By Shakoor Majid
August 31, 2014
Serenity at Dhanmondi Lake
I have a mind like a bird and thus, I frequently take off from the airport, roam around different places and cities in the world. It is obvious that whenever I see a new city, I always try to compare it with my Dhaka. Most of the time, I am amazed with the civic facilities of the cities that I travel, and find how liveable they made their cities.
For the last 400 years, Dhaka has been ruled by different rulers like sultans, Mughals, the British, and Pakistanis, who were of different political ideologies. Even after four decades of its independence, it could not attain any specific character. Neither has the city adopted an international style, nor does it embank its own tradition.
Whenever I visit cities around the world, I always prefer to travel to old parts of the city where I find that ancient parts of their cities are well preserved, either by themselves or by UNESCO. The conserved portion of the city is their most valuable ornament, like an old chair of someone’s great grandfather.
I feel excited thinking that when our Lalbagh Fort was built, the United States had not started to build any two-storeyed building. On the other hand, I feel bad when I walk through the Gamla stan of Stockholm, or the old town square of Prague, as it reminds me of the poor condition of our old part of Dhaka city.
I understand that it is our poverty that supersedes our emotion to preserve and conserve them. When someone raises any comparison between cities in terms of liveability, I find no room to hide my face from my friend in Vienna.
I know well that the safety of the civilians, international connectivity, climatic condition, quality of architecture, public transportation, tolerance, environmental issues, and access to nature, urban design, business conditions, pro-active policy developments, and medical care are the common criteria for a city to be categorised and ranked in global position, and in these aspects, our city is still far behind in many ways.
If I had an expatriate relative at my home, and if they wish to go out for a while, I suggest them to leave their wristwatch or ornaments at home, and not to take much money in their purse. I also advice them that a distance of a 10-minute walk may take more than an hour to reach by any private transportation, and I forbid them to take any public transportation.
Sometimes, I found that my relatives had common stomach problems with any outdoor food, and they ask me why we have to take mineral water all the time. I can hardly explain the reasons to them.
The political unrest in my city is a normal phenomenon in my day to day life. Every day we overcome the difficulties of our lives, like that fisherman of a coastal area. We know well how to tackle our daily routines like a rickshaw-puller, who knows how to go faster even overtaking from the wrong side.
We are habituated to this. We are adjusted to the hustle and bustle of the city; feel fine with the loud voices of the hawkers who sing along with the morning birds to sell his vegetables. We have no proper urban space to gather at every afternoon, but we have Shahbagh, we have Ramna and Sahrawardi Udyan, where we get together to celebrate our occasions, to express our emotions.
We have class one human beings in our city, and 95% of them are very simple in their ways of living and beliefs. We have a corrupted class of people like many others in the world. Our corruption comes from the politicians and from rotten intellectuals. The quantity of these people is very few in number, the rest of our people are very nice, humble and honest.
In the last 10 years, I have travelled around 50 big cities of the world, and unfortunately all of the cities were ranked higher than my city of Dhaka, in terms of liveability.
If I am asked which city I would like to live in permanently, my answer would be Dhaka, my own city. If you ask me why, my answer is very simple. I love this city, and love does not require an explanation.