Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Conversation

I am standing at one of my favorite streets in the city, in front of a tailor shop. Although the shop is open, there are no customers this early. Instead, a friend of the tailor visits, and they both stand at the shop entrance drinking tea. The tailor talks with his better-dressed, well-heeled friend - both in their 20s. Suddenly the conversation gains ten decibels becoming an argument.

I don't move away - instead, stand at the foot of the stairs, ostensibly watching the morning crowd go about its business, but really eavesdropping. What are these guys saying?

"How can you say the (caretaker) gubmint is doing any good?" the tailor is complaining, "everything is so expensive here! Look at this cloth for a 3-piece suit. Costs Rs 200-300 in India and here it's Tk 800."

"But the gubmint needs some time to straighten things out - everything is such a mess. The country was crawling with crooks." his friend clearly liked the gubmint.

"Oh, but look at all the poor people - they can barely buy enough to eat. Have you seen how much the prices have gone up?" - Tailor

"Of course, prices are going up all over the world! Where have you been? Didn't you hear that even a country as big as China now has to export food? And now with all this rain we will have flood-schmlood (bonna-Tonna) - and prices will of course go up more." - Friend

"What will happen then? People will suffer even more. We just need enough to eat, and can't even get that." - Tailor

"And no one here pays taxes either. Look at Partex and [couldn't catch other company names], holding back millions in taxes, and threatening to shut down factories and firing thousands if anyone says anything. How can a gubmint do anything if citizens don't pay taxes." - Friend

The tailor is momentarily taken aback by this turn, but regains his stride swiftly. "Koitasi to, there is no future for this country. All full of corruption and poor people. And a good-for-nothing gubmint."

Friend is optimistic:"We have come a long way. Just look at all the cars and buildings and clothes that people wear. And everyone is well-fed. Just take a look and remember how poor we were. We will go a long way."

Both have noticed me standing around, and I can't help suspepcting the conversation has taken a pedagogic tone for my benefit. I decide I have heard enough and move on while my glass is half-full (or was it half-empty?)

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