Bangkok versus Dhaka
The Thai capital is bracing for its worst ever floods. The system must allow the water to pass through Bangkok to ease the water from its many provinces up north that are under water now for months and weeks, and fresh areas are being inundated on a daily basis. It has also been said that once flooded, water in Bangkok will remain for four to six weeks. Has not Dhaka seen it all? And worse!
Added to the unease of being displaced from their abodes, crocodiles and snakes have entered urban areas with the floodwater. People residing in low-lying areas have begun parking their vehicles on nearby bridges and high grounds. There exists a quiet sense of calm before the calamity.
Life however is going on. The markets are bustling with shoppers. The restaurants are not that full. Traffic on the higher dry avenues of central Bangkok is to a great extent normal, but not chaotic. The army is out at critical areas undertaking relief and rescue operations.
The citizens are not panicking although it is known to all and sundry that the floods are indeed coming. They remain calm as they make their own voluntary arrangements to build barricades of sandbags to hopefully keep away the water, if not delay the inevitable inundation, when indeed the city is flooded.
On the streets students are singing and sounding whatever they can get their hands on to raise money for those in need. There are boxes receiving donations at shopping malls all over the city and the airports. Young people have set up roadside camps collecting relief materials and contributions.
Health and safety warnings, flood updates, and instructions as well as advisories are being given on television round the clock. Relief work is underway at others parts of the country already under water, wherefrom large populations have been moved to safer shelters. There is apparent preparation to provide Bangkok with rescue and relief services if and when it is under water.
There is of course the obvious discontentment among some quarters, bordering on scepticism about the government's preparedness and how much it is hiding about the forthcoming actual situation. Which is again not unusual in any country under seige by a natural calamitous phenomenon.
These are very much what Dhaka would face or do in a similar situation. There are however some major noticeable and important differences.
Roadside vendors peddling humble goods and foodstuff, high profile shops and restaurants, buses and taxis have not escalated the price with the infamous sayings here, for example, 'what can we do when the whole country is under water' or 'transportation costs have gone up', or worse 'the (rich) suppliers have increased the rate'. The market is stable except that there is genuine fluctuation of the dollar, but that too by a small margin in both directions.
There is no extra policing to keep order because everyone is carrying on as normal. No one is taking ill advantage of the sufferings of a nation. There is a feeling of solidarity all round. The people are prepared in their best way for the worst.
The municipal workers are not shirking from their responsibility of keeping the city clean only because they are expecting it to be dirtied by the soil of the flood. There is no jumping of the red light because one is seemingly trying to flee from the flood. There is no rally to outright blame the government for its 'failure' to protect the people in others areas already under water. They seem to be thousands of miles away from us mentally.
In the past we have overcome many a major flood. We have risen as a nation. Our people have rendered selfless service. Some have lost their lives while taking part in relief and rescue operations. However, our blame game tactics, countering every step by political foes, and seeing the success of one as lesser than that of another, has put an unnecessary blemish on our high achievements.
Let us hold our heads high. Let us lend each other a helping hand. Let the world know that in matters of disaster management there are things that we do that could be useful lessons for them. Let us be political opponents and yet be nationalists when the issue is Bangladesh. Let us be citizens of Bangladesh and a not a member of any political party. Let us be citizens of Mother Earth.