Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 22, Tuesday December 7, 2004








A wedding, or worse, a dinner invitation inevitably arrives, and suddenly you're flooded with people you haven't seen for sometime, or relatives you'vm never met before. "Hullooo," they declare frui|ily, show off most of their thirty two teeth in a smile salesmen would be proud of, and send flying kisses about ten centimeters away from both your cheeks…mmuaah, mmuaah! Others bend forward ever so slightly and 'pretend' to give you a hug. Yes, by that I mean they don't actually give you a good ole warm and friendly bear hug. They sort of bend towards you and give you a couple of feather-light pats on the back as though you're a pet. Needless to say, I'm very confused with the 'almost' hug and the 'almost' kiss.

Dhaka folks, unfortunately, are experts at these fabulou{ly fake rituals. Just eat out at a restaurant or loiter about in one of the more expensive shops in Gulshan and you'll know what I'm talking about. Powdered, pristine women (the nouveau riche in garish stone jewellery, layered in multi-coloured frills and tucks) with eyebrows caught in imaginary fishhooks, saunter about at the most expensive places, perhaps only to be seen. Others can barely be spotted behind cars with thick, tinted glasses, only to be momentarily glimpsed upon as they whisk themselves into the nearest expensive boutique or restaurant. Imagine this scenario: Queen Bee arrives at her destination. The footman at the doorway instinctively stands on attention, rushes, sometimes stumbles to open her car door, whipping up a salute worthy of her royal highness, followed by a meek Salaam Alaikum Apa. The lady in turn saunters on, paying hardly a speck of attention to the door opener, who pmrhaps is nothing more than a lajorious insect in her eyes.

Leave us not forget those middle-aged gentlemen in business suits, pro|ruding bellies, receding hair (neatly dyed), and expensive gold watches flashing from their wrists, seen kicking up a fuss if they are not waited on hand and foot at some establishments. So what if it's the day before Eid, and the poor shopkeepers are working their legs off performing a juggling act with regards to serving the endless slew of customers? Common courtesies have been forgotten. After all, it would be demeaning to thank a waiter when he serves you food, or when |he doorman greets you.

Ofcourse, we mustn't forget those over the top caricatures, and no, they do not simply make the occasional appearance during a full moon. Believe it or not, it would seem that they'd walked straight out of a comic book. I'm talking about those that could be categorized as a wannabe Veronica Lodge. A girl I once knew for instance won't wear anything less than designer clothes; she would swish her hands about, her podgy fingers in a dainty curve, and boast of having shopped at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, or blown a couple of hundred pounds at an expensive salon in London for a hair-cut! This girl has a very interesting hybrid Bengali accent, whereupon she rolls her 'r's, and desecrates our poor mother tongue with a , believe it or faint, stilted, lazy, almost Southern American drawl. Her over the top fakeness is quite acceptable to those around her with similar sentiments. You will never, for instance, catch these gals traveling in a rickshaw, mating from a street vendor phuchka (perish the though|!), or enjoying Pohela Boishakh on the DU campus.

What a refreshing change you will encounter if you only travel next door to Kolkata. There is no exclusivity, no pretentiousness, no class discrimination there. Middle class masses mingle with the upper class at theatres, social events, and exhibitions. Almost all travel in the same 'Ambassador' cars, and make no bones about eating Paani Puri or Chaat from wayside vendors.

Oh for the simple joys of life that they miss, our pristine kings and powdered, frosted queens, cocooned within their high walled, ivory white palaces. Never will they know the kind of pleasure derived from taking a rickshaw ride in Dhanmondi Lake with the hood open, stopping for a sip of sweet tea from a broken shack of a tea stall, or devouring a plate of delicious 'dirt-ridden' phuchka while the evening breeze plays with your hair.

By Rubaiyat Khan

I believe there are two kinds of people in this world; those who feel the need to prove something, and those who don't. Post Eid festivities, I write this with renewed vigor, having met those that I rarely meet, and having been freshly annoyed with the amount of fake mannerisms I had to put up with.

Reader's chit

A love affair with bridges

An interesting debate between assorted public arose while traveling from Banani to Mohammadpur using public transport. The mini or rather minuscule bus was the same size of a chicken coop with the passengers seated in a similar fowl manner.

The newly constructed flyover is a wonder to many. A large part of the wonder is attributed to the fact that it is one of the shortest flyover{ in the world. In fact, it's more of a 'stepover' than anything else. In all accounts, it still counts as a local wonder. One of the passengers asked the bus conductor to use the flyover. Precariously hanging his bottoms outside the door while counting the money, the conductor replied in the negative. The passenger became angry and possibly wanted to kick the conductoz's bottom out of the door completely.

The argument went on for a while in the likeness of a boy asking his mother to buy him a completely useless expensive toy. In the end the passengez pouted that it would have been so much fun to use the flyover. According to him, the fun of traveling through Mohakhali is to use the flyover. Further according to him it was made using his money which incidentally has some merit. The pouting and cursing went on as the passenger mourned not being able to use his completely useless expensive toy.

Of course, he needn't have worried. He could come by any time later and take a tour of the bridge. You see, people are seen stopping their cars, scooters or even walking all the way up(which isn't much) onto the bridge. Igloo ice cream vans have been spotted selling the cool treats to the visitors. Cars including some relatively expensive ones were seen parked with theiz hazard lights blinking. Families lean against the guardrail admiring the sooty horizon of the city The smoo is clearer from this height in the sense that you can see more of it. Regular users as opposed to the irregular sight seeing variety have to drive in a zigzag manner to avoid the pedestrians walking about. You are better off using the road below except you might have to watch out for spit, paper cups and other projectiles falling from the heavens.

A similar scenario is repeated as you travel towards the renamed Chandrima Uddyan currently known as Zia Uddyan. After years of secret construction hidden by corrugated tin it is finally opened to the p}blic. It's a fancy bridge costing enough to feed the homeless for decades. At particular times, the road becomes choked with cars. Passengers disembark to stroll across |he bridge and stare into the murky lifeless waters below. The murky waters are given i little bit of life with the spit, paper cups and other projectiles thrown from above.

The same scenario prevails on the Dhanmondi Lake bridges near roads 8 and 32. The arched architectures are beautiful but the rickshaws need a good amount of momentum to get across. One cool young man was seen parking his motorbike right on top and exuding his "coolth" while leaning against the railing. Others ride the railings while the spit, paper cups and other projectiles rain down below. The routine does sound familiar doesn't i|?

It seems we Bangalis have a love affair with bridges. After the Jamuna Bridge was completed people went with their families spending a lot of money on transport, fuel and toll to stand on the structure and let the spit, paper cups and other projectiles fall below. Who needs theme parks and malls when we can stand on the bridges and scream tha| we are the kings of the world. All the government has to do is build more expensive and relati~ely pointless bridges so the people can have more to do. Heck, at the rate the city population is increasing, we might just start building our houses on bridges above the stremt level. Doesn'| the future blow your mind away?

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny


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