We have all become a bit too comfortable at the prospect of death
As a child, one of the more morbid “time pass” activities I engaged in when I was out with my parents, bored out of my hyperactive 8-year-old mind, was to imagine a hypothetical scenario where the guardian figure(s) present would suddenly drop dead in the middle of the road.
I’m sure a psychotherapist would have a field day with this admission, but I digress.
The purpose of this thought experiment, I believe, was to understand how I would react to such a situation. Would I have yelled for help? Would I have broken down into tears of sadness and despair? Would I have let that death affect any and all future decisions I make, completely ruining my chance at a fulfilling life?
The answer would have most likely been “all of the above.”
Given the ever-increasing number of lives being claimed by roadway accidents in our nation, I am genuinely surprised (and grateful) that my hypothetical scenario has remained just that, and that I still have the same number of members in my family that I grew up with … so far, anyway.
Road accidents are nothing new for a nation as work-in-progress as Bangladesh, what sticks out is their frequency and almost-exclusively fatal nature. The recent case of a group of students being run over by two buses trying to, reportedly, race each other near Airport Road witnessed two very young lives being cut way too short.
The act of manslaughter was quickly followed by protests demanding punitive actions against the perpetrators, and sure, two people were arrested related to the incident, and the bus companies involved will most likely be ordered to pay reparations for the damage they’ve dealt, but, unfortunately, none of this is likely to change much.
The patchwork state of our roads and highways make them veritable deathtraps for anyone without the luxury of having a motorcade follow them on a vacated highway, justifying the fears of every agoraphobic in the country.
And yet, all of us in Dhaka take the risk to get out every day and contribute to the economy, knowing full well that the chances of death or injury by an errant vehicle is higher than most other cities, entire countries even.
Could it be that we have become too comfortable with the prospect of death?
Of course, if we are to go by the smug sense of satisfaction with which the shipping minister -- who just so happens to be the executive president of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Sramik Federation (a major transport workers’ union) -- recently announced his prospective resignation from cabinet if that means it would put an end to road accidents, it would certainly seem so.
“A road crash has claimed 33 lives in India’s Maharashtra; but do they talk about it the way we do?” the man asked reporters, visibly irked by the intense line of questioning over his historical under-rug-swept tactics when dealing with reckless bus drivers.
If 33 people perished in a single incident in my country, maybe I should be ringing alarm bells across the nation.
But the begrudging truth is that he’s right. His resignation would not stop people from dying out on the streets in the most literal manner. It’s not just the lack of a workable infrastructure that is causing these accidents, it’s also us. Our lack of respect for anyone out on the roads that is not ourselves.
As much as it heartens me to see the peers and classmates of the deceased protesting out on the roads, can any one of them claim to have never jay-walked, or not looked at both sides of the road when crossing it, or flagrantly disregarded a red light? I would assume not.
Just as we have become comfortable at the prospect of risking death, so have we become comfortable at the prospect of dealing it -- to the point where, perhaps, we should all collectively take a step back and reflect whether we ever appreciated life to begin with.
Rubaiyat Kabir is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. He can be followed on Twitter @moreanik.