Dhaka in the 1950s and 1960s

In the mid 1950s, Dhaka, known as ‘Dacca’ at that time, was just a small provincial town with about 3,00,000 inhabitants. Dhanmondi at that time just started to grow; Maulvi Abdus Sobhan's family had some habitation in Sobhanbagh, Dhaka Stadium was being constructed to host cricket matches and New Market was starting to become a busy shopping area.

Dhaka residents loved cinema since the time it was introduced. Baliadi Siddiki family owned Nishat Cinema Hall and held a mega event when the film ‘Aan’ by Mehboob Khan was released in 1952. Elephants were used by the hall owner to distribute leaflets and to spray colour water. There was another prominent hall named Britannia near Rex Restaurant at Gulistan but was closed down in the late 1950s. Gulistan Cinema Hall, city’s first modernity landmark, came up in 1952. Amber, started with Raj Kapoor and Nargis, was the first film the hall showed. Mukul which later became 'Azad 'used to show Bengali films from Kolkata. Suchitra and Uttam glorified love at that time.

The Gulistan area grew in the 1950s and 1960s. People living in old part considered it as ‘Noya Dhaka’. Segun Bagicha grew simultaneously and used to be a colony where educated lawyers, doctors and teachers lived. To farther north, there was Shahbag where Dhaka’s Nawab had a Baganbari with present day Modhur Canteen at the center. Magh people lived in Maghbazar in the past and started to leave the area in the 1950s. Next to Maghbazar, there was Kumarpara where Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon is currently located. There was a roadside shoshan (crematory) in the area which has no existence what so ever now. Next to Kumarpara, there was and still is the mighty Karwan Bazar. From the early 1950s it was a prominent shopping place for groceries.

In 1961, a new road was built right before Queen Elizabeth came to visit Dhaka. The road is currently known as the VIP Road. Bus and rickshows were the main means of transport back in the days. Bus service operated from Mahakhali through Tejgaon Airport to Gulistan and used to be called Number Six Route. Another bus service operated from Kurmitola Cantonment through Farmgate to Gulistan. Bus conductors charged 12 paisas from Mohakhali to Gulistan. New DOHS area was full of jangles and paddy fields at that time.

Hotel Shahbagh (now Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University) was the most prestigious residential hotel of that era. Rex Restaurant at Gulistan, on the other hand represented the then Dhaka'a aristocracy with liveried bearers, cutleries wrapped in napkin, and English touch all around. The restaurant was opened by a Turkish national in the 1940s but he left Dhaka in 1947 after handing it over to one of the employees. Rex Restaurant remained a 'place to be' throughout 1950s and 1960s.

Other renounced restaurants of that time included Kasbah, located where current Bangabandhu Avenue takes a left turn towards Zero point, La Sani, located where current Agrani Bank's Bangabandhu Avenue branch stands, Salimabad, located near Ramna Bhaban, Capital Restaurant, located near rail-crossing in Nawabpur Road and Gulistan Restaurant, located on the far western side of Gulistan Building. Then there were Chu Chin Chow Restaurant and Miranda Bar.

Dhaka's first Chinese restaurant ‘Café China’ was set up at Segun Bagicha in the 1960s. Fried rice, soup and beef became popular among the eaters and each of these dishes cost Rs. 4 (Pakistani currency). Mughlai Paratha at Capital Restaurant cost Rs. 1. A Delhiwallah started Delhi Muslim Restaurant at Johnson Road near the Court Building and offered catering to court officials, police personnel and litigants.

In Wiseghat, near the Buriganga River, was Savar Boarding in the 1950s where poets including Shamsur Rahman, intellectuals and authors meet frequently. Shankar Boarding was also in Wiseghat and had an exclusive ambience with good views of Buriganga. Opposite Ahsan Manzil’s entrance, there were Sitaram Mistanna Bhandar and Kalachand Gondhobonik who were the leaders in the sweets front. Haji r Biriyani, cooked on firewood, was located on Kazi Alauddin Road and it still exists. One full plate of mutton biriyani cost 50 paisa back in the time.

In January 1955, Pakistani cricket team played a test match at Dhaka Stadium which was a wooden made stadium at that time, with Indian team. Abdul Hafiz Kardar led Pakistan team while Vinu Mankad led Indian team. The match ended us as draw. In mid 1960s, the stadium was made into a two-storey structure due to growing demand. Pakistan team played first match of the newly build stadium with Wes Indies. Gary Sobers was the captain of the than West Indian side.


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