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|Volume 12 |Issue 01| January 04, 2013 ||
You Can't Kill the Fire
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
It could have been a scene in some conflict-ridden part of the Middle East where a semi-curfew had been imposed on this crazy city. Armed law enforcers in black lined the streets, stopping vehicles, flashing their searchlights into the car as people, young and old huddled back further in, trying to look innocent and helpless while their hearts skipped a beat. The endlessly long line of cars carrying weary passengers suggested an exodus of some sort - only, were they fleeing or trying to enter into some forbidden zone?
It was just New Year's Eve, folks.
Apparently the mayhem created by unruly youth during past New Year Eves has forced the DMP (Dhaka Metropolitan Police) to declare certain measures to regulate revellers and dilute their invariably substance-induced, adrenaline rushes. People were asked not to leave their homes after 7pm - perhaps it would be time for Godzilla to awaken from a long nap. All roads to Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara would be blocked save one precious, heavily patrolled route. Once you went into a zone you could not get out until 5 am said the rumour-mongers. Because Godzilla could still be out there.
The announcements in the paper along with route maps created quite a panic among people, especially those who wanted to- what else - party - oh that terrible, terrible word. Why should people have to celebrate the coming of the new year at all? Why the need to meet friends and family? Why couldn't they just stay at home and watch some good old TV and go to sleep by 11?
At the office many a young person kept fidgeting in their chair, making frantic calls - how would they get into a forbidden zone if they couldn't get out by 7pm. Others just left everything and practically ran to their homes since even that could prove be difficult after the curfew time. What if they didn't believe that one had children to go home to and feed?
Despite all the paranoia however, most party goers were able to go to their dos without too much harassment save the annoying checkposts every few yards. Thankfully, there were no incidents of wild, inebriated youth from another part of town jumping on car bonnets, terrorising the women inside vehicles or worse. Funnily, people were more afraid of what the law enforcers would do if they tried to enter through a non-designated route late at night - would they be arrested, taken to jail, made to pay bribes for their desire to have some fun?
Fortunately the night went off fairly peaceably, much to the delight of the DMP and Co. The government may even add this to their achievements list - Managing to keep the streets free from violence and sexual molesting on New Year's Eve.
From the side of the party-goers, the pressure of having to go to some party or the other, tends to heighten to unbelievable proportions when such restrictions are imposed. The more the restriction, the greater the urge to circumvent them and make the impossible happen. Parents will use the excuse of this curfew-like situation to try to prevent their teenagers and young adult children from going anywhere. Teenagers and young adults will find the most complicated ways to thwart these obstructions - even willing to stay at an unpleasant relative if it is near the party scene. Older adults secretly wish they could just curl up in bed with a book or watch their favourite TV serial but hate the idea that they may be regarded boring and a little redundant and hence go out to prove a point despite the chills, the creaky knees and aching back. Hence the large numbers of city dwellers risking incarceration, humiliation and pneumonia, just to do the final countdown.
The phenomenon of compulsory New Year merriment can be summed up by American columnist and author Bill Vaughn: Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.
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