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     Volume 4 Issue 76 | December 23, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Gulshan 2 Revisited

Richa Jha

The other day the wait at the Gulshan 2 Square signal was so long that I decided to stretch my legs a bit. Stepping out from the car, I was surprised to be greeted by one arm of the intersection!

"Hello, my friend. You remember me? I remember having spoken to you once before," It (the Road) sounded so sure that I paused and thought. Is it pulling a fast one on me, or have we really spoken before. It is true that I have met It a million times while crossing over to the four directions from there, but have never considered stopping by and chatting up with the Road!

"Hmmn…sorry, but I don't recall having engaged in a conversation with you earlier. Case of mistaken identity; I have a rather common face, and it is easy to get confused," I said, intending to put the Road to ease.

"I don't forget. Few people ever take the effort of getting to know me better, and so I don't forget those who do."

I conceded. "Ok, maybe, but I am sorry. I still don't recall."
"You used to have longer hair in those days. Not very long, but maybe an inch longer."

I was stunned. Maybe it was speaking the truth. So I stood there trying to remember.

The Road saw me ponder, and offered by way of help, "You know, actually, I too used to look different in those days. I had my pride, my crown still intact then."

"What are you saying?" Was it senility catching up with It? I think the blank look on my face disturbed It.

"You don't remember then? Has everyone forgotten what I looked like? Remember, a massive roundabout with tall healthy trees in the middle? How can you forget? It's been just a couple of years…?"

That is when it struck me. Of course! I could clearly recall now. I had raised my voice, howsoever feebly, at the merciless axing of those beautiful trees all in the name of traffic management, but like so many other causes people take up just for the sake of being read on a Friday morning, I too had written about it, and forgotten for good. Most writers are good at it.

"Oh, I am so sorry! Yes, I remember having walked up to the roundabout here and having spoken to you. But what a transformation; looking at you today, the way you are now, it is impossible to recall your original state."

"My unsullied state, you mean?" It looked piqued; I wondered if I had strummed a discordant note.

"Oh no, no. You look beautiful these days. I have heard many compare you with Manhattan. You look grand, trust me." I secretly prayed this would make It feel better.
"Are you pulling my leg?" It pouted.

"Why must I? It makes everyone of us proud of this city. I don't know whether you know it, but you are a show piece. Any visitor to Dhaka is brought to you for a spin, and then is casually told that this happens to be 'one of the squares' in the city. You rest assured, you ARE the best. Soon, you could be a national monument." I stopped before I got carried away any further.

"Is that so? I have been going through a tumultuous time of late. You may not see it, but my soul is battered."

I sniffed a Sulk in the air. A nebulous one, but there all right. Probe probe girl, ferret as much information as you can, I egged myself on.

Meanwhile, the traffic light had turned green, and the driver honked frantically to have me back in the car. My car was holding up the traffic. But there was no way I was leaving without knowing what was bothering Gulshan 2, the square of all squares. And so, I signalled to my driver to pull aside and park in front of a shopping mall.

Immediately, the Road jumped up and said, "Oh no, no, not there, not there, that is where the bomb blasted that evening.

"It is okay. It won't, at the same place again, don't worry, I'll be fine. Hey, tell me honestly, is that turmoil within because of the bomb blast?"

"Not really. It rattled me for a while- I'm not used to explosions and gore and all that- but I was quite okay in a while. Anyway, it was a small one, but I'm glad that I am considered important enough to be a potential blast zone. Feels like being in the big league now."

"Yes, I too thought so. Personally, I too don't see why any road should have a problem with that. Who doesn't like being in the limelight. But then, please do tell me what's upsetting you. I will not leave before you've told me."

"Okay, if you insist. I feel weak and tired and crumbling."

"That's odd. I don't see why that should happen? In fact, on the contrary, you are being strengthened from all sides. Don't you see all these new layers of concrete re-enforcing you with all their might? Until two years ago, the neck had to be tilted at a gentle angle to see beyond the top floors; these days, we have to fall back, and look up, and the storeys still seem to go on forever.

"I get nightmares of these constructions. I feel tired all the time."

"May be you need to pop a few pills! Sorry, bad joke. Tell me, what ails you?"

"I am dying under the weight of all this traffic."

"Hmmm. Now that is a genuine concern, and complaint. But there's very little that can be done that hasn't already been done. Do you see how remarkably the traffic has improved since those choked round-about days? And there's little you can do about the hundreds of skyscrapers overcrowding the area without so much of a thought to spare for car parking, and decent entry and exits. So then, why crib?"

"I crib because I feel left out." Now It was talking!
"What are you saying?"
"I want to look beautiful."
"Hey, I told you, you are the most beautiful square in this city."
"No, I want to look better. I want to feature on the cover page of all dailies."
"Everyday? The only way to ensure that is by becoming a sniffer dog."
"You jest a lot. No, I want to be in focus for a few days."
"Oh! Spell it out Road, I'm getting impatient now. You have started annoying me."
"Okay, then listen, and promise me you will put my grouse across to the people concerned."
"Can't promise that. I don't think they read me."
"But promise me you will try."
"All right. Go ahead."
"I feel left out because there are new flyovers in the city, but no one has thought of me. I also want to have a flyover overhead.
"What are you saying? Your beauty will be ruined. Forget about easing the traffic on you, your open feel will be curbed. Your greatness will be finished."
"No, I want it. I want it, I want it."
"Okay, let me see what I can do about it."
"It? No, I want two. Crisscrossing. In the air. I want to look dandy, and fashionable. Like in one of the TV commercials they show on this giant screen here. You get it?"
"I do."

The Road smiled. "Bye, till we meet again." We shook hands, and I walked to my car.

The driver seemed to have walked off for some tea, and my car was way behind four layers of cars.

Goodness gracious! That would mean another 45 minutes of creating room for the car to move out.

I could perhaps walk in and interview the Mall. Details, maybe later.

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