Harry Oughta Know

A man surrounded by his rivals during the clash on the ground. Photo: Abu Bakar Siddique Akand

For myself and the senior midshipmen, this is a serious naval exercise. I have my marching orders from the Commandant of the Bangladesh Naval Academy to get serious about a dose of humour for the soon to be commissioned officers.

The event at the Academy starts at 19:00 military time, not Bangladesh Standard Time. My flight to Chittagong is at 15:10 (I'm already using the 24-hour time format). At 12:00, I receive an MI dispatch: "Start for airport IMMEDIATELY. Unrest in Tongi." It's not from Military Intelligence, but from Marital Intelligence, aka, the wife, which is as accurate, reliable and secure. For she is reporting directly from the field—Airport Road. She is already an hour late for her meeting at the Le Meridien.

With S.E.A.L. speed, I'm on Uber for my 5km ride to Dhaka Airport with a luxurious three hours in hand. Google Map shows plenty of red, but 60 minutes to destination.

14:30. I am 1.5km from the airport and have been so for the last 45 minutes. I take a quick battlefield decision—I pay the Uber driver, put my backpack on, get out of the car and start running decked (no naval pun) up in my suit. A sprinter in a suit is still underdressed compared to an attendee at a Bangladeshi winter picnic, where a rare union of a three-piece (suit), tie, muffler and beret is the dress code…

Just like when you stand in the shortest line at the supermarket checkout point, only to see the other line that you just decided against, starts moving, the traffic also behaves in a similar fashion. Just two minutes into my sprint, there is a break in the traffic and all vehicles rumble up like at the starting line of a Formula One race. But I also start, by falling into a ditch and hyper-extending my right calf muscle. I sit down on the dusty side walk in excruciating pain. With only 25 minutes to the departure time of my flight, looks like I will be letting the midshipmen down.

The Uber driver pulls over, helps me in, rushes me to the airport and refuses to accept any fare for the unscheduled trip. I force a handsome tip and hobble in to the airport building, just in time to get my boarding pass…

The young Navy lieutenant greeting me at Chittagong Airport notices my limp and makes a beeline for the sick bay at the Naval Academy where the medics take care of business. I'm at my seat at the brand-new auditorium 18:40 sharp. The show goes on and in flying colours.

So, a comedian gets medical attention in Chittagong, because a lieutenant notices his limp, because the comic gets hurt in Dhaka, because he runs to catch his flight, because he is stuck in traffic for three hours, because some folks in Tongi get into a scuffle, because there is discord for a year, because of an annual event that is all about peace.

But we are a nation where no matter where and when we sneeze, it is expected that the rest of the country will instantly and collectively say "bless you". We are groomed that way. After all, the irate dad still says to the mortified mom loud and clear in front of the guests at the dinner table: "Why are you pinching me under the table?" To which mom grimaces, and dad further adds with total clarity: "What now? And now why are you narrowing your eyes?" Dad deliberately and embarrassingly plays dumb to the sub-table Morse Code message of sparing some of the fried chicken for the guests. At a wedding in its utmost serenity, there is the sudden yelling bout between two guests, one of whom is the uncle of the uncle of the uncle of the uncle of the groom pitted against the uncle of the uncle of the uncle of the bride on the issue of why there are no potatoes (the most coveted item) in the dish of kachchi biriyani. We HAVE to raise our voice, so that everyone can hear and know and somehow is forced to empathise just for the sake of moving on. The term "scene create" is a purely indigenous concoction, aptly so as we are Oscar worthy during these scenes which create havoc through ripple effects, scenes that could very well have been enacted in private, if at all.

So, if two factions argue, and they most certainly can, the nation must know, the hard way. So, I will slap you, you will slap me. Then we will both unite to go and break the windshield of the car of X, who was merely going to his office, and then overturn a CNG (that's the lightest in the motorised sports category) that was taking Y and her kid to school. Oh, the motorbikes are so adorable when it comes to a bonfire. And the beckoning glasses on shops in the vicinity with plenty of stones lying around (I refuse to use our favourite term "brickbat" for it seems to desecrate cricket). The masses have not had much of cardio recently, they need to get off the buses and start walking. Including you, yes, you, comedian in the suit, get off your Uber and start running. What, you just busted your calf muscle? See? You are so unfit. And your wife needs to be 60 minutes late for her meeting, she is annoyingly prompt otherwise. And ambulances? Let's not even go there…

Tom and Dick quarrel. But Harry oughta know, the hard way…


Naveed Mahbub is an engineer at Ford & Qualcomm USA and CEO of IBM & Nokia Siemens Networks Bangladesh turned comedian (by choice), the host of ATN Bangla's The Naveed Mahbub Show and the founder of Naveed's Comedy Club.

E-mail: [email protected]


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