The afternoon was as ordinary as all other afternoons of the season. The sun was dull and made everything look even duller than what they already were. The street wasn't empty, but not really crowded at the same time. There were rickshaws carrying college students home, there were cars that went past at 40 kilometres per hour, there were a few CNGs that filled this dullness with a screeching, annoying sound as they went by, there were some pedestrians on the road looking wholesomely irritated, there were a few stationery stores inside which lazy shopkeepers yawned and there was I, staring at all this with my typical bored expression.
I was standing outside a fast-food shop. I had my lunch there, like a hundred other teenagers who had stopped having their meals at home. This habit was becoming more common everyday - young people ending up in dumb food corners for daily meals. I don't really blame them. What have they got to do if there are so many FC-s opening almost every week of the year? I remember this friend of mine who came up with the name of seven such FC-s that were currently running in Dhaka. I'm sure by next year, there will be seven more running. I, myself felt distasteful about such food items because of the typical, monotonous taste they all carried. Burgers, French fries, Coke, grilled chicken, salad how many more days can I take them? They all, at the moment for me, taste awfully tasteless. But I didn't have much of a choice, really. I was way too used to the routine to change now.
Speaking of routines, my schedule now told me that I am supposed to be in my Maths tutor's place in another hour. After that, I had to attend my classes under my Physics tutor and then I had to go to my coaching center for Chemistry. Anybody must be wondering that I'm a worthless student who can't do anything on her own. That's a joke! Why? Well, the rest nineteen of my classmates were doing the same running from tutor to tutor. It's become a part of the trend. Kids always crowd outside private teachers' places before their O'level and A'level examinations. What I find so ridiculous and amazing about this is the fact that no one is actually left out. Everybody is there, regardless of how much of extra help they require, or maybe, don't require at all. Seems like a late afternoon or evening school. Ah well, who cares! My friends are there why should I feel deprived by not joining them?
Right. So where were we? Outside a fast-food shop, eh? I called out to a rickshaw and asked the puller if he was willing to take me to Dhanmondi. He gave a grunt, that otherwise meant he agreed with my offer and I got up on the rickshaw. It started moving. As I sat there, I was thinking of what I really wanted to tell this rickshaw puller and what I actually said to him a few minutes back. I wish I could have told him to take me to wherever he felt like, just as long as he didn't kidnap me. I had no intention of specifying a destination for I only wanted to spend some time riding on a rickshaw without a particular motive behind it. Darn! I can never say that. I'm sure if I did, the puller would have left me standing in front of that dumb fast-food shop and would have added a curious, weird or angry look with his grunts. People are becoming so purposeful these days!
Anyway, now that I was already sitting on a rickshaw and unwillingly was being taken to Dhanmondi, I had no choice but to enjoy the ride the way it was. I looked around the street and my eyes stopped at a rickshaw that was standing stationary nearby, facing the opposite direction as to mine. The occupants were two youths of opposite sex who were busily making out. The poor rickshaw puller was standing at a distance, occasionally giving the couple snooping, naughty glances. There was nothing surprising about the scene as it was happening in almost every corner, under every tree or behind every bush of my dear city. What actually made me give them a closer look was the sudden rush of rage that I felt inside me. I always felt this anger when I saw such obscene scenes. People can be so desperately shameless at times! I really had nothing against love or people falling in love, but what really got on my nerves was the new definition of love that this generation has brought in. What was it again? Ah, yes! Liking a person on Day 1, asking the person out on Day 2, going out for dates and talking all the time over the phone on consecutive Days 3, 4 and 5, making out on Day 6, making out at extreme rate on Day 7, having a fight on trivial issues on Day 8, getting back together and making out on Day 9 and finally breaking up on Day 10. Hoo boy, that's "love"! For me, it's the 10-day package program like the ones they offer at travel agencies. These young people have made this divine feeling into a cheap medium of communication between two humans. For them, true love can be determined by how long one can stay stuck to the other's lips like super-glue. Five minutes and above darn, you're the love of his/her life. How simply annoying and pathetic!
