It was difficult to keep my cell phone steady in my hand from a standing position. The road was as smooth as silk, for which the Bangladesh Army must claim praise for building such an A-class road.
Still there was this low vibration produced by the wheels in conflict with the road, and that was unsettling my grip on the phone. The jeeps that regularly ply this road – an 80 km long strip from Cox’s Bazar to Teknaf along the sea beach – are abandoned Toyota jeeps which are refitted and customised to carry tourists with open hood. We were a big team from JKKNIU consisting of officers and teachers, their wives and children on a post-Eid holiday journey to Cox’s Bazar, and we rented three such jeeps. On the second day of our stay in the coastal city we undertook this trip to Marine Drive, and as it was raining furiously on the 2nd day of July, we relished it rather though the rain missiles hurt our faces and other exposed parts of the body. I kept standing with the support of the iron cage of the open hood, and kept watching the fantastic view of the road as it tore through the space between the hills on our left and the sea on our right. It was raining so hard that our driver couldn’t see anything in front but only the right white mark, now looking very indistinct, on the left side of the road, which I thought was the only thing helping him not to skid the jeep out of the road. (By the way, these jeeps don’t have the window wipers.) But occasionally the rain let up for a few minutes and the beautiful road serpentining forward reappeared in full view and my mobile camera did the rest.
The road is a marvellous feat of construction, just about twenty feet wide, and metalled and black pitched, and looked as virgin as the clumps of jhau (tamarisk) forests on the sea side. The jhau trees often block the view to the sea, but considering their positive contribution in blocking strong winds and retaining the soil beds you can welcome them. It is said that Bangabandhu, who took shelter in the house of an old woman in the hills of Inani, to evade a warrant of arrest by the Pakistan government, had also spotted one aspect about the beach that jhau trees must be planted on the seaside to block wind and also to prevent the earth from breaking down by the assault of the sea waves. Nothing can be more pleasing to the eye than watch the wide Bay of Bengal from horizon to horizon under a downcast sky and the roaring music of the rolling waves filling your ears with an ecstatic sound. I wish I were a mariner.
We grew up with the conviction that Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf beach is the longest sea coastal strip in the world. Maybe it’s so, but the fact remained that this uninterrupted sea beach was also unusable for the majority of its part because of negligence from all quarters in nursing the beach, in making it usable for the tourists and in building up facilities for hotel, resorts, fish-industries and institutes to study marine resources. But after the independence of Bangladesh, in the more recent decades Cox’s Bazar has turned up to be the modern resort for tourists that it was supposed to be. Big hotels with superior facilities have mushroomed around Kalatali, which is a new district of the town Cox’s Bazar where most of the tourists are coming for accommodation. With the bulging numbers of tourists visiting Cox’s Bazar in and off seasons, and with the sprouting of businesses in fisheries and hatcheries, there’s every indication that Cox’s Bazar is going to be a quasi-tourist and quasi-industrial city.
I think, the future of Bangladesh economy lies with and lies in Cox’s Bazar. It has all the ingredients to be a powerful economic centre. The tourism industry can be boosted simply by making it more foreigner-friendly with all kinds of lifestyle provisions, in foods, in accommodation, in entertainment and in commerce. The restricting taboos should be bidden farewell. Moral values are alright, but moral inhibitions are not. In the wake of Bangladesh’s great sea victory over India and Myanmar, it’s now time that we built a deep-sea port at Sonadia and connecting Cox’s Bazar as the officiating centre. It’s also time that we built an international airport at this coastal town for boosting international business deals. The marine resources can be tapped in full with the operational headquarters at Cox’s Bazar, and as our sea border has increased by many times, we should facilitate the fish industries with modern setups and structures. The road between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar is at present in a good condition, but considering the mammoth future Cox’s Bazar is beckoning the road may be further developed. It’s also time now that the well advertised, but never materialised, Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar railway link was established without any further delay. The Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar air connection, which maybe temporarily suspended, maybe re-established now, as with the increased affordability of the middle class consumer group the flights won’t suffer from dearth of passengers.
An historical analogy may not be out of place here. England was a very small country, but it opened up to the sea and that single potentiality brought England to the fame of being one of the formidable imperial powers. Bangladesh should look forward to building its future by the sea and not by the land, where too many people are left with too small a land. In the modern times, with the help of the modern technology in building superstructures, super roads, marine roads and marine flyovers, Cox’s Bazsar can become the axis of the archipelago connecting Sonadia-Kutubdia-Maheshkhali and St. Martin’s islands.
The history of civilisation has taught that development of education and commerce goes hand in hand with the development of military power. It was true with ancient Egypt, with the ancient Greece and Rome, and with the modern imperial powers, and it’s now time that we South Asian countries emerged as powerful educated, economic and military nations, and Bangladesh playing its pivotal role for having been gifted with a godly geographical location—a delta with an uninterrupted sea coast stretching over 500 km, a meeting point between West Asia and East Asia. We’re not a weak nation anymore; we’ve the strength of the proportionately largest able-bodied population in the world now. So why should we lag behind! Let’s also learn the fact that a thriving nation must be able to do away with all the incriminatory, anti-life, baffling ethical ideologies that actively attempt to hinder our national progress. We brought Bangladesh by blood, so our blood is at stake, and nothing else matters.
A side glance: Many of my friends who love touring have opined that the best time to visit Cox’s Bazar as a tourist is the rainy season. I’m of the same view, because the unruly sea appears in its true form and on the 2nd and 3rd of July—the two full days we stayed in Cox’s Bazar we went to the beach, at Laboni Point, to be more specific, defying danger number signal 4 and tested the waves’ strength which didn’t allow us to venture further than a very timid distance from the sandy portion of the beach into the water. The rescue divers were most alert and at one point they blew their safety horns, which with their piercing sound screeched all through the beach from end-to-end and the bathers hurriedly came back to safety from their risky adventures.