Not far away from the hustle and bustle of Dhaka, at the heart of Rampura, inside Jahurul Islam City, sits Aftabnagar. It is a quiet and breezy enclave that has proved to have created a cosy neighbourhood
It is easy for a person to get lost in any area of Dhaka unless they are well acquainted with the place. This happens because most places in Dhaka, especially the residential areas are not well planned. House and road numbers are often incoherently distributed across lanes. But Aftabnagar offers a respite from this fiasco. It is a well-planned city where roads and house numbers are laid out in perfect order. One can easily find one's way to the intended destination even if it is his or her first-time visit to the place.
A peaceful neighbourhood
Up close, Aftabnagar is a quaint city where you will wake up to birds chirping. Vendors would not disturb your peace by shouting at the buildings trying to sell their wares. In the streets, you would encounter happy and healthy stray dogs and birds. In some places construction work still continues. The city is home to mostly retired government officers, students of nearby educational institutes and office goers of Gulshan and Badda areas.
This place is quite similar to Shahbag, though in a small way. It has become a hub of the young creatives from different disciplines. These young adults in their early and mid-twenties are dispersed across the neighbourhood, hanging out, eating from food carts, having tea at the "tongs" and reciting poems, gossiping, exchanging notes. There are school children you may encounter while some of them are running around after a classroom bash, while some are hurtling towards their classrooms, afraid they will miss classes. Their lively faces will remind you of your own youth. All in all, it is a place full of life and laughter.
When at daybreak the city is yet to wake up, health-conscious inhabitants come out in groups for morning walk and exercises. Wide roads of the area are a blessing for them. Numbers of people multiply as the sunlight begins to flood the area – some are seen jogging while others drinking coconut water after coming back from a long spell of exercise. Some of them are even seen carrying vegetables after making a buy from the roadside vans.
Early morning Meradia
Before the plots were being filled with earth and sand at Aftabnagar, "Meradia Haat" was a rural bazaar that was famous for how it brought the produces from the rural area for the city dwellers. Today, it still sits at the same place at the outskirts of the city.
Aside from local vegetables, non-native varieties such as capsicum, broccoli to bit root – everything is available in this haat, which is weekly bazaar. Aside from vegetables, fresh fishes attract people, besides bottled milk and meat.
Every Wednesday, from dawn to dusk, this haat is seen teeming with life. Varieties of local snacks like nimki, murali, even batasha bring back the memories of the village fairs. People from Narayanganj, Rupganj and nearby villages bring their products to be sold to the Dhakaites.
An abundance of food carts
Aftabnagar is one of those places devoted to Street food. Jaw-dropping varieties of fuchka, chatpati, shashlik stick, chicken chop, beef chop, parathas, rolls, fresh juices, halim and what not, will enchant you towards the carts repeatedly. Streets around the university and college areas and roadsides are crowded with these food carts.
While it is still dusty because of ongoing construction work, Aftabnagar is a healthy place that sleeps early and wakes up early. Far from Dhaka's regular traffic jam and chaos, it would always be interesting to find out what more Aftabnagar has on offer.