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               Volume 11 |Issue 01| January 06, 2012 |


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Behind the scenes of a laundramat. Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Living an Adulterated Life!

Shah Husain Imam

Are we living a life of our choice or that shaped by our circumstances? In reality, more the latter than the former. Just think of it, the greater part of our existence plays into the script left to us by our preceding generations and successive governments in the past. We are in a way riding the wheels of a handed down living.

It feels like sitting on keyed up coils of a spring unwound of its own built-in motion like a mechanised robot set to a programme. We have little or no control of our circumstances.

There is another adjunct to our helplessness. Lifestyle changes have occurred with progress in material terms; yet, the stress of living rather than lessening is on the up. Living has become severely complicated and stressful. What with keeping up with the Joneses, the mind's void escalates and the heart's warmth shrinks. All this has added to the legacies we have been left with, to be living on a depreciated existentialism.

Photo: Amirul Rajiv

The Banga Market in the older part of Dhaka has become a metaphor for life in winter, whether Siberian or on the steppes or plainlands. That's why second hand winter wears, changing perhaps many hands in invisible handholding, keep drawing numerous buyers – students set to study abroad, migrant workers en route to their work places, foreign tourists, and even some of the expatriate community.

Then you wash these with disinfectants and put these on without a bother about their origin. That is what life is like, nothing is new and fresh; for the knowledgeable say that the clothes we wear and the things we eat have not changed very much over the last 10,000 years. Only the adulterated foods and synthetic clothes have come in different forms with an increasing intensity to swamp any semblance of trust in what we eat and what we dress up in.

If you are a stickler for cleanliness, better give up the finicky habit. You have stepped on a lost cause, so do not waste your time and energy on it, except for minding personal hygiene as far as practicable. Even that minimalist approach is coming under assault.

On a lighter but compelling note, those cringing -- particularly girls and women -- at the thought of brushing with a pedestrian or vaulting up through the packed footrest of the buses or sitting on a dusty coach seat or walking by a stinking public toilet or through dirty over or underpasses have to adjust to get by.

Washing machines have effectively replaced laundry shops for many urban households. Those who wash and iron their clothes themselves or get it done by domestic help are cleanliness faddists like those who cook for themselves. But the lazy and casual majority has to make compromises day in and day out to their hygienic peril. They send their domestic aids with washed up clothes and linens dangling by their sides exposed through the dusty streets up to the laundry shop for ironing. The insensitive keeper of the shop or the iron-presser dump the clothes into a mound nearby, no one knows how clean that is! When an absentee customer's turn comes for pressing, they will sprinkle just any water over the clothes like dirty shreds of paper swished through the sheek to drop the kabobs off to an equally dirty plate.

Then, we have contaminated our city environment through various surface and air pollutants so effectively that none, howsoever wealthy and given to luxuries of life can pride himself or herself on a snooty lifestyle. The dwellers of big mansions and slums are breathing the same air filled with not just any impurity but dry faeces and dust particles the air around us is rife with. Such a malcontent has perilously crossed the critical threshold with carbon monoxide overshooting the tipping point.

If there are wild shrubs around your houses, creepers will unstoppably enter your premises. Grotesquely contrasting squatter or squalor settlements and built-up habitats and thickets of sky scrapers are not the symptoms of an ailing economy and urbanisation, but they are manifestly the disease itself.

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.

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