WHERE SPECTACLES TAKE YOU
Cover art: E R Ronny
You think you know where to get the best deals in Dhaka - Bongo for clothes, Elephant Road for shoes and Chadni Chawk for bags. But that's not where it ends. For fashion to be complete, you need accessories. And for accessories, Gawsia just doesn't cut it anymore. Nowadays, spectacles are the new in thing, and if you happen to be obsessed with cool specs, then you might just yourself in the land of Patuatoli, Old Dhaka.
Patuatoli is where Dhaka's spectacle wholesalers are, and for those who are not satisfied with just a pair of standard glasses and need to have at least five different shades and frames to match their outfits, this is the place to haunt, because the frames sold at Elephant Road can be found here for just half the price. The street is lined with scores of shops selling spectacles in lots, and you have to look around to find a shop that sells your kind of frames - horn rimmed, shell or funky nerdy ones. You can also find Wayfarer look-alikes and large bug eyed shades here, without having to dish out a fat wad of money while hearing from the shopkeepers how these are original brands. Each frame costs around taka 300, and they can fit the lenses in just half an hour. In fact, the stores all over Dhaka send their orders here, which is why we have to wait two or three days before we get our glasses.
“You can even place orders with us, if you want a certain type of frame, and we can get your glasses for you within a week,” says Mr Sobhan, a shopkeeper.
And while you wait for your lenses to be fitted, you can explore the street, which holds some interesting sites. Some of the houses have a quaint colonial air, and halfway through the street you run into some unexpected piece of history when you see the large, red brick façade of the Brahma prayer hall, a monotheistic religion formed in the British era by the Bengali elite class which still stands surrounded by the temple and residence of the chief priests.
Just before the spectacle shops start, there are lines of watch shops, where you can find Bangladeshi horologists pouring over delicate watches with weird equipments on their eyes. Some pretty cool watches can be spotted here though one shopkeeper says whether they work depends solely on your luck. Sometimes they stop working before you reach home. Sometimes they work fine for years.
And after all this exploring, before you return, be sure to stop by at the biryani and tehari ghars on the same street, the smell of which will drive you insane. Also, it would be wise to make this trip on a Saturday morning as at other times the traffic makes the area inaccessible.