The writer nor the article condones Hartal in anyway. It's just a pathetic look at how far we have come in terms of morale-degradation.
We're tired. All of us. We're tired of taking in smoke, germ and God-knows-what-else-infested air into our lungs every second. We're tired of overworking our brains, scheming who to extort money from next, and how (the bou back home demanded a new sari just this morning). We're also tired of our ridiculously short legs that won't get any longer, no matter how long we've been running after the murir tin bus.
So when, out of the blue, we are given a chance to not do all those things, even for a day, the average Bangali will do more than just jump for joy. Yes, we're talking about good ol' hartals - the deshi equivalent of a snow day. The day when Dhaka city wakes up at 12:00 noon and doesn't bother to change out of its lungi. After lunch and a shower, your average Bangali will find a TV set and rest his still-lungi-clad-behind in front of it. Some will have found jhalmuri to go with the spiciness of the news that's to come. After the news, the breaking news, and the special bulletins, our Bangali will have gained enough knowledge of the hartal day's happenings to host a talk show of his own.
And so he will. It doesn't matter where he is or who he is. After the hartal breaks, he will go out and find like-minded people so that he can rant about the state of the country. If he is a high-profile businessman, the “discussion” takes place in a swanky hotel over freshly-squeezed orange juice. If he's a rickshawallah, he talks about the exact same things over a cheap biri in a cha-er dokan. The essence is the same: who got arrested, who put up a fight, and just how many policemen got hurt. Next morning, our Bangali wears his glittery-est shirt and gives his boss the heartiest salaam since he's joined. Moral of the story: hartals make Bangalis happy.
It has been proven by scientific studies (i.e. watching people beat each other up on TV) that hartals help lower our National Stress Levels by as much as 63%. With everything going crazy around us, the average Bangali can't really do much. The stress of working at WASA and still not having any water at home, the frustration of bad quality Bangla cinema, and the eternal pondering of answers to questions like 'Ami keno Shami?' do the unspeakable to the Bangali brain. That and the heat, coupled with lack of air conditioning. All this anger and frustration and bitterness and whatnot accumulates, until one fine day after our Bangali has crawled out of his fourth manhole that morning, he decides that he has had enough (i.e he calls a hartal).
Then he calls a press conference to let everyone know that he has called a hartal. He announces “It has been noticed that the average Bangali must fall into a minimum of six manholes before they can get to work in the morning. This is totally unacceptable. We demand that this number be brought down to three falls per person per morning.” A huge cheer goes up. The entire tokai population has gathered behind him, thinking they were getting free candy afterwards.
And so it happens. People thank the Higher Hartal-Giving Powers as they go to bed that night. The next morning, everything is quiet. And - dare we say it - peaceful. It's peaceful because our fellow Bangali doesn't have to go to work, only to give up half his earnings in bribes to a fat guy that's already rich. But most of all, because he doesn't have to fall into a manhole on the way. That makes a Bangali happy. Very happy indeed. So happy in fact, that when he has to do all those aforementioned things the very next day, he will do so without complaint. The one-day respite is just that beneficial to his mental state.
Then of course, there are the other Bangalis. They need more than just rest and relaxation to calm them down. Hartal code states that “The grievance of falling into a manhole must be expressed by burning a minimum of two buses.” And whatever happens to the law of the land, Hartal Code must be followed religiously. So they burn the two buses. And an extra one for good measure. It's a pointless act of rampage that goes unpunished, so why not?
Bottom line is, hartals help us cope with all the stress in our everyday Bangali lives. You failed your exams? Call a hartal. The cricket team lost AGAIN!? Call a hartal! Let it all out and make yourself feel better. We're not asking for state-funded theme parks and leisure centres so that we can let off steam. Just a bit of gari bhangchur and dhawa-palta-dhawa is all it takes to keep a Bangali rested and de-stressed.
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