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    Saturday, March 15, 2008

    Muhuri Project, Feni, July 2006

    In Search of the Barrier
    A Visit to the Muhuri Project
    6-8 July 2006

    Just came back from a visit to Feni. It wasn’t just Feni that was my target, I had a plan, as inspired by Rashed’s suggestion, to visit the Muhuri Project on the Feni River, in between Feni and Chittagong districts. And of course, it was a nice welcome break from the usual hectic office life. I was presented with an opportunity by Rashed actually. He called me that week, on Tuesday. He was alone there as his family left him; his wife had an exam to attend. A lonely Rashed, an empty house, less work at office and near choking boredom were strong enough reasons of persuasion. I confirmed him on Wednesday night after I told my boss in advance that he can’t call me during the weekend. I packed after rushing back from office on Thursday evening. I was late, I knew. It was already seven and a three-hour journey would take me there not before 10:30 for sure.

    It was drenching rain when I arrived at the TT Para Bus Terminal at around 8:00. It was almost as if disaster had found its way there before me. It was rush hour; all seats booked. The one chance I had of making to Feni that night was to grab one of four last seats of the last coach of the night, at 9:30. 9:30! That would be beyond midnight when I reach Feni! Rashed tried to collaborate with someone I don’t know and I hardly had any idea how it was going to help me. Quite naturally, it was a futile effort from a never-say-die Rashed. He’s going to try his luck any way he can and he would never give up even after repeated failure. He’s one hell of an optimistic person. Anyway, I started at 9:30 through pouring rain and soon found out that it wouldn’t be that easy to reach Feni on time. I went to sleep soon and peeking through my tired pupils, I discovered that it was already 1 hour before we could make it out of the City suburbs. Traffic chaos was out of the equation when Rashed gave me the estimation of required time to reach there. And it was almost 1:30 when Rashed received me just outside his residence-cum-office.

    Highest point in town without a shadow of a doubt; one cannot expect more than one 10-storied buildings in a small town like Feni. Had to toil our way up to the 6th floor as the lift was closed. Even though tired, didn’t think it would be a particularly good idea to sleep right away without having some chitchat with a friend with whom I had the chance to meet after a while. We had the plan to see and take photos of the sunrise, before we could make a guess, it was already too late to go to bed. Ok, lets go to sleep after finishing the job; how would that be? But it wasn’t to be. The roof was locked and there was no way we could manage the key at that hour. So, we decided to go down instead of going up. Nice morning it was, although gloomy and cloudy. We took a rickshaw and began our little journey. I just learned the other day that there was a big pond there at Feni, which people go there to visit. I had no idea how a pond can be a tourist attraction. It was decided then. Rashed took me to the pond of attraction.

    Bijoysingh Dighi.........

    It was big, but didn’t seem to be too big. Then Rashed informed me that this isn’t the big one, even though it’s quite big. He also didn’t know the name of the pond. I later came to know that this was the Rajadhir Dighi. The pond was still big enough for my camera. I simply couldn’t get enough angle to take a snap. So I just skipped. But I wasn’t disappointed for long. Rashed took care to take me to the real big pond, well, if you want to call it a pond! Its just a little too big to be a pond. A small lake you can call it. Again, I was unable to learn the name of the pond from Rashed. This was the big one; this was the Bijoysingh Dighi. I never expected the pond to be something this big. And as usual, I was unable to take a satisfactory photo with my camera. The pond was just too big to be explored in one morning. And of course, we were a bit short of sleep. It was time to take some rest.

    It was during the afternoon when I met Uttam Barua. Uttam Da is an engineer with the PDB. From the prominent Radhuni restaurant we went to the pond again; this time with the aim of going around it a bit. It was cloudy as usual. And there were some excellent photo opportunities. But I was to find out later that most of my efforts were simply in vain due to some mechanical complexities of my Yashica rangefinder camera. I took as many backup photos with my Nikon auto camera as I could, which meant that I had at least some pictures in workable format. I don’t know yet, but if I had missed the photos of the peeping sun reflected on the water, I would always rue that. That exact opportunity might never come again. And my plan was to photograph the setting sun from the top of the big building. It was the gloomy sky that disappointed me.

    During the evening we three gathered at a restaurant beside the Rajadhir Dighi. I tried to take some evening photos of the pond with some lights being reflected in the water. Don’t really know whether those photos were realities or not. Me and Rashed came back home and climbed the roof of the big tower. We had a long conversation before we returned. We enjoyed the night scenery and thought about the beauty of the morning sun that we would see next morning.

