in nineteen seventy-two, soon after the liberation of Bangladesh,
all kinds of stories would make the round in a friendly get together.
Inevitably these would relate to the naiveté of people
trying to make a breakthrough in various fields of livelihood
in a country that was just liberated. Indenting, as an adjunct
to import, emerged as a very popular business then. There were
a few others as well, like advertising or travel services for
instance. But this story is on indenting so… In those days Indenting
business had got a tail wind and almost every second person in
business was involved in this trade. Now, Indenting business is
closely linked with another word 'Principal'. Principals are the
source of procurement of merchandise. A friend of mine on arrival
from London at the old airport in Dhaka saw a lot of his old acquaintances
at the airport waiting to receive someone. When asked, all of
them said that they were waiting for their principals to arrive.
My friend had no clue about the 'business meaning' of the word
'principal'. So he thought that perhaps many principals of colleges
had been killed during the war and hence the need to import them
I had more
or less a similar experience with one of my expatriate friends
in those days. He had thought, on arrival at Dhaka, that the city
had borne signs of the aftermath of bombing that happened during
the war. “Why so?” I asked. “You need only to look around Dhaka's
skyline to find why?” He said. I realised that the confusion was
created by the buildings that were under construction. Where wires
and rods were sticking out like sore thumbs. It was natural, therefore,
that my friend, coming from a place that had assumed the look
of completeness for as long as before his birth, would find it
difficult if not impossible to understand why a normal city should
look the way Dhaka did. The situation still is pretty much the
day a friend of mine was lamenting over how lop sided priorities
ruled over us, always and forever. He was talking about (what
else but) the road dividers. In the mean time, so much has been
said and written about the dividers that the lines of words could
form miles of them dividing all our roads. But the fact of the
matter is why do we have to see demolition work unleashed at the
middle of the most important roads of Bangladesh every now and
then? Isn't there anything more important to do for the city?
Here's where the question of priority becomes so important.
My city is
dilapidated to say the least. The roads are withering away, the
drains are clogged, and the traffic lights don't work. Almost
every road, even the much vaunted VIP road, is infested with muggers.
But demolition, without a rhyme or reason, must go on. I have
been a witness to absurd things like a road being carpeted and
then dug just because the department in charge of carpeting issued
the work order before the department in charge of digging. And
the dug road left as it is for the weather to do its job. I am
told that this is often done with a purpose, at the behest of
the contractor's interest. Well so be it. Then by the same token
the strong and sleek dividers could also be demolished at the
behest of some one's interest, couldn't it?
I have grown
up in a locality in the real old town of Dhaka. It used to be
poor but peaceful little locality. That part of the city has become
almost inaccessible now. But this quandary has been caused by
the bottleneck created by the so-called development of the new
town area through which the old town has to be approached. Much
of the anguish of Dhaka has been caused by its so-called development.
Parks have been done away with, water bodies filled up, multi-storied
buildings mushrooming in utter disregard of infrastructural support.
I don't think there is any other city in the world that had to
do with so much misery in the name of development. It's about
time some one realised that the city dwellers here could do with
a bit of respite.
of ours is over four hundred years old. Any where in the world,
this in itself would have merited some kind of special attention.
Some parts would have been preserved, some buildings earmarked
as historical sites and isolated with an adequate surrounding
support. Nothing of that sort has happened here. It is talked
about that there are historical sites, especially in the old town
area of the city. But those sites and buildings are decaying away
for want of maintenance -- the Katras, the Ruplal House, the Northbrook
Hall, the Curzon Hall, the Lion Cinema (which indeed was one of
the first theatres in the city), the innumerable other old mansions
et al. Falling back on my favourite subject History, would it
be a way ward statement if one said that we are hell bent upon
tearing away from our heritage to prove how rootless we were?