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     Volume 5 Issue 95 | May 19, 2006|

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View from the Bottom

Jaywalking Jitters on Dhaka Roads

Shahnoor Wahid

Here is one for a starter:
Once a man was going to his office. Outside his doorsteps he slipped on a banana peel. Next day, on his way to the office, he again slipped on a banana peel outside his doorsteps. On the third day, he noticed two banana peels on the same spot and exclaimed "Aha! Good! Today I have a choice!" So he stepped on the second one.

Well, well, in Dhaka you will have no choice. If you are jaywalking on a Dhaka road many things may happen to you in succession. You may slip on that banana skin and fall flat on your back and people around you will start to laugh like baboons seeing your spreadeagle condition. But rest assured no one will come forward to help you get up.

Then suddenly you may get drenched in rainwater on a hot sunny day. But you will notice that there is no rain and you are the only one who got drenched and others around you are running to take cover. You will look up and see more water coming down along with some brick-chips and sand from the top of the multi-storied building under construction right next to the pavement. This time you start running. You are lucky that a large piece of brick did not land on your head to make you 'rest in peace' in the world hereafter.

Talking of rain. If you decide to take a stroll after a spell of rain there is ninety-nine percent chance that a passing car will cover you from head to toe with filthy water on the road. And don't expect the driver to stop the car and apologise.

I was amused to learn that in China the authorities have decided to impose a fine on anyone seen spitting in public places. Why amused? Because there is no way our authorities can be so tough on its people who take spitting as a sport and almost as a birthright. These sportsmen and women, the spitters I mean, are all over the place. These people spit just for the fun of it. They have been doing it for centuries, and James Cameroon actually got the idea from here and added that scene in the film Titanic (Was the scene really necessary?). Well, as I said, our folks simply love to do it. They do not care where the spits land. These minuscule and messy missiles come from all directions and some of them are sure to hit you no matter how hard you try to duck or dodge. If you are walking by the side of a passenger bus then you will surely get hit by one such missile emanating from inside. Consider yourself lucky if the missile thrower has not been chewing betel-leaf.

But these are lesser hazards on a road in comparison to the worst possible one that may happen to you. As you are walking aimlessly on a comparatively quiet pavement, you will suddenly hear a shrill sound like.... "eeeeeooorrgghh"....in front and see two flailing hands being devoured by earth. Do not be too surprised. This is a normal sight in this great metropolis of ours. With the gaping man-made holes, popularly known as manholes, dotting the Dhaka roads one may go underground anytime in the literal sense of the term. But I can promise you the trip would not be as exciting or as romantic as going 'underground' as a political activist of a banned political party. That is a totally different ball game. On Dhaka roads if you are not looking where you are stepping you may find the sky suddenly disappearing from above. After the initial shock you will discover to your utter horror that you are neck-deep in black and slimy urban filth. If you are lucky someone will pull you up before you go deeper in to the muck.

Next you will be wondering where the cover has gone? Well, that's a million dollar question but the answer is worth about two hundred bucks. Our nifty little brothers who work only on night shifts take the manhole covers home and that's the kind of price they get from the buyers of stolen manhole covers. But it is enough for a day's work...night's rather!

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