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Old Photos Bring Back Sweet Memories of Bangladesh's Capital Dhaka

Topkhana Road, Press Club Area, Dhaka (1965). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Topkhana Road, Press Club Area, Dhaka (1965). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

It's extraordinary how much a place can change in 50 years. For example, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is one of the most populous megacities of the world, but you wouldn't believe it from looking at old photos of it.

In the 1960s, British photographer Roger Gwynn came to Bangladesh as a volunteer for the non-governmental Service Civil International. He visited various parts of the country, which was then East Pakistan, and took photographs. Recently, some of his photos of were republished on a Facebook page called Bangladesh Old Photo Archive and went viral among Bangladeshi users.

Launched on 24 August 2011, the page has more than 171,000 fans. Over the years, this community has shared numerous photos of the area that is present-day Bangladesh — from the British colonial period to the 1990s. When you look at these archived photos, you get a glimpse of history, tradition and the lives of Bangladeshis over the past century.

The Roger Gwynn photos made many people nostalgic. They reminisced on the good old times and a few expressed a desire to return to those days.

Victoria Park area. Sadarghat, Dhaka (1967). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Victoria Park area. Sadarghat, Dhaka (1967). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Salim Omer Sher recalled a memory of Victoria Park in the 1960s:

Very nostalgic. I was a student in old Dhaka school and used to visit this park in mid 60s. In 1967 I was 17 years old, when this photograph was taken. Vivid memory of Victoria Park.

Handcart porters at New Market area. Dhaka (1965). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Handcart porters at New Market area. Dhaka (1965). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Communication expert Wazir Satter remembered an era of cheap food after seeing a street photo of the New Market area:

And one of the restaurants there used to serve special malai cha (Creamed Tea). We the students of Dacca College used to visit this restaurant in 1967-69 for that cha and special gosht-porota (Meat Paratha), The name of the eatery was Chittagong Restaurant. A cup of malai cha was 4 anas (25 Poishas).

Street scene of Mirpur Road, New Market. Dhaka (1965). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Street scene of Mirpur Road, New Market. Dhaka (1965). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

The photo sparked childhood memories for Babor Huq:

I use to walk these streets holding my father's hand to pick up his laundry from Lifa and have Kalojam (a type of sweet) from Moron Chand when I was a Todler. But some how I remember all those moments. I miss my father every second and praying for him.

Demra Road by Hardeo glass factory, Dhaka (1965). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Demra Road by Hardeo glass factory, Dhaka (1965). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Ranajay Gupta was nostalgic too when he saw the Hardeo glass factory:

Interesting. Hardeo Glass Factory came up on land originally owned by my family at Tikatuli. I believe there was a ‘samadhimandir’ (memorial shrine) for my great-grandparents Sarat Chandra Gupta (after whom Sarat Gupta Road is named) and Manorama Gupta at a corner of the land. I am told the Rajdhani Supermarket later came up on the land; someone told me the samadhimandir still exists at a corner of the market.

Children are enjoying Bioscope show. Old Dhaka, Bangladesh (1960s). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Children are enjoying Bioscope show. Old Dhaka, Bangladesh (1960s). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

During those times Bioscope, a kind of traveling theatre, was popular entertainment. Syed Harun Rashid wrote:

The nostalgic time of bygone era! … I could very much relate to these boys. The sight n thought of being able to enjoy this, out of heaven, thing called Bioscope. I wonder the intense feeling of euphoria this seemingly negligible thing could produced in us will ever part from our memory….

Dhaka is known for its enormous traffic jams. But in the 1960s it was a tidy town. Rumi Aftab wrote:

So beautiful that period was! now it's always remaining over crowded and loaded with so many different types vehicles gives us discomfort feelings, time consuming too!

Street scene of Dhanmondi Road No 2. Dhaka (1965) Photographer- Roger Gwynn

Street scene of Dhanmondi Road No 2. Dhaka (1965). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

The appearance of the city has changed so much that it's difficult to match the scenes shown in Gwynn's photographs to modern-day Dhaka. Facebook user Swargiyo Jiban wrote:

Hard to believe there was a big riverview. I grew up in rayer Bazar n mohammadpur area. Saw rayer Bazar and all the way Mohammadpur surrounded by extended burigongha river. There was a village used to call bochila,so much fun to go there by boat. It was a memory hardly I could remember fr 1982-86, left that area in 1987 and after 15 yrs later once I visited there was very shocking.. 15 yrs changes were huge, landmarks turned into different shapes couldn't even believe there was a river we were playing, swimming.. even all the way hazaribugh to kamrangir chor went by car.. unbelievable…

Syed Rahman does not like the current cityscapes of Dhaka:

That's where I grew up and miss my childhood and feel like how good days were those. Those were the golden days of my loving city of Dacca not Dhaka.

More photos of Dhaka:

Water carrier, Wari, Dhaka (1965). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Water carrier, Wari, Dhaka (1965). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Morning street market - fresh fish on sale. Dhaka (1960s). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Morning street market – fresh fish on sale. Dhaka (1960s). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

A guy reading newspaper in a tea stall. Dhaka, Bangladesh (1965). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

A guy reading newspaper in a tea stall. Dhaka, Bangladesh (1965).
Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Girls studying the Quran in a maktab. Dhaka (1960s). Photographer- Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy- Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

Girls studying the Quran in a maktab. Dhaka (1960s). Photo by Roger Gwynn. Photo courtesy: Bangladesh Old Photo Archive.

See the whole album here.

The photographs have been used with permission from Roger Gwynn.

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