Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Nazimgarh on The Daily Star Lifestyle page

All text and pictures © The Daily Star

An urban view of rustic treasures

Imagine being perched atop a hill, sitting on a sizable balcony with a cup of tea in hand, gazing on an expanse of green below that soothes the eyes. Having taken in this scene of idyll, you leave the balcony and cross the room, stepping over the hardwood veneer that lends the area a touch of charm and class, and enter the bathroom where a Jacuzzi filled with warm water awaits to coax away your city-bred anxiety.

Such are the creature comforts offered by Nazimgarh Resorts in Sylhet-- unbridled luxury! Started two years ago with its latest and most magnificent addition completed last October Nazimgarh is the ultimate luxury tourist destination in Bangladesh.

The resort, standing on six acres of hilly land in Khadimnagar, just a fifteen minute car ride from Sylhet town, comprises three residential buildings a Villa, a Bungalow, and the Terrace with a total of 49 rooms, all fitted with state of the art amenities, and of which only the Premium rooms are without Jacuzzis; a spa complex that houses a pool and a conference centre for corporate clients; a nightlife centre with a pool table and bar; and two high quality restaurants that serve Continental, Oriental, and Indian food to rival the eateries in Gulshan.

Turning into a narrow road off the highway to Tamabil and Jafflong, Nazimgarh is reached through a winding road that soon leads to a deceptively unadorned gate at the foot of a hill. It all goes uphill from there, literally and otherwise.

Ascending the hill, more and more of this fine resort comes into view. First is the Terrace, a wonderful piece of architecture built in a way that accommodates the contours and elevation of the hill. The Terrace houses 35 rooms, and each and every room looks out through its balcony or sundeck on the lush green paddy fields and clusters of dark green trees that stretch out in the distance beyond the boundary of the resort.

The car stops near the top of the hill having gone round the Terrace to its top, and opposite the Terrace the hill continues its ascent with the Spa Complex built on its apex, similarly constructed around the hill's contours. Sharing the first floor is a fully equipped gym and spa, the latter containing many of the elements that make this a luxury resort. The spa is fully equipped to relieve guests of any stress that is left over from their city existence; a steam room, a sauna, and to top it off, separate massage facilities for men and women.

Climb to the second floor of the complex and you will find a lovely, shimmering pool, with beach chairs lining its boundaries, and a children's pool and Jacuzzi installed along its edge. Right beside the pool is the Hilltop restaurant, serving continental cuisine. Stairs lead to an open rooftop, used as a venue for rooftop parties; ideal events for corporate get-togethers and large family vacations.

From this vantage point, the whole of the resort can be seen in all its glory. To the South can be seen the Villa and the Bungalow, both throwbacks to an old-world charm that sits well with the region's history of British occupation, foreign travellers like Ibne Battuta, and Muslim saints that the town of Sylhet is so famous for. The rooms in the Villa and Bungalow fitted with modern amenities that provide all the comfort guests can desire open out to balconies that stretch across each floor, enabling its occupants to feel at one with their green and tranquil surroundings.

The decor of these old fashioned buildings, especially in the common seating areas, will resonate with anyone who has been exposed to life in tea garden bungalows. The large common seating areas meant to entertain guests in the context of tea gardens serve the purpose of bringing visitors to the resort together in the evenings to watch a few DVDs and socialise.

Down the hill from the Villa and Bungalow sits the Meghalaya Lounge. It has a TV room and bar on the ground floor, and a pool room with a brand new pool table on the first floor. For those who want to stay indoors and enjoy themselves, watching a few movies and challenging each other over a game of 8-ball or 9-ball, the Meghalaya Lounge is the place to be.

Opposite the Meghalaya Lounge, across a quaint, lush green garden with charming benches adorning its borders, is the Garden Bistro. This is the only eatery of the resort that is open to the general public, and it offers a wide variety of cuisine, serving Continental, Indian, Thai, and Chinese food. Each type of cuisine is as delicious as the other; whether it is a rare steak you order or a Tandoori chicken, you are bound to be satisfied.

Another impressive facet of this resort is that at or near every dwelling is a TV room with a big screen TV and a huge collection of popular and recent DVDs, with plush sofa sets that allow guests to curl up and watch their favourite movies in the company of friends and loved ones.

With the resort also offering guided tours of Northern Sylhet's natural riches, guests have a choice between going out to explore the region's treasures and staying indoors to let the mind and muscles relax.

A visit to Nazimgarh Resorts is not a vacation; it's an experience that will make friends green with envy when they spot the palpable signs of rejuvenation in your being on your return to the harsh grind of the city.

