Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, December 21, 2006

By Tareq Adnan

The streets of Dhaka, the most significant and ugly part of this fine city, home to homeless addicts and the witness to countless muggings and murders, were, sadly for the last few days very clean, serene and devoid of traffic. The reason may have been that the overblown cost of petrol has finally gotten to us; or maybe it's just another political party demanding their rights in the name of the people and democracy and enforcing it through increasingly violent protests and rallies. Into this mayhem our intrepid but slightly dumb Reporter went to look for a story and people to interview so as to impress his boss and get that coveted promotion. The tales of his antics follows.

In middle of some street in the center of the city a huge collection of people carrying signs and chanting slogans proceeded. Our fearless reporter, tried to question some of the front men of the rally. Only he got answers in the form a slogan shouted like so: 'Direk Akshon!' Undeterred, our reporter watched the procession walk down the road and was finally able to corner a straggler who was co-operative enough to answer his questions.

Reporter: Sir, wait stop. Stop! I would just like to ask you some questions.
Picketer: Ok, but what's in it for me?
Reporter: Fame, exposure, name in the newspapers what else could you ask for?
Picketer: Really?
Reporter: No, but I could ask you the same question, what's in it for you, going around rallying like this?
Picketer: A 100 Taka, that's what.
Reporter: A 100 Taka?
Picketer: Yeah, see, some dude comes up to me and asks me if I want to make an easy hundred. So I say yes and ask what I gotta do. He told me that all I have to do is follow the procession and occasionally chant some slogans.
Reporter: That's it? And he's paying you a hundred for it?
Picketer: Yup!
Reporter: Can I join? Not that I'm complaining but journalism doesn't pay much really.
Picketer: I, umm, I don't know, but you can tag along if you want.
Reporter: OK!
With his newfound picketer friend, our Reporter starts merrily on his way toward the center of the city. Along the way he experiences a curious scene so he asks his picketer friend of his about it.
Reporter: Uh, why is there such a huge crowd around that old man, and more importantly why is he jumping up and down trying to dance like a monkey?
Picketer: Ah! That's the monkey show! There was something about it in the program. Supposedly it's a form of entertainment for the protesters to keep them refreshed and alert.
Reporter: Oh, I see, thoughtful of our political leaders. Only I believe it would have been better if they had hired real primates to do the dancing.

After watching the 'monkey show' our Reporter proceeded to follow the rally. He was inclined to shout a few slogans but decided against it in fear that if any of his readers ever found out it make them think he's biased towards politics. After a time the procession abruptly stopped due to some police barricades. Our Reporter decided that if he could get an interview of a policeman it could make his article even better. So he made his way forward and started a conversation with a bloated police dude.
Reporter: Sir! How are you? You look especially handsome today! (Of course apple-polishing is necessary whenever one converses with the people who are supposed to defend us)
Policeman: Thank you! You are very observant; few people can detect true good looks in today's world of flashy clothes and people!
Reporter: I was wondering if you would answer a few of my questions.
Policeman: I would if only I wasn't short of 50 Taka. If you would graciously reinstate me I would be much obliged to answer whatever you ask me. (Asking for bribes has reached an altogether new level. The police now ask politely for a bribe instead of demanding one)
Reporter: Ah… well ok. Here you go. Now, from recent news report, there has been speculation that the army will be deployed. What is your opinion?
Policeman: Well… You see. I'm against such stupid decisions of deploying the army! I mean we the police are more than sufficient! We got everything under control! Bringing in the army will only cause problems and then who the hell will take care of our borders? There is so much trouble nowadays along the borders. No, it is better to not deploy the army.
Reporter: Ah, but the army would give an invaluable support in stabilizing the volatile political situation.
Policeman: But you see, the situation is under control! And, umm, I just remembered, that I promised to donate 50 Taka to the poor. What about you? You could give the money to me and I would make sure that it goes to the right pocket? So, what do you think?
Reporter: Well, I guess it is our responsibility to help the poor. Here you go. It was nice meeting such a thoughtful policeman. See you.
Policeman (pleased): I hope!
Our Reporter then hangs around the procession and blockade, looking for someone else to interview. After some time the police decide that they've had enough of the incessant chanting and the crowd so start to disperse the rally by beating the hell out of anyone they can whack their sticks on. Finally our reporter spots a man who has just been clubbed on the head panting on the ground so he hurries over to question him?
Reporter: Sir! How are you? Could you please tell me what it feels like to be the victim of police atrocity?
Man on the ground: What? Where am I? Who are these people?
Reporter: Sir, what does it feel like to be a part of such a huge and violent protest?
Man on the ground: What? Who are you? Do you know who I am? I can't seem to remember anything?
As the violence increases our Reporter spots his picketer friend of old, along with a lot of other picketers overturn a police vehicle and set to fire. He goes over to ask them of their thoughts and antics.
Reporter: Hey, we meet again. So, how come you're destroying this car?
Picketer: It's a method of stress relief. Breaking up cars, especially police cars is proved means of relieving stress according to our political leaders who guide us and make normal people's lives all the more worse.
Reporter: Oh? I see? Anyway, will these procession and protests go on for long?
Picketer: I hope so! It means easy 100s everyday!
Reporter: What about the inconvenience caused to the public because of such violence?
Picketer: Ah who cares about the public? Do you?
Reporter: I guess not, I'm only doing this for the promotion.
After interviewing so many people, our Reporter decides to call it a day and leaves for his office to type up his findings. Behind him the battle rages on…



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