taking over our lives
happens to be a word we all are well acquainted with these days. It's
a topic that creeps into every facet of life, whether we're going
about our simple day to day activities or having a serious tete-a-tete.
Break it down to its basic form, and fear is just anxiety about the
unknown. It deals with matters of uncertainty. Your greatest fear
is about not knowing what may happen.
out with a bang
Fear rears its ugly head in many different forms and intensities.
Its repercussions are felt both physically and mentally. Everyone
suffers to some extent. In recent times the fiery explosions are reverberating
through everyone's minds. Bomb scares are a part of daily life now.
Everyone of all ages is discussing the threat of bomb explosions.
No one can tell where, when, or how the next disaster will take place.
A few years ago there was the terrifying incident at Jessore as well
as the one at the Ramna Botomul during Pahela Baishakh. Any place
where people congregate can become a target. Public meetings, cinema
halls, newspaper offices and even places of worship have been targets.
Nothing is sacred anymore.
scares also shake the public confidence when phone calls warn of imminent
destruction. Hoaxes cannot be traced and no one is spared from such
calls. Shopping centers and even schools fall prey to this malicious
activity. The basic function of a bomb is to bring about an end. Everyone
wonders what will end next.
has a price tag
It's ironic how the most abstract things cost far more than the tangible
materials. Happiness is priceless. Love is a debatable matter as some
say it can be bought, and others say the price is too high. Freedom,
on the other hand can be bought, but the prices vary.
are a common occurrence these days. It is another proponent of fear
in our people. It is so common and prevalent that it is almost like
a business and a rather profitable one at that. No one is free from
its clutches. Meritorious students are abducted before the HSC or
SSC exams so that they do not get the grades they deserve. Relatives
do so over matters regarding property settlements. Jilted lovers do
away with the reluctant object of amour. There is the financial aspect
of abductions where a huge amount of money is asked from the abductee's
family. Unfortunately the operators of this 'business' do not offer
good guarantees. The life of the abductee is often worth less than
The heading might sound brutal but it is only befitting a crime just
as brutal. People worry about their lives as it is but now there is
the added worry that their death might not be enough or the perpetrators.
Bodies are literally butchered into anything from 10 to 100 pieces.
Does the body get thrown in a sack and into a river or burnt beyond
recognition? Or does the body become a perverse jigsaw puzzle strewn
all over the city? Even after death there is no security for the body.
An advice you will hear making the rounds is to watch what you say
to others. It's pertinent advice because you never know who the other
person is. The classical days of chivalry and honor are just that.
You find it only in pages of history and literature where men used
to be men and fought their own battles. Nowadays one man will bring
twenty others to fight his battle. You never know what you might say
that would irk somebody. They can take offence and simply kill you.
Any scruffy looking kid could be in possession of a knife or even
a gun. Simple arguments could lead to death.
a case in point where extortionists come by to claim their share in
the money that you worked hard to earn. It seems preferable to give
in rather than to talk back because there is no winning. They will
relentlessly follow you to your home to realize the amount. Such incidents
show that you are not safe even in your home. So where do you go?
road to afterlife
At least ten people die in road accidents daily while countless others
suffer from resulting disfigurations and disabilities. The number
of vehicles plying the streets is literally mushrooming. In itself
that is not such a bad thing but the matter takes a turn for the worse
when you consider that the drivers of these vehicles are mostly inexperienced.
It takes very little effort to get a driving license. The universal
language of money does all the talking. A person does not really have
to know how to drive to get a car moving. As a result overtaking is
done from the wrong lane, traffic lights are jumped and distances
from cars in front are not maintained. As if that is not bad enough,
pedestrians also lack good sense as they are too impatient to use
zebra crossings or over passes.
of the faceless
It seems to be a crime for women to be attractive. Highly corrosive
acids can easily be bought from stores without any need for permission
or licenses. Jilted lovers find it the best solution to simply destroy
a woman's face. It is their preferred form of revenge for hurting
the male ego. This sort of torture is not only restricted to women.
Children are also sometimes under attack. Stringent new laws have
been created but the crimes have not abated because of a lack in the
application of the law. For many living a life with a disfigured face
is a fate worse than death.