For more information on the resort and special offers, please visit www.nazimgarh.com

By STS, back from Sylhet
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Exploring Sylhet's riches

It is not all about looking within and staying indoors; a good resort encourages guests to look outwards at the beauty and wonders the region has to offer. So it is with Nazimgarh. Nazim Farhan Choudhury, the resort's owner, wants the resort to be a base from which the natural wonders of Sylhet can be explored.

Northern Sylhet is a treasure trove of natural splendour, and the resort arranges guided tours to many such sites. There is the ever-popular Jaflong, less than an hour's drive from the resort. Across the river from Jaflong are Khasi Punjis (Khashia villages), where guests can catch a glimpse of a different way of life.

Very near the resort is a tea garden, and guests can drive through the garden and gaze upon hills manicured with tea bushes. The tea garden also has a rainforest that is being developed as a national park. Visitors can drive, bike or hike on the sandy roads that wind through it.

Trips are also available to Lawachara rainforest and Madhabkunda eco-park, both ninety-minute drives away from the resort.

Then there is the crowning glory as far as natural beauty is concerned. Lalakhal is a blissfully unspoilt location, and Choudhury has taken it upon himself to develop the spot as a tourist heaven. From their boat station on the Sharee river, some 25 km from the resort, guests are taken by speedboat in the summer, or by shallow draught boats in the winter to a spot where the Sharee river enters Bangladesh from the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya.

As you make your way through the winding river, with small, green hills lining its banks full of lush foliage, you begin to realise how unspoilt the area is. Coming closer to the spot known as Lalakhal, Meghalaya's mountains can be seen half-faded in the background, almost dissolving into the blue sky. The resort is building a restaurant right at the point where the river bends and makes its way across the border to India.

The restaurant, designed by Jamal Masood-ul-Abedin, is built in the form of olden river steamers, with a large circular front that takes in the bend of the river and provides a wide panoramic view. There is also an observation point on top of a nearby hill that affords an untrammelled view of Meghalaya, and the Sharee river winding its way across the landscape. It is indeed a sight for sore eyes.

There are also plans afoot to build a resort/hotel similar to Nazimgarh at the location. It will be a spot for the adventurous minded; canoes and kayaks will be available. For those who like to trek, there are miles of interesting trails among the hills and the nearby Lalakhal tea gardens. There is also a river beach, where those seeking leisure can lounge and bask in the glory of the incredibly unspoilt vista.

The restaurant at Lalakhal will be completed by the end of this year, and unlike the resort, this will not be exclusive to the resort's guests. It can be reached by road, located 7km from the highway, but the river experience is so much richer. 5 km of the 7 km stretch of road have been developed to drivable condition; the rest should be complete by the time the restaurant opens.

“Whenever people talk of tourism in Bangladesh, it is always Cox's Bazaar, and not much else,” said Choudhury. “But there are so many unexplored and undiscovered sites in Bangladesh. In Northern Sylhet alone there are many places that are left to be explored.”

A large portion of the clientele at Nazimgarh consists of the corporate classes. Choudhury wishes to attract more of the general public so that the profile of tourism in the region is raised, which will have many knock-on benefits, such as increasing local employment.

Therefore, there are lots of reasons to make your way to Nazimgarh besides indulging your need for romance, adventure, and luxury. And if you are in Sylhet, know that there are other places to visit; places like Lalakhal that are yet unspoilt and will please the eye and soul.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Foorti Rewind on Radio Foorti 88.0FM

Just a small note to to tell everyone that I am currently hosting a Retro/Classic Music show on Radio Foorti 88.0FM every Friday morning between 10am-12:30pm BST. So if you want to listen to some great music from 60s, 70s, 80s or the 90s please tune in.

You can also connect up to our Facebook Page at

Foorti Rewind Radio Foorti 88.0fm

Promote your Page too

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tiny business tumbles on fall of WC giants

Here is something from the Daily Star Business Page of 5th July 2010 which quotes me.

Tiny business tumbles on fall of WC giants

Sohel Parvez

It was a gloomy Sunday morning for Kamal Hasan Prince. He displays jerseys of Argentina and Brazil at his makeshift shop on a busy footpath near Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka.

“The excitement among the fans seems to have dwindled after the exit of the two teams," the 42-year-old hawker said.

Prince wanted to clear stocks and slashed the prices of each jersey by 40 percent to Tk 60. A week ago, he sold each at more than Tk 100. These T-shirts have lost their lustre.

“On Saturday morning, I sold a dozen Argentine jerseys. Demand for T-shirts of both the teams was high. Not anymore,” he said.

