Pray, tell me why? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 28, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:31 AM, August 28, 2017

Pray, tell me why?

All retired government, police and military officers have all the solutions to all the problems and a big-window plan for the next one hundred years, and yet those presently serving are at a loss for words. I have been following this divisive culture only as deeply as bearable because one has to loathe the hypocrisy in their failing of the moral oath as one is compelled to switch channels.

The woman in the pillion holds on to her lap the lone helmet the family chooses to afford. The family of four rides happily on a motorcycle without any head protection. Their babies are secured to them by parental love alone. The helmet has become a symbol of the law-abiding citizen; its usefulness trivial for long. Motorcyclists should have a helmet and that is elementary; "where" is not important. The parents are more afraid of the traffic police than death. The policeman loves the children and waves them on. 

The society is bereft with corruption, and yet every son and daughter proclaims on the social fora that his/her father is an ideal and a most righteous person—the “bestest” that can be. Does that mean that the corrupt have no truthful children? The fact is, corrupt persons also have legitimate children, but they are born with wool over their eyes and thick wax in their ears. They see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil about their father. N.B. Read “mother” where applicable.

Airline stewards, male and female, are seen shouting high pitch at passengers bound for the Middle East or arriving from the deserts. Come here! Give that! Why are you out of queue? Take this! Sit down! No one will stand up! I doubt these airline staff had enough general knowledge training during their grooming. Do they know that their salary comes from the air tickets bought by the migrant workers? In a roundabout way, these illiterate, uncouth, Bangla-speaking workers are their employers. Housemaids do not raise voice over their master lest they may lose their job. I wish to see the day when our workers will have the education to request the shouting ladies and gentlemen at airports to shut their irritating trap. 

None of us could buy a red dress at Eid for the ten-year-old daughter of a rickshaw-puller. Oh! How much she must have wanted it! She must have bragged to her friends that her Baba will get her one, on chand raat for sure. I only came to know after the child's suicide made news. Her slum will be red because we will all give her a red dress now that she does not need one in the lofty clouds where she dwells. Let us paint a child's world red before her father has to beg for his daughter's joy.

RAJUK maintains a secret service. The capital's development regulatory authority does not dare declare a building illegal until one catches fire or collapses. As soon as a building is engulfed in smoke and burnt contents to smithereens, or one has come tumbling down killing people, a special cell at RAJUK Avenue starts composing a press release declaring what we knew all the while—that the building was “illegal”. Now obviously RAJUK does not have the workforce to go and check every column, beam, slab and brick-wall in every building in its area of jurisdiction, i.e. 1528 square kilometres (590 square mile). The world actually works by example. The enforcing authority can penalise or revoke occupancy certificate or demolish a property, and the rest of the building owners will fall in line. For instance: One car fined for illegal parking sends the right message to all the cars on the street and beyond. 

Many of us haggle with a rickshaw-puller for Tk five-ten. I have done it too. If we think about it, savings over thirty rides spread perhaps over a month would not be worth a burger. But, then rickshaw-pullers do not eat burgers and such. Mind you, their children would love one, as many of them watch the cheese and meat on television.

The media is not making a tu-shabdo when Uber is providing a great service. The odd bad case may happen but the good deserve the kudos. Our newspapers and channels are waiting in some nearby car for a mishap, and then the digital car hire service will be cut to pieces and fed to the dogs. Hot-on-the-heels investigative reporting shall tag the concerned manoniyo montree, the delinquent driver and the questionably-dressed passenger; he was wearing a lungi.

Every toothpaste must make us shout in delight, every shampoo make our hair lustrous in endless waves, every sip of a soft drink take us to another cloud. Are they not mere lies? Every weekday morning, it's the same paste that grinds your teeth. The same shampoo can be pretty stiff on a crew-cut head. You can finish an entire bottle of carbonated sugar and still look for the healthy fairies to pick you up.

We have to get up as soon as a flight lands, and not wait for the "fasten seatbelt" sign to switch off despite shrill admonishing from the alarmed hostess. She must know something we don't. Alighting from the aircraft is usually by seat position unless someone wants to sit it out, not by who stood up before whom. So sit back, and enjoy the news about the local weather.

They can never tell exactly how many people died in a fire, or in a building collapse, or in a launch disaster, or in a train accident, or in a large-scale road accident. Newspapers give varying figures from one day to the next, their sources remaining ghostly, as they try to out-sensationalise each other. Parents and relatives squat for days outside an ill-fated building or along the riverbank of a tragedy or at the scene of the accident, waiting for news of the missing. More than four years after the collapse of Rana Plaza, families are still on vigil with hope of their loved ones emerging from the dust.

A "famous" Indian medical specialist would need to use a TV ticker to announce his arrival in Dhaka and the times that he would be available to see patients. If he was that famous, people would have chased the doctor, and not the other way around.

Pray, tell me why?


Nizamuddin Ahmed is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.


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