The week that was
It's true when one says that it's the little things that matter in life; a telephone conversation with an old friend after a long time, organising a birthday party for a colleague at work, a surprise bonus at the end of the month, achieving one's goals, sheer adulation in return for one's performance and much more. It's these little things that people desire for mere survival and it's for these little things that they end up toiling from dawn to dusk and still seem to miss out on.
Last week, the city was going through one of those "phases" again. There are no accurate words to describe it, but the symptoms were all there. One could see it on the streets and feel it in the eyes of the passers-by -- an urgency to speak out and also the invisible piece of cloth tied around their mouths to prevent it.
You could be just another face in the crowd, privileged enough to be one of them. There are people on the streets being pushed and bullied in the name of maintaining social classes and getting a work done. You can feel the pain inflicted upon their prides again and again, however, bruises which would linger on for just a short while and disappear as soon as they were made.
The week went by, just like its predecessor, with power outages being the norm. The electricity situation had gone so out of hand, that everyone was getting used to the routine and could actually predict when the lights would go off and have the city moving on with the help of candle lights. Of course, the better part of the city makes use of generators to produce electricity, but even they fail after a while.
The "big fish" or the government is probably doing the right thing, cutting out on electricity and letting each section of the city enjoy a bit of this luxury. However, they would probably never realise the extent of the little dilemmas faced by the people. Sweltering in this unprecedented heat, students are simply tired of squinting in their candle lit study rooms, cramming for a quiz to be held the next day. After a day's worth of paperwork and classes, it is impossible for a family to sit in front of the television and enjoy "movie-time" together.
As if that was not enough, a five-storey building collapses in Tejgaon, where, even as one reads, several people stuck under the rubbles are dying, while waiting to be rescued. The intellectuals are still trying to figure out who is to blame. While the authorities claim that proper permission was granted to construct this 5-storey building, Rajuk denies any knowledge of such liberty. Since no one knows whom exactly to blame, garments workers randomly decided to break open their vaults of anger on cars and vehicles at Banani, Road no. 11 some time last week. Families are still out there outside the collapsed building at Tejgaon, screaming out names and calling out their loved ones, hoping for some kind of a response. Roads were blocked and traffic jams took a nasty turn. Gas stations and petrol pumps ran out of fuel. What could be more fascinating than a car or two breaking down on the Mohakhali flyover and worsening the vicious snarl-up.
To add to it all, not a single CNG or mishuk would agree to your repeated offers of a double fare if they would just transport you to your workplace in Kawran Bazaar from Hotel Sheraton in Shahbag. You cannot wait around much longer in the sweltering sun and decide to walk all the way to work. As a woman of a 'developing' country, it is a common site to have men leer at you in strange ways while out on a stroll. There was nothing different about this either. You can feel ogling eyes moving up and down your body, while walking past people on the footpath. What made the situation ironic was that the ogling eyes belonged to none other than the police officers and RAB officials clearing up the streets to make way for Her Highness, the Prime Minister. A few of them even bothered to pass a few comments and one even tried a feeble attempt at whistling but in vain.
All of a sudden you, along with some others are shooed away to the sides, when blaring police car sweeps by with security officials on motor bikes following suit and of course the lady herself. A second after that, the traffic is let loose after several minutes of imprisonment which seems like endless hours to many. Hilariously, this reminds you of a scene from an old Roman movie, where the King showers water and throw fruits at the thousands of imprisoned men, women and children, after starving and torturing them for days on end.
Mahatma Gandhi, in one of his notes that he left for everyone to ponder upon in 1948, said that one should feel content with what one has in life and think twice before complaining. The country today is in a bad state, but obviously not in ruins. We might have a confused party coming up every five years to rule over the country, but we still have a proud history to build a better future on. There are many shortcomings that we face every day in this country, but we can always anticipate that the generations to come will take it in their stride to realise their true potential and highlight the country on the map.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006