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City of contrasts and contradictions

  • Published at 03:21 pm September 12th, 2020
D2_City of contrasts and contradictions
Photos: Aditya Das

Dhaka is a city that’s just as hard to hate as it is to love

I am a Bangladeshi. I've spent the first 19 years of my life growing up in different places around Bangladesh. But most of my formative years have been spent in the capital city of Dhaka.

I've always taken this city for granted, always complained about the situation of this place. Until I moved to Canada to continue with my higher education.

A feeling of overwhelming homesickness took hold of me when I was nearing the end of my freshman year, in 2018. I started to realize that no matter where I went, Dhaka, would always have a special place in my heart.

But I never exactly knew why.

The thing is, Dhaka isn't pretty. As a matter of fact, Dhaka was ranked as the 3rd least livable cities in the entire world in 2019. [The Global Liveability Index 2019, The Economist Intelligence Unit]

Nobody was surprised, especially not the residents of Dhaka who experience the reality of living in this metropolitan. The daily average commute taking hours for journeys shorter than 10km under overcast, thickly polluted, topped off with dust clouds which will remind one of a desert climate in an environment where humidity is at 81%, during the time of me writing this, is the norm.Photo: Aditya Das

It's not hard to imagine why Dhaka was ranked where it was.

But amid the traffic, the pollution, the diseases, the corruption, the crime, and inequality, Dhaka seems to have been thriving until Covid-19 hit. So this got me thinking, again, why do I love this city? Why is it that every time I leave Bangladesh I can't wait to come back?

Apart from the fact that my parents live in Dhaka, what reason could there be for me to feel connected so deeply to this city?

We human beings have a tendency to always look for the negatives. We're hardwired to find faults and are quick to point out all the things that are wrong. That's what most of us do when we think of Dhaka. But while figuring out what kind of breakfast I wanted to have suddenly I remembered that I had access to starfruits! resh off the tree which had grown out of a small sliver of soil amid the congestion of concrete and asphalt. And that's when I started to find the answer to my previous question.

Starfruits are a rare item. Most of the people I've met while in university have never even tried it. I'm sure for a fruit such as this the conditions for growth has to be somewhat ideal, (I'm talking about space, nutrition, water) right? Yet, unmaintained, this particular tree and numerous other all over the city of Dhaka seem to be thriving.

And there lay the mystery of Dhaka, unfolding right before my very eyes.

Amidst all the pollution and corruption, one thing remains. One thing endures. It is the bounties of nature, God's gift to the people of this land. Wherever you look in Dhaka, you'll find nature and I'm not just talking about trees. The greenery of the Dhaka's trees are comparable to that of lush rainforests of the remotest jungles. It is extraordinary. Small cracks in building walls give way to fully formed plants and trees. Any and every possible space is occupied by some sort of living entity.

Flowers in full bloom growing out of tiny patches of soil scattered across residences, irrigated by the open sewage drains. Hummingbirds fly by early in the morning collecting nectar before the whole city fires up for the day. Sparrows and other small birds making nests in the tiny crevices of apartment buildings. Dogs wagging their tail vigorously in anticipation for some affection every time a person walks by.

God's creations are constantly giving to this city something we all fail to do. Love.

No matter how much man tries to bend nature to his will, no matter how much he tries to corrupt it, nature endures. At the end, it is God's creation that will triumph over man's irrational attempts at creating a better planet by simultaneously leaving it unappreciated.

This duality, a complete circus act of creation and destruction seems almost surreal now that I notice it around me. And it all seems to be playing out concurrently. It always has been.

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