Ten years ago, the youths of Rajbari town – adorning sarees and punjabis – would hire rickshaws on Eid afternoons and ply across the main road from the Boropool area to Sreepur bus terminal, back and forth the same road. The bikers would whistle, shout and throw witty remarks at the rickshaws carrying the young women. The three-kilometre road would remain gridlocked by the rickshaws.
That roughly sums up what Eid afternoon fun was for young people in this town.
But this started to change five years ago. The trend then shifted to visiting the bank of the Padma River, roughly two kilometres away from Rajbari Bazar, where a sort of mini park had been founded. But the Padma engulfed the park soon.
Prior to that, once upon a time, the crowd rush on weekends, Eid and other occasions were centred around the Shishu Park area located inside the town.
However, in the last three years, these crowds have flown far out from the town, into remote, lush, green fields in different villages. Colourful restaurants developed beside village roads to sell fast food. The resort-style facilities, with their colourful seating arrangements and wide-open greeneries, are attracting the townsfolk.
One such facility called Café Baharpur and Food Valley is in a locality known as Abashon at Bohorpur Union, Baliakandi upazila. Nearly 20 kilometres away from Rajbari town, to reach the 'restaurant,' after crossing Bohorpur Bazar, you will have to go several kilometres deep down the sleek street in between the vast cropland currently producing jute.
After Café Baharpur emerged in Abashon on nearly 33 decimals of land, several other facilities soon popped up. Now there are nearly a dozen small restaurants beside Café Baharpur.
"In our childhood, Eid was about travelling to relatives' homes. We still visit relatives. But not on Eid afternoon. We hang out with friends and family in the afternoon. These new facilities have offered us a chance to spend time together," said Tuhin who went to Abashon from Rajbari town with his wife and kids.
On a good vacation day, several hundred people could be spotted crowding the open street and restaurants in the surrounding area. They eat, gossip and have fun close to nature in Abashon.
Sumon, the manager of Café Baharpur, founded this restaurant with 10 other investors three years ago.
"We took the land on lease. We spent roughly Tk18 lakh to develop this restaurant here," said Sumon, adding, "After we built the restaurant, several others followed us and built small restaurants in the vicinity."
Less than a kilometre from Abashon, there is another popular leisure location in Barekgram village. Located on the edge of the village beside the temple, the vast water body is the main attraction for the people. You can go from Abashon to Barekgram by boat. But people mostly visit Barekgram separately from Rajbari.
There are restaurants in Barekgram as well where you will find all the modern foods.
"I often come here and dive in the beel, swim, eat and ride my bike back home refreshed," said Manjur, a young man from Rajbari.
"On different occasions, I come here with my friends. Although it is a faraway location, I like this the most because it is comparatively quieter on weekends whereas most other facilities are often overcrowded," he said.
Café Baharpur's Sumon, however, would disagree on the matter of "overcrowding" as this year, Abashon saw fewer people due to the rain on Eid holidays.
"After a good first year of business, people's craze with our facilities also went down. If we don't get the crowd back, our revenues will drop," he added.
On the Padma River bank at Urakanda in Rajbari Sadar, there is another popular facility called, Golpogriho Resort, which local people adoringly call 'UK beach.' Among the key features of this facility are the mesmerising views of the river along with half a dozen food stalls, a boat swing, a beach-like sitting facility, etc.
Despite pouring rain, the crowd did not disappoint the business here as the park is less than seven kilometres from the town.
People en masse were spotted for post-Eid celebrations on the UK beach, enjoying the river views, eating in restaurants, or having kulfi and papar from outdoor vendors, and children enjoying the boat swing.
"We had many people during this Eid," said a coffee seller at the facility. "The days that followed Eid also saw increasing crowds."
Tajkiya Café and Fastfood are located five kilometres away from the town in the Mohisbathan area of the Sadar upazila. Its proprietor Babu used to have a hardware outlet in Banibaha Bazar. The business was good but he saw an opportunity within his village by the street.
During hot summers, townspeople, including couples, flock here for a sweet gentle breeze by the host of mustard flowers.
So he capitalised on this crowd to build this roadside restaurant and a mini park and sold his store in Banibaha Bazar.
The street is shouldered by skyrocketing trees shadowing the area on a sunny day, whereas the crop field all around adorns itself in various colours of mustards, rice and other crops during different seasons.
From group parties to dates, Babu has regular customers. On occasion, accommodating so many customers becomes a challenge. "I have land nearby. I plan to adorn the areas with more facilities to attract more crowds in the future," Babu said.
Ruhul Amin travelled to the 'UK beach' a few days after Eid with his wife, and extended family members.
"This facility nearby Padma is a refreshing experience," he said. "We barely had a couple of town-centric facilities back in the day. But now these facilities in Urakanda, Abashon, Kalukhali and other areas offer us an opportunity to spend our leisure time in a rural setting close to our homes."