Like every other time, I felt a sudden urge of going up to the couple, picking them up and throwing them off the rickshaw. Just like every other time again, I couldn't do anything but feel provoked and depressed. Provoked, for the couples' follies; depressed, for their successful revival of the modified love definition in my mind.
The anger was temporary, for my inquisitive eyes caught something else. A little girl was sitting at the corner of the pavement and looking around with a helpless face, while tears of pain trickled down her cheeks. The fingers of her right hand were wrapped around her left thumb and she was rubbing it on her dirty dress from time to time. There were a bunch of dried red roses that were lying carelessly beside her. I needed no further clues. She was one those flower-seller kids and had pricked her finger with the thorn of the roses. She was trying to stop the bleeding by pressing her fingers around the cut, but the pain had naturally brought tears in her eyes. After all, she wasn't more then eleven years old. I wanted to stop the rickshaw and rush to her aid. But that thought came to my head a minute too late. The rickshaw had already gone past her.
I turned my head around and looked at her. Her rough black hair fell on her shoulders and her unnourished, thin body was covered with a torn, dirty brown dress. She was so fragile and innocent and the tears seem to roll down her cheeks like pearls. I turned back and felt terribly depressed. She looked so helpless, sitting there. I wondered why none of those passing pedestrians stopped for a moment and gave the girl a closer look. Was I the only one in this city who managed to notice the pain on her face or was it that people had become so indifferent that they've decided to walk with their eyes closed? Who knows! I just wanted to cry out loud and tell these people to try and care for those who need some care, instead of doing riots and protests for silly rights and stupid issues. Maybe that way, we might have a better Bangladesh.
Then again, I could have been the one to stop and go up to the weeping child. I could have been the one to give her some comfort, show her a little affection and be the one to care. But I didn't. I just blamed it on others. That's where human hypocrisy comes in. Pufft!
My depression was soon overpowered by an extreme emotion of humour. Apparently, I have very frequent mood swings and can almost start laughing in the middle of a weeping session just because I've seen something or somebody else had told me something. In this case, I was no different. I was passing Bolaka Cinema Hall at the moment and as I'm not blind like most other people around me, my eyes was fixed on the huge banner that was promoting a movie called Premer Jala (The Pain of Love). The banner and supporting posters not only reflected vulgarity, but also managed to give any foreigner a wrong impression of our tastes. The impression wasn't really impressive. Besides the fact that the colour selection was almost allergic (bright yellow, red and fluorescent green) to my eyes, the banner carefully depicted the most obscene clips of the movie where the elephant-sized actress tried dancing like Indian models wearing the tightest of mini-skirts and shirts, thus successfully revealing certain parts of their ugly bodies, the actor wore a transparent belly-button showing shirt and giving us a clear idea of his horribly degrading muscles and the rest of his hairy body, and the villain had his mouth open like a tiger, wearing a pitch black sunglass and was bald, therefore making him look more like a clown rather than a representative of the evil axis of life. What I had just seen (and described) was not only obscene, but at the same time was utterly ridiculous and gave me a vivid view to the poor and disgraceful direction of our Dhaliwood movie production houses and its directors. If this was the quality of the banner itself, I wonder what lay before me when it came to the actual movie. The very thought of it made me feel sick to the stomach. For a second there, I was thinking if banners and posters were forms of advertisement and would supposedly attract people towards the particular matter.