Mugging is something to contend with whenever you step outside your
home. Anything from your wallet, watch and cell phone to your clothes,
motorbike and even the grocery can be a mugger's target. It could
happen while travelling by rickshaw, car, and train or while waiting
in a scooter at a traffic jam.
have long since stopped wearing actual jewelry and have gone for imitation
materials. Even then you may not be safe. One particular woman was
mugged off her bracelets and necklace. The very next day at the same
spot the same muggers stopped her. This time they returned her imitation
pieces and rebuked her for wearing fakes. They probably felt insulted
by the fake jewellery, and slapped her as a punishment. Humiliating
as it was, the incident verged on the light side. In many cases the
result could be fatal. People have been stabbed for refusing to hand
over the cash or simply not having enough money.
There are many other things that bring out the fear in people apart
from those mentioned. Altogether these create not only a mental unease
but also unease for the entire society. From a psychological viewpoint
fear takes its ultimate form in the guise of phobia and that is what
the people of this country are heading toward. Living is becoming
a difficulty. Fear is eating away at the heart of the common people.
There are laws and anti crime committees but all this seems toothless
in the face of rising crime.
the time of submitting this article the incident of the grenade attack
on the Awami League meeting took place. Everyone present had the same
expression on his or her face. When will we be the next victims? The
security for our life has been replaced by guarantee of death.
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny
the monster that haunts us
22, the day after the heinous grenade attack. At around 11am in the
morning the traffic on the street was surprisingly low. None of the
traffic signals took more than 30 seconds. On a usual weekday it would
have been bustling with people, speeding vehicles and honking horns
and signals would have lasted at least 15 minutes longer. None of
these usual images of Dhaka's streets however, existed on that day.
With most of its shops closed and streets empty the city wore a deserted
look. Nervous people everywhere moved very fast, looking behind their
backs every few minutes. The atmosphere was dense with a sense of
intimidation. It was like everyone everywhere was waiting for something
to happen. The fever of fear was spilling all over the city.
It is more like a monster that haunts us, stalks us every single day
of our lives. Living with fear has become a reality of survival for
Bangladeshi people. At the back of our minds, the monster named fear
is always howling and it is not because grenades shower from the sky
everyday. There are other elements of fright existing in our society
that keep terrorising people.
Mrs Fatema Mannan for instance. Everyday when her sons and daughters
are out at work she waits anxiously for their return. Newspaper headings
regularly reveal the blemished face of the society and it worries
her. "If any one of my family members are late coming home a
feeling of fright starts creeping in. What if something happened to
them?" Fatema Mannan is not the only one in the city with that
dreaded feeling. A sense of insecurity grips the minds of everyone.
Khaled is a graphic designer at GlaxoSmithKline. Just this July some
goons robbed him during a traffic signal. It was the fourth time he
had experienced something like this. This time it happened near Bangla
Motor. He was in a CNG auto rickshaw. Amidst the busy traffic, in
the presence of several policemen and a flag bearing, jeep the goons
seized him and took away his valuables. What was even more painful
was that the people nearby later asked him how much he had lost. "Whenever
I am in a signal I clutch my bag tight these days. If any stranger
comes closer I become suspicious. I cannot seem to trust anyone anymore".
Khaled is also a photographer. Two years ago he lost the one precious
love of his life, his camera. "I used to fall asleep during traffic
jams. But not anymore." he says. That cold shivery feeling of
fear keeps him awake.
are some other people who are even scared of the police, the authority
in charge of protecting the mass. "They harass general people
on the streets without any reason while the real goons sneak away
from behind their back." tells Abul Hasan a student of DU.
seems like a normal lifestyle is in fact an existence completely taken
over by a sense of insecurity. Humayan Kabir is in the package tour
business. After the grenade incident, whenever he goes out, he bids
farewell to everyone he loves. "What if I don't come back safely?"
he says. Anindita Banik, working at the Karwan Bazar branch of Standard
Chartered bank avoids any crowds on the streets, political or non-political.
She avoids cinema halls and cultural programs fearing similar attacks
like 22 August or Ramna botomul. She is scared to go out at night;
she is even scared while shopping. "I don't go shopping in the
New Market or Gausia any more. There are some people in those areas
who are always in the mood for molesting innocent women." Hafiza
Begum, a lawyer in Dhaka judge court expresses somewhat similar fear.
She described her experience in a ferry while she went to the toilet
alone. "I can still feel the shiver that I had in the narrow
staircase. I had the feeling that I was going to be raped." she
is as if the society is being possessed by an evil force. There is
no running away from it; there is no peace of mind. Security is one
big bubble in this country. It might be bought if there is plenty
in the wallet, but what happens to people like Fatema Mannan, Humayan
Kabir, Asif Khaled, Aindita Banik, Hafiza begum or Abul Hasan? These
are the people who belong to the mass and their lives are always at
Artists: Mistri, Russell, Shiplu