Monday, 11 November 2013

The Leisure Club

Even in the rain, Feni town is busy.

Beyond the Sonagazi Weir in Feni district three unused windmills add feature to the landscape of the tidal zone. There, the wild lawn served easily as football pitch for town dwellers. Meanwhile, at the lake on the nearer side was swimming and boating.

The 2011 winter picnic of Feni’s Oboshor or Leisure Club, was a lucky day. I won second prize in the raffle – dinner plates. It was the best result since first prize was a live goat!

Stretching back to the British era, the culture of clubs is well-established in South Asia. Clubs can be status-oriented and expensive; Oboshor is different.

“Our society suffers from a cancer,” Oboshor’s Vice-President Mominul Hoque wrote in the club’s publication, “We never learnt to admit our faults. People like to boast. We wanted Oboshor members to believe in taking responsibility for mistakes.” Oboshor is non-political, committed to Feni and a belief that all are equal.

Oboshor members relaxing on the rooftop beside the clubhouse.
The club originated several years ago in a broken, straw house, a kupri ghar, in Feni bazaar. Initially friends used to gather for adda. In the course of daily conversations, horizons grew.

With the decision to formalise into a club, larger premises were sought and current president, Alal Uddin Alal, offered the rooftop of his unfinished commercial building. To this day reaching the clubhouse involves negotiating a construction site’s dark stairwell. It’s can’t be imagined Oboshor is up there.

Meanwhile, the club’s aspirations took shape. “We wanted to make a better society,” Mominul Hoque explained. To this end, Oboshor created the Nobin Chandra Sen education scholarship, with the hope that if even one of its recipients should succeed the project will have been worthwhile.

Each winter the club donates warm clothes to the needy and has presented sewing machines and rickshaws to struggling families. But the club is also about having fun.

I didn’t know much of this when I was offered the chance to join. “How much does it cost?” I asked.

“It’s free,” the club president said.

“What are the criteria?” 

“Just one: good character.”

Spice alley, Feni bazaar.

A shop selling shutki dried fish, Feni Bazaar.

Shops in Feni Bazaar.

No comments:

Post a Comment