"One rose is enough for the dawn," Edmond Jabes, a French poet said in the last century. Not one, you will see millions of roses smiling everywhere at 'Golap Graam', a cluster of villages collectively named as such for here people are dedicated to growing roses. Golap Graam translates to 'rose village'.
Everywhere – in the fields, in front of the houses and on the sides of the roads – one will notice rose gardens. Land – once used to produce vegetables – is now blazing with beautiful flowers that mostly come in red.
This is a regular sight at Shyampur while the villages next-door such as Sadullapur, Mostapara, Bagnibari and Kumarkhoda under Birulia Union, Savar, on the capital's outskirts, also offers several such visually enchanting enclaves. These are the villages that now serve as the hothouse of rose plantation.
Visitors throng the area throughout the year. Golap Graam normally receives some 500 visitors daily. However, the number goes up on holidays and during special occasions. Lake Island – a place in Shyampur – attracts most visitors as growers only grow roses here.
Birth of 'Golap Graam'
Abdul Khaleque and Abu Musa, two men from Dhaka, first started to cultivate rose commercially at Oyalia near Sadullapur village in 1991. Golam Rosul, who was born in the area, studied the success of the duo closely. He was heavily inspired and started to cultivate roses at Shyampur in 1994.
Others from his own village and adjacent villages followed in the footsteps of Rosul. Almost all of the 35,000 inhabitants in Golap Graam villages are in some way or other related to rose cultivation at present.
According to Mukashefa, agriculture extension officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, farmers cultivate flowers in 300 hectares of land in Savar upazila. Of them, rose is cultivated in 210 hectares of land. The other flowers include Gladiolus, Gerbera, Dalia, Cosmos and Gada.
In Golap Graam, almost every family has a rose garden. The majority of the people have taken up gardening as their main profession, though some have other businesses too. Those who do not have enough land take land on lease for rose cultivation.
Golam Rosul has rose gardens on a six bigha land which he leased from others to cultivate rose. He has to renew the contract every five years. Last year he paid some Tk4 lakh to secure the land for the next five years. People have to pay Tk12,000 to take lease of 1 bigha land, the measurement locally known as paki, for a year.
Cultivators can collect roses from a tree for 20-30 years. However, the production drops as trees get older. Farmers in Golap Graam cultivate red (Miranda) roses mainly. A farmer earns Tk8-10 thousand from a garden on one bigha land every month.
Golam Rosul's rose garden is 25 years old. As his production fell, he developed new saplings from the old ones. He now plucks more than 3,000 roses daily.
Excitement at sunset
Carrying baskets of roses on their heads, cultivators go to flower markets every evening. Waking up from a slumber, the markets are filled with roses, farmers and traders within an hour.
Seven years ago, farmers set up rose markets at Shyampur Bazar and Mostapara Polanbari Bazar. In the past, cultivators used to go to Shahbagh, Savar and Agargaon to sell roses.
Cultivators sell 300 roses for between Tk450 and Tk600, during regular periods, between Tk1.5 and Tk 2 for a single stick. However, the price sometimes spirals up to Tk10 for a single stick on special occasions such as Pahela Boishakh, Pohela Falgun and Valentine's Day.
Sometimes farmers have to sell roses at prices lower than regular market rates. On an average six lakh roses are sold in rose markets every day.
Traders at both markets complete their transactions by 10pm. They then take the flowers to Shahbag, Agargaon in Dhaka and sell those to retail shops at dawn.
The success of Golap Graam is rubbing off on nearby villages. Farmers collect rose plants from there and cultivate rose in their own villages.
Toiling away for beauty
Durjoy Shoury, a Dhaka University student, went to Golap Graam with his friends to celebrate his 24th birthday.
"When I see visitors at my flower garden, I feel great and forget all the pain of the hard work," said Md Wahed, a 35-year-old rose cultivator. He said December was the best time to visit Golap Graam.
In summer, roses bloom and fall off quickly. However, farmers can preserve the flowers for longer periods on plants during winter. So rose cultivators consider winter their main season.
Cultivators must provide intense care to their gardens including watering plants, clearing weeds and using pesticides.
Farmers have to collect roses daily – no matter whether it is too hot or too cold. Otherwise, bloomed roses begin to rot soon and by the next day they simply wither.
"Rose is not only the symbol of love or romance to us. Each time we remember roses, we feel the hard work and duty towards our families," said Golam Rosul.
Rose cultivation is a family affair – family members work together to ensure best results. Sometimes families take in paid labourers also.
"As we have no son, I have to help my husband in gardening," said Somena Begum, Rosul's wife. Sometimes they take turn – Rosul manages the household chores and his wife cares for the garden.
There is no flower to sell during the months of September and October. During this time, farmers cut the branches of rose trees and use composts to speed up growth. Then they have to wait some 45 days for the roses to bloom.
Rose cultivation probably began in China at first some 5,000 years ago. Roses have a very long and interesting history and served many purposes, including religious and political ones. Roses inspired poets and saints and have been valued for their healing properties. The first trace of rose has been found in a fossil at Colorado's Florissant Fossil Beds dating back to 40 million years, according to a website.