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Sheer Loo-nacy

There are approximately 12 million people living in Dhaka city at the moment. Assuming that most of those people have regular bowel movement, that's at least 24 million calls of nature, half of which are twosies (assuming you go onesy only once a day, which is an unhealthy assumption). Nature does not warn us before striking; it'll pose us with this very irritating problem whether we're at the office, commuting, or sleeping. Less than 10 percent of the population have proper toilet facilities at their workplace, and that's where the problem starts.

If you're one of the unlucky people who need to go to the loo while you're outside, you're out of luck. For the underestimated 20 million out of the 24million emergencies, there are only 48 public toilets under the Dhaka City Corporation. And chances are, even if you're lucky enough to be near one of these sought after locations; you wont have the heart to go inside.

The toilets that are: It's not difficult to locate one of these. These things mark their territory in a one-mile radius with the strong stench of pee. First off, the good thing about these toilets are that they're generally placed by the DCC in the 'hot spots' of Dhaka, where the traffic of people are overwhelming even during a normal weekday. Examples include the Mohammadpur and the Motijheel Colony toilets.

Now, this is both a good thing and a bad thing. Its a good thing because you'll probably be somewhere near one of these areas when the mood to un-eat suddenly strikes you. But the conditions of most of these toilets are nightmarish, to say the least.

The aerial bombardment on your nostrils aside, the public toilets in our city are so dirty you wont even want to poo in them. The latrines are finely laced with uric acid, while the walls are covered with what could only be described as an entirely different breed of living organism with a higher brain capacity. The shower areas are state of the art, with a balti and a mug, and a distinct lack of doors. If that weren't enough, you're charged three takas for your troubles (four taka for showers).

Now, of the 24 million nature-calls every day, approximately 48 percent belong to women. Its one thing if you're a dude in Dhaka without proper toilet facilities. One flick of the lungi or a whip on the zip, and you're free to grow flowers on the sidewalk. But it's a whole new kind of hell if you're a woman. Unless you're a pampered dame living the good life, riding in a car and sipping the latest energy drinks, you're probably walking your kids to school everyday.

Women walk around five kilometre per day between home, school, and the bazaar, and with such a heavy schedule, the only choice they have is holding it in (or not drinking water to begin with). All this holding in/abstaining from drinking business cannot be good for health, and indeed, the numbers of ladies falling victim to a host of diseases are alarmingly high.

The facilities for women toilet goers are nearly nonexistent. They don't have the luxury of using the walls or the drains, nor can they do much with the facilities that ARE present. A disgruntled woman had this to say: It's really dirty in there. I really wish there was a separate section for us women. Everybody stares at you when you go in, and even the water sources sometimes run out!

The distinct lack of hygiene in the toilets is amongst the main causes for people letting it go in the drains and on the walls. Other reasons include a lack of facilities in the area OR lack of mental strength to walk into the public toilets.

A venture into the Mohammadpur public toilet reveals that the place, in fact, IS cleaned regularly. The walls are painted every few months, but become poster-ridden within half a week, and government workers clean the latrines at night, and by noon the next day the place becomes a bacterial incubator. This is due to the heavy and improper use of the facilities. The doors don't close properly, the taps don't always spout water, and the latrines are home to way more than a single species of cockroach.

The loo-keeper reports that most of the people don't even pay for the facilities, and due to the nature of the service provided by this building; it becomes embarrassing for him to ask for the money before letting the people in. A man was found peeing at the wall near the public toilet area. When asked why, he said: "It's easier to finish it here, and I don't have to go into the dirty toilet." Whether heavy use or lack of care is to blame, one thing is for sure: you would not want to end up in there.

This is the grim reality that faces the inhabitants of Dhaka. Most have no proper toilet facilities at work, and the public facilities are a nightmare. The government planned to build over a 100 public toilets five years back. Even if that dream were realised, the ratio of people to toilets would still be a lot more than would be comfortable. And out of the toilets that have been built, are any of them even usable? Hardly.

This problem has also taken a backseat with the recent inflation rate and the wild increase in prices of commodities. But both problems are quite well connected, and you don't need to be a genius to connect the dots. The food that you're working so hard to get must come out at some point, and it is up to the government to ensure that they get a proper exit. Maybe with the proper facilities for both men and women, Dhaka might become a hap-pee-er place to be.

By Crimson Devastation
Photos: Nabil Chowdhury

Live for the answers

It was 10 am of August 1, 2009, and the projector at TSC auditorium was showing a short slide-show named 'the pencil parable'. Once a maker made a beautiful pencil and told it the five things it must remember in order to become the best of its kind:

- It can do wonders when held by the maker's hand
- It must undergo rigorous sharpening from time to time to become better
- It will always have the option of correcting mistakes
- The most important thing is what it has inside
- No matter what happens it must always continue to write and make a mark on paper

The slide-story ended with this line: “Everyone is like a pencil, created by the Maker for a unique and special purpose.” -Which is why throwing away one's life listlessly is a downright insult to that very blessing.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), “Suicidal behaviour ranges in degree from merely thinking about ending one's life, through developing a plan to commit suicide and obtaining the means to do so, attempting to kill oneself, to finally carrying out the act ('complete suicide').” With the recent incidents of suicidal attempts by two of their students, the concerned authority of Dhaka University launched an elaborate counselling programme to raise awareness of the subject under the title- “Suicide is never the ultimate answer to life's questions”.

The programme, organised by the Student Counselling and Guidance Office, University of Dhaka, aimed at discussing the psychological aspects of suicidal behaviour and holding interactive dialogues between students and professional counsellors to help understand and prevent these symptoms. “Suicide is no solution to confronting the struggles of life. If life is indeed a puzzle-book containing endless questions, you need to live through it to know its answers,” said Professor A. A. M. S. Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University and chief guest of the programme.

He also added, “It's true that our society often creates unavoidable circumstances for us that are so stressful that one cannot help but wonder whether it's suicide or murder in an indirect sense if someone were to die because of them. But even so, for young people whose lives haven't even started yet properly, is it really worth it to end them in conscious minds?”

The programme, in itself, was divided into two parts. The first half was a seminar on suicide where four distinguished speakers discussed various facts concerning this phenomenon. The second half included a student-counsellor interactive workshop that required on-spot registration. Suicide being the tenth leading cause of death worldwide and claiming about one million lives each year, counselling programmes like this on the subject should be organized more frequently to provide the mass people with psychotherapeutic suggestions and reduce the number of such self-destructive attempts.

By Raisa Rafique

The Murder

It was true! The uncle was the murderer after-all. And now he was rushing at Josephine at full speed. She had no place to run or hide at all. No, her uncle was much too powerful and Josephine was left all alone. She would die, like others have died. Warda hurriedly closed her mystery novel. Josephine would live another day.
By Osama Rahman


Worth it

Sheets of rain slid down the foggy windows, turning the world into a blur. The traffic lines stretched out interminably, slowly drowning in the downpour. The needle inching towards the E on the fuel gauge made the A/C an impossibility. The beep of an incoming text message shattered the fraught silence. “It's beautiful out here, isn't it?” Suddenly, it was.
By Sabrina F Ahmad



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