Simply put, anyone who has been living in Dhaka is a Dhakaiite. But we would say this is a rather narrow and dull definition. Being a citizen of this city is no easy feat. Dhaka is one big challenge! And yet, we stick to it, fighting every day, and also reaping the benefits of living in the capital.
This slowly turns one into a Dhakaiite, a peculiar sub-species of the human race, reflecting the oddities, troubles and the perks which Dhaka gives; a Dhakaiite is an embodiment of the city itself.
To call yourself one, you need to pass through certain experiences and do certain things, without which, you do not qualify. What would those experiences or attitudes be?
You are not a true Dhakaiite unless —
You have used traffic jam as an excuse for being late
Granted, traffic congestion is not a monopoly of Dhaka; many populous cities around the world have this problem. But the thing that probably sets our city apart is the utter chaos and people's reluctance, or even apathy towards traffic rules, thus making the traffic situation worse.
And let's not even start about what happens when it rains for, well, just 10 minutes.
People in some countries pick weather as their favourite topic for small talk; but for us Dhakaiites, its traffic that is the ultimate conversation starter, or ice-breaker!
Moreover, when people from other cities talk about traffic congestion elsewhere, you cannot help but smirk and think they are being 'cute.'
In an attempt to look at the bright side of things, how many times have you used traffic jam as an excuse for being late? It is quite a saviour! Well, sometimes you were actually late because of it, but other times, you hid your lack of punctuality or sense of time with the excuse of the horrible traffic.
You got in a fight with a CNG/Uber driver
Dhaka chokes with the traffic condition. And in doing so, it affects Dhakaiites in more than one way.
If you are a true Dhakaiite, there is no way that you have never experienced road rage. You could be a sage at the brink of reaching Nirvana after spending half your day mediating in a Zen garden, but Dhaka's roads will defeat you. You will — there is no 'may' or 'perhaps', you will lose your temper at least once.
Road rage is inevitable. It could be because the public bus is literally overflowing with crowd, or because some senseless fool in a hurry hit your car from the side, or the CNG driver is being unreasonable, or that the driver of your ride-sharing app, like Pathao or Uber, does not understand directions, or have the slightest idea on how to use maps — whatever the case may be, you have felt your blood boil while commuting through this difficult city.
You get disappointed when there is no kachchi at a wedding
We Dhakaiites take pride in our biriyani. It's the best among all the versions of this dish, we ardently claim.
And rightly so. With the use of potato, the Black Bengal Goat, and the 'dum pukth' method of cooking, where the rice and the meat are cooked together in a sealed pot, the result is the flavoursome biriyani which reigns supreme.
It is a royal treat! It is as good as a biriyani can get.
A grand celebration always calls for kachchi. And so, it is not a shocker that kachchi is the staple at weddings. What is a shocker, though, is when you attend a wedding and see there's no kachchi on the table. Such a shame!
You know Old Dhaka like the back of your hand
This rite is difficult. Not many people, especially from the newer part of the city, have mastered making sense of the chaos and confusion of 'Puran Dhaka'.
But if you are a Dhakaiite to the very core, you would be able to make your way out of any narrow alleyway without the help of Google Maps. You would know the best places to eat, the best places to shop, and the best sites to visit.
The last point, if I may stress, is not particularly easy to achieve. Dhaka likes keeping a low profile when it comes to its history (read "we do not care much about preserving and highlighting our heritage"). Therefore, you may have crossed many buildings and edifices with immense historical significance without even realising it.
Old Dhaka's heritage spots are not just Lalbagh Fort and Ahsan Manzil; such prominent ones are just the tip of the iceberg. If you are at an advanced-level Dhakaiite, you will be able to add dozens of names to this list.
The same goes with food. If you haven't tasted places like Hajir Biriyani, Nurani Cold Drink, Al-Razzaq, Beauty Shorbot, Royal, etc., you are probably not a bona fide Dhakaiite. But again, these form just the tip of the iceberg: if you are a true Dhakaiite at heart, you would know some of the finest but relatively less prominent eateries too, and appreciate what they bring to the table.
And while we are on the topic of food, on a separate note, you are also not a Dhakaiite unless you have bakharkhani or ponir in your kitchen cabinet!
You complain there is 'nothing much to do' in this city
…but at the same time, you dread other cities in Bangladesh for being so boring. This duality is something every Dhakaiite faces.
Come to think of it, are there really many entertainment or leisure options in Dhaka? You often say, "Other than shopping and eating out, there are not many places to go or hang out at," letting out a sigh.
But at the same time, when we go out of Dhaka for a long time — far from the bustling crowds, if you will — we easily get bored and start missing our city, thinking that most of the cities in the country have even fewer options!
Living in this strange duality — feeling bored in Dhaka, and yet missing it when you are out — makes one a true Dhakaiite.
You've said "I'm broke" at least once
Dhaka is an expensive city. Rent is unbelievable, and even the cost of commute can leave you in tatters. You find it hard to make ends meet. For most of us, the cost of living in this city is almost unbearable.
In the last week of every month, you often wonder: "Where did all my money go?"
You are not truly a Dhakaiite if you have never said "I'm broke".
You believe no glamorous shop can beat the bargains at Bongo Bazar or Doja Market
If there is one thing which this city does not have any shortage of, it would be premium outlets and shopping malls.
And yet, we return to the good old New Market, which is soaked in memories and still satisfies our shopping needs, from kitchenware to wedding jewellery.
We also do not mind substituting glitzy outlets with the shabby or more budget-friendly ones.
Bargaining is deeply embedded in our hearts. We love great deals. The numerous street-side shops, the cheap deals at Bongo Bazar and the like, hunting for cute trinkets at Chandni Chawk, and browsing books and haggling at Nilkhet are things we love to do!
You are a die-hard cricket fan
If there is something which unites us, it is our love for cricket.
The Bangladesh cricket team, through thick and thin, has managed to keep us proud, entertained, and at the edge of our seats! And Dhaka's numerous fans are a testament to that.
Many Dhakaiites go to spots in the city with big screens to watch a match with friends. Meanwhile, Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium — or simply put, Mirpur Stadium — frequently hosts cricket matches.
There is no dearth of the crazy cricket fandom in this city.
If not anything else, notice how you hear the entire neighbourhood's collective — with families in their respective homes hooked to their television sets — cheers and shout outs when, for example, Liton hits the big sixes, or when the Fizz topples a wicket. The entire neighbourhood breaks out in celebration for a brief few seconds.
When you are in Dhaka, you are never far off from cricket fandom.
You must consume regular doses of 'tong er cha'
No posh cafe can ever match the ambience or service of street-side tea stalls — the tong. And you have your favourite one, usually close to your office, college, or home.
And the 'mama' knows your palate well; whether you prefer milk tea or black, how strong the tea should be, and whether you are more inclined towards ginger or lemon.
Conversations swirl around tea stalls, from the game last night to politics to office gossip; everything brews over that teacup.
You are stressed without any particular reason
And finally, or all things combined, Dhaka gives its people a certain level of stress. It's a strange thing to claim. Because it may be hard to pinpoint as to why and how this stress is building up. Is it the traffic? The chaos? The noise? Or, those exorbitant bills? It is probably all of them.
The city, somehow, perhaps because of the many challenges it throws at us, gives us stress. Dhaka is indeed a stressful city.
So, the next time you are feeling stressed without being able to identify why, blame it on Dhaka! Braving this stress is probably the ultimate test of whether you are a true Dhakaiite or not.
If you do feel it — and if you nodded along all the way throughout the list — then bravo, you are indeed a true Dhakaiite!