As we approached the century-old house of Sukanta Banik in Rathkhola, Dhamrai, which is about 40 kilometres from Dhaka, we were welcomed by the front yard of the house.
The yard was laid with a sheet of green grass and the magnificent two-storey Indo-European building stood on its edge.
While we stood on the yard admiring the ivory-cream facade, the intricate terracotta railings on the verandah, the red dome at the centre of the balcony and the bottle green coloured wooden windows and doors, we saw a woman standing at one of the doors downstairs. It was Rani Banik, mother of Sukanta Banik, who greeted us.
Both mother and son maintain the family's 200-year-old bronze and brass business. The signboard on the entrance says, 'Sukanta Banik's Dhamrai Metal Crafts – Workshop and Showroom'.
The iron signboard is surrounded by deep fuchsia bougainvillaea planted at the foot of the gate.
As we were talking to his mother, Sukanta came out. "My grandfather's grandfather built this business 200 years ago and this building itself is 120 years old," he said with a hint of pride in his voice.
He said for five generations, his family has been running the business in this house and for the last 30 years, he has been looking after the business.
Like many houses in the vicinity, this huge building was built by his ancestors with the money from the bronze and brass business. According to Sukanta, it was built at the beginning of the 20th century (Bangla year 1307).
Saratchandra Banik, father of Sukanta's grandfather, started building this house and his sons completed the work. At that time, all the members of the family lived together in this house.
Sukanta said, "They brought skilled craftsmen from West Bengal to build the house," adding, "they even built a separate brick kiln at that time to provide bricks for the house."
The house was extensively damaged during the Liberation War of 1971. Sukanta was born in 1973.
He heard from his father that all his family members went to India and stayed there for seven or eight months as refugees. They lost almost everything during that time. Later, his father and an uncle brought the business on track.
Sukanta, who grew up hearing the metallic sound of bronze and brass in his father's workshop, had a dream to elevate the business of his ancestors to the status of world heritage.
In 2017 or 2018, he renovated the building and named it after his grandfather Sarva Mohan Banik and his lost son Souhardow.
Recently, Sukanta posted a photograph of the house on Facebook that went viral. It was after this we went to see him and he was kind enough to give us a tour of the house and also share with us the story of his dreams and his achievements.
The 120-year-old two-storey house has 27 rooms. The ground floor has five rooms - a showroom, a worship room, a gymnasium and the craftsmen's quarters.
The members of the Banik family live upstairs in the other 22 rooms. These are surrounded by an open verandah with terracotta designs on the railings.
Buyers from home and abroad come to the showroom to buy the beautiful products. Although there is a Facebook page for the showroom, Sukanya does not send products via courier as the intricate designs of the products could be damaged on the way.
The kachari ghar or the outer room of the house is full of bronze and brass utensils. A few paintings, including a portrait of Sukanta, were hanging on the wall. The portrait was painted by his wife Manasi and the others were pictures of his predecessors.
Bronze statues were kept in the other rooms, including finely crafted statues of elephants, horses, owls, Buddha, Radha-Krishna, Vishnu, Nataraja and many more.
There were also brass chess sets, plates, bowls and many other fascinating things, including 100 year old coins in a basket.
Some of the larger statues carried a 'not for sale' notice as they will not be reproduced. Sukanta said that these special statues will be kept in his personal collection.
He collected some of them from across the country while the rest were made by his craftsmen.
Beeswax, paraffin and moulds
We had to cross the inner courtyard to reach the spacious workshop at the back of the house. Once 22 artisans worked for Sukanta's shop, but now only four or five remain.
He said that very few people now come to this profession as the market for bronze and brass products has shrunk in the country.
We saw an artisan rubbing a freshly made brass horse with sandpaper while sitting on the open verandah in front of the house.
Inside the house, another man was cutting a large piece of wax and making various shapes. Some wax was kept on a table under a bulb to keep them soft. Scattered on the floor were pieces of various wax statues.
"In the beginning, we make a special kind of wax with beeswax and paraffin. The beeswax is mostly brought from the Sundarbans and the paraffin is imported," said Sukanta about their statue making process.
Age old structures
Sukanta was unwilling to take us upstairs but from downstairs, we noticed the ceiling of the building still consisted of the kori-borga (wooden beams used in an ancient style of roofing) of the main structure. The floors downstairs had a neat, red cement finish, giving the area a classic look.
Nowadays this floor style is very trendy and many architects and designers use it to create a new theme in interior spaces.
Some of the furniture in the house were old while some were refurbished. Most of the spaces downstairs were cluttered with bronze and brass pieces.
Dream of a museum
Sukanta wants to build a museum of bronze and brass art in the house with his own creations as well as metal artefacts he collected from different parts of the country.
He said, "For eight to nine years, I have been collecting bronze and brass items from different parts of Bangladesh to make a museum," adding, "most of these items are not being created anymore and the next generation can be inspired by these designs."
Inspired by designs from the 1,000 year old Pala Dynasty, Sukanta has been creating statues of various gods and goddesses, including Vishnu and Ganesha for several years.
He believes the best works in this field were done under the patronage of the Pala kings.
"If we can recreate even 70% of these works, it will be a great achievement. If we can keep the focus right and finish the work, people will realise how rich the heritage of our country is," Sukanta said.