Cars Small Cars Fast Cars…
weekend, there was unrest in some parts of Dhaka, usually
not associated with a Friday morning. The dailies came up
with a startling news report on the market survey done in
a few select localities of the city. It had been to study
the ease that the residents feel in living in their respective
areas. It turns out that in one posh locality, discontentment
has been brewing for few years among owners of big fleets
of car vis-à-vis owners of fleets of big cars vis-à-vis
owners of fleets of fast cars. Families with cars carrying
yellow number plates were outside the purview of this research
because it is best to leave diplomats out of this (after all,
they may not be aware of the unwritten laws of the locality).
families, like ours, with only one car each were ignored (the
researchers had done their meticulous homework with the security
guards before hand). They worked on the basic premise that
people like us had no business belonging here, because we
bring down the average of the number of cars dramatically.
When it is about numbers, and cars, the bigger the better.
It turned out later that few of the brokers operating in that
area were ruffed up for having given people like us access
to this privileged area. Our broker came to us a few evenings
ago asking for compensation. We were quick in pointing out
to him that we had no role to play in this. How was a newcomer
to Dhaka to know what's hip and what's not? It was he who
had introduced this locality to us. Is it our fault that we
liked it for its greenery?
his retort, "But why did you all give me an impression
of your desire for upward mobility? Live where you belong,
do remember that. I have been in this business for too long
a time, but I don't know how I misread your bank balance."
didn't know how we were to blame for his bruises, but a battered
man knows no reason. So we let him spew all his bottled up
angst, offered him some cola to cool down his nerves, and
gave him a lift home. Please remember that he may have been
harbouring such anger against a number of other families like
us who he brought to this area, and not everyone would have
listened to his volley of abuse AND offered him cola. The
Hubby and I are basically a nice couple, we are.
If I may
be permitted to digress, when I look back at my three years
of stay in Dhaka, I must say that the address on my visiting
card has stood me in good stead. Several months ago, when
working on a guidebook of sorts, for which I had to visit
hundreds of shops, the initial reaction of any shop owner
would be that of utter disdain. But the moment they studied
my visiting card carefully, their body language would change.
I would be offered a comfortable place to sit, some cool water,
and a few minutes of their precious time. A few wanted to
be absolutely sure and enquired, "Is this address the
office where you work?"
no, my residence address."
instantly size me up, and not knowing what to do about the
incongruity (it must be clear to you that my profile doesn't
quite go with that of the address on my card) reluctantly
sit down to tell me what I wanted to know.
I am trying to make here is, your address matters in this
other thing that matters even more is cars, which brings us
right back to the findings of the survey. Demographically
categorising, though may appear a gross generalisation, is
not inappropriate. SEC A++++, age group 45-60, prefer the
regular saloons, for obvious reasons -- shrinking bodies,
shrinking needs, and so on. Unless there is a known threat
to their lives, they don't need that extra room at the back
for body guards, so the latest Humvee is not required. SEC
A++++, age group 30-45 feels the bigger bulldozer you possess,
the more people notice you, the logic of which certainly cannot
be contested for technical irregularities.
18-30 (and increasingly, it is being seen that when it comes
to purchasing cars, children as young as 12 and 13 are influencing
the decisions; a natural progression from toy cars!) believes
in the fast-and-furious mantra. So you'll find regular saloons
being re-modelled into Formula 1 racers for Dhaka roads. With
limited scope for speed manoeuvring in between halting, crawling
traffic, it's the roar of the engine that gets all the attention,
each owner competing to outdo the other in deafening more
sets of ears on the roads.
is the conflict? Image problem, you see. The residents feel
that their locality is in the grips of an irresolvable identity
crisis: what does the rest of Dhaka view them as--subtle,
old fashioned, in-with-the-times, or hot, happening and sizzling.
Each group wishes to leave its own distinctive stamp on the
roads, but believes that this equity is getting diluted because
of the other two groups. The gravest point of conflict, which
you may be missing as readers is that, each bungalow, each
apartment in this area houses all three categories together
as family units of the three generations together. And so,
there's big time tension in the family backyard, and no one
has a clue about what to do next!
happens that the parking space being limited in most of the
newer apartment units, there is little option but to park
your fourth, fifth, and sixth cars out on the roads. The other
couple of categories mentioned earlier who were not deemed
fit enough to be a part of this research have been known to
have discreetly expressed their discomfort with this arrangement.
They say their visitors have difficulties finding a place
to park outside.
with cars, as with everything else, when have marginalised
voices mattered in our parts of the world? That's just a small
price one pays for living where you don't belong. Let me correct
that: that's a small price our visitors have to pay for visiting
friends who live where they don't belong!
(R) thedailystar.net 2005