There is a silent pauperization process going on amongst some but the rest seem to be doing fine. The crowd at the grounds of the DCC market at Gulshan 1 is one indicator. It’s a place where the Dhaka city lives as people of all kind pour in to declare their identity, status and state of mind. This status is close to the Facebook kind and not of the nearby Gulshan variety. Here people don’t alight from the car and walk into fancy shops but make a bee line for samosa and the fuchkawala- junk snacks ?- which in many ways describe a city’s face.
There are many kinds of snacks –most centred on batter frying- and two other popular items- jilapi and samosa that make up the pack. Few will have jilapi only but like all sweet meat, it’s an accompaniment, an ender, a treat for having finished the meal leaving only the sweet taste behind.
Most stand and eat, a few mainly ladies, use a few stray tables on the ground nearby to relish the snacks. Apart from peanjus and singaras tere is chatpatti, fuchka and masala dosa. That are sold from another stall which is a bit more upmarket looking with the minimum of Tk50 per plate. Together they make up the face of the middle class, a hardy survivalist species of Dhaka’s urban jungle.
The fragments of a market ground
The space around the DCC market is all broken up concrete fragments. It almost seems as if the ground’s skin has an ailment which peels it off and they crumble into dust exposing the bricks inside. Poor shoddy construction work means pot holes are common and rain water collects producing filth and mud and wet shoes.
The strangest reason exists why so much space is available in the middle of the city market. There is a staircase leading up to the shopping mall which none uses. Had it been, the market would have looked grander but such people don’t come to the DCC to shop. It’s a very middle end market where buyers haggle and nothing is available which could qualify as fancy.
Shop keepers rip off clients regularly and the only protection buyers have is their lack of money. They can’t mostly buy what is thee regularly. And the only reason why so many shops survive is because the buyers are so many. They came in packs and hordes of ancient motivations, to have and to hold and though helpless they do have these windows of need and greed. So they all survive, the buyers and the sellers.
The chola class
But there is another parallel world into which some stay and many dip into. It’s the lower class world where even the snacks are different. Of course everyone has them but some only have these. And the big one is masala chola. For 10 or 20 takas, you can have two fists of cooked chola –chick peas- mixed with potato bits, onions and chili. It’s a heavily oiled stuff and very delicious. It’s almost not a snack but an intermediate meal to keep you going till the big meal arrives, when it does. Other lower class vendors have them a lot but as the street kids are many in that part of the area, they crowd the sole vendor a lot. He packs it in a newspaper packet and adds a piece of cardboard to be used as a spoon.
There may be fancy eateries but the pilgrims here seem to prefer the DCC market gaggle, a tale of two classes. As the cars of the top class pass by in the tri-corner of Gulshan 1, the non-car owning class gather to celebrate and relish their own triumph, that of surviving the pandemic without losing their life and their class.
Media and murder + sex
Much happens in Bangladesh and the city in particular but sex and crimes dominate. And it’s natural that consumers would be interested in such topics. Crimes of course are of two kinds primarily, Individual and collective crimes. The collective crimes cause more harm which includes corruption but they don’t titillate, so as far as media attention goes. So the focus is on murder and sex and if one is ‘lucky”, sex and murder combo. And of course if extra-marital affairs are involved- which is not a crime- , we may speak of a winner hit news.
From the news trend it seems that an average of two such combo news are reported every day at least. In a country of 160 million –at least- such numbers are absurdly low. If one looks at the trend data, it will be clear that such matters trends are generic so the proliferation has to be higher. Rape doesn’t happen selectively, extramarital affairs are quite common and many get away with murder.
In view of the scene and in the best interest of the media all across, we need to train a new breed of journos who can handle such issues with better elan. We also must include citizen journalism so that these issues are covered better and in greater details by those who do it themselves. This will not only serve the media better but the people as well.