I was stuck in Gulistan traffic and worried about catching the launch for Mehendiganj on time. My tour-mate Dr Lokman was constantly calling me on my phone to ask about my location.
I decided to get off the rickshaw, and reached the Sadarghat Launch Terminal on foot. I somehow managed to get on the launch just as it was about to set sail, its blaring horn could be heard from miles away.
Dr Lokman and I started laughing in relief. Our journey to Mehendiganj finally began!
Dr Lokman often takes this route and visits the island, which is an Upazila in the Barishal district, to see patients. I was planning to tag along for a long time, and could finally manage some time for the trip.
We also met another doctor on the launch who was going to see patients in Hatia. Three of us had a good chat until we reached the Mehendiganj Ghat at midnight.
Our acquaintances were waiting for us on bikes at the ghat. The vehicles were rushing on the zigzag rural roads. The smell of 'chhatim' trees (a kind of tropical tree) lightened up our mood.
I was so close to nature, away from the concrete jungle after many days. It brought serenity to my mind.
We reached the bungalow where we were going to spend the night. Our plan was to go on exploring nature the next day.
The trip, as beautiful as it was, was also exhausting. We went straight to bed, did not even bother to properly freshen up!
We woke up early in the morning and then started walking from the bungalow and came to the end of the road by the river.
There was a ghat which served as the stoppage for launches and steamers from Barishal or Moju Chowdhury Haat.
I decided to go to Patar Haat by rickshaw. From this haat, autos go to different parts of the island.
Being a food enthusiast, as soon as I reached the haat, I kept looking for local famous sweet stores.
I took an auto-rickshaw to travel to the other side of the island, Ulania. The word is derived from Ulubon (a type of grassland).
This area is famous for Shaista Khan's general Sheikh Muhammad Hanif who settled here after completing his mission to defeat the pirates.
There are ruins of many buildings and establishments built by Sheikh Hanif and his heirs which have historical significance.
The beautiful Ulania Mosque made in 1861 is one such historical site. Its adjoining pond and ghat increased the beauty of the mosque.
It was Friday when I visited it and saw locals bathing in the pond.
There is an old Zamindar house next to the mosque which is also an abandoned ruin.
I came to the riverbank from the mosque by walking. The mighty Meghna astonished me. Heavy waves were crashing on the banks, just like ocean waves.
I had never seen waves this big and river water this blue. I saw a few big fishing trawlers too. I spent a lot of time at the bank.
After saying my Jummah prayers, I came to Patar Ghat where I ate my lunch and returned to the bangalow to rest.
In the afternoon, I headed to Char Bouduba. I got to know about this place with a strange name from Dr Lokman. Swamps, lakes, and tributaries have made the area beautiful.
The natural beauty of Char Bouduba made it look like an artist's painting. I spent a tranquil evening under a tree on the side of the road.
The next day, my destination was Charmonai and Barishal. Dr Lokman left for Dhaka and I decided to spend some quiet time all by myself. I freshened up, sat at the tea stall by the river, and engaged in conversation with locals.
The trip to Mehendiganj was a memorable one.
Ilsha, Lata, Maskata, Kalabodor and the mighty Meghna River have surrounded Mehendiganj. Located 40 kilometres away from Barishal, this Upazila is also historically enriched.
In the early 1500s, this was a territory of the Portugese, Arakani, and British pirates.
Mughal generals, Shahabaz Khan, Aga Khan, and others attacked the pirates to keep the locals safe. They had bunkers in the Bhola-Mehendiganj area.
The Mughal rulers had sent Sheikh Muhammad Hanif, a commander, to repel the pirates. The area then began to develop and Sheikh Hanif eventually settled in Ulania.
Although most of the historical ruins are lost to river erosion, this riverine area is truly exquisite.
The Ulania Zamindar House and the Ulania Mosque are two of the most visited spots in Mehendiganj.