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Beauty Boarding

The lost 'addas' that used to create geniuses

SOFIA NOOR RAFA | October 04, 2023 00:00:00

Beauty Boarding at Shirish Das Lane, Old Dhaka — Photo by Mujahid Shawon

In October 2023, Beauty Boarding turns into a soaring 74-year-old lying-in room of addas, aglow of erudite Bengalis. People head to Shirish Das Lane, Old Dhaka, to click a few photos, chatter shortly, and optionally turn to the delicacies presented by the Boarding. Nonetheless, is Beauty Boarding worth the hype?

The formal introduction to Beauty Boarding reads - 'All kinds of quality respectful food and restaurant.' How do modern-day visitors perceive the age-old illustrious place? A soothingly photograph-esque accommodation and a menu full of names of delicious Bengali food - the blend of them makes the Boarding a scenic, enjoyable spot. To describe the aesthetics of the place: the pale yellow colour of the walls blends with green moss, the grey stairs and edge of the walkways play light and shadow with the brightness of the day, and vibe together - giving off an ambience quite rare to be found anywhere else in the busy streets of Dhaka.

During the 1950s, the Boarding was a regular huddle spot for college-going students in different parts of Dhaka. Beauty Boarding was chosen as the go-to spot for the Adda-loving students from Dhaka College and Jagannath College to spend their free time.

The inception of the Boarding had intellectually enriched means as from the second floor, an illustrious literary magazine used to get published before the 1950s. As Mohammad Mahfuzullah wrote, the magazine turned 18 in 1951, and the editor, Nolini Kishor Guha, was a progressive politician, think tank, and author who maintained a headstrong personality. The magazine marks the first ever published poetry of poet Shamsur Rahman - a figure deeply rooted in the memories of Beauty Boarding's golden days. The spirit of Beauty never lifted but was rather missed by the family that owns the place, the Saha family.

Even though everything must undergo the shift of coping with the ever-revolutionising time, Beauty Boarding stands unaltered, raw as it was in the 1950s during its beginning years. As poet Shamsur Rahman put it, his companions and he were regulars there and raised storms in teacups that battered the moments that ticked away. Famously known as 'Sabyasachi' in Bengali literature, Syed Shamsul Haque leaves a legacy of spending morning till dusk in the Boarding that remains fresh to date. According to the writer, the Boarding was previously the office of the Shonar Bangla newspaper back in 1949. Most revered among the many scholarly elites that visited the place is the owner of the Boarding - Prahlad Chandra Saha; the Pakistani military brutally massacred him on 28th March 1971. Before him, his elder brother Nolini Mohan Saha was the founder.

The adda was the zeitgeist of Beauty Boarding, and to revive and nod to the gloriously blissful past, the current owner of the Boarding, son of Prahlad Chandra Saha, Tarak Saha, eagerly wants the youth, people from all walks to gather up and bring the Adda back in Beauty Boarding again. The manuscript of Mukh O Mukhosh - the first Bengali feature film made in the then East Pakistan, was prepared by Abdul Jabbar Khan inside the Boarding. Notable composer Samar Das created many compositions in the Boarding.

Among other visitors are Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, poet and writer Shahid Quadri, magician Jewel Aich, painters Qayyum Chowdhury and Rafiqun Nabi, the list goes on and on. The past remains a source of inspiration, joy, and hope, especially in the Boarding's history. Tarak Saha wants Addas to echo through the yards and empty spaces of Beauty Boarding that will inspire future generations.

As he puts it, "Adda has changed in modern times as they consist of relatively coarse stuff. We have replaced the sophisticated, tasteful chatter of old with women's bodies, money, plans to harm others, greed and unpleasant things. To revive the Adda that generated literary masterpieces, Beauty Boarding needs to wake up and become a place of attraction for more than just photogenic spots."

The Saha family tells much of their thoughts about Beauty Boarding in the book 'Purnimar Modhho Boyoshe Beauty Boarding.' The book presents insights into the Boarding's information, values, and prospects. Many of the country's gems wrote about their memoirs and thoughts about Beauty Boarding's significance. The book's editor is Imrul Chowdhury.

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