“Shani kheer (milk dessert) turned upside down will never fall, it’s like a thick plate,” is a childhood image that’s etched in my mind. Mutually doting on each other, my grandmother Nalini Bala had re-lived her erstwhile luxurious life in Burma and East Bengal before becoming an impoverished refugee in India, by brainwashing me with myriad little stories of that fantastic time.
Last week, we took my parents on a nostalgic trip to retrace their original home. Untangling our car from perennial Dhaka traffic jams, we drove in anticipation to Madhyapara in Bikrampur, just 35 km away. In the backdrop of my father’s wistful recollections, we discovered that the Buri Ganga bridge had deprived us a steamer ride from Dhaka Sadarghat that he used to enjoy. His running commentary said we’d cross Kirangunj over two Dhaleswari rivers, enter Munshiganj district to Siraj Dikhan police station. The region, famous for early Buddhist scholarships, is the oldest capital of Bengal since the Vedic Period. We’d read about Buddhist scholar Atish Dipankar from Pala Empire, scientist Jagdish Bose, freedom fighter Chittaranjan Das, and Benoy, Badal, Dinesh (after whom Kolkata’s BBD Bagh is named) who gave their lives revolting against colonial rule. My grandmother would say they’ve all originated from Bikrampur, but I’d never believed her. When their courageous tales were endorsed here, you can imagine how Nalini Bala was accompanying me to our lost home.