A hand was stuck in the middle of two buses. Hanging. In the air! Two busses as forceps! An unnerving photograph. When the morning papers reached the breakfast table, my eyes were glued to the front-page photograph. I didn’t have to read the caption, I simply knew what has happened to the hand. My instant thought was, “what happened to the body?” I tried to show it to my wife but she said she didn’t want to look at it.
Like us, the photograph had startled many. I felt an eerie disturbance in my entire being. That could be my hand or my son’s hand! Many have also thrown questions on the social media whether it was right for the newspaper to publish a photo that everyone is scared to look at.
Yes, publishing a grisly picture such as that may raise questions among the members of the public. However, it can also be argued from a different point of view. Since our collective psyche doesn’t seem to be responding to our sense of fixing the bad things that have been happening to our national life, we actually needed to be startled by this gruesome photo.
Collectively, we certainly needed to be reminded about how we have been miserably nonchalant towards the spine-chilling incidents that take place in front of our eyes. Our spines don’t chill any more by observing a frightening deaths and accidents due to our own misconducts.
My thoughts flashed back to the early-1970s in my childhood when we used to travel to our nanabari in Kushtia on a bus. Our mother always made sure that we kept our hands inside the bus-window if any one of us was sitting in a window seat. She had explained the dangers of do so. She told us that she had seen a man’s hand break by a speeding bus coming from the opposite direction. We all understood and had never rested our hands on the windows. Looking at the photograph of Rajib Hossain’s hand, I thanked my late mother from the bottom of my heart.
Before saying anything about the irresponsible driving across Bangladesh, we must take a look at the sense of security of ourselves. How conscious are we about the impending human risks that might lead us to various kinds of injuries as well as fatalities? If we stand on the side of any road of any city or town of Bangladesh, it’s quite evident that the behaviour of the pedestrians themselves doesn’t tell a story of those who are aware of their own safety. From crossing the road to hoping on to a vehicle – everything is so negatively done that these acts may invite any mishap any time.
We need to bring about a large-scale behavioural change; otherwise our own lives would continue to be in jeopardy.
Now, if you assess the result of the arrogant and reckless driving across the country, it has been a saga of deaths only. On an average, 15,000 humans lose their lives every year in this country. Fifteen thousand? You must be joking! If you compute the figures of last ten years, you’d get a horrifying one.
Citizens have been dying left and right due to road accidents which are very very unusual in any standard. It seems nothing can prevent the monstrous vehicles from killing people. They come in from nowhere and hit the lame ducks on the streets. Nothing could be done against our reckless driving, drunk driving, illegal stoppage and parking, unfit vehicles, underage and unskilled drivers.
The media and some civil society organisations have been trying to sensitise the government as well as the owners of the vehicles to overcome the prevailing situation for a long time now. Hundreds of talk shows have been arranged in order to find a solution to this procession of deaths. Surprisingly, nothing has changed so far; things haven’t improved a bit. No one seems to know how to address this plague called road accident.
What does so-called wannabe smart traffic sergeants — wearing dark goggles on their eyes and riding bikes on the wrong sides of the road — do all day on the streets? Especially of Dhaka? It looks like they’re busy all day catching all the wrongdoers. How do all the wrongs take place then? What are they actually busy for? Catching the wrongdoers or is it something else? Why can’t they compel the bus owners and drivers to follow the law? If they fail to enforce the law on them, shouldn’t they cease to exist? Why are they drawing their paycheques that come from the very people who are dying on the streets? It, indeed, is a shame.
Now that Rajib’s hand has seemingly shocked some of us, but has it really awakened our conscience? Do we really understand the gravity of the problem? Do we realise that this problem requires a solution? May be not. It would perhaps require a thousand more hands like Rajib’s to hit our core to fathom what is actually happening around us. Perhaps, we’re not yet ready to feel the heat of inefficiency and nonchalance to brutality would hit us hard.
It would hit us; just you see…
First published in Dhaka Tribune. Photo: Prothom Alo.