Even on the roads of Dhaka, there can be a breath of fresh air
Just a week ago, as I was engaged in the tedious job of editing a long report, a colleague called me and said excitedly: “I am in a CNG, coming to your place; prepare yourself for a surprise!”
The spirits lifted up immediately at the possibility of an adventure. What could it be?
Well, in about half an hour, a CNG pulled up near my gate and as I raced down, a glimpse of the three-wheeler from the staircase window revealed the source of my colleague’s excitement.
This was no ordinary CNG because form the top I could see a large hedge on the roof of the three-wheeler, and flowers and a thick carpet of green covering the whole body.
An eco-friendly CNG?
Well, there’s far more to this vehicle than just pro-environment facilities. Fascinated, I decided to talk to the driver, Md Jahidul Islam.
Actually, “driver” is a far too mundane word to describe him: So, why not call him the “pilot” of this extraordinary vehicle?
Yes, just like the headline suggests: Mr Bond would not mind leaving his Aston Martin and choose to hop on Jahid’s CNG.
In about five minutes, the vehicle was surrounded by curious people: Some admiring the décor, others taking a look inside while the drivers of parked cars marveled at the gadgets.
“Can I take your interview?” I asked Jahid.
“Certainly,” came back the reply and before I began, poured a glass of clean water from a filter placed inside the CNG three-wheeler.
And the drink came in a disposable plastic glass.
“Neat,” I thought and began to talk to Jahid. Here’s the story of an urban taxi driver who is an aesthete at heart.
A touch of class
Jahid, 30, came to Dhaka in the late 90s and for the first 10 years of his life, worked as a worker in a sweater making factory.
“But I wanted to increase my income and since the fixed hours of work inside a factory were stifling, I decided to drive a CNG,” says the young man who also considers himself to be a connoisseur of everything that is artistic.
The inspiration to modify his CNG came from another person called Tapan Chandra who had also transformed his vehicle into a moving marvel.
So, was it tough for Jahid to get the owner of the CNG to agree to his additions of elegance?
“Actually, the owner told me that he will not spend anything on beautification but gave me permission to do whatever I liked,” adds Jahid.
“I took a loan of Tk50,000 from the Association for Social Advancement and then began the process of transforming the vehicle.”
It’s hard to believe that a daily worker who does not even own the three-wheeler would actually go to the extent of taking a loan to make his ride a little less ordinary.
But that’s exactly what Jahid did.
What does the CNG offer?
I bet you are dying to find out what the CNG offers. Features available in a luxury car are all here, maybe some more.
Sit back and doze off even in this April afternoon because the fan works perfectly and creates a cool soothing atmosphere.
The heat never penetrates from above simply because the roof is covered by a large green hedge, which is, in actuality, a chilli tree.
The body is layered in a green grass coated layer which also prevents heat from bothering the passenger.
There is a water filter, a garbage bin, and even a tap, in case you want to wash your hands after eating something.
To wipe your hands, there’s a tissue box, air freshener if you find the smell wafting in from the outside a little unpleasant plus an umbrella in case the heavens open up.
If you want a little privacy, then just pull the curtain, tell Jahid to play soft music on his CD player and then ... I leave the rest to your imagination.
Bothersome mosquitoes? No worries, there is an aerosol can placed neatly in front of you in a small plastic container fixed to the grille separating the passenger and the driver.
Out on date and want to look your best? Just adjust the mirror, use the comb, and discard all the anxiety.
All these have been placed by Jahid and the result is phenomenal.
“When someone takes a ride, the person is content and the happiest are the people going back home back from work in the evening because they can relax in the vehicle, listen to music, or just sleep.”
By the way, there’s also Wi-Fi, a rear camera, and CCTV!
However, in a time when too many fire accidents are taking place across the city, the most laudable feature is the inclusion of a fire extinguisher on the side of the driver’s door.
“In case there’s an emergency on the road, I can help with my extinguisher,” says Jahid.
Educated up to class six, Jahid has more common sense that most of us who never think of carrying a fire extinguisher in a car.
It reminded me of Oscar Wilde: “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
In Dhaka, traffic jams carry on wasting valuable time, though there’s a very rewarding way to spend your moments if stuck on the road: Pick up a book, placed on one corner and Jahid has selected Ekattorer Dinguli by Jahanara Imam -- another indication of this young man’s intellectual depth.
Hailing from Gaibandha, Jahid lives in Rampura and is willing to offer his services to any special event or just for regular rides that offer comfort plus safety.
Jahid also told me: “I have been taken to carry the bride and groom to a wedding and they were ecstatic.”
Did Jahid give the groom a red chilli as gift from the roof of his CNG? The young man simply laughs!
Well, Mr. Bond can certainly add some variety to his ride and give the Aston a little rest.
I am sure Jahid’s CNG can find ample space for rockets, machine guns, smoke bombs, ejector seats, plus a small fridge to carry a bottle of Bollinger and caviar.
Towheed Feroze is a journalist, teaching at the University of Dhaka.