Very important person

SM Shahrukh

The officer-in-charge blows a long whistle to end this surreal scene and gives the green signal to all, and the crowd goes back to its usual chaos as if in relief at having passed the VIP like a kidney stone


  • Is there a better way to deal with this traffic gridlock?

It is an important cross-section on the VIP road. It’s early evening, and it’s been raining all day, but it has stopped now. A few umbrellas are still unfurled, some people are not yet convinced that the downpour has totally stopped.

A VIP is about to give the name of the road its vindication — he or she will travel on it to reach a destination. An august occasion awaits the big honcho, surely. The junction has roads going to the east and the west. They do not hold the VIP status, rickshaws ply on them. All movements, mechanical and human, are rescinded for the time being — man and machine and a few stray dogs wait; they are made to wait by over-eager policemen.

A man in a light blue safari chain smokes inside the air-conditioned car. He has an appointment in half an hour. His driver is trying hard not to cough — he has a choking feeling. An office clerk removes the umbrella away from his head to check if raindrops would still hit his head, the drops accumulated on his umbrella slide along and drop on the freshly pressed highly starched shirt of a young man waiting to go to Bashundhara mall for an evening of feasting his eyes, maybe even get a phone number. He grimaces and curses under his breath as he notices the dark wet spots on his immaculate shirt.

A young girl, returning from her garment factory job, thinks of all the chores still remaining before she can get some sleep.

The methamphetamine addict waits with tremors all over his body — he is eyeing the dealer standing on the other side, a meeting would please them both; in different ways, though.

A drunk is rigorously chewing paan to kill the odour before he goes home. A jobless man waits to cross to the other side just for the heck of it.

A school-boy pants under the heavy load of books. An old man wants to go to his friend’s place to loan some money for the umpteenth time. Two young lovers sit on a motorbike, she gently rests her head on his shoulders.

A little boy is selling peanuts from a wicker basket. Hoodlums sip tea and smoke cigarettes as they plan their next extortion bid. A beggar is mightily pissed at the non-movement of cars — he needs new cars to come, they bring new gullible benefactors searching for a shortcut to heaven.

The rickshaw-puller is anxious, as he has just given a bribe to the policeman to let him cross over to the other side using the VIP road. He fears the officer-in-charge would move him to another spot.

He sweats in the cool evening air. His passengers are a newlywed couple. They are too busy groping each other under the hood of the rickshaw — the mundane does not exist for them.

The policeman, richer by a full Tk5 note, is mightily annoyed at all this sudden activity. He would much rather chit chat with Sokhina, the bhapa pitha seller.

The bus driver, with his human-hauler choc-a-bloc full is having a smoke while reminiscing about his carefree days in the village. Flooded paddy fields during the rains catch his fancy; the city is dead for the time being.

The people inside the bus are breathing each other’s body odour, maybe getting some oxygen in the mix of sweat, cheap perfume, and ator. The helper is taking a breather, sitting at the tea-stall nearby, smoking a cigarette, leering at the woman wearing a wet sari while slurping condensed milk-sweetened tea from a chipped cup.

A group of boys masked in mud from head to toe after a football game in the rain would like nothing better than to take a meagre bath at the community tap. A young man stands with a book; he is trying hard to read a poem in the insufficient streetlight. Another waits to go to the level crossing to jump under the train.

The sirens deafen the crowd, lights glare, several cars whoosh by. The VIP is busy reading a paper resting on the lap, never taking a look at the city in suspension. The officer-in-charge blows a long whistle to end this surreal scene and gives the green signal to all, and the crowd goes back to its usual chaos as if in relief at having passed the VIP like a kidney stone.

Source: Dhaka Tribune



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