A Visit to My Ancestral Village Helped to Get Over My Nostalgia

Samar Sinharoy, Monroeville, PA     e-mail:  samar.sinharoy@gmail.com

It has been sixty three years since my family left what is now Bangladesh after India’s painful Partition in 1947. As an eight-year old boy then, it was exciting to travel with my family to a new place, not being fully aware of the reason for the mass exodus. When we settled down in the seaside town of Puri in India, I liked our new house, new school, the sea, and everything associated with that bustling mid-size town, very different from the village we left behind.

As I grew older, I started remembering our ancestral village, the house, extended family, the trees, ponds, going places with my grandfather, my playmates, festivals, fairs… …  Surprisingly, the memories grew stronger as I grew older, and the place I longed to see again. So, when my son-in-law Christopher accepted a teaching position in Dhaka in 2008, I realized that my dream of setting foot in my ancestral village might still come true.

In late August of 2010, during my second visit to Dhaka, my daughter Sheela, aware of my often-expressed desire to visit my ancestral village, suggested I make a day trip to the village located about 120 kilometers north east of Dhakha.

With a driver familiar with the territory, and equipped with my camera, a lunch box and a bottle of water, I took off in a Toyota SUV in the mid-morning in August in search of our ancestral home. It took us over an hour just to get through the northern edge of Dhaka using roads clogged with cycle rickshaws, buses, cars, trucks, push-carts; and with pedestrians forced out on the street by temporary stores set up on the sidewalks. Finally, we were on the open road, on highway AH1. Upon reaching Brahmanbaria, the district headquarters, we took the road to Sarail, a small town adjacent to my ancestral village Kalikaccha. There was now a large army cantonment covering part of both Sarail and Kalikaccha. The driver stopped at the gate and asked the guard if he knew where the Singharoy family house was in the village. The soldier had no idea. The driver kept asking other people, but no one had heard of the Singharoy family.

I was beginning to lose heart. Finally, I remembered a famous revolutionary named Ullaskar Datta from our village, an expert bomb maker, whose bomb was used in the attempted assassination of a British official.  I asked the driver to find out where Ullaskar Datta’s house was. He walked into a tea stall where a group of men were sitting around, talking. He returned with a bearded young man wearing a lungi and a shirt, who said his uncle now owned Ullaskar family’s house. He was off from work because this was the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, so jumped into the car guiding us onto the unpaved, dry mud road to his uncle’s house.

Within a couple of minutes, we saw a rickshaw approaching from the opposite direction, with a bearded, middle-aged passenger in typical Muslim garb of pajamas, long kurta, and a white cap.  Our guide said, “There comes my uncle.”  The rickshaw stopped next to us.  Our guide introduced me to his uncle and explained the purpose of my visit.  The Uncle told me how happy he was to see me come all the way from America to see my ancestral home. “It must be the pull of the soil,” he said, “but unfortunately, your house is no longer there.”

He pointed to the rice field and vegetables vines next to the road, and said, “That is where your house and gardens used to be.  One of your relatives by the name of Sitesh Singharoy took over the house after the departure of the rest of the family and lived there with his wife and children. He sold the house to a Muslim family during Bangladesh’s struggle for freedom from Pakistan in 1971, and left. The new owners demolished the old house, so only the fields are there for you to see.  I wish I could spend more time with you, but I am late for a village council meeting.  My nephew will show you around.”

I was very disappointed that the house I remembered so fondly was gone. It is all green fields now. I wanted to at least walk on the land where my grandfather’s house stood. We got off the car and walked next to the vegetable vines where the house used to be.

Walking around, we came across a large pond. It was called “Jamai hala,” then totally covered with green vegetation. It was cleaned up now and used as a fishery. I looked around to enjoy the idyllic lush greenery all around, with houses barely visible behind trees. The roads were the same dry mud roads I had remembered all these years.

We walked about a block to the house of the revolutionary Ullaskar Datta, now owned by my guide’s uncle. My guide introduced me to his cousin, son of the owner, who said he works in Saudi Arabia, and was home for Ramadan. He welcomed me in to the house, which was in advanced stage of decay, not inhabitable. The family lived in a new addition attached to the old building. After walking around the neighboring areas of the village, we got back into the car and headed back to Dhaka.

What impressed me most about Kalikaccha was how green and peaceful it looked. Life was rather slow paced and people were friendly. I was disappointed by the lack of development. Everything except our ancestral home was just as I remembered as a little boy many years ago.

It was nice to see the village again, but it was not a place where I could ever go back to live. I have finally gotten over my nostalgia.  

  1. No comments yet.

You must be logged in to post a comment.