|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 90, Tuesday, November 3, 2009|
Changes to school and office timings
On 12 October 2009, the government announced a change in timings for non-government offices and schools. Most of the more significant traffic jams occur during the time when people go to and come back from office, which was previously compounded by the coincidence with school goers going to school, or so it was thought. By separating the period during which cars go to school from the occurrence of office workers going to office, it is hoped that the terrible congestion might be eased.
All private companies including banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions will work from 10am to 6pm, while secondary, higher secondary and English medium schools will start between 7 and 8:30am and end between 1 and 2:30pm. The government offices will continue with their current 9am-5pm schedule.
Good intentions this move may have been born out of, but a lot of Dhaka residents have doubts about the impact of this decision. A mother of three, for whom the mad rush to get to school on time takes up a large chunk of day, is not convinced, “I do not think the situation is better, in fact I will say that it is fractionally worse now,” she says of the prevailing traffic situation. “Previously, there were times when you could go on the streets and find it relatively empty, between the hours of schools and offices closing. Now, because the closing times are spread out throughout the afternoon, there is not a moment's peace. A lot of the people I speak to feel the same way.”
And what of dropping her kids off at school? “It takes the same amount of time, if not more,” she answered, sounding less than impressed about the situation.
Pastures do not seem much greener for office goers either. A senior bank official whose work journey takes her from Dhanmondi to Motijheel says, “The situation is somewhat better inside Dhanmondi, as there is a separation between the time I embark on my journey to office and the school rush, but there is no improvement whatsoever once I am out on the thoroughfares.”
She too thinks that the situation might have gotten marginally worse. “Government workers are known for starting their working day a bit later than those of private organisations, so the change is not of much use; they (government workers) are out on the roads at the same time as we are. Personally, I think they should be going to work at ten and we should continue as before (private offices starting at nine).
“Moreover, previously, for many dropping the kids off at school and going to office were part of the same journey. Now the kids are dropped off earlier, and the cars have to go back to pick their parents up to take them to office, resulting in a higher concentration of cars on the streets for a longer period,” she added.
She echoed the sentiments of the mother when talking about the dispersion of jams in the afternoon and late afternoon: “Previously, you could count on a lull during some periods of the afternoon. Now all the jams seem to have merged into each other throughout the day.”
Is the situation at least better when returning from office? There too, the answer is not encouraging for the powers that be. “I would say it is worse because of the merging factor. When returning from work at six, one is forced to be part of the shopper's rush, as they hurry to get their shopping done because all the stores close at eight.”
The new timings, as can be seen from the words of the above residents, has not improved the situation. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the traffic situation has to be tackled head on and not by indirect measures such as changes to office timings. If real change is to be brought about, the people who work daily with the traffic problems, such as police sergeants, have to be brought into the loop and their opinions have to be taken seriously and implemented.
Winter is in the air, bidding farewell to a long monsoon! Although the torching midday sun shows no signs of it, the evenings are chilly and the dead ends of the night can sometimes get downright cold. Plan ahead for the coming winter: be up-to-date with the latest fashion trends, things-to-do and places to be at.
Our Pick #1 of the week is a rooftop Bar-be-cue. Although the evenings are not pleasant enough for a banquet under the starry nights as yet, you do need time to make the necessary preparations.
Bring out the charcoal grill from the attic, make a guest list and call in friends to check if they are available on the scheduled date. Choose the music wisely as it will set the atmosphere of the evening. The menu should be savoury yet simple, easy to do. You can opt for Indian kebabs, tandoori chicken, lamb on skewers and naan or rotis, or go continental with sausages, salmon and tuna.
The change of the season is also bringing along with it seasonal ailments. Mild fever, common cold and sore throat are common maladies associated with the changing climate. Take four cloves of garlic, one tablespoon of honey, one-eighth teaspoon of cayenne; mix them together. Take a spoonful when needed and chew it up well before swallowing, this provides relief and is a good natural remedy for sore throat. Home Remedy is our Pick #2 for this week.
Pavarotti and Friends is our pick #3. No, this is not an opera compilation from Pavarotti; in this collection you can enjoy artists like U2, Tracy Chapman, Celine Dion, Simon Le Bon (Duran Duran), Michael Bolton, Dolores O'Riordan (Cranberries), Ricky Martin, Brian Adams, and a long etcetera making their best, and bringing their greatest hits. This is one concoction of two different genres of Western culture sung in the universal language of music. A must for all lovers of fusion!
Sticking to concerts, 25 October 2009 saw live web cast of U2's 360 Tour from the Rose Bowl, California at www.youtube.com. Within 24 hours of the show, the telecast enjoyed over 7 million hits! That readers, is our Surprise of the Week. This may well be the beginning of a new dawn as far as musical concerts are concerned.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
On The Cover
A funky accessory can lend a fun touch to a simple outfit. Check out our story on page 3 and the centrefold for more thoughts on our favourite accessories
Of heritage and inheritance
A few days ago, in one of my university courses, sociology to be precise, the teacher gave us an assignment in which it was asked of the students what 21st February meant to them, among other questions concerning this event in our history. Seeing the subject, I was happy because I knew I could write a lot on the topic, even though I do not consider myself to be very knowledgeable on our country's history.
As I was a quarter of a way through the questionnaire, I was a bit surprised to see that about a half of the class had already handed in their papers. Now, I am not casting aspersions on my classmates' patriotism; maybe their answers were more concise than mine and as much if not more meaningful. Even so, I could not help thinking how the perceptions of our country has been changing as newer generations grow up.
As western cultures dominate our own, I see a lot of our identity being buried. You will notice that by my own admission I am quite ignorant of our country's history. However, when growing up, my elders made sure that the ignorance was not extreme, that I knew of the milestones that brought about Bangladesh. I am deeply indebted to my parents, grandparents and my maternal uncle for inculcating this sense in me. The important thing is that none of those people think that I know nearly enough, so the education is continuing.
I remember my father sitting us down during the evening and regaling us with stories of 1971, of the background events of February '52. Therefore, even though I did not follow up much on those stories to unearth more information as those more scrupulous than me must have, I do have at least a perfunctory understanding of what it means to be a Bangladeshi.
Also, my father, an avid historian, drilled into my head that Bangladesh is not a new country and that our people and our customs go a long way back, further even than Dhaka's four hundred years. Perhaps my generation know of this, but still our best minds choose to stay abroad with the familiar cry of “What good can come from staying here?” It is up to us and our parents to explain that history is cyclical and that although we have had it hard since colonial times, we were much better off before. Only through appreciation of our rich heritage can we, this generation and those emerging, guide our homeland out of our present despair. Bangladesh is definitely worth it.
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