Dhaka city’s northern mayor recently organised the Dhaka Festival in order to increase the city-dwellers’ awareness on the liveability of our city. He also made the youth population swear that they would turn this city into a liveable one.
Well, this isn’t the first time one has tried to raise awareness on this particular issue.
Our city has various kinds of problems: The city’s traffic, sewage, real estate business, and poor planning. Traffic is perhaps the brightest emblem of unliveability here.
Over the limit
We have allowed the number of cars to increase without making proper roads for them. Our elite started driving SUVs without making sure there was space to drive them. This doesn’t happen in other countries.
We, the Dhakaites, collectively break laws all the time. Anyone and everyone who drives in this city breaks laws. This disrespect of the law has certainly played a pivotal role in cementing the unlivability of the city.
Our lack of proper behaviour has also fueled our law-breaking attitude. It’s quite evident from the way people spit and urinate on the pavements in broad daylight.
If we take sewage management, for example, it seems we never studied science in school.
There was a time when we lived in smaller houses; on average, about 10 people lived in one two-storey building.
Most of the buildings now have become high-rises or, at least, six-storied ones where 10 families live in one building.
Now, is our age-old sewage system capable of withstanding this increasing pressure?
We should have made sure that the infrastructure first was capable of providing room for this large population.
Have we ever thought how many master plans we have for Dhaka city? At least five.
So, what are we doing with so many plans? All developed cities across the world had one plan, and that too, for a really long time.
We never designed such a plan for our city. We never had the vision to see how the pressure of population would force us to expand the city from its original size.
We feel proud of the 400-year history of Dhaka, and yet, over the last 45 years, we haven’t done anything to be proud of.
How we keep on going
The list of unacceptable aspects of our city is longer than anyone can imagine.
And they make us depressed when we think about it. But we try to evade our depression and try to be happy in a depressing city.
Think about the friends you have in this city. Aren’t they a great source of happiness? You just need an SMS to arrange a great adda.
There are a million such pockets of adda. Your friends would come running with help when you are in trouble.
The pleasure of staying alive is another source of joy in our city. We never know whether we will survive when we go out of our homes.
This is how the living is full of life in this city. Despite all problems and unliveable elements, life is vibrant here
A great many people -- including small children -- have died in the hands of rowdy drivers, deadly muggers, and faithful political workers. So, when you finish your day’s work and reach home and realise that you have survived another day in Dhaka, you can’t help but be happy.
And when you are happy being with you family or friends, you let go; you forget your experience of being robbed, mugged, or hit by a car. You gain the will to start again the next morning.
This is how we keep going in this unliveable city.
There’s always a way
Something always works in this nothing-really-works city. When you are in trouble on the street or in a government office, there’s always a way to solve your problem or get the work done.
Imagine, you fail to get an appointment of a high and mighty doctor; but there is always another doctor who could help you to get the desired appointment.
Imagine, the papers of your car have expired and you are caught by the traffic sergeant who is about to take you to the police station.
There is always a way to convince (with the help of a highly placed friend or by other means) the officer to set you free.
There are so many things to do here. The thought of doing a million things can engulf you, especially when you return from a city in another country.
After experiencing the finer things in life, you want to make them possible in your own city.
On the other hand, dwellers of say, Vancouver or Melbourne, don’t think this way.
They don’t have anything to do; for them, everything is done and ready.
This is how the living is full of life in this city. Despite all problems and unliveable elements, life is vibrant here.
And we never stop living in this city; and we feel happy with the fact that we have surivived yet another day.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.