Surjo Utshob 2005: A unique experience
Sayeed Mahmud Nizam
it comes to celebrating the New Year, Bangladesh Astronomical Association
(BAA) is definitely unique. Instead of the typical dancing and drinking
that many organisations offer, BAA takes people of all age groups
to remote areas of Bangladesh to see with the aid of telescope, the
first sunrise of the New Year and also the night sky.
They first started this unique way of celebrating
the New Year in 2001, when they went to Saint Martin's Island. In
2002, 2003 and 2004 they celebrated the New Year by going to the Sundarbans,
Keokaradong Mountain and Nijhum Dwip respectively. As for this year,
2005, they went to Tetulia, the Northern-most point of Bangladesh.
The programme titled "Surjo Utshob 2005", commenced on 30
December 2004 and continued till 2 January 2005.
This year about 40 people from all walks of
life participated in "Surjo Utshob 2005." At the pre-departure
briefing session on 29 December 2004, the organisers tried to scare
us by talking about the cold in Tetulia, and how we would have to
walk for miles with our rucksacks, and face considerable hardship
with accommodation etc. Nevertheless, none of us withdrew from the
programme, and so it would be fair to call us die-hard adventure-seekers!
It was on 30 December 2004 that all the participants
assembled at Kalabagan field in order to depart for Tetulia. Departure
was scheduled for 7pm, but as the coach company followed BST (Bangladesh
STRETCHABLE Time), we ended up departing at 9pm. On our way to Tetulia
we crossed Jamuna Bridge at around 11.30pm, and it was an awesome
sight to see. We had a brief stop at a restaurant in Sirajganj where
we had our dinner, and after that we travelled non-stop to Tetulia.
It was at 6am on 31 December 2004, after a 9-hour journey, that we
arrived in Tetulia.
The very first thing that impressed us when
we arrived in Tetulia was the Kazi & Kazi Tea Estate, the place
where we stayed throughout the trip. Contrary to all the negative
aspects that the organisers scared us about, we found that it had
well-furnished rooms and that it was very picturesque. Finding the
surroundings breathtaking, the participants who had cameras with them
started to get busy taking snaps.
Breakfast was served to us precisely at 8am.
Some of the participants, who found it difficult to sleep during the
overnight journey, fell asleep in their comfy beds, and consequently
they were late for breakfast. On completion of breakfast we were given
a tour of the tea gardens. The manager of the tea gardens informed
us that they only produce organic tea in Tetulia. In other words,
at no stage in producing the tea are artificial chemicals used. This
was refreshing to hear considering that in most other places chemicals
are heavily used. At one point of our tour of the tea gardens, the
manager asked us not to cross a certain white stone, as it was the
demarcation of Bangladesh's border with India. Remembering the stories
that we had read in newspapers that India's BSF (Border Security Force)
can be brutal to trespassers, none of us even dared to go near the
Unfortunately, we didn't go to the factory
where tea is processed, as the manager informed us that tea isn't
processed at this time of the year. From the tea gardens he took us
to see a nearby dairy farm. The aspect that pleased us most about
the dairy farm was that the manure of the animals was being used to
make bio-gas. We were also taken to see a nearby eco-park that came
to us as a pleasant surprise. Seeing the bio-gas plant and the eco-park,
it became apparent to us that the people of Tetulia are much more
environmentally conscious than us who live in Dhaka.
At 12pm lunch was served to us. Just as the
organisers had told us, we were only given vegetarian dishes to eat.
Initially we were all a bit hesitant to have vegetarian food, but
after realising how tasty the food was we started to dig in. After
lunch, the organisers decided to take us to Dinajpur to see the famous
Kantanagar Temple. The journey to Dinajpur took two hours, and along
the way we all played "Antakshari." We sang a few songs
well, but most of them were definitely nothing but noise pollution!
We reached Kantanagar Temple at 3pm. The moment
we saw the temple we were all thoroughly impressed with its aesthetical
beauty. One of our fellow participants of the tour, Rashed Bhai, had
done a part of his Masters degree on this temple, and so he started
to explain to us its significance. Apparently, it took 48 years to
build the temple. It is famous for its exterior that consists of terracotta
tiles that represent flora and fauna, mythology of Mahabharata and
Ramayana, the life of people of that time period etc.
Around 7pm we returned back to Tetulia. We
quickly had a few snacks, as we had to prepare for the main part of
the progrmme. All the participants voluntarily helped the organisers
to make final preparations to welcome the New Year. Once the telescopes
were installed, the organisers showed us various stars. The young
participants really enjoyed this part of the programme. This was clearly
reflected from the way that they were fondly looking at the telescopes
and their inquisitive nature. Who knows, one day, one of those youngsters
might become Bangladesh's Neil Armstrong!
At 12am, the New Year began, and the best place
on earth to be was probably - Tetulia. Fanushes (a form of hot-air
balloon) were released and they illuminated the night-sky. Candles
were lit on the banks of a stream that ran through the tea estate,
and this created a wonderful sight. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed the
spectacle. We didn't manage to get much sleep, as we were up again
at 4am in order to view the first sunrise of the New Year. After a
long-wait the sun finally rose, and it was a sight worth the wait.
We all welcomed it by singing various carols, releasing balloons etc.
After having our breakfast at 7.30am, an art
competition was held for students of a local school. We also drew
pictures with the school children, and found that in some cases, the
children drew better than us! Prizes were later distributed amongst
everybody for participating.
\Just like all good things come to an end,
so did our trip to Tetulia. Before coming back to Dhaka, a raffle
draw was held in which a few participants won a package holiday to
Bandarban. By participating in "Surjo Utshob 2005", not
only did we celebrate the New Year in a unique manner, but we also
had plenty of fun, laughter and camaraderie. Although "Surjo
Utshob 2006" is many months away, we are all already eagerly
looking forward to it! If you are a diehard adventure-seeker, don't
forget to join us, as you'll have an experience that you'll cherish