Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 23, Tuesday, June 8, 2010



LS Editor’s Note

Dust to dust

BTV used to run a serial in the late eighties called 'Last days of Pompeii'. As you all know, Pompeii was wiped off the face of the earth by a massive volcanic eruption. The serial was about the city's beautiful people, their love interest and passion, their daily drama, and about their greed and their corruption.

These people were immersed in their everyday businesses, failing to take heed of the minor tremors gently rocking the ground beneath their feet, paving the way for the catastrophe that awaited them. They were too busy engaging in the vices common to any city dweller; theft, murder, rape, extortion. And in one split second, it was all gone.

The reason for remembering the serial is the uncanny similarity between those days in history and our present day scenario. The recent collapse of a five-storey building in the capital's Begunbari area, which claimed more than two scores of innocent lives and the devastating fire that claimed more than 120 lives in the densely populated Nawab Katra and Nimtoli in Old Dhaka are surely bad omens telling us not to forget the minor jolts we face with alarming regularity.

Photo: Rashed Sumon

A quick look into the recent fire that left deep wounds not only on the sufferers but also raised alarms for the city dwellers: The five storey building had been raised on pillars on the lake, while the three tin roofed houses were built on stilts in the lake waters. Obviously these illegal structures were built without Rajuk's permission or any approved designs whatsoever. Sadly enough, the reason for the blazing inferno was an engagement party. Expatriate Jamil of Hossaini Dalan came home three months ago to marry 19-year-old Runa Akhter of Nimtoli in Old Dhaka. The engagement for the two was arranged on Thursday night. But their dreams turned into a nightmare when a fierce fire broke out in the area. The flames allegedly sparked from makeshift burners installed for preparing dishes for the function.

How cruel can life be? The fire scorched not only thousands of innocent dreams but precious lives. But who is to be blamed- fate or our lack of respect to city laws? The newspaper reports say that the fire department's lack of preparedness to deal with fire in dense neighbourhoods with narrow streets, and the unplanned building boom in the capital were the reasons for the high number of casualties on Thursday's Nimtoli blaze. The blaze was just 300 metres from the Fire Service and Civil Defence Headquarters from where fire fighters rushed to the spot right away, and yet could not do much to save the lives of the trapped residents, only adding to the incredible tragedy of the situation.

We, the residents should now be waiting for an earthquake to completely wipe us unruly people out. We have been warned, but we don't have the reasoning to understand the magnitude of it all. We will soon forget about these heart wrenching stories that we read and cried over and go about our mean ways to deceive each other and be careless and live uninspired, corrupted, selfish lives that have no place for civic sense, citizen's duty and most of all, compassion.

We, the narrow-minded people are blaming the government, the opposition, the laws but why? Did we ever for once think that it is our own fault that we are living a dog's life and dying a dog's death too? Why would we defy the laws of the city, give two cents worth to civic duties? We are intolerant, we are liars, and we have no regards for others; we are happy as long as all's well for ourselves and our immediate concerns.

Two weeks from now, we will again build unapproved buildings, run chemical factories in residential areas, make the streets our private property and forget the sad tales of Nimtoli and Begunbari. Until one fine day we wake up to find that our 'Tillottoma Dhaka' has been erased and we are all but like the debris of Pompeii.

By Raffat Binte Rashid





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