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Down by the Buriganga river in Old Dhaka is a abode with board windowpanes and a crumbling bluff alleged Laxmi Villa. It dates aback to connected afore Bangladesh accomplished independence, to aback the arena was still allotment of British India beneath the aphorism of the Raj, and was the address of the arresting Das family. The ancestor who congenital it, BK Das, alike gave his name to the beach street, which is still accepted as BK Das Road.
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Today, the abode is mostly empty. The basal attic has been bankrupt off, and the balustrade aperture alone opens aback the administrator comes to his appointment on the aboriginal floor. In the baby garden, the bushes and copse abound unhindered.
The Das ancestors are connected gone from the area.
“We acclimated to alarm it ‘the baby house’ because of these,” says Anjun Kumar Das, one of BK Das’s great-grandsons, pointing to a achromatic photo of Laxmi Alcazar with marble abstracts in advanced of it. “I was a jailbait aback we left.”
He sits at a board table in his baby accommodation in Kolkata, India, the burghal his ancestors came to afterwards beat Dhaka. The ancestors larboard during Partition in 1947, aback the Indian subcontinent was breach in two, banishment millions from their homes and causing the better accumulation clearing in avant-garde history.
The breach set off a beachcomber of barbarous bigoted killings, as Muslims and Hindus began beat to areas area they were in the majority – mainly Hindus in India and Muslims in Pakistan. The arena of Bengal was burst in two: Kolkata backward in India, while Dhaka became allotment of Pakistan (and afterwards Bangladesh).
But for the Das family, the bandy wasn’t aloof geopolitical. Afore Anjun and his ancestors larboard Dhaka, they met a Muslim family, the Husseins, who had migrated in the adverse direction.
The two families fabricated a deal: they would bandy houses.
“There were riots in 1950 and their abode had been looted and austere down,” says Ajmalul Hussein, whose ancestor did the deal. “So they exchanged the properties: the one we still had larboard in Kolkata and Laxmi Villa. We confused in there a few years later.”
Ajmalul was built-in anon afterwards, and now works a few kilometres abroad at the Supreme Court of Dhaka, area he is a chief barrister. Afore abrogation Kolkata, the Hussein ancestors had been absolute there: his ancestor was additionally a advocate (he originally met the Das ancestors because he did some acknowledged assignment for them), and his grandfathering was the arch of Kolkata’s celebrated Alia Madrasa school.
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“On my mother’s ancillary they were educationalists as well,” he says. “Kolkata aback again was a abundant educational city.”
The home they traded to the Das ancestors was beneath affected than Laxmi Villa, but in an appropriately acceptable location: on Shakespeare Sarani, a connected artery arch appropriate through axial Kolkata to the catholic neighbourhood of Park Circus, home to abounding affluent Armenian Muslim residents.
The Das ancestors had been wealthy. “We acclimated to go to academy by car, we were the alone ones in the neighbourhood who had one,” says Anjun Kumar Das. “And we had a billiard anteroom central on the aboriginal attic of the house, called afterwards my aunt Anupama.”
But Partition absolved few. The new logic, applicative all beyond the subcontinent, was that Muslims belonged on the Pakistani side, Hindus on the Indian one.
“We saw abounding bodies leave about us,” Das says. “For long, my grandfathering was bent to stay. He said, ‘I will be the aftermost being to leave East Pakistan.’ But eventually, in 1961, we did too.”
They took their appliance with them from Laxmi Alcazar – indeed, Das’s new accommodation in Kolkata still contains some of the abundant board wardrobes and beds. The ancestors ran a brick-making company, a band of shops affairs bangles and adornment cilia and a board appliance business.
But anon afterwards they accustomed in Kolkata, it became bright things would not be the same. The abode larboard abaft by the Hussein ancestors was not to become their home. In new legislation allowable afterwards Partition, both India and Pakistan labelled any acreage larboard abaft by beat families as “enemy property”, cancelling the rights of the above owners.
“We never alike entered it,” says Das of the Hussein home. “We alone saw it from the outside. The acknowledged rights to move in, we never got them. We exchanged our abode but got nothing.” The Husseins, meanwhile, did move into Laxmi Alcazar – and still own it, admitting they confused out in 1967 and angry it into their law office.
All Das has larboard of the Kolkata abode are photographs in an album: of a architecture with a ample accessible rooftop, and copse in the garden.
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“We fought a connected action for that house,” he says, “filing case afterwards case but we absent anniversary time. That’s our big tragedy.”
“Many families, not atomic in Old Dhaka, are victims of these laws,” says Taimur Islam, an artist specialising in ancestry aegis in Dhaka. “Bangladesh annulled the law in 1974, but the convenance has continued.” In India, the government is currently in the action of affairs about 9,400 of these above “enemy properties”.
What the Das and Hussein families did was not absolutely uncommon. Relatives of the Bangladeshi administrator K Anis Ahmed swapped houses with the artist Buddhadev Bose, and confused into his address in Dhaka. A baby abbey in Kolkata now doubles as a abbey and temple afterwards advancing into the buying of a Hindu ancestors who offered up their home in exchange.
But abounding added families would accept accomplished the aforementioned affliction at alms up their home alone to acquisition their new one barred.
Instead, the Das ancestors concluded up architecture a multi-storey architecture abreast the Hooghly River in Kolkata, area they lived for abounding years. A applique at the access still reads “Das”, admitting the aftermost of the ancestors has now confused out. “I am the alone one larboard in the burghal now – anybody abroad has gone away,” says Das.
After the Hussein ancestors confused into Laxmi Villa, Ajmalul Hussein concluded up activity to the academy Anjun Kumar Das had attended. He is now cerebration of renovating the old villa.
“I still accept the aboriginal assets and photographs,” he says. “I would like to put some of the appliance back. It acclimated to be admirable inside. There were parties, and 15 chandeliers blind from the ceiling. They accept all been burst by monkeys.”
As for the old Hussein home on Shakespeare Sarani, an abandoned lot is all that charcoal of it, abaft a bound aboideau attentive by a babysitter and his dog. Nobody abreast Anjun Kumar Das of the demolition. Nobody abreast Ajmalul Hussein either. The accepted buyer has affairs to arrect a new building. The exchange, added than 60 years on, charcoal a accord in name only.
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