It should not be interpreted as a déjà vu if one says Dhaka at the moment has many hanging gardens almost like the ones that existed in ancient Babylon. Those who have seen that ancient wonder, one of the total seven, may not feel that awe-struck, since gardens high above the ground are now normal spectacles in the city. Instead of being at the top of a rocky mountain, these gardens adorn the city's skyline from their locations atop high-rise buildings. Some are also located on the roofs of lower-height structures.
Small flower gardens in front of dwelling houses not long ago were a common sight in Dhaka. In the good old days, nature used to generate a considerable amount of aesthetic passion of the city's residents. Thanks to this psychological refinement, the fondness for gardens and the objects of natural beauty used to be nurtured by the average city-dwellers. As part of this refinement, even the ordinary masses could not think of spoiling the beauty of parks or harming street-side trees. Encroaching on public gardens was widely viewed as a crime. As time wore on, occupying the sites linked to the enhancement of natural beauty became the norm. The nasty competition of gobbling up parks and setting up money-minting infrastructure there continued unabated. What followed was a barren and dreary look that characterised Dhaka. The city finally became one with a handful of parks.
In the 1950s, when Dhaka was the provincial capital of the erstwhile East Pakistan, flower gardens were part of its beauty. In those days, both the concrete and semi-concrete residences would be planned keeping the provision of a garden in front of houses. The relatively affluent people would appoint 'Malis', or gardeners, to supervise the upkeep of the flower plants and trees, the bushes and the manicured lawn. In cases, the gardening job was carried out by the male members of a family. The retired and elderly people were found lovingly engaged in the task. As Dhaka began emerging as a big city, especially after independence, these venues of passing leisure-time faced difficulty being in their earlier importance. The acute need for space for construction and the priority of mundane demands over aesthetic pleasure detracted from the necessity gardens used to generate among the city-dwellers. Domestic gardens thus fell on hard times. Literally, they started vanishing from most of the city's home-fronts.
Except at the entry of large corporate buildings and upscale apartment complexes, gardens are fast becoming rare sights in Dhaka. But can this city afford to remain in its traditional look without gardens? Probably not. Maybe, to prove this truth intrepid apartment owners have taken to the trend of setting up gardens on roof-tops. These artificial gardens have never been that extraordinary to Dhaka. With the multi-storey apartment buildings fast coming up in the city, roof-top gardens began peeping through the jungles of concrete. In about two decades, many joined the race to set up the so-called hanging gardens in different parts of the city. Of late, the number of these gardens is said to have shot to nearly a hundred. These gardens on top of high-rise buildings in fact offer the view of virtual oases in the tedious spectacle of haphazardly built tall concrete structures. Few scenarios can be more soothing to our eyes.
Given the rise in the popularity of roof-gardens, the trend appears to be on way to taking firm root. Squeezing of landed plots with the increase in demand for housing complexes coupled with a dramatic rise in its population might earn for Dhaka a new sobriquet: the city of roof-top gardens. Although it is not a great novelty in many parts of the world, the glimpses of gardens atop dreary high-rise buildings make up a pleasant view. The hanging gardens of Dhaka might be called sights of wonder created by default.