The national parliament building, Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, is not just an iconic architectural edifice of Bangladesh; it is also a symbol of democracy. This week on 'Streets of Dhaka', we visit the roads surrounding this magnificent monument designed by Louis I. Kahn, focusing on the thoughts and musings of commuters passing by the incredible feat of architecture which simultaneously is also the melting pot of Bangladesh politics.
It was drizzling since early morning. The rain would have been much appreciated if it visited on the weekend, when Nusrat does not go to the office. But today, she had to navigate through the dingy alley where she lived, dodging manholes in the rain to get to work.
Today, on her way back home, Nusrat had to take a walk: buses were overcrowded, rickshaws were scarce and CNGs charged a lot. A black umbrella over her head and a pair of flat worn out sandals under her feet were all to protect from the rain.
But Nusrat did not mind walking on the roads surrounding Sangsad Bhaban in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. The area is beautiful and well-maintained. Joggers come in the morning for a breath of fresh air amidst the greenery. Many visit the place during evenings, to hang out or for a lazy stroll; and a number of fuchka-chotpoti stalls and small ice cream vans cater to them with simple yet delicious treats.
In the centre of all is of course the parliament house. The Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban complex, designed by the legendary Louis Kahn, is arguably the most outstanding architecture project in the country. Completed in the early 1980s, the ambitious complex took around twenty years to build.
At one point of her walk, Nusrat stopped and turned to face Sangsad Bhaban. It stared at her with all its splendour and majesty.
Nusrat stared back. Triangles, circles, and other geometric figures and the grand design of the complex at large have always fascinated her.
Looking at Sangsad Bhaban also somehow ignites the feeling that the parliament is bigger and greater than any one group or even its members themselves - it is, after all, a beckon of democracy. It is the house of the people. Remember Lincoln's saying, "Government of the people, by the people, for the people?”
Nusrat is just another ordinary citizen like any of us. Is she represented in the parliament? What are her demands, requests, hopes, and aspirations about the country and about her city of Dhaka?
Please make all the pavements neat and wide, like those around Sangsad Bhaban. Make the streets of Dhaka smooth, not containing thousands of bumps, and definitely not water-logged. Can you pave the ways with beautiful native trees and not with bonsai plants which we cannot relate to at all? How about adorning with red 'krishnochura'? The street near the parliament building looks so gorgeous! Brighter than the blazing sun, krishnochura provides a beautiful splash of red.
Please don't tax us too much. Don't let the rich get away with their crimes. Don't forget us after the elections. Protect our dignity and democracy, things we as a people are never willing to comprise on. Let us live in peace, and not in fear and hopelessness — of violence, rape, corruption, and other demons.
We are not very different from you. What divides us?? Is it the fence around the parliament complex, the fence behind which Nusrat stood facing the building? On one side of the fence was Nusrat: the people at large, and on the other side, the parliament — lawmakers, leaders, visionaries, the powerful. Is this really what separates us, a fence? A fence, lush green fields and a lake?