“Allahor naame cholilam”
“Allahor naame dilam pari”, announced the friendly Mishuk driver. I was the nervous passenger agreeing, “wisely spoken my brother”. Eyes and ears extra cautious we hurried towards our destination. Often we whizzed, often slowed down to comprehend the situation of the road ahead. As if we were going through a war torn Dhaka not knowing what fate is about to bring our way.
The Mishuk driver's announcement led my thoughts deep into the situation. Most of you Dhaka dwellers must come across the popular writing on the back of the public buses. It says “Allahor naame cholilam”, a very Bangladeshi expression that says a lot. It literally means, “I start my journey in the name of god”. With a slightly deshi twist it means, “We are in God's hand and wherever god takes us we follow”. Incidents starting from 27 October remind us of this famous writing and make us wonder if the country is now facing the same destination, with a political twist, “We are in the hands of the political parities, wherever they take us we silently follow”. We followed and look where we are.
The political deadlock since the major parties locked horns has cost us heavy. Garment industries, the 76 percent foreign exchange-earning sector suffered immensely. Because of paralysed communications and ports, the supply of raw materials was stalled. Production was affected. During the blockade only a day's loss is around Tk150 crores. Garment industries employ around 22 lakh workers. For them a day without work means a day without food.
Everything was at a standstill at the Chittagong port since the day the blockade began. Dozens of large vessels, both outgoing and incoming, some half-loaded and some yet to start loading or unloading goods, sat idle at the port jetty. Thousands of tons of imported goods stuck in the ships waited at the outer anchorage of the Chittagong port and hundreds of trucks were stranded at different land ports. A number of ocean-going ships left the port either without loading or unloading any goods or half loaded costing us a hefty amount of revenue. The economic loss due to the suspension of operations of the Chittagong Port is alarming.
The prices of some essentials had gone up due to the suspension of operations of the ports and transport vehicles. Kitchen market saw a huge shift in prices. Vegetable sellers from the outskirts of Dhaka who usually cater to a huge segment of city dwellers saw their goods get wasted. Whole sellers had to give away their merchandise at low prices.
Educational institutions remained shut. Commuters underwent serious ordeals to reach their destinations. Hospital going patients experienced untold misery. Everywhere fear and speculation made life uncertain. In the end the masses got hurt the most.
The path of democracy is becoming precarious. Where will this precarious road end is still a question to be answered. Meanwhile, the only thing that still helps people to ease for a while is “Allahor naame cholilam”.
By Shahnaz Parveen
Your loss is my gain
Is that too harsh? Well it is true. Some people always manage to gain. Lets see who these people are.
You all must know from 27 October onwards, certain objects became very popular. You guessed right- logi and boitha (oar). Those who supplied the logi and boitha must be millionaires by now because a countywide demand means a huge opportunity for suppliers. One thing though, these oars were left at home in the second phase of the blockade. So what happened to these oars? Here we have another possibility. We supply them to neighbourhood cricket squads. They do look more like cricket bats.
If you are a politician, what should be your daily routine during a blockade? Well, if you are someone in favour of the strike then it is obvious that you will spend more time on the streets shouting about certain demands. And if you belong to the other party, well you would be doing pretty much the same, shouting yourself permanently hoarse. This creates huge opportunities for those involved in sound system business. If you are a politician and want to be heard with the racket going on around you, it is better to hire their merchandise.
You must have an unlimited supply of bricks to throw at each other, again a thick wallet for someone else. Can't have processions and gatherings without banners, so there's more money exchange on the go!
Blockade is a sweet word for Rickshaws, the only available transportation that we are planning to outlaw soon. It was time for sweet revenge for the rickshawllahs. Since they will be out of work soon, they wanted to earn some extra cash. Even rickshaws from out of town joined in.
Stuck indefinitely at home, nothing to do, nowhere to go, as if we ceased to live. That's how most people felt during the blockade. The only things active are mobile phones and our fingertips. Instant messages, hundreds of phone calls, keeping each other updated, actually kept us alive but mostly added large sum of revenues for mobile companies.
While most of us were stuck at home some 30 thousand tourists were stuck in Cox's Bazar, again yahoo for the hotel owners.
By Shahnaz Parveen
Photo: Amirul Rajiv