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This photo is going viral, but for all the wrong reasons

  • Published at 08:13 pm November 21st, 2017
This photo is going viral, but for all the wrong reasons
The photo of two tea stalls at a railway station found itself trending on Facebook, but for all the wrong reasons. One is named Kulaura Hindu Tea Stall, the other Kulaura Muslim Tea Stall. At first glance, anyone would think this was but another evidence of the deep-rooted religious divide in this country. The Dhaka Tribune endeavoured to get to the root of it and discovered the facts. When one takes into account the recent attack on a Hindu village over the rumour of an allegedly offensive Facebook post, it is understandable that there is conflict simmering underneath the surface. But not here, not in Kulaura Railway Station. Certainly not today. This photograph, true as it is, has been a misnomer. It has been taken out of context and far too many people have been given the wrong impression. The truth of the matter is very, very simple. So simple it would not occur to most people. These two tea stalls were set up back when the British were still ruling us. Dilip Kumar Pal, a congenial 50-year-old man who owns the Kulaura Hindu Tea Stall, appeared flabbergasted when he was asked if religious divide was behind the naming of the two stalls. “Bhai, I have been running this stall since I was young. My father and uncles have run it from the days of the British raj. The stall next door is owned by my friend Nur Mia, whose father opened the stall. Our fathers added the religion to the stall name so people who felt the need for religious purity (shuchibayu) could have tea where they felt comfortable. But that does not mean it is true today. I get customers of all religions – all castes and creed,” Dilip explained patiently. He went on to say: “Nur Mia, he is a good neighbour, a good friend, as good as a brother. He helps me with the lease processing and other paperwork. We have never butted heads. The mere idea of us being intolerant of one another makes me chuckle.” Nur Mia was slightly abashed at the question. He responded with a query of his own: “Is there any problem from the government because of our stall names?” Morshed Ahmed, a local businessman from Kulaura, expressed his surprise at the question of communal strife underlining the naming of the tea stalls. He vigorously denied any such thing could exist here. He said: “I have seen Dilip and Nur Mia work together from all the way back in 1996. They are old friends. Never a single heated word exchanged between the two.”

A misread photo

The station master of Kulaura Railway Station revealed that when the lease for the stalls was requested in the Pakistani era, the Hindu and Muslim Tea Stall names were used. The leases have since been renewed continuously without any changes. Facebook is an incredible phenomenon. It is larger than any state, its reach greater than many mainstream media. It is easy to be swayed by unconfirmed reports on Facebook. This photo was shared with the caption: “Shamprodayikota amader rokte” [communalism is in our blood]. Several people commented, saying they had had tea at both stalls and that the Hindu tea stall served comparatively better tea. The photo had some people point out how Hindus and Muslims co-exists side-by-side in the form of these tea stalls. Others, were more inclined to note that there have been many divisions in the country based on religion. Regardless of every other extraneous factor, the bottom-line is simple – these tea-stalls have been doling out tea and snacks for over 70 years. We come across all sorts of intriguing tidbits on Facebook every day. Some are enlightening, some misleading. A little effort to uncover the truth goes a long way.