In the 1930s, Manik Bandopadhyay wrote "Padma Nadir Majhi," his seminal novel, for a magazine. Decades later, the novel was included in Bangladeshi textbooks - making every high schooler read their first ever Manik Bandopadhyay (for most, the only one).
Nearly a century after the book was published, I am going back to the river. A behemoth concrete structure has been built on it. I have scheduled an interview with the Padma bridge this noon.
Interview with a bridge? You must think I am delusional. Well, most of us are in this country these days.
"Hello, I am a journalist, can we talk?" I asked the majestic bridge.
She chuckled. Probably because of my professional background.
"What's wrong with being a journalist, Ms. Padma Bridge?"
"Oh, it's nothing. One of your colleagues from a TV channel has been acting like a paparazzi for the last couple of months. I hope you are not like him," she smiled.
Apparently, a news channel became a running joke for its repeated livestream about the Padma Bridge. Now that all 41 spans have been erected, they have allegedly run out of news.
You must be savouring all the attention! People seem to love you like a rockstar, I said.
She tried hard not to show excitement. But after all, she is a $3.6 billion bridge – worth twice the box office collection of Avengers: Endgame. In a bubbly but modest tone, she told me about her feelings.
"I am really happy to be where I am now. The economists say I am going to boost GDP growth by 1.2%. That is flattering," she said. "I am honoured to help this country reshape its economy. All thanks to our honourable Prime Minister!"
Do you think there is a darker side to your fame? How do you handle your haters? I asked her.
Padma Bridge talked like someone older than her age. Very mature and measured in her opinions. Maybe that is because she is a late bloomer. There was a seven-year delay to complete her initial structure.
"Honestly, I am just a new kid bridge on the block and I have respect for every other bridge of the country. But sometimes, the internet gets a little too unforgiving," she said.
"This one time, an old, rusty bridge unfollowed me on Instagram because I was accused of demanding human heads as sacrifice," she added. "Even international bridges act like hunky high school quarterbacks sometimes."
I am the 122nd longest bridge in the world. Besides, the under construction "Ganga bridge" in Bihar, India, is set to overtake my position in the future. He is a bigger bridge, I get it. But that does not allow him to make memes about me on the internet," Padma bridge seemed a little annoyed.
"It's not just about how big you are. It's about how well you serve your country. I am committed to do my job well, not to wage virtual wars," she said.
At this point, I asked her about the reason for her S-shaped structure.
"Highway drivers can get drowsy over a long drive. If I were a straight bridge, chances are there would be more accidents on the road," she explained.
As I hinted at wrapping up the interview, Padma bridge asked me a favour. "Could you write about my wish?" she said.
"I want to be featured in action movies. Ever see those high stakes action sequences on a bridge? Mission Impossible 3? Fast Five? True Lies? It would be a dream come true. See that if you can write about it in the paper," Padma bridge conveyed.
I wanted to assure her. But instead, I woke up.