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               Volume 11 |Issue 03| January 20, 2012 |


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The Stuck and the Furious

Sharmin Ahmed

Over crowded buses are common in Dhaka.
Photo: Amirul Rajiv

The other day, while returning late from work, just when I was thanking the one above in relief that I had not missed the last bus, I was given the impression that I had been too quick in my prayers. Suddenly, hardly half way through to reaching its destination, our bus hit a private car. No particular harm done, but it was reason enough for the police to call down the driver and check his papers. Then for no rhyme or reason, the driver was arrested on the spot and taken away to the police station. The bus was left there in the middle of the road, filled with passengers. Perhaps the absurdity of it does not lie in the use of the oppressive state apparatus in enforcing the law but in the fact that there wasn't another similar mode of transport available at that particular moment.

With no chance of catching another bus, I had to get down and walk quite a bit. Finally, to my relief, I came across a traffic jam that had been there for quite awhile. For once this annoying traffic was a blessing, as I mounted upon a packed, rickety, local bus better known as the murir tin. I couldn't complain much given the circumstances. There went the first hour, and then went the next two in waiting for the jam to break, the next two went rather at a normal pace as the bus picked up some speed. I say normal because in Dhaka city, on the road, where it shouldn't take you more then forty-five minutes to reach a particular destination, it just might take two hours, with no questions to be entertained.

By the time I was home, the young ones were fast asleep and probably nearing the end of their whole-nightly dreams, while the older members of the family were half dead worrying. Before I proceeded to my bed being a social network freak, I had logged on to facebook and immediately regretted it. Blaring back at me was a status update; "was STUCK on Gulshan Avenue....I feel a rant coming on....I miss public transport..." It is so ironic that living in the same city and feeling the same haplessness, one can see the stark differences of one’s traffic needs. I would be over the moon to be able to commute in a private car even if I had to face the jams. Because I would get to listen to music from the stereo – music that is played to my desires, not enforced on my delicate ears. Moreover, be cooled by the car's air conditioned air that is pure, pollution free and suffer lesser chances of being abandoned, should the car break down –if it does at all. And here is someone stuck in a jam at an area where the traffic would hardly span an hour as opposed to 2-3 hours on a main, busy road, feeling a rant coming on and misses public transport! Whereas I had to suffer a phenomena that can only occur in Dhaka city, that kept me stranded in one place for five hours!

However the question remains as to why a growing city that thrives on the earnings of a huge working population, one that works over time, late into the night is the most deprived of public transport. In most developed countries every hour a bus is available at the bus stops. Is it not logically absurd that a bus and its passengers be robbed off its bus driver without any other substitute in a city where it is a norm for the roads to be completely empty by ten-o'clock? At the end, it makes one wonder if the state assumes that if you must travel at night, you must own a car? Then it can be said that our city is build for a particular class of people who comprise only a minority and not the general, marginalised by scope masses.

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