The slump in demand came with the exit of the two teams in a space of as many days. Bangladesh has been obsessed with the two South American nations in the World Cup (WC) tournament for decades.

Prince was lucky not to have a huge stock of jerseys to clear. But he feared that his neighbour would face difficulty.

“He sold only jerseys to cash in on the world cup. Today, he did not even open his store. I am afraid his losses will be greater than mine,” he said, who has six jerseys remaining to sell.

Fans had adorned houses and cars with colourful flags and wore jerseys and armbands to express their loyalty to their favourite teams, in hopes that they would secure the cup.

The fall of the two soccer giants also cast a shadow over the prospect of television sales in the remaining days to the final on July 11. Electronics retailers placed various promotional offers and discounts to attract buyers.

“We are a bit upset. Market sentiments will ultimately sink due to the departure of the two,” said Mohammad Zane Alam, deputy-marketing manager of Rangs Electronics, distributor of Sony televisions.

He said television retailers log a rise in sales prior to the final match, when these two teams stay on.

“So far, our sales are fine. But it may drop below expectations,” said Mahbub-ur Rahman, director of operations of Butterfly Marketing Ltd, which sells LG televisions.

The world's biggest tournament also boosted demand for projectors to view the matches on large screens in open spaces. Industry insiders said the sales of projectors would also drop.

However, companies that have promoted their products by taking advantage of the fact that thousands are hooked on to their television screens are more or less relieved that their spending was worthwhile, as the teams made their exit almost towards the end.

“I think the World Cup's impact has been quite substantial. The exit of Brazil and Argentina has come at the fag end and I don't think it will have much impact on advertising spending or its effectiveness,” said Nazim Farhan Choudhury, managing director of Adcomm Ltd.

“If Argentina and Brazil left at the beginning, there would have been a big impact, as many would have turned off their TVs,” he said.

With a few matches remaining, Choudhury said it would not have a major impact on viewership and thereby, would help advertisers fulfil their objectives.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bangladesh: The Next Generation Report

A recent survey initiated by the British Council looks at the Youth in Bangladesh and their attitude, aspirations, hopes, concerns and pessimisms. This in-depth survey gives a very interesting reading into the minds of the largest demographic in Bangladesh.

I do hope the leaders of our nation take heed to what we have to say...

Description from British Council

Bangladesh has young people in abundance. We are at once one of the world’s most populous and youngest countries: 61m of our 150m people are under 18 years-of-age.

Commissioned by the British Council, this ‘Next Generation’ report marks a defining moment for Bangladesh. For the first time, we have a snapshot of what Bangladeshis between 15 and 30 think, feel and hope for. We have a picture of their interests, how they spend their free time, and what or who influences them.

There are grounds for optimism: 79 percent are interested in development issues: 70 percent think the country is headed in the right direction. Our youth have a clear identity, are happy (despite overwhelming poverty) and are dedicated to their country and families.

There are fears too: 60 percent fear corruption will worsen; 71 percent are concerned that climate change will result in thousands of displaced people across the country; and an overwhelming majority (78%) fear that the gap between the rich and poor will widen in the next five years.

A Generation Ready to Serve

Above all, this is a generation that wants to get involved: a striking 98 percent want to take part in social work. But in reality, 70 percent don't.

Population projections suggest that in every decade up to 2050, more than 30m young people will achieve adulthood, entering the job market, or starting to raise families.

A country can view each successive generation as a problem – or as a unique opportunity. How we use this ‘youth dividend’ will be critical to our future development.

To use this human capital effectively, our leaders need to listen to the hopes, aspirations and voices of these younger generations – not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day. Each of these 30m individuals, decade by decade, is a potential asset for Bangladesh.

Where young Bangladeshis are given the opportunity, they rise to the occasion, selflessly devoting time and energy to community service, contributing to finding solutions for the daily problems of their neighbourhoods.

Viewing our Young as an Economic Asset

Rather as micro-credit fuels economic development from the ground up, each individual who exercises active citizenship is an asset who builds our communities and improves our livelihoods.

Today, Bangladesh needs a national debate on how we utilise the social and human credit at our disposal. Our proposal is that this debate should result in a youth charter which embodies the hopes, aspirations and rights of our young people – and maps out a path to how they will be realised.

Join the debate and play your part in shaping the future of Bangladesh.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Youth are Calling : Are We Listening?

Published on the 5th June edition of the Daily Star

98 and 74. If I am asked, I would say these are the two figures that sum up the mood of Bangladesh’s youth. A staggering 98% of them believe that they should be involved in social work. On the other side of the coin 74% of them are not interested in politics.

