months ago, The Hubby and I decided to go underground. Literally.
Let me explain. There is a tremendous space crunch on terra
firma and not because the earth has suddenly shrunk. When
we had first landed in Dhaka, I could open my window, hang
my torso out and get caressed by the gentle evening breeze.
Then a new apartment came up next to ours and until some time
back, I could stick my arm out and touch the fancy bars on
my neighbour's window (those windows need a good scrub, someone
tell them please…). The next thing I realise is that
my window was soon to be sealed because a new apartment was
to be constructed next door, to be squeezed in the two ft.
gap between the two existing buildings. It seems that the
consortium of builders, in a bid to strengthen the architectural
topography of this city, have pledged to connect all concrete
buildings in the city. I can't breathe without my windows,
so I needed to get out before the construction reached up
to my floor.
there are far fewer upheavals happening below the surface
of the earth than above it. Take for instance, the trauma
of having to witness an apartment building collapse in our
neighbourhood a couple of months ago. To be fair to the builders,
this one didn't crumble the way the sweater factory did at
Savar; in keeping with its prized location in a posh locality,
it did so rather stylishly, one wall at a time, and made sure
that the media had enough time to come and capture it live
experts are attributing its resilience to the quality of cement
used being better than that at the Savar factory. Do also
factor in the fact that since these flats were meant for people
whose lives are precious, more skilled heads would have designed
the building. These basic structural strengths gave the residents
enough time to clear the building in time. There were no casualties,
though the eminent residents had to camp themselves out on
the roads and personally supervise the 'rescue' cum clearing
up operation as they didn't trust the rescue team with the
thick wads of currency that was being fished out in huge numbers.
This, after they had already managed a partial eviction of
some of their most prized possessions.
agree, it is not easy to continue living in an apartment block
erected by the same builder, hence the urgency of moving some
place else. Going underground looked like a solution worth
exploring and it was not as if we were foreclosing our options
was ready in no time. Three days into our blissful existence
underground, there was a sharp knock at the door. Several
men stood there with menacing tools, ready to, as it seemed,
evict us from our humble abode. But they turned out to be
harmless workmen sent there to lay hume pipes for underground
what brings you here? This is my house," I said firmly.
it be. But the pipes have to be laid here", the supervisor
this some kind of joke? I'll call the police," I was
our masterplan shows this drain-pipe running through this
area, and if you resist, you may be in the lock up for obstructing
how is it possible? We cleared it with the authorities before
starting our construction work," I remonstrated.
don't know all that. Maybe you didn't do the right things,
or maybe, you ended up offending someone up there. All we
know now is that we have been asked to lay the sewerage pipes
in this area and your house is coming in our way."
I can't have sewerage waste running through my house…"
it is still better than having no house at all, for it will
have to be pulled down if…you know what I mean."
a grave problem. Some quick thinking happened and a via media
was arrived at. Being an accommodating man as he was, the
supervisor suggested a way of getting round this deadlock.
bucks passed into the right pockets ensured a slight alteration
in their blue-print. Soon, we had a newly laid drinking water
pipe sitting pretty across what had been conceived as the
foyer outside my drawing room! I tried to work around the
ugly monstrosity by hiding it as aesthetically as I could.
weeks ago, this pipe began to leak. From what oozed out, trickle
by trickle, I thought we had been tricked by the contractor
into allowing a sewerage pipe through our house after all,
because the form and smell of this drinking water was unrecognisable.
But The Hubby assured me otherwise. "And in any case,"
he added, "this water will not be supplied to people
like us. You are safe."
helped allay my fears, though there was also that putrid smell
to contend with. But that's a small price I was willing to
pay for living undisturbed for the next couple of decades
(I have enormous faith in the authorities; it is unlikely
that the first set of repair works will happen before the
next generation grows up). Besides, there's no smell that
an air freshner can't mask.
two days ago I was stunned to see a fresh contingent of faces
with digging tools at my door. Taking them to be pipe-repair
specialists, my initial reaction was to send them away saying
there was nothing wrong here (honestly, I'd had enough of
these men floating around the house over the week and felt
faint at the thought of some more). But they informed me of
a new set of telephone cables that are to be laid across my
house, this time, right through my bedroom. I wanted to know
if they could do something about the nagging cross connections
in my telephone line, but they said the cables for the existing
lines run below my bathroom floor. If needed, it could be
dug up to check for faults. I said No.
when I thought my dug up woes would soon be over, I learnt
from one of the workers that in keeping with the times, a
series of fibre optic cables are to be laid across the city
by the end of this month and one of the channels is to flow
through, where else, my kitchen!
(R) thedailystar.net 2005