Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, September 02, 2010

Terror on the Streets

By TheAlien4mEarth and Eshpelin Mishtak
Illustration: Sarwat Yunus

I travel for more than two hours every day to attend less than three hours worth of classes.”

This is what an A level student had to say regarding her daily commute from Dhanmondi to Uttara. Noting the fact that the same distance can be travelled in under twenty minutes on a free road, it sadly presents a hapless situation that the students of Dhaka have to face everyday. The situation is not much better for those who attend classes closer to home. Traffic jams take away so much of our time that it's impossible to do anything much once we step out of the car.

The traffic problem is affecting students severely, be it a kindergartener, or a college-goer. For the little ones, time in traffic jams means less time for play, for fun, and for just being kids. It also leaves them tired. By the time they get home, they are too wiped out to even dribble a ball, let alone go outside and play a game with it. Now you know why we're couch potatoes. Another problem is that, from a young age, kids learn to associate school with long hours and weariness, which do not necessarily have to be true. This develops an aversion to school from the beginning, which can have severe consequences in the long run.

For older students, the problems are much more serious. Traffic jams mean that they are spending more time on getting to class than actually doing class. It can make them late for an important lesson, or worse, an exam. To the authorities - until the situation improves, traffic jams are a valid excuse for being late to class. We mean, how much earlier can we start if we are already getting out of the house at 6:15am? It's just not possible. What also happens sometimes is that the students miraculously get to class on time, only to find that the teacher is late. This is equally disastrous, and leads to even more time wasting.

For the students who use public transport, the situation can be anything from bad to downright horrible. Standing on one leg with your face stuffed into another man's armpit is definitely not the best way to start your day. And it gets worse on the way back, with the heat and humidity not helping out as well. Students with private transport are somewhat better off, although not entirely. They still spend a huge chunk of their lives doing nothing in the traffic jams, albeit they do their time wasting in air-conditioned comfort.

So what's the story behind a traffic jam? It could be that students or garment workers have blocked off a road trying to get the authorities' attention. It could be that a gentleman has alighted from his Mercedes and is busy beating up a rickshawallah. Or it could simply be the fact that the sky's gone cloudy and it looks like it's about to rain. In other words, anything, everything and nothing at all can lead to a traffic jam.

When we do finally make it home exhausted and in need of a much-deserved nap, we find that we have a nasty Chemistry mock the morning after. Somehow having dragged ourselves up to our table, not even five minutes pass before we find our eyelids closing. And it's not just because of organic compounds. Simply, we're too tired to study. So when a student is forced to make a choice between sleep and study, sleep will inevitably take over. The studies suffer, the work piles up, and well...you know the rest. Even the ones who decide to plough on will find that their concentration is well below optimum, as they're just too tired.

But then again, we, being the ever-innovative youth that we are, will find a way to survive the traffic jam. Some will listen to music on the radio or on their cell phones. Yet others will take this time to catch up on studies, or even sleep. One student reportedly puts on her shoes and socks, eats breakfast, and revises for upcoming tests - all in the car! But the question is, by changing our lifestyles, are we implicitly giving in to traffic jams, accepting that they will always be a part of our lives? One sure hopes not.

We have to get rid of jams, and it is high time Digital Bangladesh takes steps to not get clogged up in one corner of the processor. The authorities have to end the jams; we do not care if they have to take apart the city and build it again. We just want an end to this ceaseless ennui of pain and suffering. While we're not complaining about the unexpected holiday, the authorities understand better than us that closing off schools and markets are really not helping jams, or our education either. Hampering our activities now is in no way the atonement we expect to see from them. But until the authorities come up with another brilliant plan, the pillow and blankets will just have to remain in the car.



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