A group of young and middle-aged males at a tiny tea stall in Satkhira were glued to the display of a smartphone at around 10.00pm on Saturday, watching the live broadcast of the inauguration of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge some 200 km away in Mawa, Munshiganj.
They could not go to the inauguration in person to witness the historic opening of the dream bridge by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, yet they did not want to miss the moment.
Such were the emotions across the whole country yesterday. From the very North of the country to the South-end, from tea stalls to city halls, mobile screens to big screens, people joined in spirit and hope to celebrate a hard-earned milestone.
District administrations, local organisations, political parties, and educational institutions brought out processions, held meetings, cultural programmes, concerts, football matches, and fireworks, to mark the historic day. Projectors were set up in open spaces across districts for thousands of people to witness the moment Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the bridge officially.
"Today is a special day for Bangladesh. As long as the Padma Bridge stands tall, this day will be written in gold for our generation, the next generation and the generations after. The bridge is a symbol of our self-esteem, ability and pride"
"Today is a special day for Bangladesh. As long as the Padma Bridge stands, this day will be written in gold for our generation, the next generation and the generations after. The bridge is a symbol of our self-esteem, ability and pride," M Kamruzzaman, vice-chancellor of Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University in Dinajpur said at a rally marking the occasion.
In Chattogram, the city corporation installed big screens at key points of the metropolis to show the inauguration.
A symbolic Padma Bridge was installed in the Jamal Khan neighbourhood at the initiative of local ward councillor Shaibal Das, which drew a huge crowd.
District administration organised a meeting at the gymnasium ground near MA Aziz Stadium in the city while a procession marched from the Dost Building premises to the North District. Alongside common people, political groups, and security forces also celebrated the day with rallies and parties.
The festive mood continued in Faridpur, with some terming the completion of the bridge as the greatest achievement of the 21st century in the country.
Nagarkanda Municipality Mayor Nimai Chandra Sarkar said, "We are very happy today. From now on our time and suffering to go to Dhaka will be reduced."
Gratitude towards Prime Minister Hasina poured in from ordinary people.
"From now on, I will be able to go to Dhaka and return to my district after finishing work within a day using a car. This has been possible because of the prime minister. She can do anything,"
"From now on, I will be able to go to Dhaka and return to my district after finishing work within a day using a car. This has been possible because of the prime minister. She can do anything," said Belal, a car driver.
In Satkhira, people celebrated the bridge's opening with hopes that it would usher in a new era of development there.
"The economic situation in Satkhira will improve a lot. It will save time in transporting goods. Travelling will also be without hassle. Farmers will be able to sell their products in Dhaka without being exploited by middlemen," said Mizanur Rahman, a teacher at Gazipur Government Primary School in Satkhira Sadar.
Kabir Khan, a resident of the city, said, "The bridge will greatly improve our communication system. Shrimps produced in Satkhira will reach the capital quickly. Tourists will increase in the Sundarbans. The days of suffering on ferries are gone. Earlier, emergency patients would die on the way to the capital."
"The economic situation in Satkhira will improve a lot. It will save less time to transport goods. There would be no hassle in travelling. Farmers will be able to sell the products in Dhaka without being exploited by middlemen"
In Jhenaidah, various programmes including fireworks and cultural programmes were organised on the day. But the main attraction was a symbolic Padma Bridge constructed at the Payra Chattar of the city on the initiative of local Awami League leader Saidul Karim Mintu.
Visiting the symbolic bridge, Prem Das, a tanner, said, "I cannot afford to go see the actual bridge now. I will have to go to Mawa to see the bridge later. But, for now, I can see the Padma Bridge right in front of me. It makes me happy."
Residents of Dinajpur exclaimed with joy as they watched Prime Minister Hasina inaugurate the dream bridge at Shaheed Bara Maidan in the morning.
"I could not go by myself to see the actual inauguration, but from here it seemed as if I had gone to the Padma Bridge," said Sumon, a student of Dinajpur Zilla School.
Some others expressed pride in the government's accomplishment in building the bridge without outside help, bringing a feeling of inclusivity to the public.
"The bridge is built with the country's own money, meaning my money was used. I have participated in its construction. It really brings me joy and pride. I can proudly say that I am a partner in the Padma Bridge's construction," said Mostafa Kamal, who works for a non-government organisation.
"The bridge is built with the country's own money, meaning my money was used. I have participated in its construction. It really brings me joy and pride. I can proudly say that I am a partner of Padma Bridge"
Meanwhile, the Padma Bridge opening has brought relief to the people of Barishal from centuries-old suffering from the lack of proper road communication. The relief was visible on Saturday, as the district came out to celebrate the bridge's inauguration.
Doctor Mahabubur Rahman of Barguna Sadar Hospital said, "It is a historic day for us. Particularly it has brought extra blessing in the field of medical services for the region."
He added, "Now we can easily send any patient to Dhaka in a short time. The bridge will undoubtedly help many patients to save their lives," he said, adding that the bridge will also reduce the tendency to settle in the capital as the distance with Dhaka now decreased.
Meanwhile, the traders of Barishal were overjoyed.
"It is the most special day for all the businessmen of the southern region as the bridge will bring a hundred types of business opportunities for us. We cannot suppress our joys," said Saidur Rahaman, president of Barishal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In the meantime, the completion of the Padma Bridge has led to expedited development activities at Mongla Seaport.
Rear Admiral Mohammad Musa, chairman of Mongla Seaport Authority, said, "Now that the bridge is built, work at Mongla port will multiply. With that in mind, the port has already begun extensive activities."
The port authorities have undertaken the task of formulating a master plan for future activities including channel dredging, developing infrastructures and water treatment plants, procuring essential equipment and vessels, etc.
The Padma Bridge is also expected to bring down the cost of bringing containers to Mongla port, which is currently costlier than Chattogram port.
In Khulna, the inauguration of the Padma Bridge was shown live on the big screen at Khulna District Stadium. The moment was celebrated by flying balloons of different colours with hundreds attending the ceremony.
"When the World Bank, Jica and other institutions broke their agreements and threw allegations of corruption [in the Padma Bridge project], the prime minister announced that the Padma Bridge would be built with our own funds," Khulna City Corporation Mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleq said at a rally.
"Now, we will be connected to the capital," he said.
"Now we can easily send any patient in Dhaka with minimum time. The bridge will undoubtedly help many patients to save their lives"
In Shariatpur, the Padma Bridge has brought hope for economic and educational development.
"People will come from Dhaka in big cars [using the bridge]. I will get more passengers. My income will increase," said rickshaw puller Aminul Islam.
Farzana Akhter, a twelfth grader, said going to Dhaka on the river was a matter of fear and her parents would not have let her go study in the capital even if she got a chance in a good institution.
"Today, after the inauguration of the bridge, I got back the good days of the students on the banks of the Padma," she said as she celebrated the inauguration ceremony.
"It is the most special day for all the businessmen of southern region as the bridge will bring a hundred types of business opportunities for us. We cannot suppress our joys"
Celebratory rallies, meetings, cultural programmes, football matches and fireworks were also organised in other districts including Cox's Bazar, Chapainawabganj and Jashore on the day.