Once a popular place for intellectual gatherings of Bengali authors, poets, cultural activists and politicians, Old Dhaka's Beauty Boarding is still reeling from pandemic pains.
After having remained closed for more than three months from March to June in 2020, the well-known hotel and restaurant reopened on 7 July, but a few connoisseurs of food opt to walk in there.
Samar Saha, the boarding director, told The Business Standard that their business is in a dire straits.
"Poets and writers rarely gather at the venue. On the other hand, schools, colleges and universities are closed due to which students rarely turn up. I wonder how we will survive amid the ongoing crisis."
"I have borrowed a Tk3.5 lakh loan from a bank and also more than Tk50,000 from friends to prime the pump, but to no avail."
"Some six to seven workers have already been furloughed while the rest are being paid half their salaries," Samar narrated his crisis.
The businessman said before Covid-19, some 100 people used to visit the boarding per day which has come down to 15-20 now, and sometimes, the number drops to only 10.
"Many are in the know that our business is in decline, but nobody steps in to provide us with any help."
In his reaction, a Jahangirnagar University student Tahmid Rahman, who came to the boarding for lunch with his friend, said the two-storey yellow house on Sreesanth Lane in Old Dhaka is not just a residential hotel.
"The yellow structure bears the testimony to the history of art, literature, culture and politics of this country."
The boarding is historically connected to poet Shamsur Rahman whose first published poem was penned here.
Beauty Boarding has 22 rooms – big and small. The rent for a big room is Tk1,200 while that for a single room goes around Tk200 to Tk300.
Samar Saha told TBS their occupancy rate is very low now despite the low cost of food and accommodation.
"Of the 22 rooms, 10 are useless. Although this place has historical significance, for some reasons, we have none by our side to provide help during this crisis."
Many poets and authors say due to the pandemic and many other reasons, this place has lost its grandeur.
While discussing Beauty Boarding with poet Pias Majid, a mixed statement came out about the historical place.
Pias told TBS that there are "differences" between their income and expenditure estimates.
Many say the boarding authorities charge high prices in the name of its cultural heritage.
Another reason for their declining visitors, the poet said, is their manner.
"Their business condition was good when his brother Tarok Saha was in charge of it because his behaviour was very good."
Many visitors complain that they are nowadays less hospitable when it comes to providing services to the customers, added the poet.
The Beauty Boarding gained fame in Old Dhaka in the forties when many famous people, including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, poet Shamsur Rahman, Syed Shamsul Haque used to go there. Pallikabi Jasim Uddin and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose also showed up there.
Renowned filmmaker Abdul Jabbar Khan wrote the manuscript of Bangla first film "Mukh O Mukhosh" sitting down here while famous magician Jewel Aich began his career in this boarding and Composer Samar Das composed many songs.