Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 39 | March 25, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Straight Talk
   Slice of Life
   Time Out
   Dhaka Diary
   New Flicks
   Book Review

   SWM Home


Straight Talk

The Yellow
Line of Fear


As I drove through Hyde Park, I could not help smiling to myself-- finally after what seemed to be months of dismal cold and grey weather, we were being blessed with a burst of glorious sunshine. People were thronging to the parks and cafes just to sit and bask in the warmth of the rather elusive sun. What a wonderful feeling it was to be alive and well.

It was only then, that a flash of bright yellow caught my attention and made me slow down to try and read the sign that looked so out of place sitting amongst the beautiful greenery. It was by the local police and said something along the lines of, "Can You Help? Woman sexually assaulted in Hyde Park on the evening of…." It was like being doused with a bucket of cold water. No matter how hard we try, we just cannot block out the reality that is around us. Assault, rape, theft, kidnapping and murder have become part and parcel of our day to day lives. Pick up any newspaper or listen to the news and what are we bombarded by? Visions of mayhem in war ridden countries or reports of all kinds of violent crimes being committed for reasons incomprehensible to most of us, are now a regular feature in our homes. Nowadays it is the depravity of a crime or the unusualness of it that grabs our attention which otherwise is very likely to escape our notice.

The sign in the park is not the first one I have come across in the last few weeks. In fact it is one of many. A couple of weeks ago, there was a sign reporting an attempted abduction of a teenage girl. This was only a few roads away from our house. When you have children of your own, reports of this sort are terrifying. Then again a few days after that while I was driving my daughters to school, I drove passed a street where I noticed a woman lying spread-eagled on the ground with what seemed like shopping bags splayed all around her. A few people were standing on the pavement watching while another woman was bending over the victim checking for signs of life. The shake of her head gave me all the information I needed. Part of me wanted to stop and give whatever help I could but one look at my children in the back of the car made me take the selfish decision whereby I did not want them to witness the gruesome scene for themselves.

Later in the day when I went to collect the children, the road had been cordoned off and subsequently another one of these yellow signs had been put up to try and get people to come forward and give any information they could. I could not get the image of the woman lying on the ground out of my head and finally decided to call the police up to see if I could be of any assistance. According to the time of death, it looked like I had passed the accident scene only minutes after it had occurred. From what the police told me, it transpired that it had been a hit and run case. No eye witnesses had come forward and the car that had been involved in the accident had not been traced. For days afterwards, I saw flowers placed near the scene of the crime to pay respect to the poor woman whose life had been taken on that fateful morning and one more crime that is still unresolved.

The sad thing is that two days ago while I was on yet another school run, this time to pick up my son, I was privy to one more crime scene. As I drove near his school, I was perplexed by the number of photographers and cameramen standing around. Then I noticed the road had been sectioned off by the police and as there was a traffic jam building up, the only sensible thing to do was to pick up my son and make my way home.

The next morning the yellow sign that is becoming a familiar part of the London scenery was propped up near my son's school stating that a brutal murder had been committed, and the police were once again looking for any information they could obtain. According to the newspaper, a 67 year old man had been chased down the street by a 37 year old man and bludgeoned to death in broad daylight with an axe. An eye witness had said that he had seen the victim lying on the ground with a bloody pulp where his head should have been. Others stated that despite some people trying to get the perpetrator of the murder to stop, he carried on hitting the man until his head "turned to mush". The suspect had then given himself up on the arrival of the police. As I read the description of the murder, all I could do is sit in disbelief. This had happened just down the road from my son's school.

I think we naively believe that these horrors happen in movies or "to other people", but in reality it is happening all around us. It doesn't matter whether you live in Dhaka, London or New York, whether you live in the most exclusive area in town or in a slum area; these types of crimes are occurring and will continue to occur. There are atrocities being committed every day, everywhere in the name of religion, honour, love and who knows what else. Despite man being "God's greatest creation" where we have managed to demonstrate the utmost compassion for our fellow beings, we also have a streak in us whereby we have the ability to show an utter lack of respect for the value of another human life. I wonder whether we are gradually becoming acclimatised to the continuous images of violence via the media, movies computer games etc. and I worry whether one day we will end up so desensitised to bloodshed and brutality that crimes like these will not make us balk even for a second before we carry on with our daily routine. For the sake of humanity I dearly hope not.

As I continue my drive through the park, in spite of the sun still shining brightly outside and bathing my surroundings in its warmth, somehow those few words on the yellow board have managed to spread a chill over me.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2005