Just a month ago, the well-known club area in the capital’s busy financial hub, Motijheel, was full of life
With hundreds of luxurious cars, including Prado, Volkswagen, Pajero and Harrier, parked on nearby streets in the evening, the clubs would welcome visitors from different spheres of life.
Even though it was mostly the influential big shots belonging to the upper class who would frequent the clubs, people of average income would also go there to gamble and play casino games.
Bright, shiny lights would illuminate the streets that now remain totally dark when the sun disappears beyond the horizon.
Instead of well-off individuals, people who make a living by pulling rickshaws and rickshaw vans now keep their vehicles on the streets of the club area.
On a recent visit to the area, the correspondent of The Business Standard noted at least seven club entrances which were padlocked. A few stray dogs were spotted at the entrance to the Mohammedan Sporting Club, the most renowned and luxurious one among all sports bodies.
Azad, a security guard of the club, put it well. Only dogs, he said, now wander before the club gate.
"Not only rich people but also many professional gamblers from middle-class families used to come here. They would tip us. But now we are spending time in idleness with no extra income coming to us," he said.
Habibur Rahman, one of the chefs of the club, said his team would prepare food for hundreds of people.
"The casino players and gamblers would eat different types of food and have various kinds of drinks. We would cook for them accordingly. After the crackdown on casinos by the law enforcement agencies, our business has come to a total stop," he said.
"No one wants to come to this club now and not even in the nearby clubs," the cook said.
He said one of his co-chefs, Anis, had quit and already left Dhaka for his hometown.
"The others in the team are planning to leave as well."
Most of the people entering the club nowadays are security guards and caretakers.
The state of the sports clubs has affected business in the area too. The proprietor of a variety store next to Victoria Sporting Club said business had slowed down after the casino crackdown.
"Gamblers would come to my shop to cash out through mobile banking. But now no one is here and business is running low," he said.
Makbul Ahmed, who drives a CNG-run auto rickshaw, said he used to make a lot of money when the club area was buzzing with visitors.
"Now, there is no visitor and we do not get any passengers here," he said.
The owner of a confectionery store close to Dilkusha Sporting Club said it was as if the street on which the club is located had turned into an unknown part of an area which had once pulsated with life.
"When the sun sets, it feels like the area has become haunted. No one is here, except a few guards and dogs. The club entrances remain dark," he said.
A few young men employed at the clubs were chatting in a nearby tea stall. The subject was the crackdown on casinos, with some of them expressing the hope that the casino business would be legalised soon.
"We think the government will make the casino business legal. Players will have to pay taxes and other fees. Otherwise we will have nothing to do and will die if there is no work," one of the men, whose duty involved checking coins in the casino, said.
An on-duty policeman on the club street said that since the crackdown police had been instructed to patrol the area regularly.
Mishu Biswas, assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Motijheel zone) said: "Police are monitoring the club para round the clock, there is no chance to happen anything wrong in this area."
For his part, Yeasin Arafath, officer-in-charge of Motijheel Police Station, said the club area is under strong surveillance these days.
"Nothing unlawful will happen there," he added.