As I have written a few times before, taking advantage of the fact that I am one of the founders of the magazine I am writing in, walking is a world of its own. It's both an internal and an external journey. Nothing dramatic or special about that but walking is a ruminating exercise. One thinks and one acts at the same time. And if one is a walker in Dhaka, it's a great exercise in staying alive as well. The traffic of Dhaka is quite straightforward and committed. The road belongs to them and anybody trying to cross the road even when it's the pedestrians turn to do so, anything may happen. So walkers are swift and a smart lot. They are in a way fans of the early 70s rock hit, "Staying alive. "But I digress.


Been walking for almost 4 years now and I have a fairly good idea of the route I take. And the reason is something I have learnt from experience. Take the road you know best only because nobody has any idea what one may come up with elsewhere. One would have thought that walkers are free from the hassle of traffic jams in the lanes and by-lanes but trust me, I know. None can be trusted. And the sub-lanes crossings can be so chokingly screwed up that one may have to take more risks than imagined possible as just about everyone tries to do the same, spreading the risk. So one the day's one wants to stay safe, just stick to the route you do every day. Adventurous ones should be as less as possible like junk food, like once or maybe twice a month.


One can't however only try to be safe but needs to get some benefit from such healthy treks as well. Walking by itself is a chore but the attendant benefits aren't because both the routine and the unexpected both contribute to an alert mind. It's not just the streets that are like magic lanterns of humanity but the street shops, the gate at which people toil or laze and the occasional banter that one catches in the air as one drifts by. The city which guards its secrets lazily is even more open when they are in the open and doesn't have prying eyes and ears of familiar ones but only strangers to swim by. But I digress...


Few are more fascinating than how the class status game is played and how the city is an avid practitioner of the trade. These slightly ponderous attempts to assert class can and does often fail leaving the observer embarrassed but then almost everyone plays the game so it's OK. Dhaka's pestering and irritating weather doesn't play a good host to western clingy stuff but what does one do if one has bought them, got a gift or inherited the same? Well, then one does wear them and walk no matter how uncomfortable one may feel or look. In the end, the sheer tenacity of the user triumphs and the concept of climate friendly clothing simply don't exist. Perhaps the lady who wore a short red dress and very high heels as she tried to negotiate a by lane crossing with a slightly desperate looking male trying to prevent her from trying may have got it right. Or maybe not at all....


Perhaps one of the most fascinating residents of them all are the beggars who claim the pavements as their own home, or office if one wills. It's like WFH really. A beggar lies down to take arrest, has a nap, wakes up, stretches out a hand and then adds a lament about a missing limb and begins economic activities in his office. It's simple really. One is used to thinking of the corporate executives sitting at compartments and desks and a laptop hoping for the best one will be noticed by the big bosses for having done nothing really at all. So much better to stretch one's limbs, those supposedly missing as well and cheerfully expect the universe's pity to become small changes on mangy palms.


But who owns the pavements and who owns the roads is one the unanswered questions now rarely raised. It certainly isn't the walker who treads the footpaths but the surplus residual traffic on the happy hours which hits the road when going-home time comes. The roads were not meant for so many and just as growing families need extra room, so does the traffic and they stretch out and kiss the pavement and claim it as their own. Nothing is ours, nothing is permanent and neither life nor the footpath is any different on this matter. And nor is the walker but I digress...

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