It's not easy to navigate a car in the Nur Baksh Lane in Old Dhaka but you can always walk to the Zamindar house standing tall at the end of the alley. AM Emran, the descendant of Maulvi Abul Khairat Muhammad, a third generation zamindar of Dhaka and Sonargaon, will greet you with a warm handshake and take you inside his heritage home.
"When I was a kid, peacocks and deer used to roam here," Emran said, pointing to the six bigha premises of his ancestral property, which has now been shared between the other heirs. Emran started the heritage home in 2018 in his part of the house.
Emran, a retired aviation professional, took us to his living room - perhaps the cornerstone of his heritage home. As soon as we sat on the well cushioned couch, he said, "This couch has seen six generations of my family. So, you're sitting on a 200-year-old couch, give or take."
Going by Emran's words, this room is essentially a museum. Everything inside this room once belonged to Emran's ancestors, sans the ceiling fan.
The high ceiling of this house will put most commercial apartments to shame. The airy room is complemented by two Turkish chandeliers along with a century-old relic of the family.
The walls are adorned with vintage photographs of Emran's family tree. Utensils of different size and shape are displayed atop a wooden chest.
A rusty sword is mounted on the wall of Emran's living room. Whose sword was that? "My father's," Emran said as his eyes dilated with nostalgia. Emran promised his father that he would preserve the family home come what may.
When his father passed away, Emran started hosting guests at his home. "Hospitality is like our second nature. It's a long running family tradition to treat our guests with utmost respect," Emran said.
A veranda can be accessed from the living room through two doors - both decorated with vibrantly coloured stained glasses. As one leans against the veranda wall, the garden will be in sight. The greenery adds a refreshing spin to the heritage house premise. Emran would be happy to offer you a cup of tea as you contemplate what happened inside this house over the span of two centuries.
Emran had to build new rooms beside the older ones so that he can accommodate his family of five. Nevertheless, he has made an ironclad pledge that until his last breath, he will not demolish or rebuild this heritage house. The temptation for a high-rise apartment building on his land never entered his mind's radar.
As Emran served us homemade lunch, he also shared bits about the "telescope" shaped dining table. Many historical figures had sat around the table in the past. "Jukta front leaders used to sit here to have their meetings," Emran says as he showed us how the table can be detached in parts, if required.
Do you serve your guests in old kitchenware that you inherited from your family, we asked. "Since those are fragile and must be kept in good shape, I don't think it would be a good idea to serve the guests on those plates," says Emran. However, he made an exception when a foreign diplomat once requested him to let him dine on an antique plate.
Emran continued with the tour on the rooftop of his house amidst the tree planters and the smell of simpler times. A few minutes on the rooftop will once again kickstart a montage of the bygone era inside your mind.
The hideous multi-storied buildings stand in silence as this old timer heritage house basks in prestige and glory.
We asked Emran how can other heritage house owners preserve their homes, just like he did with his. He is rather sentimental regarding this issue. "I tried to save my family's legacy because I made a promise to my father. I expect my children to do the same for me. This is the best way to keep the family history alive," Emran said.
"Other heritage house owners should form an alliance and seek help from the government. There is always a way," he told us.
A reservation for lunch or dinner can be booked at Emran's heritage home through his Facebook page. The best part about visiting this heritage home is that once you walk in, Emran will tell you every bit and piece about his family history.
Taimur Islam, founder and chief executive of Urban Study Group, said, "The heritage homes across the city are in dire need of preservation. AM Emran is very sincere when it comes to upholding heritage. He has set an example for others."
Talking about the architecture of the heritage house, Taimur said Armenian neo-classical style has been incorporated in the design.