Our city, yes, Dhaka city, has acquired a range of adjectives over the years.
Water-logged, standstill traffic, city of the muddy and broken roads, unplanned, city of bins, and polluted -- to name a few. Yes, this is our modern Dhaka. We’ve, of course, heard from our elders that the city, once, was a symbol of beauty and serenity.
That time has long gone. It has now become a globally low-performing city.
Recently, CNN Travel has indexed our city as the 7th most stressful city in the world. Baghdad tops this list and Karachi and New Delhi follow Dhaka.
Up on the index, before us, there are also Kabul, Lagos, Dakar, Cairo, and Tehran.
There’s quite a lot of truth in what the news organisation has found out. You just have to stand at a Dhaka intersection and observe the faces inside the vehicles that are standing still in the traffic.
I’m sure you won’t see a single smiling face.
The children who go to the schools in the morning on school buses, on privately-owned cars, on rickshaw vans, look intensely anxious while they are on their way. Many families buy privately-owned cars just because they want their children to reach school safely.
Some people have more than one car for the same purpose: One car going in one direction with one child and the other going in another direction with another child.
Now, you can’t just blame these families for purchasing more than one car for their school-going children. They must have a reason to do so.
The question that we never ask ourselves is this: Why do we think that our children are unsafe when they go out of the house? No one really knows why, but a parent is scared to let his/her child go out alone. This thought certainly is quite stressful for us, isn’t it?
In the process of ‘developing’ it, we have destroyed everything -- the rivers, the canals, green parks and fields -- everything
On the road
Dhaka is not a city for women travelling on buses. When they try to get on the bus, who knows, a male passenger is perhaps trying to harass her.
If you run a survey among women riding buses in Dhaka, you might get a horrendous picture of physical harassment.
At the same time, walking to the workplace for women is also not something they could do easily.
The eve-teasers standing on the pavements might raise their cortisol hormone to an extreme level.
Then, when you’re inside a vehicle, you get some sort of solace thinking that at least you could avail transport. But you don’t know how long it would take to reach to your desired destination.
This city isn’t only water-logged, it’s also clogged with vehicles that slow down our movements to a miserable level. Things get worse when it rains, or when the government’s high officials are on the road.
Talking about government officials, this lot is perhaps the worst reason for raising your stress level. They have a special honking sound on their vehicles and majority of them never drive on the right lane.
They, like the zamindars of yesteryears, are the only ones who have the right to take the wrong lane and it’s the commoners who abide by the traffic laws. They also train their chauffeurs with the same psychology.
Once upon a time, we read in the history books that these officials used to serve the citizens to make their lives and livelihoods easy. The leaf has turned: The citizens now serve them.
It’s not only our officials -- police vehicles and the cars belonging to media/news organisations also don’t tend to abide by the traffic laws.
Late to bed, early to rise
The traffic congestion gives us less sleep during resting hours. Imagine the people living in Uttara who have to reach work at Farmgate by 9am. One hour of travelling time isn’t enough for them -- it actually takes two hours and sometimes more.
Therefore, they have to sleep less and wake up so early that they start early and reach their workplace on time.
The Daily Janakantha has just reported that the authorities have decided to build a museum for natural history at Segunbagicha in this “concrete jungle.” What a lovely thought.
First, we let our city become a concrete jungle, and then we think of a natural history museum.
The developing businesses have perhaps done the worst damage to our city. In the process of “developing” it, we have destroyed everything -- the rivers, the canals, green parks and fields -- everything.
All our city planners and architects have silently observed our city sliding into the list of most unliveable cities.
The diminishing rivers and canals are a glaring testimonial of human greed.
And greed certainly makes things extremely stressful. Many studies have said that greed drains out the life force from humans.
But there are a lot of people who love this city, who want to dream of turning things around. They want to cooperate with the government to turn the stresses of this city into peace.
Ekram Kabir is a researcher and a fiction writer.