dusk falls softly across the city.
it’s 5 pm, yet it seems like an eternity since i left home this morning. the smog of a day’s busy traffic melds with the fading light into innumerable hues of gray. the traffic crawls along at a sedate pace as usual. cars fit haphazardly into a mile-long column of chaos and frustration. intermittent angry car horns fade softly into the gloom.
just another rush hour in dhaka, i think to myself. isolated from the chaos outside thanks to the headphones of my mp3 player wedged in my ears, i engage in my favorite pastime, watching people. not staring rudely at individuals, but rather watching the entire mass, the entire population passing outside the car. i didn’t get any sleep last night, i remember, and try to let my body succumb to my exhaustion.
in the distance, an isolated pedestrian overpass, nearly devoid of pedestrians, who prefer the quick dash across the road through gaps between the halted automobiles. the overpass seems nearly empty, except for two figures, one bigger than the other, silhouetted against the sun setting behind them.
as i pull up closer to the overpass, i see the two figures are a mother and daughter, out perhaps for an afternoon walk or an impromptu visit to the store for some urgent groceries. yet they aren’t walking, rather they stand in one spot on the overpass, watching the traffic pass below them. the mother stands motionless, staring intently at the traffic with some problem on her mind, as if the solution lay in one of the cars below her.
her daughter, however, isn’t standing still. she’s about 6 or 7 years old. she stands on the overpass, her arms extended sticking out from her body, twirling in place, dancing softly to some unknown melody.
i reach for my camera to try and capture this moment, this little child twirling innocently in the haze of the imminent sunset while the city passes below her. but suddenly the traffic surges forward, and before i can even remove the lens cover, i’m too far away to take the picture.
another fantastic photo opportunity lost, i curse to myself.
and that, i realized, is the essence of dhaka. as tired and frustrated as we get with our own lives in this city, the tedium and the routine, the interminable traffic jams, the pollution, the incessant political conflict and the overpopulation, there still are small glimpses of beauty, spontaneity and innocence hidden away in the most unlikely places, if you only take time to notice. sadly, i don’t think i would have noticed had i not been too tired to do anything else – i’d much rather have been checking my email on my cell phone, calling a friend, or reading something or the other. that is the sad reality of our lives today – we’re so caught up in our own lives that we often teach ourselves to be blind to these things, or to subconsciously ignore them if we do see them.
i don’t know whether the two of them will be there again tomorrow when i take the same route back home. but i do know one thing – this time i’ll have my camera ready.
just in case.