The April 6, 2017 issue of Dhaka Tribune‘s Arts & Letters magazine carries an expanded and revised version of my non-fiction piece on Bangla Motors in Dhaka. Bangla Motors is a neighborhood in Dhaka; it’s where I was born and grew up and the essay offers a decade-long meditation on the place, on colonial histories, both the British and Pakistani periods, and how we might want to think of that history. The essay began in 2005 as a blog post here and was then revised and published in 2006 in a New Age Eid Supplement in November 2006. As I re-engaged with Dhaka during the time I lived there 2006-9, I added further considerations into the mix and the latest version is a substantial rewrite. You can find it here.
In the very heart of today’s Dhaka there is a place called Bangla Motors—more commonly known as Bangla Motor. It is to be found midway between the Sonargaon and InterContinental hotels, where New Eskaton Road bursts into Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue. Bus passengers know it well as a stop along routes that ply between Karwan Bazaar and Shahbagh, and others that veer off towards Moghbazar.
No one comes here seeking a major landmark. There is no big hotel here. No hospital. No large mall or bazaar. Some people interested in books and reading might come for Bishwa Shahitya Kendra, approachable through a narrow lane off the main road. Others with a purpose might be searching for brakes, alternators, or car batteries; turning east towards Moghbazar they would immediately encounter a cluster of motor parts shops. But if they come looking for a business that gave the Bangla Motor intersection its name, they would be disappointed.
There isn’t one—and there never was.
Bangla Motors is a myth. More precisely, it is the ghost of something that existed once, though that enterprise bore a different name.