What does one do in Dhaka city when one needs to print ID cards, thank you cards, business cards, and the like?
Why, one goes to Nilkhet, of course!
Nilkhet is where you go for used and photocopied books. Seeing how it’s where you find photocopied books, it’s also where you find good copying/printing technology, which is why you go there if you need something printed.
Tiny, winding corridors, just wide enough for one person, book shops on either side. Ceilings you can touch. The boys perched on stacks of books in their stalls shout at you cheerfully, convincingly, as you walk by. “What do you need, what do you need?” They give you a rapid list of everything they have. “Textbooks, story books, guide books, English books, Bangla books, children’s books, Dan Brown.”
Tables of books line the sidewalks, interspersed with tables of other things you might need while shopping for books. Today, I saw: bananas, sandals, belts, mangoes, pickles, wallets (including, I might add, a bougy-looking leather wallet with Che Guevara’s face embossed on it. The irony!)
Copy and printing stores are a dime a dozen. Like all other shops, they’re cramped and narrow, with not much space to stand around, but you’ve been invited in, so oh well. They’ll each have a computer, a printer or two, an impressive looking copy machine, and a couple large banners with pictures of pretty girls and lists of all their services.
We choose “A to Z Computer and Photography.” We give the guy a pen drive with our stuff on it, and he pulls everything up and starts moving things around in photoshop with a remarkable dexterity. We feel various paper options, inspect the colours, and consult with a man sitting in the store who didn’t seem to have any role in the running of the store except to provide us his thoughts on how the pink of the logo on the back of the thank you card wasn’t quite pink enough.
Cards a-printing, we explored the books. It’s a whole new take on used bookstores. I can’t even begin to imagine what gems you would find if you had the time to look properly. (Steven, Becca, one day! One day!) There’s no real order to how the books are arranged, so you kind of just have to dive in. As it is, we did quite well in the hour or so we had, even bumping into and chit-chatting with a physics professor we know. But I’m definitely going to have to go back. Textbooks, the textbooks! Nilkhet is the center of academic material of Dhaka city. It’s the sort of place that makes you want to be an undergrad forever, so you can just keep learning all those obscure things that you wouldn’t learn any other time in your life.
Cards a-printed, I perched on a bench to rest my legs and listen while Hammad explained to the shopkeepers the work that KPR does. It’s hard to tell if they fully appreciated it, but that’s okay. You never really know. We’ll leave them some flyers when we come back. We then discussed plans for the future for the printing of KPR cards of various types. You’d be surprised how long that discussion can go on. After they explained that they had given us five extra thank you cards for free, we gave them the very first thank you card. They seemed confused and a bit alarmed that we would do this, as may be evident by the shopkeeper’s facial expression. (Note the pieces of paper on the floor? All our cards were hand-cut.)
Inspired by a book-filled evening, we then talked about literature and our book-writing aspirations all the way home. A winning day!