What does the ban on ‘fanus’ say about our priorities?
If governments and political groups have one thing in common all across the world, it is their ability to realise what is truly important to a society’s well-being.
Look at America: Even after their umpteenth mass shooting, be it from a Muslim, or some crazy curmudgeon Caucasian, or some high school teen, they hold on to their second amendment rights as if they have been ordained from the very mouth of an omni-benevolent God.
Or right here, during the whole shebang with the Lady of Justice statue: What could be more important than the threat that an inanimate, non-religious, non-denominational statue poses, a symbol of equality and blind justice, when you’re trying to pray?
Or, every year, as New Year’s Eve comes closer to us, and we scramble to arrange our plans for the day so that we are able to be at the right place at the right time, because there are rules in place which inhibit the freedom of the commuter to move from one part of the city to another.
These rules and regulations and demands have been put in place because the government and our law enforcement agencies and the powers that be know exactly what it is we need.
A pain in the fanus
So, logic dictates that when they banned rooftop celebrations on New Year’s Eve and “fanus,” they must have known what they were talking about. And since this is a rule that makes perfect sense to the general public, when I went on my friend’s roof (being an utter rebel and criminal, no doubt), I looked at the night sky and saw only stars and clouds, nothing else.
No groups of friends and family members littered Puran Dhaka’s rooftops, lighting these “fanus” and letting them float up in the air to create a rather mesmerising view of a sky lit up by lanterns.
No fireworks were lit and seen soaring up into the air, creating lovely panoramic miasmas of colour.
No screams were heard across the city as the city counted down to a “happy” new year.
Though I was not witness to it, there were helicopters flying in Dhaka North to ensure that this stayed the case (why only Dhaka North, some continue to wonder). Not that there was any need.
What we have learned is that if we don’t like something, let’s just lock it up and pretend that it doesn’t happen
All across the city, no one smuggled a bottle of booze across a checkpost, no one kissed anyone at midnight, no groups of young people scored a “potla” of easily available marijuana and went as high as the “fanus” in the sky.
What a perfectly civil and obedient society we live in.
All of this stems from a rape that happened a few years ago on the night, which resulted in the initial curfew. Of course, the logic was sound. It’s not like rape and harassment were daily and hourly occurrences in this city and nation, and not specific to one single day of the year.
It’s not like it was more important to make it safe for women, instead of turning the city into a police state.
When you prevent people from going from one end of the city to another, you automatically erase rape culture from the nations’ consciousness, no?
Whereas major cities all across the world make public transport free and provide more security so that things don’t go out of hand while people continue to enjoy their freedom and right to celebrate, what we have learned is that if we don’t like something, let’s just lock it up and pretend that it doesn’t happen.
This is the kind of unerring reasoning that goes hand-in-hand with short-term solutions. Why make Dhaka a city which makes it easy for its denizens to enjoy themselves while simultaneously making it be known that untoward activity (no, DMP, this does not mean fireworks and “fanus”) is unacceptable? That is impossible. We know how Bangladeshis are, and they won’t change.
Perhaps, for next year, we can ban December 31 as a day altogether. On the night of December 30, we will finish work (assuming it’s a weekday), go home, have dinner, say goodnight to our family and go to sleep.
The next day will be a government mandated holiday with a 24-hour curfew (kind of the opposite of The Purge), and we will go out again into the city, with the brand new year already upon us.
That’s how you get your priorities in order.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him @snraul.