A hand was stuck in the middle of two buses.
Hanging. In the air. Two buses as forceps. An unnerving photograph. When the morning papers reached the breakfast table, my eyes were glued to the front-page photograph. I didn’t have to read the caption, I simply knew what had happened to the hand.
My instant thought was: “What happened to the body?” I tried to show it to my wife, but she said she didn’t want to look at it.
Like us, the photograph had startled many. I felt an eerie disturbance in my entire being. That could be my hand or my son’s hand! Many have also thrown questions on social media whether it was right for the newspaper to publish a photo that everyone was scared to look at.
Yes, publishing a grisly picture such as that may raise questions among the members of the public. However, it can also be argued from a different point of view. Since our collective psyche doesn’t seem to be responding to our sense of fixing the bad things that have been happening to our national life, we actually needed to be startled by this gruesome photo.
Collectively, we certainly needed to be reminded of how we have been miserably nonchalant towards the spine-chilling incidents that take place in front of our eyes. Our spines don’t chill any more by observing frightening deaths and accidents due to our own misconducts.
My thoughts flashed back to the early-1970s in my childhood when we used to travel to our nanabari in Kushtia on a bus. Our mother always made sure that we kept our hands inside the bus if any one of us was sitting in a window seat.
She had explained the dangers. She told us that she had seen a man’s hand break by a speeding bus coming from the opposite direction. We all understood, and never rested our hands on the windows. Looking at the photograph of Rajib Hossain’s hand, I thanked my late mother from the bottom of my heart.
Rajib’s hand has seemingly shocked some of us, but has it really awakened our conscience? Do we really understand the gravity of the problem?
Before saying anything about the irresponsible driving across Bangladesh, we must take a look at our own sense of security. How conscious are we about the impending human risks that might lead us to various kinds of injuries as well as fatalities?
If we stand on the side of any road of any city or town of Bangladesh, it’s quite evident that the behaviours of the pedestrians themselves don’t tell a story of those who are aware of their own safety.
From crossing the road to hopping on to a vehicle, everything is so recklessly done that these acts may invite any mishap at any time.
We need to bring about a large-scale behavioural change, otherwise our own lives will continue to be in jeopardy.
Now, if you assess the result of the arrogant and reckless driving across the country, it has been a saga of deaths only. On average, 15,000 humans lose their lives every year in this country. 15,000? You must be joking. If you add up the figures of the last 10 years, you’ll get a horrifying total.
Citizens have been dying left and right due to road accidents. It seems nothing can prevent the monstrous vehicles from killing people. They come in from nowhere and hit the lame ducks on the streets.
Nothing can be done against our reckless driving, drunk driving, illegal stoppages and parking, unfit vehicles, underage and unskilled drivers.
The media and some civil society organizations have been trying to sensitise the government as well as the owners of the vehicles to overcome the prevailing situation for a long time now. Hundreds of talk shows have been arranged in order to try to find a solution to this procession of deaths. Surprisingly, nothing has changed so far; things haven’t improved a bit. No one seems to know how to address this plague called road accident.
What do wannabe smart traffic sergeants -- wearing dark goggles on their eyes and riding bikes on the wrong sides of the road -- do all day on the streets? Especially on the streets of Dhaka? It looks like they’re busy all day catching all the wrong-doers.
How do all the wrongs take place then? What are they actually busy for? Catching the wrong-doers, or is it something else? Why can’t they compel bus owners and drivers to follow the law? If they fail to enforce the law on them, shouldn’t they cease to exist? Why are they drawing their paychecks that come from the very people who are dying on the streets? It, indeed, is a shame.
Now Rajib’s hand has seemingly shocked some of us, but has it really awakened our conscience? Do we really understand the gravity of the problem? Do we realize that this problem requires a solution? Maybe not.
It would perhaps require a thousand more hands like Rajib’s to hit our cores to fathom what is actually happening around us. Perhaps we’re not yet ready to feel the heat of inefficiency, nonchalance, and brutality to hit us hard.
It will hit us; just you see …
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller and a columnist.