Friday, August 12, 2011

Of graffiti galore, weird boards and weirder laws

Maqsoodul Haque - Mac

"Tying garbage bags around your head and hands is overkill." April Winchell

  • All we have to do is take a serious look around every time we step outside our homes and into the horrid realities of street, main roads and the so-called VIP roads. At eye length there is simply not an inch of public space that has not been usurped by advertisers, political parties and other do-gooders. From paan and Cigarettes shops, roadside eateries, Malls, under flyovers, walls and buildings, indeed any free area that attracts people are game to occupation and it would seem a sin if it was any other way.
  • The city consequently is acquiring the look of a massive garbage can. Graffiti's, posters, decals and stickers keep jarring our sensibilities. From walls, to footpaths, sides of footpaths, pedestrian crossing over bridges, trees, road dividers it's someone or the other selling or trading anything and everything from Telco offers, to tutorials to fizzy drinks, to IELTS courses, Property developers, prophylactics, awareness campaigns, political and fashion statements to sexual stimulants!
  • Competing in maniacal obsession are political parties, who these days beautify their posters with digital plastic printouts, and mount them on Stainless Steel (SS) frames. Their pathetic provinciality notwithstanding other than the photographs of their great leaders, these monstrosities also have images not only of the local MP or Ward Commissioner, they also emblazon idiotic mug shots of the sponsor i.e. showjonyye so-and-so and just in case one misses the point, rubbed in conveniently is fact the individual is also a Bir Mukti Joddha…hah.
  • If there is a historic meeting or histrionic convention and not to forget historical dates, the competition for sheer ugliness hits an all time zenith. Black clothes are emblazoned with blurbs like Kando Bangali Kando or cry Bengali cry – leaving me wondering, why? Do we really need a date to remind us to cry? Does it not mean that if not reminded we won't cry? Truth is the trial and tribulation, the sheer pain in the you know where of our daily existence doesn't make us cry but literally weep and these daily rituals in survival are ones that our obtuse, obese and very well fed politicos preaching eat-less morals do not have to suffer!
  • The cult of sponsorship does not only reveal pathetic cultural inadequacies of our politicos, they display unabashed arrogance and alienation from the masses, together with a high degree of sycophancy. In most cases, the ugly posters are branded by party headquarters, and it appears mandatory that they must contain not only the images of leader/s, but also their offspring's and offspring's of offspring's and so forth. In a kilometer stretch of road – one may end up seeing more than fifty such visual morbidities. Unknown to our politicos, such repetitive messages do no excite or leave any imprint in our minds worth remembering. All it does is remind us of the state of annoying filth we live in and how filthier we can get. The public level of irritation at this apathetic disregard for decency will soon explode into HATE if it has not already.
  • Look up at the sky line, the assault to our vision is overwhelming to say the least. Huge, ugly signages do add some color to our life, but its profusion and newer hoardings erected almost every other day means that sooner than not, we will be unable to have glimpses of the blue sky. Occasionally either through freak winds or freakier accidents, these billboards falls off, killing people on the street. A lot of hullabaloo is made by the press, and the victims and the issue as quickly buried. Before we know it, hundreds more crops up and there seems to be no respite.
  • I wonder if there is a law in place to restrain advertising and marketing companies. It's apparently a maybe situation and the maybe depends entirely on what part of the city you live, regardless of whether or not you are a tax payer. Regardless or not, if you have any rights to question the MNC money Gods and even if you do, are there other citizens in the capital who are better off and do not have to endure the noisy visual attacks on their sensibilities? The equation is bizarre.
  • Example: from the Zero Point in Motijheel all the way to Uttara, Gazipur and beyond, each and every lamp post and tree for the last eight months or so is adorned with very ugly red plastic posters advertising a cell phone company. As if that isn't enough, the company also has over a hundred billboards in place. As if that is also not enough, each and every TV and FM channels have their jingles going every fifteen minutes. As if that IS ALSO NOT ENOUGH each and every newspaper has their blurbs every day of the week. The question is when do we call enough, ENOUGH?
  • These MNC's are behaving no less vulgarly then our politicos and little do they realize that bombarding people with their messages may help them rake in cash, however the long term implications will not be conducive. There is surely a law against public nuisance and for all practical purpose citizens will wake up and go for litigation suits. The crux of the legal posturing will depend on how serious our citizens are and how long they will continue to endure this rape and intrusion on the limited public space that we pay our taxes for. Somehow somewhere there is a precognitive strain in our people. They have the patience to wait before they pound, and when they do it is destined to be brutal.
  • How long will constriction and looter like rampaging be tolerated when in the end, justifiable questions can be raised since it looks like some citizens in pockets of the capital, are exempt from this menace while others are not? How is it that there are certain areas where advertisers cannot or do not advertise and in others, they do so with impunity bordering on criminal?
  • Example: the stretch of road opposite the Prime Ministers office all the way to the Air force Officers Mess is spick and span clean. No graffiti's, no billboards, no posters, no political messages, NOTHING! What does it mean? There is either a law that prohibits such visual assaults, or plainly the advertisers and their criminal nexus do not want to mess about with the Prime Minister or the Air force.
  • What makes the Prime Minister who was voted into office by our mandate to be free of a scourge that we citizens have per force been afflicted and infected with? And the Air force, men and women who are supposed to be defending us, are state employees, and live and thrive on tax payer's money – what circumstances and/or prerogative makes them any more superior to us? And that's not all.
  • When was the last time any one of us have either visited or driven through the stretch of heaven we call the Dhaka Cantonment or even the old DOHS? Why is it that in this less than 10 sq kms pocket life and living seems to be at perfect ease and tranquil? There are no traffic jams, no garbage or litter, no jay walking, no killer trucks, no rickshaws slowing down life. Add to that perfect footpaths and pedestrian crossings, road dividers with seasonal flowers not restrained or protected by ugly barbed wire fences, aromatic hibiscus, no garbage can, and no litter – in fact anything and everything that one can expect of a civilized nation or a city is up for showcase. And NO there are no billboards, graffiti's or other menaces that we see elsewhere in the city!
  • That should leave us contemplating two serious questions. But first, an axiom: it is after all possible to keep our city clean, manageable and decent contributing to our overall psychological well being. And the questions 1. What are the laws in place inside the Cantonments that is NOT in the rest of the city and leads to anarchy? 2. In a democratic state is it constitutionally valid to have two sets of discriminatory laws for two different set of citizens within the same city?
  • What then are the options available? The one that my left-of-center colleagues in New Age will frown upon is the suggestion that we enforce Cantonment laws all across Dhaka. The other that will not be taken lightly or even with a sense of humor is unleashing the jungle laws of consumerist overkill that we civilians have to live with in our Cantonments as well? Quite simply, what and to whom are we showcasing our Cantonments as opposed to the nation's capital? Is our military being pampered into an elitism to appease them?
  • What are our genuine worries on this one – any answers?

New Age Xtra

Print Version – Friday 12th August 2011

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