Pappa was a manager in the Adamjee Jute Mills #3. The mills’ first looms started spinning in 1952 and, soon afterward, my father joined the workforce. In those days, jute, along with cotton, was the world’s most widely usedplant fiber and, perhaps, the cheapest. It was called the ‘golden fiber’ and before the advent of polypropylene, it was used extensively for making bags, sacks, wrapping material, coarse cloth, curtains, area rugs, ropes, and other common household and industrial items.
The Adamjee Jute Mills was the largest jute mill in the world; surpassing even those at Dundee and Calcutta. It was the pride of Pakistan’s industrial development program and a must-see show-piece for all foreign dignitaries visiting East Pakistan. Pappa used to tell us of the time when Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh visited the mills.
I recently came to know Sayeed Ul Islam through Facebook. He too grew up in Adamjee nagar and like me, he was 8-9 years old when the 1971 war happened. His family too went through terrible times. But…. he was a Bengali; I…. a Bihari. We lived in a our own separate worlds. But when war happens everyone suffers. And that is our bond.
After the 1971 war, my family became refugees while Sayeed and his family moved into the JO quarters vacated by the escaping Biharis. One day, 9 year old Sayeed was playing with his friends when he unintentionally came across a pile of old photos behind the Central Office. These were literally thrown out of the building by angry Bengalis trying to erase the painful memories of the sixties and seventies. These pictures were useless and a sore to those people who threw them out. But Sayeed unknowingly picked them up and kept them with him all these years. Now he is sharing these amazing never before seen photographs with me for the first time.
Today the old mill, once the largest in the world, exists no longer. It was closed in 2003 as Jute started to loose its value with the advent of plastic products. Alas! The natural fiber “the Gold fabric” exists no more but the memories of Adamjee Jute Mills lives on in the memories of those who were touched by this era.The area of the Mills and even our old home was demolished a few years ago and replaced by The Adamjee Export Processing Zone.