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Its that time of the year again. The lunar cycle has brought us yet another Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of Sawm or abstinance from all forms of inappropriate, overdrawn, "human"-indulgence, one of which undoubtedly is "food".

Like millions of Muslims around the world, those in Bangladesh are also observing the month of Ramadan through the religious doctrine of "Sehri" and "Iftar", two vital perquisites to a successful day of Sawm which marks the beginning and the end of abstinence for that specific day. As always, the capital city of Dhaka has taken a whole new guise this year with Iftar stalls and kiosks being set-up on every corner of the street. No where in the city is this 'new look' more prominent than in Chawk Bazar, Old Dhaka. The narrow strip of roads that connect the Lalbag subsection with the innards of Old Dhaka is a traditional place for people from all over the city to flock to...and with good reasons. Chawk (as it is locally designated), is the Mecca of Iftar delicacies. You'll find more unique items in its every gauge stretch than anywhere else in the country. The Iftar sellers have also coined 'nick names' for their trademark dishes, these names turn out to be downright ridiculous sometimes (like "Boro Baper Polay Khay"). I've been a local of Old Dhaka for the last 5~6 years or so, and everyear I make the same mistake of stepping into the hustle of Chawk during some eventful afternoon. This time, there was no exception, as I took yet another stroll through the mangy stretches of Chawk with the crew from BUET-PS.

First up, " Hossaini Kabab ", or Shashlik Sticks as they are more traditionally known the world over. The locals name them after the nearby Holy Shi'a shrine "Hossaini Dalan".


Further on, I bump into a few Jelebi/Jilapi makers practicing their age old art of making this traditional sweet with swift motions of the wrist. This is what the before and after photos looked like.

Jilapi Crop DSC_0022
Before                                             After

As I shifted deeper through the puddle of man and man-trampled-mud (guess when the latest downpour happened?) in Chawk, an aged "Bihari" seller came into my view. The locals told me that he was famous for his secret Shish Kebab receipe. When asked, Monnu Miyan told me that he had been cooking Kebabs in the month of Ramadan for over 42 years. Perhaps out of my perverse curiosity I asked him which political party does he support and he vehemently called out "None ! I want Ayub Khan back". Perhaps the East Pakistan era Martial Law administrator's suave still runs rampant in the old timer's memory banks ;)


While struggling through the debauchery of passerbys in the streets below, I had lost all account of the time. So when the Asr prayer was called for, I suddenly remembered that like many others practicing Sawm today (and unlike many others doing the opposite), I had to go legitimize my vow of abstinence from indulgence through a superior form of good deed "Salat". So I entered into the 110 year or so old (now largely refurbished) "Chawkbazar Shahi Masjid" to say my Asr prayers. Not to my amazement though, there were few people out there who had gathered for the Asr prayers. It seemed my assumption that human beings are driven far more to exhibitionism than doing good deeds in solitude, alone from the public eye was right. However, even amidst myriad of faux "Muslims" who don't understand the meaning of "Standard Protocol", there are a few who do...and this guy was one of them that I found praying without applauds or gasps from the crowd.

There are lots of pictures to come from my fellow BUET-PS members folks. So hold your horses and keep on visiting :)

*Update: Other gems from the BUET-PS gang

Excellent slow shutter work by Aneek. Just to give you an idea about the influx of people through Chawk today.

The Usual Vir- by Aneek Mustafa Anwar

The Shahi Jilapi ( 'Amriti'- in local dialect) captured by Anik no 2

The Shahi Jilapi- Samiul Anik

.... and finally, the gang itself (a few attendees including the photographer is missing from the frame)

Thats it folks. Also, if you have time to spare, check out the post from photographer extraordinaire Ahmed Sharif bhai elaborating his own experience in Chawk in vivid details.

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