A Car Ride of Reflections

Prologue

This short story is close to my heart. I had written it back when I was doing my Bachelors hence the points mentioned in the end are privy to my thoughts during that period of my life. The location is original and based on the place where I grew up and incidents are based on true experiences, but not necessarily in one day and in the same order. The aims and goals expressed in the post are something I’m still working on achieving as a habitual entity, but hope to master completely someday. But in the meantime, I hope this post helps us all including myself, to remember to always be grateful for what we have.

The Car Ride

It was 12 o’ clock in the afternoon and I was in a very bad mood, on my way to university for 12:50 sociology class. And yet, here I was, stuck in my car, in a never-ending traffic jam Tejgaon. I don’t understand why this happens to me. No matter how hard I try, I always wind up getting late. On top of that, this terrible heat in Dhaka isn’t making things any better. Why is it so hot?

“Karim bhai, A/C ta barai den toh!”

“Karim bhai, can you please turn up the A/C?”  I said irritably.

Suddenly there was a loud knocking on my window. I slid it down and looked into the face of a bleak little beggar boy.

“Apa duida taka den na, khida lagse.”

“Sister can you give me two bucks, I’m hungry.” he whined.

Considering that I was already in a grumpy state of mind, I was in no mood for rehearsed beggar tantrums.

“Jah, ekhan theke, amar kache nai!”

“Go away, I don’t have it!” I replied irritated and callously and closed the window.

The child continued to knock a few more times and then left.

Not having anything else to do or read, I looked outside the window. Everyone around was busy with their lives, hustling to go to work, chit chatting with friends and colleagues or sipping tea in tea stalls. Suddenly my gaze turned towards a thin scrawny man pulling  a morbid looking cart a few feet ahead. The man was constantly perspiring in the heat and the cart he was pulling, accommodated a steel carton filled with ghastly garbage. I watched as the man encountered a break in the ride as he came upon a dug-up area of the road, because of which he to steer the vehicle around the area. He then waited a fair few minutes for the cars zooming past him to stop, so that he could get the space to move on and continue ahead his way. I stared blankly after him.

My attention was soon diverted by a young rickshaw puller in his twenties, driving with one hand. With a shock I noticed he was missing his right hand. The despairing image froze before my eyes and I realized that I had started to have a nagging feeling in my heart, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.

We then entered Gulshan. Intending to erase the previous image from my head, I looked away, as we stood stuck in a fresh batch of traffic. Unexpectedly, the next significant thing that caught my eye was a long line of people, standing in the scorching heat, in the bus stand near Gulshan 1 market. Instantly I was reminded of my own once-in-a-blue moon bus ride, a few months back.

My project group mates and I needed to go to Ashulia to check out a site and take pictures. But my friends didn’t own a car and mine was in the workshop, so we decided to take the bus. It was my first time in a local bus. We managed to get the women’s seat and we sat down thankfully. It was excessively hot. Soon it was time to get down from that bus and catch the one that would take us to Ashulia. But this time we couldn’t get the women’s seats or any seat for that matter. Hence we had to stand in the midst of the crowd while the bus drove on, speeding and stopping unceremoniously. The local men kept bumping into me, more intentionally than unintentionally and I got aggravated. Since I wasn’t used to it, my friends sensed my distress and as soon as a seat got empty, they made me sit down. Upon finally reaching the site, I was relieved that the abhorrent ride was over.

The sound of a car horn brought me back to the present day. I looked back at the bus stand. The people were still standing in line in the blistering heat and humidity. Waiting.

We entered Baridhara. Here the usual environment seemed somewhat different. It is a calm, posh neighborhood where the more financially stable population lives. Soon, I would enter Bashundhara, reach late to class, get reprimanded by the professor, and then nevertheless, life would go on.

But that wasn’t the case this time. The nagging feeling in my heart grew stronger, and for the remaining car ride, I pondered silently about many many things.

I once read an article by a girl where she had said something I will always remember and commemorate. She had said that in the different sides of the same car window, two completely different worlds exist. Today, I felt the true effect of her words.

Epilogue

We spend so much time in our lives complaining on and on about our silly, frivolous problems and so little time appreciating all the phenomenal things that we have been blessed with. In the midst of studies, work, friends, parties, crushes and so on, there are many of us who forget that there are people who deal with thousand times bigger hardships and struggles than our casual, petty problems. They still fight tooth and nail everyday to survive in this ruthless, acrid, discordant world. What would we have done if we were born to live the life of the man who was pulling a cart full of our garbage? Or how we would feel if we had to pull the rickshaw day and night with only one hand, or if we were to stand hungrily on the outside of the car window begging people for money with our hands folded. Because we would have no choice but to accept their loathsome behavior since we can’t shout back at them the way we shout at our parents? What would we do if we had to stand in line for hours on end every day, to wait for a cheaper transport because we cannot afford it, or we need to save money for our/dear one’s treatment. What could we do, if as women we had to collide into strange men and be uncomfortable throughout the entire journey as the bus glides and stops through a series of traffic jams, generating more interpersonal collision. How would we have handled it?

The list is endless. Those people are fighters; they go through unimaginable hassles because they are not blessed like us and have to live a life of constant peril, poverty, health issues or income problems. It could have been me. If I had to live their lives, I would come back crying to my mother saying that it’s impossible to accept such daily incomprehensible pain. Yet people are fighting everyday.

It is a shame I am writing this article today but I am not doing anything on my part to help those poor people who deal with poverty throughout their lives. I hope I remember to acknowledge and appreciate my truly blessed life regularly, and someday contribute to society in a major way and help those who need it. As Mahatma Gandhi very wisely said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And I hope to do just that.

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