Imagine a region of the country covered with flowers of all kinds which employs thousands of farmers as well as businesspeople who are dependent on the flower trade worth millions per season.
Now imagine a deadly pandemic that forces people to remain inside their homes and a subsequent economic downturn. Add to that a category five super cyclone called Amphan that disintegrated installations and uprooted trees in the blink of an eye.
What would the mixture of these natural disasters mean? Actually, we do not need to imagine. This is exactly what happened to Godkhali last year.
Situated in Jhikargacha, Jashore, and widely known as the flower capital of Bangladesh, Godkhali was the epicentre of the country's flower trade for years.
Though its journey began in 1982, commercial success as well as the widespread attention it receives today started only two decades ago. More than 600 hectares of land were cultivated by thousands of farmers, each owning or taking lease of a particular piece of land, decorating Godkhali with spectacular fields of roses, chrysanthemums, marigolds, nightshades and gladiolus.
Money worth millions trade began circulating on occasions such as Pohela Falgun, Ekushey February and Valentine's Day with flower orders coming from all corners of the country.
But the Covid-19 pandemic brought Godkhali's success to a grinding halt as people remained incarcerated in their own homes and economic stagnation cut off much of the flower business.
Farmers and traders began to feel the heat as many in Godkhali were involved in flower trade for generations, which made this sudden and rapid downturn a hellish experience.
As early as April and May of 2020, the flower trade dried down to an extremely concerning level when cyclone Amphan hit the fields hard, wiping out entire fields within seconds. Godkhali was suddenly a shattered heap of dead flowers, full of wasted efforts and tears.
Ismile Hossain ran a business called "Shishir Nursery and Rudro Kath Flower Centre" which used to breed chrysanthemum saplings in a specially built poly-house that cost him over Tk21 lakh. Protected from all sides and beautifully modified to provide the plants with adequate supply of water, light and temperature, the poly-house could protect up to 1.5 million young saplings from a 160kmph storm.
Amphan, of course, hit the installation with a speed that exceeded the speed of 240kmph to 260kmph, crushing the young saplings and Ismile's investments, worth Tk60 lakh made over 20 years, vanished into thin air.
Yet, like many in Godkhali, Ismile held on through the pandemic as well as the storm, both physical and metaphorical. The situation still has not still gone back to what it once was, 2021 certainly brought good news as the flower trade is picking up pace again.
As both the young and old Bangladeshi's love for flowers remain firm and demands are restored after the disasters, Ismile is hoping to sell 1.4 million chrysanthemum seedlings this year, twice the number he saw last year.
Similar stories could be heard from another flower trader, Kawser Biswas. He, along with his son, Liton Biswas, has also been hoping to recover from the carnage they faced last year. 60,000 marigold plants in a two-bigha land, resembling a sea of bright gold, certainly give them hope.
At Tk400 per thousand flowers , their business has picked up its pace after a grim period which saw the demand fall by quite a lot - as low as Tk0.15 to TK0.25 per piece in comparison with the current rate of Tk0.40, in the past months.
Mohammad Ibrahim, another cultivator, who has two fields, hopes that the future will bring Godkhali back what misfortune had taken away. Stunning roses of blood red colour have turned his flower beds into what looks like a spectacular red carpet breathing an air of confidence to his wish.
The pandemic and the cyclone brought the prices of roses to Tk0.30 per piece at one stage and at some places, the flowers were left to be devoured by animals or decomposed over time as the number of buyers shrank dramatically.
In early 2021 as people bested the fear of the pandemic, different occasions including Hindu rituals and red letter days began to be observed while at the same time, favourable weather along with easing of Covid-19 restrictions reignited people's love for artistry and decorativeness, making the flowers irresistible to Bangladeshis of all ages.
Soon, demand brought back the flower trade back to speed. Roses now are being sold at Tk2 to Tk5 per piece (hiking up to as much as as Tk12 during Valentine's Day), hinting that the glory days are not yet over for Godkhali.
Though retailers selling flowers around the country sell flowers at much higher rates, very few percentage of it goes to the wholesaler cultivators in Godkhali.
Yet, the sheer volume that the flower cultivators sell makes up for that, which was blocked by disasters last year.
The demands were back in early 2021 and flowers worth lakhs were being sold every day (crores on special occasions). The shining and smiling flower beds spanning across the vast fields may therefore slowly return Godkhali to its glory days.
Of course, better loan distribution mechanisms and government initiatives can hasten Godkhali's return to success with effective measures, which may even help to expand the flower trade to the furthest corners of the country - possibly even beyond our borders.
Well thought-out infrastructure projects funded by specific packages may also contribute in saving the flower-beds and poly-houses from future environmental catastrophes.
Though Godkhali, which once reigned over two-thirds of the flower market of Bangladesh, is steadily recovering, it's not all hunky-dory. Recent spikes in corona infection rate may prove to be an ominous sign for the flower traders as restrictions are getting reintroduced for public safety and the threat of tropical cyclones looms large on the horizon with the advent of summer.
But when all is said and done, the brave and industrious people of Godkhali remain optimistic. As the country braces for a second Covid wave, the flower capital of Bangladesh longs for a better day when flowers can again adorn the country.