Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world. It also happens to sound very similar to the Bengali word dhakka – ‘to push’. As you make your way through the labyrinths of this overstuffed city, you may find yourself being pushed around by a remarakably varied array of individuals and objects. All that pushing and shoving is, in truth, a subtly designed training program, taught by Dhaka traffic with the grace and care of an ancient kungfu master, so that you – the young samurai in the making – can emerge with essential life skills that will aid you in your quest for the truth.

Reflexes

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This is a lesson that will be taught time and again by Dhaka’s local buses. It will point out that life will not necessarily slow down for you all the time. You must, therefore, be prepared to take a leap of faith. This is especially true if you want to get down from the bus at a place where there aren’t any waiting passengers to get on. The bus will require you to jump out of it while it is still on the move, but you need not be scared. The helper will always remind you, “please get off with your left leg first”. And that makes all the difference.

Alertness

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When crossing the roads, don’t be so naïve as to check only the side from where vehicles are *supposed* to be coming. In life, perils may arise from all kinds of places. Similarly, vehicles may come from the “wrong side” and impart this important lesson to you. So, always check both sides of the road before you cross.

Inventiveness

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Got a bike, but the road is all packed with cars? Dhaka traffic will teach you the perks of being resourceful. Take that bike and head right over to the sidewalk without any risk of legal actions. It also teaches you to be impervious to haters, as you zoom past a thick coat of the collective hatred and curses of the hundreds of pedestrians you almost run over in your bid to save five minutes of your commute. Karma, however, might ensure that one day you will die a painful death from a particularly nasty motorbike accident.

Power of Knowledge

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Think learning takes place exclusively in schools? Think again. Dhaka traffic stresses the importance of continuous education through multiple ambassadors of knowledge. You will find street hawkers carrying anything from biographies of world leaders to raunchy romantic titles. On a bus, apostles of learning will get on board with you, offering you small booklets on geography, general knowledge, medicine and much more (and at special discount rates that you won’t be able to avail later on).

Open Mindedness

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Never underestimate anyone’s potential. Likewise, never underestimate a vehicle’s capacity. Does it look like a particular ride can hold 10 people? Dhaka traffic teaches you to open your mind and think of creative ways to fit 22 people within that space, including 5 or 6 visibly voluminous individuals.

Interpretation

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When the traffic police raises his hand and asks you to stop, you must realize that you are not his intended audience. He, in fact, means the first two to three rows to go right ahead and cross to the other side and only the vehicles after that must come to a halt.

You will also learn that in  case you are a biker, the traffic police will be sending discreet messages to you particularly. If he, for instance, blocks cars coming in from one side, and is about to let cars from another side pass through, he wants you to note a golden opportunity within this transition period. Only those who can grasp this secret communication will promptly zoom past the intersection gleefully, and those who hesitate will languish in their spots for two more infuriating minutes.

Gratitude

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Your (mis)adventures in Dhaka traffic will teach you, more than anything else, gratitude. This, of course, is only grasped by the most advanced pupils of the master educator that is Dhaka traffic. When your bus has moved 2 inches in 45-minutes at Bijoy Sharani, when the sweat of many different bodies are having a get together on your shirt as you stand sandwiched awkwardly between 5 different bodies, you realize that there is probably nothing else in your life that is this abysmal. This helps you appreciate everything you have in your life a little more, so much so that when you come home to the bitter korolla-bhaji that your mum cooked for dinner tonight, you feel a rush of gratitude filling up your heart (before loading up HungryNaki to order something decent).


by Chowderchai