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     Volume 7 Issue 51 | January 2 , 2009 |

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One Off

Now is the Time!

Aly Zaker

It was early in the morning. I was sitting by my reading table trying to look beyond where the sky meets the land. Unlike many other clear days my vision was intimidated by the thick mist of end-December. It's not uncommon to be inundated by mist this time of the year, especially in the morning. Just as well. I suppose nature has its own way of providing us with opportunities to do things that we'd otherwise forget about. In a morning with all pervading mist and sitting on the tenth floor of a building at a height of a hundred feet when you cannot see beyond the potted plants on your window sill is when you are constrained to look within. This inward gaze is necessary when we are at cross roads. And verily we are at the cross roads of getting to start a journey on the road so often spoken of by all and sundry; a road to democracy.

Photo: AFP

By the time this piece sees the print; our ninth general election will have been over. The dust of all the campaigning, speeches and rhetoric will have ceased. We will have known which party was going to form a government with a clear majority in the parliament or through forging a coalition. Whatever the manner of formation, we will have a government that will have had the popular mandate to rule us for over the next five years. Now it is mandatory for us, those who have heated the TV screen, the street corners, and the confines of the round table discussions or the living rooms of various dwellings, what is going to be their role in helping to shape the destiny of our country. More importantly, how is the elected government going to write their list of priorities in planning to take the nation forward to the desired goal of a prosperous Bangladesh. Agriculture, electricity, industries, disaster management, poverty alleviation and so on, and we have no dearth of specialists in all these fields who would, I am sure, steadfastly contribute in the process of providing a sense of direction in these fields. I, as an ordinary citizen, have some other simpler issues. I would not like to make my comments weighty by imposing pompous words and would like to dwell upon matters that affect our day-to-day lives. First and foremost, I think it is necessary for any government to introduce a thorough and honest teaching of lawful behaviour. Now, this lawful behaviour may vary from as important an issue as democratic norms to as apparently trifling matter as driving on the correct side of the road. We often forget that democracy does not permit us to behave as we please by the token of majority. Even if one of the members of a given society has a different opinion, it has to be given equal importance. This is more pertinent in case of religious matters.

On the question of going by law, I recall an incident that I was witness to while being driven around by a friend of mine in Kolkata. It so happened at an intersection when the traffic light turned red and we had to stop. My friend asked the policeman on duty, “The light has just about turned red and the road is empty would you let me pass through?" The policeman said in an expressionless face, “Try me”. Such are the norms in a civilised society, particularly in a City (with a capital C). While in our beloved city of Dhaka one would still see people driving by the right of the divided VIP road just to avoid the trouble of a few metres of extra driving. It is quite customary to see pedestrians running across the same road braving the rush of traffic despite the fact that there is a footbridge situated within a few metres. These are habits that are reminiscent of a provincial town of the feudal era. Exception to the law seems to be the norm. And this is what our lawmakers have failed to address year after year. In fact, in this act of transgression, they themselves indulge more shamelessly than the common people. On the aspect of misdemeanours the common people are much less to blame than those that belong to the upper or upper middle class. Over the past few years we managed to teach our children to go grab anything that caught their fancy by whichever means possible. This matter of a mind-set devoid of values is something that we have to address seriously, particularly the rulers that will assume power, so that some semblance of decency prevails in society. May be time has come to break the fetters of absurdity and pursue a normal way of life. And in this we could only ask our leaders to lead from the front. Look at any country, from the bastion of capitalism to our next door neighbour, politics means willfully surrendering certain privileges and ostentations and lead a life that can set an example for our future generation of politicians. After all, we owe it to our children not to bring them up as thugs.


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