Dear license plate number Dhaka Metro-x, 120003,
I understand that sitting in an air-conditioned car, with hands on a leather steering wheel, swerving the machinery with ease, may, possibly, make you feel invincible. With that big of a car, in that capsule of luxury and comfort, it may be too difficult to have wheels on the ground as it may lead you to think that you are driving in some parallel universe, elevated from Dhaka city roads.
I can only imagine how distressing it is to be honked back to reality by those dingy, small vehicles -- to realise you are just a part of a very mediocre crowd, attempting to whoosh through the green traffic signal, with everyone else at your tail. To add insult to injury, it must be even more distressing to realise that you too must toil and push the miles-long traffic.
Your grand armour of a car has to sit quietly in congestion with every other low-tier brand car, three-wheeled dreary CNG, and sometimes even with those peasant-run, flimsy things called “rickshaws,” is it? -- and all those trucks, buses, pick-up vans, etc; all the more outdated excuses for vehicles.
I know it must be hard, even difficult, to contain all that diesel-filled adrenaline and ecstatic joy within your elite temperament. It must be harder for you than every other driver on the road to manoeuvre through the back-breaking traffic, sitting comfortably in your car seat.
Maybe it is all that restraint and delusional belief that makes you feel superior, and why shouldn’t you feel superior to all of us? Maybe it is that superiority, that you have to keep in check being stuck at a red light, that makes you constantly honk your way through all the other vehicles when the traffic turns green.
Why do you have to test your patience even more, and move along with the traffic flow like us? I can understand your frustration, which may lead you to that overwhelming urge to blaze past us.
So when you did just that last night at Bijoy Sharani traffic signal, I didn’t blame you. Honest.
What we feel is the sting of irony, of how you, despite being part of the minority in the city still, can and will always make unreasonable claims. And we, the majority, at the poorer end of the spectrum, have to make way, adjust, and give exactly what you claim
However, I can’t really say the same about all the other passengers and drivers at the signal, who may have muttered a little prayer for your place in a special corner in hell. Because there is something obnoxious about that mighty sound of persistence and arrogance, the sound of you honking away relentlessly till every vehicle is forced to move over an inch on the already crammed road just to make way for you, Pajero.
There is something that makes us, the everyday middle class and lower-middle class, feel something toxic when you cut your restraint some slack, and claim the roads for yourself in sheer bravado. Your brand precedes you, a representation of the elite class.
What we feel is the sting of irony, of how you, despite being part of the minority in the city still, can and will always make unreasonable claims. And we, the majority, at the poorer end of the spectrum, have to make way, adjust, and give exactly what you claim.
If we are to take the philosophy of majoritarianism into account, and look at how things are run in this city -- it is astounding to deduce that only “the richer” contradict this system. The majority wins in all cases when it comes to religion or sex, so one can assume, ceteris paribus, that the middle-class can win cases when it comes to the road, traffic, and the way being paved for them. But that’s not how you roll, is it?
It isn’t just you really, but almost every other person under the same umbrella of elite class makes the same claims. You never really bother with the inconvenience that you cause us when you park your embodiment of privilege and wealth in front of schools or shopping malls.
I’m quite sure you are aware of the trail of us waiting on you to make some common sense decisions, like making sure your passengers exit the vehicle quickly, like no, you don’t have to waddle around the car to open the passenger doors, a part of your elite etiquette, I am sure.
I wouldn’t make unreasonable claims like you do every day, and attempt at suggesting that you stretch out that etiquette of yours to us.
We do not ask for royal treatment, we only ask for common courtesy from your end. Because it shouldn’t be difficult to acknowledge our presence (the middle class), more than 33% of the urban population.
When all minority groups stand to be subjected to discrimination and marginalisation, you are a rich exception. Amounting to only around 2.7% of the Dhaka-urban population, we, sometimes foolishly expect you to stay within your lane, and move along like a privileged but also civilised individual.
You must know that privilege is one of the more sought out things in this country. Think about it, it is only that which lets an individual prosper and excel in any given sphere of work or life in Dhaka. Without it, we (not you) remain confined to our pre-destined fate of lesser glossy lifestyles.
And so, I’m sure that you thoroughly love basking in your privilege, and unfortunately never really bat an eye for us or how we have to suffer the brunt of your lavish cars and superiority complex. Speaking of privilege and superiority complexes, I repeat, it really isn’t just you. You must remember that road accident which critically injured four people or so last year, caused by a drunk teenage driver, part of the #ClassyKidsOfDhaka.
So there is a lot of you on the road, honking away, or blocking traffic, because your privilege, the brand that you drive, is overwhelming. Stretching my empathy muscles, I can imagine how it’s not your fault but the fault of those around you and the culture of privilege that, together, allows you to become an inconvenience to all of us, the majority on the road, and also always fashionably get away.
So this is to tell you, dear *insert expensive car name* driver, attempt to stick to your lane. We know how grand your life is because privilege is what has you, be it by inheritance or paycheck, to driving that top-notch machine.
Attempt to have some restraints, some sort of control over your overwhelmed muscles and adrenaline gushing through your fuel pipes. Attempt, for your sake, because who knows when the ones on the road will want to play their “majority” card and honk you over to one of those mediocre road accidents, or death.
The middle class.
Nusmila Lohani is a sub-editor at the Dhaka Tribune.