Waking up to the chirping of birds, the sight of a full-bloomed flower in the garden, or a field that meets the horizon; these things are almost illusory for the people living in a metro like Dhaka. Here, in the city, before you could really enjoy and appreciate the landscape of the city your vision is blocked by high-rise buildings, and the chirping of birds is replaced by the noise of vehicular traffic. Yet, this mechanical city is our only place to seek refuge, oftentimes in the form of a multi-story building. And in this refuge, there is a place called the ‘balcony’ where all our fancy desires such as gardening, placing a swing, and so on become a reality. It also stands witness to many of our life’s events and experiences ranging from the happiest to the worst times of our lives.
That being said, let’s combine those experiences and explore the role of a balcony in our day-to-day life.
Balcony and urban life
Everyone needs a little bit of ‘me time’ to recharge from the daily exhaustion of a mechanical life. And sometimes solitude becomes very important even when you are living happily with your loved ones. But where does one go to spend some alone time for themselves? Neither do we have a vast space nor do we have a yard in front of our house (like most of us do in our village homes). The harsh reality is, there is not enough space for everyone to spend some ‘me time’. Even though some people may have access to their rooftop, many others are not that lucky. A balcony is all they have and the importance of a balcony quickly becomes apparent when you take these things into account.
Apart from that, the role of a balcony in urban life is really important for multiple reasons. From watching your father read the newspaper in the sweet morning sun to the couple showing their affection for each other, the balcony stands witness to many sentimental moments. However, the unavailability of enough space also leads people to use the balcony for various purposes including drying clothes, pickles, and so on. After a long hectic day, the balcony becomes the relaxing area of your home. And bookworms who don’t have a dedicated space for reading books in their home can also find solace in their balconies.
Balcony and Childhood
Kids who were born and raised in a metro like Dhaka have been acquainted with balconies from the very beginning. Newborns are brought to the balcony to bask in the morning sun. When they grow a little older, the balcony transforms into their playground. Gradually they begin learning things, their very first lesson of how the world works, from here. Since most kids are not permitted to go outside the house (or even to the rooftop in some cases), the balcony becomes the only place to enjoy the sight of the open sky.
The impact of the balcony in our childhood extends even further. From experiencing soft raindrops for the first time, or planting your first tree in the pot to become overjoyed by spotting a sparrow at the corner of the balcony, there is no denying the fact that the balcony played a huge role while growing up.
Balcony in the night
When night falls, the balcony transforms into a place of versatile interest to different categories of people. For those who just fell in love for the first time, at midnight, the balcony becomes the place to talk to their special one. The people who just left their hometowns and moved to Dhaka, find a sense of relief while standing in the balcony at night. For some, the balcony becomes a place to contemplate about the past and the future.
Sometimes the balcony also witnesses unexpected incidents, violence, and aggression. Sometimes, a long-held grief or anger also finds its release on the balcony in the form of tears at night. Like these, every balcony of this city becomes an open stage at night, where all the unseen stories of urban life are staged!
Balcony and family diversity
For most of us, a family is all we have and need to survive through the thick and thin of our lives. We realized this sentiment deeply during the recent lockdown. When there is no one to chat with, nowhere to go, nothing to do, you still have your family for those things. And in that endeavor, balconies can spread a little color in our monotonous lives.
The stories of the father-son friendship also start from this very place. Every son knows the best time to convince their father to grant them the strangest of wishes is during the time of relaxation in the balcony. Whereas for moms, the balcony caters to their hobbies and desires such as growing plants or making a garden. On the weekends, the balcony becomes a place to celebrate family events or play games like ludo. This small place also can unite the whole family just having afternoon tea.
Whether the balcony is big, medium, or compact, it is a place to experience innumerable joyous moments. From the 90s to the present, the importance of a balcony has been very important. Although the size of the balconies is much smaller now than in the old days, it remains one of the only few gateways for relaxation in the entire city.