluttony that we embarked upon is by no means recommended, unless like me your generous girth is matched by a voracious appetite or, like my friend, you are a bit wrong in the head. The plan was to head South from Gulshan and sample every shop we found open on our journey to Puran Dhaka. Not for the faint-hearted, but that is what we set out to do, all for the sake of maybe introducing some new options to our dear readers.

As we sped through Mohakhali and Tejgaon, we were trying our best to remember the names of two hotels in Moghbazar that we knew stayed open for sehri. Upon reaching the dreaded Moghbazar intersection, we found that we were worried about nothing; the two hotels were shining like beacons in the dark, literally.

Hereabouts we should say that if you are adventurous enough to go out in search of food in the wee hours, you should also lower your expectations when it comes to ambience, a quite worthless concept at 3 in the morning. It is a chance to see a more relaxed Dhaka and experience its quirks, not to look for the finer pleasures of life. If that's what you are looking for, keep sleeping.

So we grabbed a table inside Hotel 3 Star, which was brightly lit and quite clean. Another advantage of dining out at ungodly hours dawned on us as we marked how polite the waiters are. The waiter rattled off his inventory, which included chicken biriani, chicken curry, beef rezala, and an assortment of fish curries.

We each ordered a chicken biriani, and a dish of beef rezala which we would share (the night was just starting). The biriani was passable, but the beef was fantastic, with the spices mixed in just right. It was a pleasant surprise, as such hotels usually bombard their curries with spices which does not make for a pleasant after-meal experience.

Having done with Hotel 3 Star, we hopped across the wonderfully deserted intersection to Hotel De Taj (only in Dhaka). There we learnt that the menu was much the same as the one across the junction, with the addition of bhuna khichuri. We promised the waiter that we would come back, as we did not want to stuff ourselves before we went to the promised land, Puran Dhaka.

First stop in the old part of town was Hotel Al Razzak near Thatari Bazar. It took us all of seven minutes to reach there from Moghbazar -- apart from the food the best aspect of the decision to have sehri outdoors. Hotel Al Razzak is well-known among Dhaka's foodies, and it is not the quantity, but the superb quality that has given the eatery its good name.

The menu, especially at that time of night, was more than adequate. Rice, naan roti, mutton rezala, chicken jhal fry and fish curries such as rupchanda, telapia, etc. were on offer. The interior is spick and span, as would be expected from a hotel as well-regarded as this. We ordered the mutton rezala, the chicken jhal fry and a naan each.

We were worried that we had perhaps ordered too little (okay, maybe my friend is not the only one with slightly misfiring neurons) -- concerns that were dispelled when our waiter made his way towards us with two plates barely able to contain their load of naan rotis. They were delightfully puffed up and so good that they are worth eating as a standalone item. We didn't do that, however, as they were followed by the mutton and the chicken. Both the dishes were fine, with the mutton scoring higher in our estimation.

At this point my friend made an interesting observation; most places have either beef or mutton, not both. Thought for food.

Remembering part of our nocturnal mission, we asked the waiter whether families made the trek to their establishment for sehri. He said with a smile that they do, in greater numbers each Ramadan. In fact, he tells us, the biggest party they entertained this time was a family of ten about a week ago. As if on cue, a car stops in front and out pops a party of three -- a father, son and daughter. By the time we left, they were happily gorging themselves on mutton and naan in preparation for the following day's fast.

Then it was time for our last stop -- Nazira Bazar. The places we had been to till then were characterised by a sleepy atmosphere -- a relaxed ambience with the cashier going through the ledger with droopy eyes, waiters ambling about and a smattering of customers mumbling into their food. Nazira Bazar was just the opposite; it might as well have been 7 pm and not 3 am. The narrow street was abuzz with all sorts of commercial activity. We were shocked to find a mobile store and three barbershops open, one of them with a customer no less.

But we knew what we wanted. At one end of a fifty-yard stretch of road lined with hotels serving hungry customers is Hotel Al-Tayyibat, the only place, to our knowledge, where you will find Gorur Kalo Bhuna. We won't dress this up for you -- it is a cholesterol bomb, so it is just as well that they serve it only during Ramadan, which in itself is a contradiction that nicely sums up Puran Dhaka. But we do owe ourselves the occasional indulgence, and this sinfully delicious Bangali delicacy serves the purpose beautifully. Since this is for sehri, a word to the wise -- pop an antacid pill from the pharmacy across the road before you try it, especially if you suffer from heartburn.

There are many other delights to be found along this road that never sleeps. Mamun Biriani House and Makkah Biriani House are situated at the intersection, which will serve you the best biriani to be found in Dhaka after hours. Unfortunately, the biriani available at sehri time is of the chicken variety, but if you come in at around 1:30 am for an early sehri, kachchi awaits.

I hope our gastronomic adventure has given you some new options -- any of the places mentioned above are worth a try. And about our promise to return to Hotel De Taaj, we decided against it on the ride back amid cries of 'never again' -- the limits can only be pushed so much. Maybe next time, on the way back from Mamun Biriani House.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan


Gluttony alert!

If you were given thirty seconds to list all the various food items you would like to sink your teeth into on a particular iftar table, what items would come to your mind? Let me guess, peyaju, beguni, jilapi, muri, haleem, samosas, fruits, kebab, chola, paratha...oh, and dates!

I am pretty sure these are merely a few of the things you would be thinking of for quenching that unquenchable hunger strike in your stomach. But, if we turn back the clock to medieval times, (where is H G Wells' time machine when you need it!) people's answer to the above question would be quite different.

The holy month of Ramadan is supposed to be a month of fasting, a period of spirituality and a time where our soul is cleansed by purity of thought and action. All adolescent Muslims are supposed to resist temptation and worldly desires by exercising patience and self-discipline. But as the times have changed, perhaps the true spirit of Ramadan has become distorted.

Today, the iftar has become the equivalent of a Thanksgiving feast minus the turkey, sadly. Therefore, it turns out, that instead of refraining from consumption we end up spending even more money on food than we would have spent on any other month. This is kind of justified as an iftar is now more of a social event spent with friends and family, and because I would be very depressed if I didn't have at least four parathas on my plate!

That being the case, I guess it is quite possible for us to live happily ever after. But unfortunately, it isn't that simple. This is because nowadays the number one discussion topic at the iftar table is “how feverishly expensive food has become”.

You see, with the nonstop increase in population across the globe, the demand for food has sky-rocketed. The combined global food production is no longer sufficient enough to meet the worldwide demand, which has ultimately resulted in a nifty little term I learned in economics class called “scarcity”. As a direct result of this crisis food prices are expected to double in about 20 years (according to BBC), as it had doubled over the past two decades. Add to the pot the diabolical market cartels taking place right now in our country's economy (according to common sense), and the resulting enormous price markups of highly demanded imported products like edible oil, sugar, chick peas and dates isn't surprising.

So, if you have any emotional attachment to your wallet, you are left with very few ways to survive this price-apocalypse other than to heed our honourable commerce minister's 'wise' words, “Eat less” or find a way to combat the Bangladeshi tendency to multiply like rabbits.

By Apon Zahir


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