Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Strange Day

I had some errands to run yesterday: get something professionally packed at Homebound in Tejgaon, pick up my camera from the repair shop at Purana Paltan, and get printer ink from Elephant Road.

At Homebound, they were polite and professional as always, and did the work thoroughly. Then off we (me and the driver in our car) went to Purana Paltan. Around 11am, the roads were not too jammed.

The camera was repaired (btw, an excellent feat by Mr. Bashar of Asia Camera). Two down one to go. Now it was off to Elephant Road. So we made our way through Segun Bagicha towards Ramna Park. That's when things started getting weird.

We were at the stop light in front of Fisheries ministry, waiting for at least 15 minutes while police directed perpendicular traffic (from Kakrail Mosque towards Foreign Minstry.) Directly across us, the road around Suhrawardy Udyan towards Shahbag was suspiciously empty. Hmmm. Maybe some VIP was coming? After our long wait, the policeman motioned us to turn right towards Kakrail Mosque. No, you cannot go straight. Drat, that means we would have to go in front of Sheraton and then turn into Elephant Road.

Off we went, smack into a nasty jam behind Sheraton. After 30 minutes, we had crawled past the hotel and turned right into VIP road. Another jam at the Shahbag traffic light.

A screaming ambulance came from behind and made the right turn into Elephant Road. It was then I noticed no one else was turning right. Most cars just seemed to be stuck. Some were trying to take a U turn. I beckoned a policeman in duty. "Aren't you allowing cars on Elephant Road?" "You won't be able to go, sir, the students are smashing all the cars there. Take a left here." Uh-oh, I realized that the troubles in DU had spilled over. Later I heard Nilkhet, Dhaka College areas were also affected.

While a lot of violence was going on in DU and surrounds in the morning, the rest of the city went about its business nonchalantly. No one mentioned anything. Not even the shopkeeper in Elephant Road whom I had called to check availability. So while I had been waiting - sometimes impatiently - to get through those jams, a lot of people had been getting hurt not a mile away.

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