Nevertheless, the ludicrous poster managed to restore my good moods. I checked my watch and found out that I still had another twenty minutes for my disposal before I was expected at my Maths tutor's house. At the same time, I realized that I was stuck in a traffic jam near Science Laboratory. Traffic jams weren't surprising when it came to Dhaka City. In fact, it's the most common thing around. People have gotten so well adopted to it that nowadays, when they calculate their timings, they include the few hours that they have to spend in a traffic jam. So, like all other vehicles and their occupants who sat there, waiting patiently and indifferently for it to be over, I sat on my rickshaw and did the same. There were a lot of other rickshaws around that were stuck in the jam like mine and most of the people who sat there were youthful couples, who seemed absolutely unmindful of what was happening around them and were in their own dreamland as they held each others' arms. I wondered how many more days they'll be doing this and how one day they'll forget all about it. Many cars surrounded our rickshaws too. Pretty cars, really. Most were either Toyota AC Salon or Toyota Corona, but there were a few Mitsubishi Jeeps, Noah Microbuses and Landcruisers in sight. I even spotted a flashy red sports car that boomed with loud rapping music of 50 Cent. These cars weren't really a spectacle as I see them everyday, but what really amused me was the fact that this country is still struck by poverty. Affluent people dominated our streets with expensive Mercedes, Lexus and other such cars and spend their money on buying more of these cars. There were apartments and deluxe houses that were popping up in every unoccupied piece of land that can be found in this city. Those flats actually cost over Tk.40000 and people still buy them and manage to furnish them with expensive sofa, carpets, paintings, decoration pieces and so on. Looking at them, it doesn't seem at all that this country is one of the poorest and under-developed nations of the world. Every segment of this irony bemused me as I sat on my rickshaw; carefully taking details of the cars that I saw around me and guessed their prices. Oh-such ironical poverty!
The traffic jam fortunately didn't last long and only after ten minutes or so, my rickshaw was moving at its slow, sweet pace. It took a left turn and entered Road No. 2 of Dhanmondi. This was a busy road. I thought of Rifles Square that lay at the other end of this road and tried remembering of any items that I needed to buy on my way back home. These shopping complexes are popping up at such an alarming rate that it gets me confused at times as to which mall should I actually purchase my goods from. Not that the shops in these complexes sold extremely cheap products, but people still went there and came home with huge packets full of pretty clothes, shoes, cosmetics, jewellery and what not. Their purchase encouraged the construction of more of these malls and that made Dhaka look more unplanned that what it already is. To add, there were those universities too. Gosh, there are so many of them and with every possible direction in their names Eastwest, Northsouth, Southeast, Northwest and on and on. People do lack innovation when it comes to university names! Sh-ee-sh! Believe it or not, I can actually name eleven universities that are in and around Satmasjid Road. At times, I wonder what mode of education these universities offer as far as quality is concerned! How the Hell do they manage to find decent professors for conducting these higher studies classes? Ah well, I can only keep wondering and rolling my eyes.
My rickshaw by now
had taken another turn and was passing Big Boss. I was very close to
my destination now. I suddenly felt like chewing something and opened
my bag, searching for any chewing-gum or chocolate. Miraculously, I
found two Spout cubes and delightedly opened both their wrappers and
chewed them in my mouth. These little things can provide one with so
much pleasure and joy. Why only gums? Chocolates were not a degree below
when it came to pleasure. I absolutely love Toblerone, Kitkat and Snickers.
They're delicious! Yum yum yummy! There's more actually Mars, Perk,
Picnic, Safari, Cadbury É
Sorry for getting carried away I always get hyped up when it comes to chocolates. Anyway, I was playing merrily in my dreams of chocolates when I saw my tutor' house at a distance. I told the rickshaw puller to stop in front of the house and got down. I handed him a crispy Tk.20 note and I suppose he thanked me with another of his grunts. He then went away and I was about to enter the house when I noticed a huge pile of garbage that lay opposite to the house. It was garbage-dumping place, but most of the trash was scattered outside the block that was designed for the purpose. Very little of it was actually inside the block. No wonder they say Dhaka City was turning into a national garbage dump yard. Every other corner of the city had one of these rectangular blocks with wasted materials spilling out of it. The smell was horrific and unbearable and the very sight of it would make a person feel like vomiting. The streets were also piled with such trash and made my darling city look dirtier than ever. I wish people had been a little more hygienic and careful about these things and take the trouble of throwing their garbage inside these blocks and not outside or on the streets. If everybody stopped littering here and there and everywhere, maybe eventually we might come up with a cleaner city, even if it is two decades later.
Anyway, enough of my blabbing and now back to studies. I have a Maths class to attend!! I turned my back to the garbage pile and was about to step inside when I noticed that I still had the two gum wrappers clasped in my palm. They were sticky. I turned back at the litter pile and threw the wrappers in that direction. My aim wasn't all-that good, so the wrappers flew and landed at the corner of the pavement. I looked at my own litter on the pavement and smirked to myself. That's where the hypocrisy of a struggling writer lies!
By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya
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