One of my journalist friends, one day, while sitting in an infuriating traffic jam in Gulshan, saw a government vehicle suddenly going in the wrong lane in order to avoid the road congestion. So he also directed his chauffeur to follow that car.
The policeman, however, stopped his car, but let the government vehicle go. My friend, then, told the on-duty traffic personnel: “If you can let him go, you have to let me go too. If you don’t let me go, you have to stop that car.” The traffic official couldn’t challenge his statement and let him pass through the wrong lane.
Well, everyone isn’t as fortunate as my friend.
The police don’t let us pass; they only let the fortunate pass on the “wrong” side of the road. Most of us, the commoners, have to wait in the snail’s-pace queue in order to reach our destinations.
The Bangali commoners are a tolerant lot; we, sort of, believe that sitting tight on the road inside the vehicles is our destiny, ordained by God Almighty upon Bengali commoners.
However, many times, we wish we could follow -- but most of the times we don’t dare -- the officials who, we thought, were meant to serve the interests of the common lot.
We the commoners may not always follow the footsteps of our officials, but a bunch of young people, studying in the capital city’s public universities, consider the officials as their idols.
On their route to universities and back home, they are, these days, seen to follow the footsteps of the officials who they want to become one day.
The students of our public universities are seen taking the wrong lanes when they are going to the campus or returning home. The newspapers are full of front-page pictures of their traffic violations.
Recently, some students, on a double-decker bus of a university, had attacked a police sergeant who reportedly tried to prevent them from going through the wrong lane. We have also heard from many people who have seen the students taking wrong lanes.
Old habits die hard
The unwanted practice of going through the wrong lane is becoming a habit of the students of public universities.
Moreover, they become arrogant whenever the pedestrians or the traffic personnel tell them not to do so.
You are not alone in experiencing this obnoxious traffic situation day in and day out. We’re all in the same boat together
We feel let down when they commit such an act of violation. We don’t feel let down when the government officials take the wrong lane. No matter how wrong that would seem, we know the government officials won’t listen to what the commoners would expect them to do. That’s them.
But when it comes to university students, the common people do have some expectations. University students of this country have contributed to our history and economy so amazingly that we have immense respect for them.
The glory of the past
It’s the students who made all our national revolutions successful; the students of the universities contributed the most during the War of Liberation as well as in the run-up to our liberation.
The students played a great role in our national politics even after our liberation; they had successfully ousted an autocrat who vowed not to give up.
Students who are violating traffic laws would, one day, become our own government officials and run the state of affairs.
When they become those officials, they would, we believe, certainly continue to break the laws of the roads. We certainly don’t wish to have officials who would break the laws that they are supposed to uphold.
We do understand that they, the students -- while going to attend classes or returning home from class -- are in a hurry. We know that traffic in Dhaka is horrendous, and it is frustrating to be on the road, sitting in one place for hours.
You are not alone
You, dear students, are not alone in experiencing this obnoxious traffic situation day in and day out. We’re all in the same boat together. We the commoners also have important tasks to achieve, we also have to return home to be with our families.
No matter how painful it is, we the commoners sit tight in the vehicles and don’t think of breaking the laws.
We, dear students, expect you to lead by example; please be an example yourself.
Ekram Kabir is a fiction writer.