One morning, as vehicles were swishing past him – with great ease, Sharif Uddin was stretching his arms and legs in front of the locked gate of Ramna Park.
He avoids exercising outside as fast-moving cars are risky and can cause accidents.
"I have the habit of exercising inside the park. There is a soothing silence there which helps you to have absolute concentration," said Sharif Uddin, a Dhaka WASA official, who has been coming to Ramna Park for the last 25 years.
On March 27, the government shut down all public places including Ramna Park due to the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
"I do not feel well if I cannot go inside the park. A few days ago, I managed to go inside twice by requesting the security guards. I felt really happy seeing the trees after two months," Sharif said.
Before the shutdown, major open spaces in the city including Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Udyan, Chandrima Udyan and the area near Dhanmondi Lake were always abuzz with people who came there to exercise, or sit with friends for a lively chat, or simply to get some fresh air.
According to sources, at least 5,000 people would come to these parks every day. But all have come to a standstill now.
Sharif Uddin thinks that the government should open parks for at least two to three hours in the morning and in the evening for joggers and other health conscious people.
But the case of jogger Abdur Rahman is very different from that of Sharif. Abdur Rahman has been suffering from diabetes for the last five years.
He would come to Ramna Park to jog and keep his blood sugar level under control. But now he jogs on the roads surrounding the park.
"I cannot make you understand how relaxed I feel after exercising amidst greeneries," said Abdur Rahman who lives in a mess in Paltan.
"As parks are closed in the city, many are jogging on the streets and some are now dependent on medicine to keep diabetes and other diseases under control," said Abdur Rahman.
Anisur Rahman Majumder regularly exercises in Suhrawardy Udyan and Ramna Park.
He said, "During the pandemic, it is especially important for us to exercise regularly, boost our immune system and remain fit. But if parks are closed, it becomes difficult for us to continue with our healthy habits such as jogging and walking."
"I do not feel the same when I exercise anywhere else. Not only for working out, I sometimes visit these places to wander around, look at trees, and enjoy the mesmerising silence," said Anisur Rahman.
Not only for health-conscious visitors, these parks are also important for many families who depend on them for earning their livelihoods.
For the last 15 years, Mohammad Kamal has been sitting at his make-shift testing corner in the Ramna Park area. His clients are mostly diabetic patients.
With the help of his equipment, Kamal tests blood group, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol and uric acid. Closing down the park affected his financial condition.
"How many days was it possible for me to stay at home? So, I decided to start working from yesterday," said Kamal.
"Before the shutdown, I would earn around Tk600 every day from conducting tests," he added.
Kamal was not the only one, there were eight others like him who offered tests on the spot for visitors. But they have not yet reopened their businesses.
Good news for joggers is that the government is planning to reopen parks. Officials said that visitors have to rigorously maintain social distancing rules and other hygiene practices.
Ashraful Alam, chief engineer of Public Works Department which oversees all major parks in the city, told The Business Standard that there is a committee headed by an additional secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works.
The committee has called a meeting on June 8 to make a decision on how to reopen parks in the city and ensure safety for all visitors.
"Following this meeting, all parks which fall under the jurisdiction of this department will be opened soon," said Ashraful Alam.
Yakub Ali Patwary, additional secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, who heads the committee, also confirmed that parks in the city be opened soon.
He said, "We are thinking of opening parks for those who go there to exercise. We will allow people into these places following health guidelines so that social distancing can be maintained."
"But sitting inside the parks for hours and having long conversations will not be allowed", said Yakub Ali.