    The dawn was disappointing again. This time it was not because we were unable to have access to the roof, but because it was gloomy and rainy. This was where I first discovered the horrific things about my rangefinder camera. The winding was probably not working when I closed the film. By the by, there was hardly any opportunity to take good photos and it was not too long before it started to rain. So, it was again time to catch some sleep.

    It is Saturday. My second day at Feni. I woke up at around 8:30 after the dawn adventure with the camera. Rashed had to attend office because some of his colleagues were out on leave. It was planned that Uttam Da would come and take me to the place of real interest, the Muhuri Project. He’s a PDB engineer and so, had the best access to the place. We started at around 10:30, through drizzles.

    First, it was the task to reach Baroirpur, where we could get a transport to Muhuri. A 20 minute-or-so bus ride took us to the mud capital Baroipur. We couldn’t find a direct transport to Muhuri. We had to take a bus to a place called School Gate. It was not too far from Baroipur and acted as a hub for the vehicles that ferried between that place and Muhuri and other places. The pile of old vehicles was pretty useful for the people living in this part of the world. We started our journey again at exactly 12:00 noon. They at least had a decent timing about it. The 20-25 minute ride was through a narrow but paved road which had a nice covering of green canopy. Hardly had a chance to take a good photo from on board the jumpy vehicle. By the by, the length of the journey reminded Uttam Da that it would’ve been Uttam if he brought his motorbike; it could’ve saved some valuable time. When we reached the Muhuri Project gate, it was drizzling a little. Before long, we were on our way again, and this time through an open road. The road was in fact, the embankment and it was too long and straight to be estimated with naked eyes. On the right side, it was the ocean of water and on the left it was the miles of fisheries and crop fields. It was a spectacular scene. My small camera couldn’t capture more than just a portion of the road. After a moderate journey, we reached the main attraction of the project, the dam on the river Feni. The site was well-decorated by the four newly-established windmills. The dam, the river, the gushing water, the windmill, the boats and the fishermen on the river were more than enough for me to declare to Uttam Da that I could spend my whole day here taking pictures without getting bored.

    It was just a time to take pictures; as many as I could. I had two cameras and I had a multiple target shooting range in front of me. I got so deeply involved in photography that Uttam Da actually peeled bananas for me to help me eat. I took a couple of pictures of him too. The high-tech windmills were right on top of a fishing village. The traditional fishing houses provided a deep contrast in technology with the windmills. The towering machines were off on that occasion for some reason. But the nice cloudy and drizzly weather presented some good opportunities for photography. Even though the small check post on the dam says that no photography was allowed there, we hardly faced any problem as Uttam Da introduced himself to a guard. In fact, on our way back from the base of the windmills, the guard asked whether we were able to take good pictures.

    The sluice gates were open when we reached the dam and the water was gushing out of the dam with great force. And when we were leaving the scene, we could see that the force of the water increased even further. It produced a great sound and the dam was in fact, vibrating somewhat.

    My concern from the start was whether it was easy enough to return from this remote place. The concern was real as at around 2:15PM, there was hardly anything in sight with which we could return. Uttam Da actually thought about walking the whole road, which sounded ridiculous to me. We found a vehicle, which took an awful lot of time unloading its cargo of a substantial load of bricks. By the time it was ready to go, we found another vehicle and our concern was suppressed. After reaching the Project gate, we took a baby taxi, which took us to Baroipur straight for Tk 100. It was around 3:05 when we reached Baroipur. We entered a restaurant there and found nothing. Uttam Da favoured going back to Feni to try our luck at restaurants there. We boarded a bus again and it was 3:45 in the afternoon when we reached Feni. We took our lunch at Lucky Hotel at around 4:00. When we went back to our separate places, it was the end of a very hectic day indeed.

    Even though Uttam Da offered us to come to his PDB office by 5:00, it was Rashed’s office which kept us from doing that. And after all, at the end of such a day who wants to roam around in the evening light? I already planned to leave for Dhaka by 6:30. I knew how long it might take to reach Dhaka. So, I simply didn’t have any intention of making delays. And it was exactly the 6:30 bus that I boarded. Rashed saw me off. I returned to Dhaka at TT Para Bus Terminal at 10:25 PM.

    I had a great time there at Feni. Had a great friend there to spend my time with and was lucky enough to gain another friend in Uttam Da. I was able to see some new places, take photographs and experience something new. This tour gives me energy to travel more and add up to my experiences.


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