My return to the Fatherland comes eleven years after my last visit. I was eleven then, and now a 22-year-old, I touch down in the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, and leave the airport with a fresh pair of eyes, ready to take in my new surroundings.
Joining me on this trip are my immediate family – so that’s Mum, Dad, my three older brothers and my seven-year-old niece. Two of my brothers had flown in a few days earlier and were staying in an apartment complex belonging to my eldest maternal Aunty who lived twenty minutes away from the airport.
We were on our way to see them but first we would be visiting my Aunty and her family and though they lived but twenty minutes away from the airport, it took us ONE HOUR AND TWENTY MINUTES to get to their home. Why, might you ask?
The traffic in Dhaka, which, FYI, is one of the world’s most densely populated urban cities, is absolutely horrendous!
I vividly remember that within minutes of having hopped into the car, one of my first observations was that the driver was driving and simultaneously taking a call. I thought: “Shit mate, aren’t you going to get a couple of points knocked off your license?”.
That was about thirty seconds before I glanced out of the window and realised that Bangladesh didn’t even have a traffic light system!
Cars were zigzagging in the midst of tuk tuks, rickshaws and coaches as pedestrians walked in the middle of this chaos against the ever-present background sound of, I want to guess, at least twenty odd vehicles (?) beeping their car horns all at the same time.
“Jesus”, I thought. “And, how is no-one dying”?
Surprisingly, it seemed, for Bangladeshis, this chaos was the norm. And even more surprisingly, they had somehow managed to make sense of it and operate their vehicles within this chaos, in the absence of a highway code.