I sympathise with the bereaved family.
I sympathise with the 'may-have-been' young love crying her heart out.
I feel for friends who may have had shared notes for preparing a presentation at the university.
I feel awful for the cousins, who perhaps, were rehearsing dance numbers for a holud.
Mostly, my heart just goes out for parents who's dreams are not only shattered, but suddenly, life's rat race has become meaningless.
Road accidents are such an everyday affair in our city that we have become mostly indifferent to them; only when students or young ones are killed that this sort of agitations start, and continue for a few days—and then all the usual pledges and promises are made— only for the entire cycle to be forgotten until the time when another student is driven over, and this politicking confrontation repeats.
The simple demands and agitation have caught the attention of the nation over and over again. We all want safe roads and basic discipline in the transport sector, and reckless drivers should be punished, because these are murders rather than accidents.
Public resentment stems from the fact that even if a driver is caught and found guilty, the punishment is deplorably lenient, and often not executed. Every year, over 7,000 are killed, victim to reckless driving and people's complete disregard for their own safety — a prime example being jaywalkers crossing busy roads haphazardly, despite the presence of foot-over bridges, forcing speeding vehicles to take care of their course.
In Dhaka, many of the deaths occur to jaywalkers who decide to run across the road at their free will. And I just want to draw the attention of all us Dhakaites to this fact alone; jaywalking!
Just the other day, while I was coming back home, a young girl was crossing the busy airport junction and mindlessly texting on her phone, completely disregarding the blowing horns meant for her attention. I was screaming at my driver to press the brakes, but imagine if she was doing this in front of a broken unfit bus, the brakes of which most probably are not working properly!
Of course, the public transports are the worst criminals. Manned by unlicensed, underage, and often untrained drivers, the buses hop lanes without indication, stop just about anywhere, and run at such manner that it is surprising so few of us are dead as they compete and jostle on the roads like maddened behemoths. But having said that, with a foot overbridge just a few steps away, should this school girl walk in the middle of the road, disregarding her own safety?
People are regularly crossing thoroughfares just waving two fingers at the cars, to warn them. It's as if the two fingers are like the traffic signals or zebra crossings. The other day, I saw a fifty something man dressed in a dapper suit, gymnastically managing his office files and hopping over the barbwire barricades at the Sonargaon crossing!
I turned around in my car, praying that he does not get stuck with his two legs on either side of the wire. I dread to think what would have happened if he was stuck like that.
Peddlers, running in the middle of the roads, with their chicken and fish and vegetables dangling out of their baskets that are somehow precariously balanced on their head; mothers pulling or pushing their children to run before the speeding vehicles reach them; people getting off running buses in the middle of the road; only in Dhaka can we get away with such bizarre road etiquettes and an illogical sense of safety.
Can we please talk about civic sense and our own lack of common-sense regarding road safety rules while rebuking reckless bus drivers? Both the drivers' lack of awareness and our lack of common sense are at fault here.
I want the drivers punished to the highest degree, but I want us to think about our manners as well. Blocking roads, torching buses and causing havoc is all we can do. It's time to actually sit down and teach civic sense to all of us, including the bus drivers and owners and jaywalkers.
This Independence Day, I can only hope that someone out there will be able to knock some sense into our thick skulls and make us understand what 'safe roads for all' actually stands for.
It might be a gargantuan task for an individual, but if you consider the mothers, the lovers, the children and friends mourning everyday for road accident victims, then 'maybe' we need the power of one such person with purpose to streamline our road manners.
Have a joyous Swadhinota Dibosh!
Don't forget to read a few of our brilliant pieces by Nafisa Faruque on refugees, all about Allen Ginsberg and Jessore Road, and how the power of one brilliant soul can change the course of history.