Eid Travellers | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 10, 2011


Eid Travellers

Aboard an Eid train. Photo: Ihtisham Kabir

Another Eid has come and gone leaving its memories behind.
In our family home in Sylhet, Eids of my childhood brought a joyful congregation of relatives from all over. Perhaps that's why I like observing the joys (and sorrows) of Eid travellers at Dhaka's departure points: Kamalapur train station, Tangail bus stand and Sadarghat.
Walking down a platform in Kamalapur, I see a couple looking out a window, laughing loudly. They are watching a group of people climbing to the rooftop of the train across the platform. Many want the free ride, and so a group effort is underway as helpful hands boost each person skywards and others receive them at the top as the crowd cheers claps. Sandals and bags are tossed upwards to join their owners. Alas, two guards come running. “There is room inside the train, you must come down,” they shout. “But this is a matter of honour and tradition,” I want to tell them. The rooftop crowd, which greatly outnumbers the guards, moans and groans but eventually descends. The good cheer and laughter remain.
As I walk away, I overhear two white-coated railway officials. “What a crowd! Weren't we getting an extra security contingent for Eid?” asks one. The other laughs: “Don't you know they have gone home for Eid before everyone else?”
Minutes later, another commotion: two portly burkha-clad women have caught a shirtless young man trying to steal their money. After some heated words, they put their arms around his skinny torso and start dragging him. Everyone has already seen him, so his best recourse to avoid a public beating is silent cooperation. They lead him back to the station, presumably into the hands of law enforcement.
The Tangail bus stand, near Mohakhali, has thinner crowds today, because of dilapidated highways and fewer buses. Thus, there is more order: passengers queue up in long lines for their buses. The glum faces of waiting children brighten the instant they board. The dearth of toys in their hands surprises me. Do people have less spending money, or has the parental mobile phone replaced yesteryear's fluorescent yellow rubber duck? All children, however, wear dazzling clothes.
Two watch sellers stand looking forlorn, holding dozens of watches. “How is business?” I ask. “Very bad,” they say in unison. A sudden rush near a bus catches my attention. Walking over, I hear the bus conductor yelling, “Ticket prices reduced! Ticket prices reduced!” The look of glee on the passengers' faces is priceless.
Departing crowds are aggressive at Sadarghat river terminal, where launches large and small wait to take them home. The afternoon sun is merciless as sweating passengers rush this way and that, grabbing children, luggage and assorted goodies, frantically searching for their launch. They stop to pick a few jumbo pineapples, perhaps some apples and grapes, from wharfside vendors. Inside their launch, they stake their spot with a cloth sheet and settle down, already dreaming about time with family.


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