Snapshots of life: April is cruel, May may be cruelest
April in Dhaka is not what we know of. The month behaves almost like spring now. Hot and humid is not the weather that used to be. Air is cool and clean. Chirping of birds, yell of vegetable feriwalas, tung-tang bell of rickshaws at times and occasional barking of dogs are all one can hear from empty roads. Looking at the window curtains being gently ruffled by pleasant breeze, one would almost tempt to savour the lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic. But, just step out of the safety of house to fetch emergency medicines or groceries, you would soon come to realise how radically things have changed on nearly deserted roads of Dhaka within a month into government’s stay-home order.
You’re soon to be mobbed by people, who were our everyday helps only a few weeks back. Hunger is now written all over the faces you would come across. You would be shocked to find that these buas, cleaners, rickshawalas, vendors, transport mechanics, shop staffers, labourers and small garment workers of Dhaka are gradually turning into beggars. Quite aggressive beggars. These daily earners, who make up the 20 percent of Dhaka’s 20 million population, would stalk you for alms and hurl diatribes in case you don’t oblige. Confronted by their intense stare and aggressive approach, you would start to feel vulnerable for being affluent to some extent.
Live out the recent experiences of The Daily Star journalists and a few others who shared their shocks with us, you would wish not to have this unusual April in Dhaka and worry more about May. On Wednesday, the moment a senior journalist of this newspaper came out of the high-rise apartment building he lives in (on Shahjahan Road in Mohammadpur) to buy medicine from a nearby shop, 5-6 rickshaws appeared from nowhere and each of the drivers insisted him to get on board.