Through out the report, Bangladesh: The Next Generation, there are figures that highlight this dichotomy in thoughts and deeds of today’s youth. At one end there is the optimism and the desire to do good, but on the other the apathy and belief that they don’t count. This in a nation whose history has mostly been molded by its younger citizens. Be it the Language Movement of 1952 or the political charges of 1969, ‘71, or ’90. Youth led and the nation followed. This current government should acknowledge the fact that in the last general election the first time voters (almost 35% of the electorate) by and far put their stamp next to the candidates of the ruling party. This went against conventional wisdom of the day. But the young had spoken.

It may not be over simplification to say that “Digital Bangladesh”, the desire to see War Criminals tried and a rejection of the previous government’s notorious greed, had lead the youth to jump on Obamaesque “Dinbodol” bandwagon that the Awami League promised. But since taking absolute majority in the Jatiya Sangsad and forming a government, have they done much to reward this massive potential vote bank?

Initial suggestions of a close bond were there. Young ministers like Dipu Moni, Sohail Taj, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Barrister Taposh seemed to be AL’s new face. A new generation of leaders to whom the reigns were being passed on to. Digital Bangladesh too was being fleshed out to be more than just a slogan on a manifesto.

Then things went wrong. Taj left in a huff claiming his authority was being undermined. AL’s youth wing Chattra League (BCL) started showing that they cared more about financial gain than addressing issues of the youth. Digital Bangladesh started to become butt of jokes as on-again-off-again policies and power shortages kept people guessing what that term actually meant.

Overall, AL government like those of the past, have failed to consistently connect with the youth. Issues of education, employment and empowerment have been left unaddressed. The Next Generation Report picks up on this. While 87% of the youth are enrolled in education programs, they don’t believe the education they are getting will get them jobs. Or will play a significant part in getting jobs at any rate. They think bribery, nepotism and connections are needed for a decent job.. This makes 41% of them wanting to take the first plane out of the country in search of better education, jobs,and opportunities.

Digital Bangladesh too has failed to deliver so far. True that it is a decade long journey and not an over night miracle, but the government has failed to articulate what this actually means for the youth. 73% of the younger population has mobile phones, but only 15% uses the internet. This is a shame because Digital Bangladesh over anything else can deliver us to the promised land. But only if we absorb the youth into the movement.

Youth need education. Education that will give them the skill sets to succeed in today’s economy. That means knowledge of English and Maths. And that of creativity, logic and research. Quite unlike the prevalent learning by rote. It means young migrant workers becoming plumbers, mechanics, welders, cooks and drivers, and not merely low paid manual labourers.

Youth need jobs. Not low value adding agriculture jobs. But jobs in factories and offices where they can put to use their intellect and industry. Today we hold the agriculture sector as sacred cow. But it is time for us to take a knife to that. Given our ever growing population and the pressure it brings to land usage, we cannot expect to solve our employment needs through this sector. Instead of an acre of land that can productively employ say 20 people, we need an acre of factory floor that can employ 20,000.

Using technology one can leapfrog the stumbling block of education content and delivery; we can create knowledge jobs in ITES (IT enabled services - i.e., graphic design outsourcing) and other techie industries like pharma; we can activate millions of points of entrepreneurism through e-commerce and exports.

How do we do it? Quite easy. While we wait for the larger more grandiose plans to pan out, do two things. Firstly empower e-commerce, not through a few monopolistic chosen ones, but by allowing anyone to make and enable transactions. Remember there was a Bangladeshi in the team that made Pay Pal. And secondly make bandwidth cost free (or at least ridiculously cheap) for end users. The lethal combination of the two will generate massive innovations, which in-turn will facilitate commerce to boom.

Youth need engagement and empowerment. It is not good enough any longer to just pay lip service to the youth. Be mindful, they constitute a good 70+% of the electorate. A figure that for the next few elections will only increase. Today one in five youth say they have no national role-model. The question for any leader should be how do I find a place in their mind. That is through engagement. BCL’s my-tender-is-bigger-than-your-tender ways may have lead AL to disown them but it shouldn’t be an excuse to disengage from the youth altogether. In fact, the exact opposite should be done. Connect at every opportunity. Bring in youth leadership into the party grassroots. Use the desire youth have for social work to activate them there. Encourage and promote young leaders to raise to the top. The absolute top. Induct more of them into the cabinet and party presidium. India’s Congress Party with the eye into the future has transformed the Youth Congress as the heart and soul of the party. Anyone who is interested in succeeding as our next leader, needs to earn one’s spurs. And that can be done by changing the minds of 76% of the youth who think that they have little or no influence over government decision or were unsure of their capacity to influence.

The youth of Bangladesh have spoken yet again. But are we listening?