The Daily Star

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Sunday, January 8, 2017
Tuesday, July 1, 2008

MANY things can happen in Bangladesh all at a time, and you shall have to be up and about not to miss any of it. After what you see on the surface, you shall have to dig deeper to comprehend the full meaning. Many of it will not make any sense and you will wonder aloud: Oh no! It was not supposed to happen like this! This is unacceptable! Why is he doing what he is not supposed to do! Why is he saying what he is not supposed to say! Gosh! What is happening in this country! Maybe, if you are a student of English Literature, you will say: There is something rotten in the state of Denmark!

Well, we don't know whether rotten or not, but if you were in prison today as a politician and had the updates about the ploys being applied to get the sympathy of the administration, you would be the happiest man in jail. Actually, there are various ploys that can land you in a cabin of a hospital with full-time AC, better food and toilet. But to earn all that, first and foremost, you will need to take a crash course on acting. No, you will not have to perform an act from A Midsummer Night's Dream. That would be beyond the grasp of your 14 generation. It is lot simpler than any such dramatics. What you will have to do is, firstly, eat a sumptuous breakfast, and then take the makeup of a very sick looking man.

Then, right before the administration officials, give your best shot bend a little, walk slowly, cough a lot, grimace every now and then, distort your face, clutch your chest, shake your knees violently, roll your eyes and gasp for breath. Meanwhile, arrange for your party supporters to shout outside for sending you abroad for treatment. After that Oscar winning performance, nothing will stop you from getting the sympathy of the officials. You will earn full points and be given lengra aam and rosogolla as reward. There is more. You will get that cabin with a better toilet.

And while the dramatics will go on, seeing your performance from a safe distance, a Rahim Mia will wonder why he and his 6-year old son were not given the same privilege by the same administration for committing a lesser offence.

He and his minor son were in prison for an alleged dacoity case and there was none to offer them some mango or jackfruit.

Though he was not involved in the alleged dacoity, a corrupt police official included his name in the investigation report out of grudge when he refused to pay him money. His 6-year old son was also taken to the police station and kept in the lock-up for two days and two nights!

Rahim Mia looks deeply at the imprisoned VIPs and remembers how hundreds of young men were hauled up in prison vans and dumped in cells at the order of those same leaders who were playing badminton over there. He remembers how some known heroin dealers and killers of his area got out as free men as they belonged to the party of those VIP prisoners.

Today, he wonders why they were being given all sorts of privileges. He wonders aloud: "Are we the 'Children of a Lesser God?' Otherwise, why there is such glaring discrimination in treatment?"

Rahim Mia and the likes of him are fools and they live in a fool's world. They have no idea of the ways of the game of politics as it is played today in Bangladesh by some corrupt politicians. Rahim Mias have no clue of the deals that are negotiated on the upper floors in the name of democracy, stability and upholding multi-party political culture. They cannot read or write but they listen to radio and TV reports on the political activities and the matters with the government and election.

They have never seen a voter list. They do not understand what is a good voter list and what is a bad voter list. They do not understand what those people have to talk about in the "dialogue" when the problems are so glaringly visible.

Don't the big, big sahibs see the arid farmland, the flooded plains, the burnt down forests, polluted rivers, depleting Sundarbans, encroached Cox's Bazar, wayward road transports, spiralling price of essentials, child and women trafficking, open-air heroin peddling and prostitution. So, Rahim Mias wonder, why don't they act now, instead of talking.

Rahim Mias will exhaust their lives pedaling rickshaws or pushing carts through the concrete roads under the blazing sun or carrying loads on their head or falling down from roof-tops of under-construction buildings. They will spend their free time standing in the queue for cheap, coarse rice. One day, they will be packed up on a rickshaw-van and taken to a voting centre to cast their votes against the name of a "bhai."

They will be told that all their earthly sufferings would come to an end if they made the bhai the ward commissioner or the MP. But they will not have the time to say that the bhai was known for murdering two opponents years back and that he was an infamous smuggler and heroin peddler.

So, a whole new ballgame has begun in the country where people are falling sick potapot. Just play your act right and the door next to freedom will be open.

Shahnoor Wahid is a Senior Assistant Editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at:

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