• Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Special Feature

Splendid summer nights

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

The heat seems unbearable. Mercury has hit 35. Earth is fuming at the fury of the sunlight as it bounces off the ground. The whole city anxious to see the sight of greying clouds, the people and the streets craving for water, a thirst only a downpour can quench. The water brushes against the bare skin; the first touch of rain feels caustic. Still somewhere deep in our hearts it is that very feeling everyone is waiting for.
The day starts ahead of time. Sometimes even before the crows caw. The mystical words of the muezzin come floating through the ether. “Prayer”, he declares, “is better than slumber”.
The shopkeepers roll up their shutters; the fragrance of burning black, incense sticks announcing that they are open for business. With the residents of the city still in deep sleep, the city awakes.  

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed

Summer days are exhaustingly long and the morning chaos makes it seem never ending. The whole city tries to head to work, school and university; housewives looking for an early morning deal at the kitchen markets; working ladies heading for their corporate offices.
In a city of 20 million dwellers, the situation is all but too predictable.
Yet there is something about summer that rejuvenates us. Winter is anything but severe in the city. Spring -- short. The possibilities of a long summer, punctuated by monsoon, seem endless.
The day progresses and as it seems the heat takes its toll.  Dhaka becomes cranky. Horns honking from cars stagnant at the streets while the stop lights silently blink from red to yellow to green and back to yellow. No one pays any heed to it no more.
The chauffeur of a middle-aged office executive curses at the ambitious rickshaw puller trying to overtake the vehicle from the wrong side. The puller, disgusted, spits on the asphalt road, in reply. As the hours of the day pass by, the agony multiplies manifold. While the morning chaos makes way for an afternoon mayhem, the declining day, with a hint of an evening breeze, shows promise of a pleasant summer night.
One can rest assured that electricity will be up to its usual mischief. The prime culprit that makes city life almost unbearable, possibly second only to the traffic. The streetlights glare as the city comes to a standstill; long lanes of street clogged with vehicles like a plaque in our arteries.  
On seemingly endless nights like this, one craves for a long drive. Commuting across the breadth of the city, familiarising with the nightlife of a city that supposedly sleeps at night time.
Life stripped off its glamour, the bare bones of society seem more apparent as the clock strikes 12am. The 'mama' selling tea at the corner of the street stays awake all night, even as his customers go sparse as the night passes by, his companion the loyal neighbourhood dog whom he has befriended at the price of one butter-bun a day.
In front of the cinema hall, shadowy figures move about looking for dodgy customers. Creatures of the night seeking creatures of the night.
The night comes to an end and the black thread of night turns white. The mystical words of the muezzin come floating through the ether – “Prayer”, he declares, “is better than slumber”.
And day one of summer morphs into the next.

Published: 12:00 am Monday, April 14, 2014

TAGS: summer nights

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