The Angry Street Vendor
Last month a friend and I were stuck in traffic for well over an hour, on our way to Gulshan. Our car windows were rolled down and the usual stream of beggars and street urchins were stopping by, asking for money, selling fruit, flowers, candy, books, etc. A young woman selling plastic toys stopped at my friend's window and implored her to buy some of her wares. My friend, tired of being pestered for the past hour, spoke to the woman rather harshly, asking her to stop her “nagging”. The young woman, enraged, used certain swear words I have never heard before and will not mention here and proceeded to spit at my friend attracting a crowd. Since we were still stuck in stand still traffic, there was no chance of an escape. Awful as the situation was I couldn't help but laugh as we rolled up our windows and waited for the chaos to die down. The woman after glaring at us for a while moved on to the next car where they promptly bought some of her wares. I suppose the lesson we learned from this experience is that as annoyed as we are stuck in traffic and having to put our lives on hold, we must keep in mind that it must be much worse to walk around in the heat trying to make a living and that we should keep our behaviour in check while dealing with these poor souls.
The Ringing in My Ears
The other day, while stuck in traffic, I wanted to get away from it all more desperately than I ever have. I must have been stuck there in my car for about 15 minutes, and for all of those 15 minutes, a few vehicles behind me to one side was an ambulance with sirens wailing, unable to pass. I have witnessed such a scene countless times on the streets of Dhaka, and every time, my heartbeat picks up, I try to look and at the same time not look at who is inside the ambulance and what is going on. I can't help but imagine a life perhaps on the verge of death and I feel like crying out loud. When will we ever be civil, conscious and humane enough to know to let an ambulance pass? I have fortunately been able to train my own driver in this regard, I just wish everyone else would too. Every time something like this happens, even after I am free from the traffic and away from the ambulance, the sirens of my own guilt and fear, keep ringing in my ears.
Death on Uttara Road
One night driving along the Uttara road, I suddenly noticed a man lying under the wheels of a bus. Rather than trying to save a fellow human being's life, the driver decided it was much wiser to flee the scene and drove right over the body leaving behind a mutilated corpse. Fragments of bones, brains and blood that had once been the body parts of a living being scattered the streets of Dhaka, a city that has witnessed such tragedies too many times to be moved by another random incident.
The sight was horrible. At least it should have been. Passers by seemed furious but yet beneath their anger, there was a feeling of understandable indifference. After all, road accidents are a part of life in Bangladesh.
The victim seemed a poor man. He was probably returning home after back breaking labour which would have fed his children. Now all this is history. All of us the passer bys are in a hurry to get on with our lives, me included. So none of us spend too much time contemplating the gruesome scene that lay before us.
On my way back, more personal memories kept flashing in my mind. A few months back, a boy I knew personally died on the same road. His corpse was also left abandoned until his family discovered him in the city morgue.
Deaths by road accidents in Bangladesh have become too commonplace. Yet road accidents are tragic. Sometimes entire families vanquish in accidents. The worst part is incidents are increasing, making Bangladeshi roads the most dangerous in the world. In future many of our friends as well as ourselves might become victims of road accidents.
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