Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, December 09, 2010

By Dr Who

We cannot deny that we have many reasons to hate Dhaka. Every darn minute that we have to spend in the traffic, breathing the smog, soaking our shirts in sweat, worrying about missing this exam or that appointment, we curse the city. Every morning when we open the newspaper, we shake our heads at the alarming number of crimes, waiting for a miraculous financial aid programme that will be our ticket out of this city. Well, hold on just a second. Do you really think this is the worst place to live in? Let's take a look around the world, shall we?

How about you move to Linfen, China, the place that provides two-thirds of China's energy? With coalmines, steel plants and refineries, the place is covered in smog, turning it into the modern world equivalent of Mordor. The place looks like a gigantic smoke grenade detonated in the middle of City Square, presumably to screen the landings of CO2 breathing aliens. Apparently, things are so bad that if you hang your laundry out to dry, it'll turn black.

Those of you disgusted by the Buriganga, talk to the Yangtze. If you think our industry is expanding rapidly and polluting the water supply, imagine what the Chinese are up to.

Typical day at Nilkhet: people push you into the crowd; seeing no way back, you shove forward; your toe gets stepped on; jostled and dishevelled, you come out on the other side swearing viciously under your breath, complaining to the heavens about the awful population problem. The population density in Dhaka proper is about 20000/sq.km. You know what the people of Manila will say about that? “You guys have so much room!” Why? Their population density is 43000/sq.km.

If you think that we're even on the top ten list of population density, think again. We're sitting at number 44. Even if you skip over all those Indian cities, you'll realise that we're even behind Paris!

Have you ever taken the bus back to Dhaka right after Eid? Have you come through Kachpur Bridge?
Thought that was hell? Just out of curiosity, how much longer than usual was that traffic? Three hours? Four? Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to present China National Highway 110 traffic jam. Thought to be the worst traffic congestion in history, it stretched more than 100kms. Number of days of gridlock: 11. Yes, you read that correctly. It was days.

When you have cities like Tokyo, LA, Shanghai and Sao Paulo [which has the worst traffic, according to The Times], poor old Dhaka is having a hard time competing.

Our newspapers are splattered with the news of deaths and murders. With routine discovery of unidentified corpses, things don't look so good for us. Since we couldn't find a source on the net of Dhaka's yearly homicide rate, we decided to go through the official DMP website and find it out for ourselves. Adding up all the numbers, we found that in 2009, there have been 333 murders. Upon conversion to the globally accepted method, it became 3.33 murders per 100000 inhabitants. Armed with our newfound knowledge, we went searching for something worse.

Caracas is the capital of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela; you know, the country that has produced seven Miss Universe winners and five Miss World winners. Caracas also happens to be the murder capital of the world. What's the rate? 130 murders per 100000 inhabitants. I think we can rest our case here.

This criterion is so ridiculous, at first we didn't think it was worth arguing against. Just compare the temperature of Cairo or Riyadh with that of Dhaka. So we rolled our eyes and decided to go the other way. Our answer: Mongolia.

Those of you who are geographically savvy are already thinking, “Gobi desert? Isn't that pretty hot as well?” Well… yes. But we're going specifically with Ulan Bator, the capital city. You see, if you really hate the heat so much, please feel free to move over there. With an average annual temperature of -0.7°C, it is the coldest capital city in the world. We might feel a little sticky over here. You have fun freezing your bottom off in what remains of the Mongol Empire. No wonder The Golden Horde was cold-hearted.

You will notice we haven't considered cities like Jerusalem or Baghdad, or many quite frightening cities in Africa. That's because most of them are currently in the middle of war. In the interest of fairness, we decided to give them a break. We were tempted by Johannesburg though, but the sheer bloodlust of Caracas overwhelmed us. Beauty certainly lives with the Beast.



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