Dhaka (2007-)

Photo: Maisha Syeda

I was nine years of age the first time I set eyes on a Dhaka street.
I received my first welcome from a group of beggars tapping on my car window.
"How awful" I thought, as my heart doubled over with pity in my chest.
"Why is no one helping them? Why does no one care?"
Thoughts ran ramped only to be calmed by a voice too familiar to be recognised
"You'll get used to it," it said. Too composed to be questioned,
Too sympathetic to be doubted.

The nights in this city are brutal.
No wind, no stars, just heat.
I hear distant cries from the balcony
A man, a woman and generations of pain.
How many screams go unheard in this city?
Drowned by traffic, muted by the evening prayer?
To wonder is a privilege, to know is a curse.

Why would anyone live here voluntarily?
I find myself wondering rather often.
The air is polluted, the people are corrupted.
Everyone here is a thief;
Some out of necessity, some out of greed.
Cries of help all sound the same
I find myself turning away from those in need,
Sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of greed.
This city has turned me into a person I do not recognise;
A damsel in distress and the monster that torments her
All under the same skin, connected by the same blood.

The airport feels like a distant memory these days.
I wonder how I'd feel now if I ever went back.
What would I see now that the window is a mirror?
No pretension, no pity, just recognition-
You are me and I am you. This city is ours
To ruin and be ruined by.
To rebuild and be rebuilt from.
To love and hate till we fall as one
Crumbled into dust on heaven floors.

Shanjida Nowshin Chowdhury is a recent graduate in English Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB).