not everyday that I get to climb atop a truck. Or, for that
matter, inside a four-wheeled vehicle that looks and behaves
like the heavy terrestrials. I, moving around in a regular car
that looks like the top-covered cars Henry Ford originally set
out to make in the late 1920s, have always marvelled at the
giraffe-legged men and women (and even kids) who climb up and
down the high plinths of the four-wheel drives that choke our
roads. They do so with much ease, as if stepping in and out
of their baths. They make it look effortless, uncomplicated,
and such a fun thing to do.
morning I had to hitch a ride to my son's school with one of
my acquaintances who drives around in one such vehicle whose
number plates bear the model name and number of her car-brand,
instead of the rather too-commonplace practice of putting painted
registered numbers. She was behind the wheels when she honked
outside my apartment. An excited security guard connected immediately
on the intercom and said, "Madam, a big Pajero lady madam
has come for you", 'Pajero' now being a generic name for
all SUVs. I'm sure he got a bit mixed up, but I'm not surprised.
Spotting women drivers is a rarity on Dhaka roads, and to see
a brown woman in black sunshades with pinned up hair, manoeuvring
a 300+ horsepower engine stop right in front of you takes more
than an impulse to get to terms with.
be lying if I say that there wasn't that one moment of hesitation
in getting in the vehicle. The high plinth gave me a fright,
but once having finally taken the awkward skip, I suddenly leapt
into the lap of luxury. Sensuous lamb wool (Australian, she
later pointed out) covers on the seat, some endangered mink
fur rug to trod upon, a bottle of Clive Christian No1 left open
on the dash board (aroma therapy at its best, if this gets used
as a car perfume, I wonder what she sprays on herself), and
a Swarosky cuckoo hanging from the rear-view mirror. Wealthy,
or not so wealthy, the mind of humans, after all, works alike.
Your means determine whether that avoidable distraction up there
is a CD, a bunch of artificial grapes, a squeaky soft toy, or,
misconstrued my steady gaze, perhaps, as my gawking at the slick
interiors of this big beast, so she offered, rather politely,
"Do you want to drive?”
no, not this hunk. And I don't have a license I can use in this
"Oh c'mmon. You don't need one. You think I am carrying
one on me right now?" I ought to have guessed, I thought.
then, I felt uncomfortable sitting in an unregistered vehicle
that has no business galavanting outside the showroom, being
driven by a driver who had no business sitting in the driver's
seems you have applied for registration…but I didn't notice
the A/F sign on the plate…", I suggested, tentatively.
is not all that new, actually I have been driving it for quite
some time. Who wants to put a number up there, don't you think
this BMWx5 model name and number carries loads of attitude?"
still, it is irres…", but she cut me short saying, "And
it is really all right in Dhaka. I wouldn't dream of doing something
like this in Canada, my second home, but here, nothing matters.
See, usually I am the one using this car- the driver drives
it once every fortnight to the gas station and back- and I make
sure I remove these covers when he takes the car out, do you
think any cop will stop me ever? Here I am above the law, and
it suits me fine.
sure does, I thought. Just then something darted across the
road and she slammed the brakes, swirling to one side of the
road muttering, "That b*****d. Why does it want to get
killed under my car?". I turned around with my first reaction
of, "Thank God, it wasn't some person", not that it
would have made much difference to her. I spotted the terrified
blotchy black and white dog trying to get lost among the crowd
of vegetable vendors and rickshaw pullers. Even animals know
when they've had a close brush with finality.
rest of the ride to our destination was uneventful, though I
remained contemplative for most part. Having seen enough of
the insides, I turned my gaze outwards and felt I was gliding
several feet above the ground. I could look down inside the
other small cars the size of my car, and saw what the passengers
were up to (no picking my nose in the car from now on, I'll
have to be more careful). I felt it was easier for me to run
over any big or small obstacle on the road, because the big
wheels wouldn't feel much. I also somehow thought I knew the
answer to how these vehicles could drag the defenceless men
or machines several kilometres without once realising what was
happening. You see, from those heights, you naturally look up
and beyond, not down and around. And at those heights, as she
said, you are above the law. The pretty untouchables, there
are plenty of them around.