In Search of Root- Journey to Sandwip
By Sadia Jamin Haque
The last time I had been in Sandwip was in 2011 and hence, memories I made during my visit are not as fresh as I expected they would be . All I can say Sandwip is a beautiful and must-visit place of Bangladesh if you can prepare yourself for the fearsome rides in boats or launches and if you are okay with walking a bit in mud. But from then forth, you will experience things that can hardly be found anywhere else. Although the transportation to or in Sandwip is a bit hectic, the warm welcome from people will dust off that.
Every winter I long to visit Sandwip for it is at its best during this season. I like how fog envelopes the whole island, dews falling off the leaves on the roof make sounds, the sun’s warmth on your skin are the best feelings of the day; these are rarely found in Dhaka, the place I have been living in for years .Though we are easily accessible to many facilities in cities : easy transportation, nearby hospitals, high securities etc , one should go to Sandwip and see the real dark side of Bangladesh. There are so many things that are still needed to reach Sandwip ; for example some people are still using kerosene lamps for their source of light during nights .In Dhaka where girls can easily walk around and are getting their basic rights ( eg education ) but in my hometown most have a mindset that girls shouldn’t walk around without covering their heads with veils or ornas and they should not educate themselves. It is true this perspective is changing but at a slower pace. I remember an incident of my last visit there. My cousins (mostly girls) and I were walking down the Nazirhat ( a local market and popular place ) street at night wearing western clothes. By the time we stopped before a shop , we were surrounded by people mostly men curious about where we came from. It was an awkward and uncomfortable situation for all of us. We later laughed it off as we assumed they probably had never seen people in such attire.But this is a serious issue for this makes me question on how they are brought up and whether this is ever going to change. I believe for Sandwip to come out of this dark pit people are living in they need to bring a change to their minds and actions.
Putting aside all those bad experiences which are inevitable during any visit, I think good ones always should be remembered to make you want to visit it again. I like how people wait for their relatives and run towards them as long as the boats stop, welcoming them with big smiles and hugs at ghats, to see the lines of rickshaws ready to be boarded and the smell of something that the windbrings along with it. The name ‘Sandwip’ actually originated from Bengali meaning of ‘island of gold’. The history is quite fascinating; Portuguese came here and resided.They made a small shipyard in Sandwip which is now under water. It was a strange feeling I got when I saw buildings along the coastal line in 2008 were no more there in 2011. Every year some part of the island is engulfed by the river.
The silhouette of the island from the very far always brings excitement in me while I am on launch. I know what is waiting for me ; a trip to be remembered always. I had most of my best moments there starting from my cousin’s wedding to my brother’s akika ( an occasion for the baby to be named). I feel connected more to the people there and to my tradition. Every evening, women gather in their yard and have chats until the sun sets finally. They collect woods for the stoves made of mud and cook foods while inhaling in the smoke. This is really hazardous; but they are doing it without any complain. Gas stove is still not affordable for most families. Members sit at the table together and eat their meals which I can find hardly in Dhaka.Women get up early at mornings for their all house chores while men get ready and set off to fields . I like how their lives are simple and uncomplicated. They rarely watch TV or have use of phones like we city people do. They maintain
‘early to bed and early rise’ method. I would watch their lifestyles with great enjoyment.
During every stay in Sandwip, I befriended with other children in my locality and played every evening in big fields and also went to their schools to get an idea about how their education differs from mine .They are friendly and simple people but their education is not of high standard which is why most can’t survive in cities.They either end up in not so highly paid jobs or leave for foreign counties. The girls with whom I played are all married while I am doing my undergraduate. I believe if people are exposed to high standard education, they can be well off. The drawbacks of Sandwip are altogether a serious problem. With facilities like cities have, I see a bright future for Sandwip for I believe my people are diligent.
Sandwip is a place where I got my first breathe by myself. I was born there. Why I long to visit it every year, I can make a list of reasons about. Reasons are valid for me for I am a person who loves to feel connected to her root, tradition and culture.1. My family members are together during the trip for a few days. 2. I get to know my distant relatives who had probably seen me when I was little. 3. The whole aura that the trees, the night sky full of stars , darkness, listening to the sounds of cows, hens, ducks and running across the fields full of mustard plants, rice crops bring is beautiful. 4. The ponds, the wells and how people are using the old methods of getting water. And the list must go on and on.
Sadia Jamin Haque is from Bauria, Sandwip. She lives in Dhaka and studies in University of Dhaka.