Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, December 23, 2004





Hail to Evil

By: Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

So, Bangladesh has been proclaimed as the most corrupt country for the fourth time in a row. An accomplishment undoubtedly - of recognition, regardless of the fact it's not one of the most positive things to be known for. Plus, to add in the humour of the whole situation, the government disowned the statement saying that it was biased towards the opposition.

My insincere apologies for my incapability of feeling ashamed at this fact. Why me only? It's the whole nation, its people and the oh-so concerned government all too indifferent to react. It is after all, a repetition of the same statement and it's natural to get bored of it.

There's pollution, corruption, dishonesty, theft, murder, rape and every crime beyond my limited vocabulary at every corner of this "pretty" country of mine. The place reminds me of a drain that's bubbling with dirt and stagnant water, stinking so bad that it's impossible to even look at it, let alone stand next to it; and we all pretend to never notice its existence and walk past it, hoping the next passer-by can bother about how to clean it.

Believe me or not, you and me and everybody else who we can think of is the person who walks past, without caring and leaving it to the rest of the world to deal with.

A few months back, my mother's colleague's son got kidnapped. The son (who just happens to be an over-smart, brilliant kid) was imaginative enough to tell the kidnappers that his parents were in the village and he studied alone in Dhaka, living in a hostel and he couldn't afford to pay one lakh taka as demanded. Those hoodlums believed him and after a bit of a bargain and beating, settled with a sum of twenty thousand taka (imagine how pathetic even criminals have become these days, pfft!).

So the witty son called up his tutor and through some code-language or whatever, managed to get the message through that he was in trouble. Apparently, the tutor consulted the police and met with the kidnappers in the decided location.

The son did get released and while he was getting up in a CNG (the "sweet" kidnappers came to wave him goodbye) said, "Mama, chehara toh chine rakhsi. Erpor dekhe nibo. Beshi chalak hoite geso toh, porre moja bujhba!"

I leave the readers to use their imagination to decide how the poor guy felt at the moment and how he frightened he feels while he walks on the streets.

That was just the simplest and least "scary" of all incidents that I know of. A year back, a distant relative of ours got both his arms cut off because he denied from giving the hijackers his engagement ring, that too after they've taken all his money, his Titan watch and his credit card.

The latest trend is to cut down the dead body of the murdered into twenty or more pieces, pack it up in a sack and throw it off somewhere where it'll get discovered and reach to the headlines of the newspapers. (The shortest way to fame, I guess!) As far as I can recall, there's been a set record of forty-five pieces of a human corpse found in a local lake. Guess I don't have to wait too long for someone to break that record; not at the rate we're going along with these things.

Those were just a few gruesome murders in the city. Nothing much, really! Let's talk about corruption in the offices, in the streets and in the hearts of the people. The other day, our car got a case-record from the traffic police for parking in the NO-PARKING ZONE (I distinctively remember a sign saying 'private cars park here' there). Nevertheless, after the routine, boring and unimportant license checking, noting down of the car number and blah blah, the real fun part began the bargain.

The traffic sergeant pretended to be shocked when my driver offered him money in order to release his license (my God, the sergeant is such an awful actor!) and then said he'd settle for something around Tk.1500. My poor driver, knowing very well that I had no money with me and he had only a hundred buck or so in his pocket, complained to the sergeant for asking for such a large sum on such a small crime. The sergeant yawned and replied,

"Shamne Eid toh! Eijonno rate shobshomoy-er cheye ektu beshi!"
My driver still complained and finally managed to settle with a sum of Tk.900, with constant reminders from the sergeant of his generous consideration on the matter. My driver promised to return with the money after an hour as he was short of cash ("Ami toh eikhane ekta porjonto thaki, er aage taka anlei cholbe," said the sergeant) and eventually, got back his license when he paid him.

From the streets to the markets, corruption has made every corner of our country its home. Speaking of markets, I saw this television feature the other day which said that nowadays they mix urea with puffed rice (muri) because urea makes them puffier and whiter (don't know if it makes them tastier too). We've become such selfish, dishonest creatures that we don't hesitate when it comes to cheating people for many citizens buy this same puffed rice and have it for Iftari.

I don't even want to describe what happens afterwards (just so you didn't know, a rise in the natural urea level of the body may result to kidney failure). Not only puffed rice, the sellers even mix brick-powder with red chili (imagine biting on brick-powder while you're happily having with a scrumptious meal with mouth-watering gravy items in front of you with lots of red chilies in them), left-over oil from beef curry with jhalmuri (supposed to add in the spice to your taste buds) and dead bull's meat to cook tehari at local restaurants.

I've heard (and seen) of cases where fruit-sellers fill empty (but already-used and picked up from garbage dumps) syringes with red colour (paint mixed with water) and inject it inside watermelons to make them look redder, riper and juicier inside. Some even add special power to mangoes and bananas to make them look more yellow from the outside, thus fooling the people into thinking it's ripe.

If I haven't made you lose your appetite already, then I guess you can imagine now how we've dumped our sense of humanity and honesty in the dump yard.

We've gone from worst to "." (we need a new term, for we've exceeded the dictionary limits to express our condition). We walk in the streets of our "free" nation, of our mother nation with the fear of getting either raped, killed, kidnapped, hijacked or all four, constantly whispering every prayer that crosses our minds under our breath. How free are we?

It's a question I ask myself every morning and realize with sadness what a big joke this is to me. The Liberation War of 1971 was against heartless, dominant, unjust Pakistani rulers who won't let us (Bengalis) have our rights. Now in 2004, with no such huge war going on and our so-called rights restored to us, each one of us is a fighter to this irrational poverty, discrimination, corruption and fear that oppresses us constantly. We're fighting to live, not as a Bangladeshi, not as a Muslim; just as a human being who wants to breathe in God's earth.

I don't expect much from a country where 101% of the crimes go unpunished and unknown. I don't expect anything from a country where the state administrators and the political opposition party are too busy fighting about who declared independence 30 years back. Fighting about declaration of independence? Spoof! When we can't even protect our own freedom and want to play around with it, we're too busy quarrelling about who had a bigger and more fashionable moustache between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman. That leaves us (me, at least) with zero expectations and deepest of sighs.

I, alone cannot make a difference. If I go out on the street and yell my head off to people to start thinking, to stop being indifferent, to kick Hasina and Khaleda off power, there's 99.9% chances of me getting arrested, thrown to jail and probably hanged on charge of treason. That's the kind of democracy, the kind of rights, the kind of independence I'm ashamed to be proud of.

Sometimes I wonder if God has lost hope on us and handed us over to the fierce Lucifer (devil) of our fantasy. Maybe He has. I guess even Lucifer feels inferior next to us. All Hail to Our Evil !


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