Know What You Are…
say you can sometimes get a sense of the dynamics of a country
or culture by watching the way people interact -- their
mannerisms, the way they talk, their body language, and
at times, their ability to deal with confrontation. I say
this last bit because I came across a situation a few days
ago in which the problems in our society that I had originally
chosen to ignore, came hitting me square in the face…
usual there was a traffic jam all throughout Gulshan Avenue.
It was around three in the afternoon. The post-lunchtime
rush was in full swing. Cars were coming in from all directions.
Once again I found myself wondering what people were in
such a rush for? We live in such a laid-back country but
from the looks of traffic in Dhaka, one would imagine themselves
to be in a fast-paced city, like New York. In front of Aarong
we hit another jam. As we started moving slowly I saw a
car overtaking mine out of the corner of my eye. As I felt
the resilient bang against my car, I realised that we had
been hit. Three men got out of the car. The driver of the
other car -- a "shaheb" -- walked over to my driver
and said the usual, "Ei, gari chalaite paros na?"
to which my driver replied, "Amar kono dosh chilona."
Ok, so far so good, right? Wrong.
my driver even finished his sentence I saw a ring-clad fist
flying through the air. It was only when I saw blood dripping
from my driver's mouth that I realised what had happened.
After the initial punch chaos broke out, with a useless
wide-eyed mob, a violent fight, blocked traffic, and an
idiot traffic policeman whose answer to my frantic pleas
for help was, "Ami ki korbo?" The two men from
the other car were standing around too, looking slightly
confused. When I got out of my car they immediately turned
on me and ordered me to get back in my car -- I would only
make things worse -- (obviously because them standing around
twiddling their thumbs was helping to diffuse the situation).
Losing my temper, I told them exactly what I thought they
could do with their orders. I grabbed my driver and pulled
him back towards the car. While getting in the car I heard
one of the men say to me in English, "I know what you
we drove away, I came to the conclusion that education,
exposure and wealth don't change anything. The double standards
still stand. It's not ok for me to get out of the car and
say anything to anyone, but it is ok for Mr. Rambo to get
out of his car and hit my driver -- even though he can see
that I am alone in the car. It's okay for him to compromise
my safety, as long as I don't stand up for myself -- or
my driver, for that matter.
sad reality is that if something had happened to me that
day, and I had gotten hurt, most people would say the inevitable:
"Well, why did she get out of the car in the first
place? Serves her right for confronting some potentially
dangerous stranger. What did she think would happen? Does
she think this is America?"
are strange. I have heard that comment so many times, "this
is not America." And every time I wonder what it means.
Does it mean common courtesy and decency are only prevalent
in America? I realise that things are different here (as
they are everywhere else) and we have to act according to
the culture and norms around us. But if a man gets out of
his car and beats my driver for no good reason, why shouldn't
I speak out against it? No one else will. The traffic policeman
and the mob made that quite obvious. I agree that because
I am of the "weaker and more vulnerable sex,"
I should be careful, but it just does not make sense to
me. The other driver lost his temper and punched my driver,
but of course, he gets to feel like a Hero for the rest
of the day. I lost my temper and took my driver away, and
I get to hear, "I know what you are."
one is stupid enough to say life is fair. It's not. Similarly
no one will be naïve enough to say that women get their
fair share of respect in public. Once in a while, however,
I wish that people would at least pretend that there was
some concept of decency among us.