Are we back to dystopia?

Anujit Saha | Published: 00:00, Aug 26,2018


A student directs rickshaw pullers to run in lines at Johnson Road in Old Dhaka on Thursday, August 2, 2018

Students’ movement demanding road safety has apparently ended, likewise, chaos in Dhaka roads have rampantly returned. The little hope they showed the nation, we might ask, how long will it last? Anujit Saha fears we are turning into a dystopia, nonetheless, he sees the movement as a little pocket of utopia.

Using whatever resources they had, the students decided to bring a reform as it was evident to them that the people in charge of the change were napping. Seeing these students on the streets, unified for a singular cause, reminded me of that speech of Bangabandhu on 7th of March, the speech which gives me the chills every time I hear it. The speech was a historic rallying call to the commoners to be involved in the revolt for freedom using whatever limited means of defense they had. The students, with nothing but their uniforms as their biggest weapon, had the same intent.

The biggest asset to these protesters was their willpower and audacity to dream for a better Dhaka transport system. They knew they were asking for a reformation of a system which has seen inadequate planning and maintenance ever since our liberation. They knew about the laid back traffic polices, narrow roads, buses with nothing but a few scrapes of metals keeping its shape. If you ask any well read planner or an architect, the obvious reply would be a vague one where they would ask for the change in mentality of the general consensus to comply with the traffic rules. They would complain about the corrupt traffic policing and license systems. Fortunately, these young aspirants were not such individuals who went through years of study about a reformation of the roads. They were people ready to implement the change by being the change themselves in every manner possible.

From checking the fitness and license of every vehicle in the street to maintaining traffic during heavy downpours, they managed to show us a utopia within our own reach. The intersections of the busiest roads were not chaotic cramming of buses, cars with richshaws in between, anymore. They were in a systematic manner with different lanes for rickshaws and four wheelers. Without any central leadership, institutional power or monetary incentive, they showed how the current resources could be best maintained and utilised by us. They did not ask for a billion dollar metro rail project, but rather they asked for a properly function traffic law enforcement system, something a rapidly developing megacity such as Dhaka is supposed to have.

But even with the air of change, the rationale and cynical side of me wondered as how to long will these dreams exist? With the city in a standstill, many were already bashing on these students with the cliché ‘nothing will change after protests fade out’. I was not unfamiliar to such reactions of the people to earlier protests that had happened during recent times. But for once, that cynical and rational part of me was ousted by the sentiments of anguish and hope which reverberated throughout the whole nation among every person with an identity of a student.

Growing up in this neighborhood of pessimism, where poor standards of living were met with nothing but whining of the common people, such an act of sheer passion was overwhelming to me.  For a moment I envisioned a society where insults to our nation is not instigated by our own people with one liner such as ‘Eita Dhaka’ or ‘Eita Bangalir shobhab’ for those Bangali were showing a better Dhaka themselves.

Even if that dream life of ours in our head often sees us in a land far away, Dhaka will be the city which prepared us for what we are.  In the age of globalisation, where we are in grasp of the development in the West, we do not comply with the ideas of infrastructural inadequacy. The students do not want to get to school every morning with their life on the line as they board a human hauler driven by someone of their own age or even younger. We are done with the exercise of matching the velocity of a running bus to get in and then stand at amidst a crammed bus with no space to stand, let alone sit. We have no other option rather than getting into a crammed bus as no one knows when the next bus is arriving before our morning assembly at school starts. With all the enthusiasm about our state in international affairs as a booming economy, one where we are forecasted to be a developed nation by 2041, as youth of today, we do not feel the ambience of progress in the streets when we a significant amount of time and effort is wasted sitting idle for hours. 4G internet might have increased connectivity online, but our physical communication’s speed seems to be at an all time low.

We voiced out our demands, demonstrated the actions, showed the path to a safer and a more live able condition of this city we love, the city which gave us the opportunities to grow, and where we have spent our youth learning to not ask for more than we need to sustain our lives. So is it too much to ask for the city to not take our lives? We do not demand a utopia, we just want Dhaka not to turn into dystopia. 

Anujit Saha is a student of SFX Greenherald.



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