Dhaka in a crystal ball
CONSIDERED as one of the fathers of rocket science, Braun – whose list of achievements included building a booster rocket that helped put the human race on the moon – was a leading intellectual of the twentieth century. Yet even he made some embarrassingly wrong predictions about the future, as the above quotation points out.
Predictions and forecasts are difficult, and by their very nature, can never be ascertained till that day and hour arrives. Nevertheless, our excitement and speculation about what the future holds is as infinite as the possibilities themselves.
Dhaka and its people have evolved a lot in the past two decades – from embracing the internet to the staggering number of eateries to the photography frenzy among the youth.
Surely, the lifestyle of people has changed drastically. Social media and the internet at large have taken media exposure to a whole new level as the wave of globalisation sweeps over us. There is an increased focus in arts and aesthetics and there is a growing concern about healthy living and healthy eating, while people's lives have become more hectic than ever.
Thinking about trends makes one wonder. What changes would you see in Dhaka in the future? What do you think 2030 will be like? Here's our list of top 5 predictions for the next decade:
The rise of babysitters
It is not like the old times, when only the man used to earn the bread and butter and the wife used to put it on the dining table. Nowadays both the husband and the wife earn, and share responsibilities – a trend spread all over Dhaka and not limited to any one segment of the population. Naturally this has given birth to day-care centres. But the number is still far too few.
Zobair Imdadh, a father of a three-year old, works in a buying house. Since his wife Nahida Hussain, is a working mother, they drop their son off at his grandparents' home on weekdays. "We do not have any day-care centres nearby, and since the grandparents are ageing and not in good health, this idea is not working out," Imdadh complains.
Not every family has the option of retired grandparents or other reliable people taking care of children. "I do not want my son under the supervision of domestic helps only. I want somebody dependable, educated and professional," Hussain adds.
This gap in the current market, we believe, is likely to be filled by babysitters – along with more day-care centres.
Indeed, there might be security concerns – both from the side of the parents as well as from that of the baby-sitters. But Imdadh believes that this can be overcome by the reputation and reliability of the agency, proper references, word of mouth and the baby-sitters initially attending to families they personally know and trust.
The need for babysitters is high. Now all we need is an entrepreneur taking a bold step – and our prediction, that in the next fifteen years or so there will be a few agencies in Dhaka providing babysitters, will turn out to be true.
The advent of bicycle lanes
Riding bicycles has become very trendy. Being economic, environmentally friendly and enjoyable, bicycles are becoming a preferred mode of transport.
Last year, Members of Parliament participated in a bicycle rally, demanding bicycle lanes. Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon took out a bicycle procession in 2009, calling for a bicycle friendly environment in Dhaka and appealing for dedicated lanes.
With support from different sectors of society for bicycle lanes and the growing popularity of bicycles, we place our bet: there is likely a bicycle lane in Dhaka by 2030.
Stereotypical thinking, to this day, is widespread. In Bangladesh, social stigmas towards issues as varied as being divorced to being homosexual are prevalent.
But the mindset of our society is gradually changing. Rafia Nayem is a school teacher who lives in Uttara. Due to domestic abuse, she recently filed for divorce. "My parents were adamant against it at first. But I was determined to go for it," Nayem informed. "My cousins supported me in my decision. Perceptions are changing for the better."
Social stigma is of course not just restricted to divorce. When it comes to accepting alternative lifestyles and social ideas different from the tradition, our society still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, the change has started.
Take interfaith or interracial marriage for example.
We see many people nowadays breaking out from the norm and leading their lives the way they want to. In an article regarding this issue published in Star Lifestyle, Nameerah, a Bangladeshi Muslim who married an American Christian, was one of the interviewees. She informed that her family was at first concerned about how their friends and family would react. “It doesn't matter to me what they think, I need to know that you trust me with my decision and give me a chance to prove to you that I'm not making a mistake. Once you give me your blessing, I assure you no one will care or would dare to say anything against us because you accepted. At the end, community reacts the way you would react,” Nameerah said to her parents.
Globalisation and exposure to media are likely reasons why the trend is changing. People of Dhaka have just begun to learn on becoming more open-minded and tolerant.
Stereotyping may never go away completely, but we reckon that fifteen years from now, people will be more liberal towards different ideas, preferences, family structures, etc.
Counsellors to leap forward
Dhaka is becoming more open to psychiatric counselling. Public awareness regarding the importance of mental health is rising.
Nayema, since she was a victim of domestic abuse, fell into depression, which she is slowly getting out of after she started to go to a counsellor. "Previously, we would see someone going to a psychiatrist only for mental conditions that are visibly very serious in nature, like mental disability," Hussain commented. "But the fang of depression is also deadly,” she spoke from personal experience. “Depression can take severe forms with grave consequences and need to be treated by an expert. These days, we see more people going to counsellors for such therapies, and the negative perception about going to a psychiatrist is declining."
In the face of rising public awareness, to meet with the rising demand, we assume that by about 2030 there will be a lot more number of counsellors and psychiatrists providing better quality treatments.
Both government and non-government organisations are campaigning against selling of unsafe food. Applying chemicals like formalin, carbide and artificial colours in dangerous quantities has grievous consequences to health.
Awareness has been increasing in the last couple of years or so and people are seeking healthier alternatives. "I have stopped buying frozen fish; I only buy fish if I see they are alive. This way, I can at least ensure that I am eating formalin-free fish," Imdadh said.
Eventually, as more and more customers demand food that is hygienic and chemically safe to eat, the market dynamics will have to adjust accordingly. Moreover, the government is also trying to implement stern steps against unsafe food.
If this trend continues -- if awareness persists to rise -- we may well win this battle for food safety.
Are all these predictions simply wishful thinking? But given the trends, changing needs and perceptions of people, it is likely that these evolutions may actualise. Then again, even a rocket scientist went wrong in predicting about the advancements of human race in the moon.
But we believe that a better future is waiting for us. Well, only time can tell for sure.
Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne sayed
The writer is a Feature Writer, Star Lifestyle, The Daily Star.
Interviewees' names have been changed to protect privacy.