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     Volume 9 Issue 12| March 19, 2010|

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In the Absence of Common Sense

Narmin Tartila Banu

I wondered what consequences I'd have to face for punching a 6 year old in the face. Of course such an ambitious plan was beyond my scope, so I thought of something more implementable. I got up from the makeshift bench, while my friends haggled tooth and nail with the local girls selling hand woven shawls at Shoilo Propat of Bandarban. Simply sitting and watching a little boy litter wouldn't do.

I weaved my way through the pedestrians and children ogling at the visitors. When I was near enough, to my utter shock, annoyance and disgust, I discovered that it was an adult (yes, you read correctly, AN ADULT) sitting in a nearby microbus passing over tidbits to the child to throw into the stream some fifty meters below. Is this guy a maniac, I wondered? And then a lady decked up in more jewellery, most would feel awkward wearing even to a party, stuck her head out of the window and handed over a bunch of chips packets saying 'Babu egulao falao to!' (please son, throw these too). It occurred to me then, they were cleaning up!

Who cares what happens to the environment, as long as the inside of their vehicle was spic and span! And what of the environment? Well, Shoilo Propat, a beautiful stream snaking along mountains of Bandarban, providing a bathing corner for locals and a beautiful scenic location for tourists, resembled more of a drain, clogged with PET bottles of water and drinks, chips packets and chocolate wrappers. Sad!

Wake up people, where's your common sense?

A couple of days later when we were aboard a sea truck to St. Martin, I was least prepared for the dramatic episode that was soon to unfold. Allow me to portray the event in detail.

Once on board, I cast a cursory glance across the sunny deck to get a general idea of the kind of passengers traveling with us. There was a group of boys wearing chest baring polo t-shirts and the girls wore fotuas and jeans a college or university gang no doubt given the boisterousness. There were quite a few families with children ranging from five to fifteen years. There were couples too, most of the men wore loud colored shirts and sported gleaming sunglasses; their tight jeans screamed in protest against their bulging lower torsos. In general the ladies' were dressed in pretty much the same manner stone studded bold colored saris, bangles nearly reaching their elbows, dark lipstick, dark kohl and heels too high and too risky for such a journey. A few elder passengers were present, mostly sitting close to the family-with-children groups. So the crowd basically consisted of friends, honeymooners and families.

No sooner did I think I had it all figured out, that my analysis was thrown back on my face. A girl had just bobbed into the scene. She talked animatedly (while flinging her hair way too frequently) to a boy walking too close to her. She cat walked along the aisle separating the rows of seats where we, i.e. all the passengers, sat and now collectively turned our heads to follow her progress. Wearing semi transparent outfits may be very normal at a disco, but completely irresponsible in a public place teeming with adolescents accompanied by parents and grandparents. I turned to look at the open sea again and jabbed at my friend whose mouth had fallen open. He sat up straight. But moments later I saw out of the corner of my eye, his head turn again.

I must have dozed off. As a big wave rocked the ship, my book slipped and I woke up. My drowsiness lasted only about a minute and then I sat upright to stare aghast as a thirty-something man threw an empty 1.5liter water bottle over the railing right into the water. The bottle twirled down to join several other fruit juice bottles bobbing up and down on the waves. The man by then had resumed conversation with his wife, who was continuously extracting potato crackers from a green plastic packet and popping them straight into her mouth. I had a sneaky feeling where that green packet would end up. My hunch proved to be right in only about seven minutes.

What I had expected to be a fun day staring at open sea to catch sight of flying fish and sea gulls basking in the sun, had already taken a turn for the worse. It worsened, when the couple's five-ish year old daughter decided to place some biscuits on her seat and stomp on them. Crumbs, dirt from her soiled shoes and spilled water from somewhere made quite a mush on the seat behind mine. Very nonchalantly, the man decided it was not possible to sit there anymore and after a brief consultation with his wife followed by a furtive glance at the other side of the deck, they took off, leaving behind the mess for someone else to sit on. And as for the pink packet that had carried the biscuits; well that was very maturely tossed into sea as well.

I turned around to face my friend, intending to complain loudly so that the culprits could hear, but was surprised to see that his eyes were glued elsewhere. I followed his gaze and to my stupefied disbelief, saw that shockingly dressed girl sharing some intimate 'moments' with her boyfriend which is far from proper in a public place. Everyone on deck chairs, who were not dozing, stared at the entwined pair. I turned away in disgust. This time I didn't bother to jab at my friend.

In about a minute I heard chaos and turned around in time to see the boyfriend give a mighty shove to a guy who slammed into another guy who thankfully hit a seat and regained balance, and thereby successfully stopped a potential domino chain. As it turned out, a few young men had been discreetly taking video of the couple and the boyfriend shoved the one that he had caught sight of, which by the way is quite surprising, given his focus on his intense performance just moments earlier.

We didn't wait around to see what came of the scuffle; opting to take advantage of the distraction and make a quick exit since we were already approaching the pier. As we climbed down the stairs I wondered if asked to judge a case, 'Couple vs. Cameraman', whose side would I take? The 'cameraman' of course was breaching privacy, but the 'couple' really had it coming. So that's a tough one to pick.

On happier thoughts, the coral island beckoned to us, as we eagerly waited for the queue to move. On sadder thoughts, every one or two minutes some one would try to break into the queue in front of us. Tsk! Sad isn't it, that when you're on holiday, so is your common sense?

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