Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, September 22, 2011


By Shaer Reaz

It's a rare occasion when a tree sparks a small scale international incident. You may think the tree in question is right smack in the middle of the Bangladesh-India border, and that its ownership is under dispute between the two neighbours, but you'd be wrong. In fact, the tree of topic here is rooted firmly in place; in Gulshan 2, nonetheless.

When it was planted as a mere sapling by a now nameless, faceless, uhmm, tree-planting-person, little did he know that the place he chose would make the tree cause of such pain and monetary hardship to so many.

If you drive along the now-famous Gulshan 2 FFC (Fortuna Fried Chicken) road, you will eventually reach the Pakistan Embassy dead end. Planted at the end of that dead end is a tree. Upon very close inspection, the tree is full of battle scars. Battles with what, you may ask. The answer would be cars.

With that infectious attitude of doing-it-wrong that seems to affect Bangalis, it somehow became a tradition amongst a certain group of people to meet up on Fridays (or any extended holiday, like Eid), and handbrake turn their cars around the dead end of the FFC road. An inspired idea, if you actually know how to control a sliding car, but considering the aspiring “drifters” of Bangladesh are no more than 16 years old, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

Their attempts at ascension to a drifting god are marred not only by their lack of skill, but also their chariots of choice. See, to be able to slide around a corner successfully (by which we mean NOT running tangentially into a tree) you need to have a car that is Rear Wheel Driven (RWD), has a limited slip differential, proper tires, proper suspension, and an ample amount of space right opposite to the hairpin (no tree, then). When you attempt to make do with an underpowered, overweight, Front Wheel Driven (FWD) and automatic transmission equipped Toyota Corolla, you're bound to fail. FAIL. No amount of jerking the handbrake, no amount of mashing the accelerator or the brake pedal will save you from going off the apex and sliding into, say, a tree. To date, the tree has claimed several Toyotas (Corollas, Premios, Carinas, Vistas, etc) and even a BMW X5 SUV. Even trying to drift an SUV defies all common logic.

The whole situation became worse when a Toyota Carina careened (haha) into the German embassy wall on Eid day, prompting the embassy officials to write a formal letter of complaint to the Bangladeshi government, asking them to put speedbreakers on the FFC road. They confirmed that a total of SIXTEEN (16) speedbreakers will be installed. Good going, 16 year olds. You managed to get the government do something, no matter how damaging it may be to other peoples' car suspensions.

“Every time I bring out my Honda, people on the streets think I'm one of those brats who is using his parents' money to put rims on and customise my car. They think I will run them over when they try to cross the streets. The police also harass me from time to time, even though I'm just a working professional spending my hard earned money on making my car look and feel better”, says Rabbi*.

The words of discontent continue, as A level student Tanvir* says, “These people should be driven off the streets. Round them up, put them in jail for a night, and we'll see if they have the guts to crash their parents' cars by driving them recklessly.”

It's not always the “ricers” (Urban Dictionary has the definition, look it up) that can be seen hanging around FFC. It used to be a place for respectable people willing to talk cars and, in the process, socialise with like-minded car enthusiasts. Now a bunch of hooligans made sure that a properly built and respectfully driven car can never drive down that road without fear of being stoned by the general public. Or Germans.

The Japanese invented the noble art of drifting on mountain roads, using lightweight, compact and balanced sports cars. Ironically, the Corolla's RWD grandfather, the KE70 (not really a sports car, but proper tuning made it great in the right hands), played a pivotal role in that. To see some people abusing the geriatric (performance wise) new Corollas today just feels wrong. They are ruining the image of car enthusiasts in Bangladesh with their ill thought out actions, not to mention making their parents' wallets lighter with all the repair bills.

Drive safe, drift in your games, and let car customisers do their thing in peace. That's all anyone is asking.

*Names have been changed to protect people's privacy.

Photo of crashes, courtesy: R3Vbd.com



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