“Old Dhaka, the historical heart of the city, was for me a non-subject. Since I live here and am submerged by it. It's as if I was trying to find the unseen within everyday life. Old Dhaka has made me appreciate properly cooked greasy food, the sleaziest of slang and it is here that I have come to rediscover the same small town pulse of holding on to things rather than letting go. Growing up in Comilla, a small town mostly surrounded by countryside and steeped in customs and traditional lifestyles, made me not only enjoy but also feel comfortable with acquaintances which would grow over time and would be influenced by tradition rather than trend. But through the images, my Old Dhaka started to reveal unseen lives and throw back at me agonizing questions of assimilation and even worse of destruction.
As I started to look, the world that seemed just ordinary and domestic began to unravel into an intricate web of ancient wisdom and traditions. Festivals such as “Holi ,“celebrated with all its grandeur at Shankhari Bazar, which then had seemed nothing more than a fun party of throwing color pigments at one another, revealed deep bonds of belonging, spiritual continuity and rejuvenation. It ceased to be a mere Hindu festivity, but rather a celebration of the joy of being. Old, majestic structures that had seemed like edifices, were now symbols of “living art”. The common sight of mothers bathing their children in the small courtyard and tired old horses pulling carriages that had long ceased to be any “real” form of transport, were becoming dots in a matrix where living meant progressively building on what you have rather than destroying structures, customs, way of life which had come into place over centuries.
It took time, but with every passing day I realized why someone like Sumitra Debi of Bonogram wanted her own house and those around to remain the same. They were not merely houses, they represented her sixty years spent in this world. It is time and life. Lives spent within the confined walls will breathe with these structures and their collective consciousness, will bring what seemed a fragment into a whole. Words such as family, tradition, belonging mean a lot here. In fact, they bind. Like the ether, the essence of collective evolution cannot be touched or seen. It has to be lived. Old Dhaka ceases to exist as just an area and the streets I have called my own have become a space that I call home. "
− Munem Wasif
Photographer : Munem Wasif
Book : Belonging