As a woman who has never had to commute by bus, I am scared

If you don’t know already, Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury, a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals, was run over by a bus near Jamuna Future Park on Tuesday,19th March 2019. His ID card, covered in blood, was the first thing I saw when I came across this news. Apparently, this young man was crossing the road using the zebra crossing when he was hit and run over by a Suprobhat Paribahan bus. Yes, it’s happening again. After only 7 months of the heroic student protest demanding road safety, the same thing is happening again. If you aren’t shocked or surprised, you probably understand why.

“One hand, I feel extremely sad and angry. On the other hand, I just feel helpless because nothing has really changed,”

Said Nabil Ahmed when asked about today’s incident.

As a student myself, I was privileged enough to have a car for commute. More importantly, I was privileged to live very close to my university. So as someone who never really took a bus to travel somewhere, I cannot relate. As someone who took a rickshaw only to go from Kafrul to Mirpur 11, I do not know much about the roads of Dhaka.

However, as someone who always makes sure to use the zebra crossing even when it’s easier to cross without it, I am absolutely terrified.

As someone who looks both ways even when crossing a one-way street, I am frightened. Don’t get me wrong, there are times where pedestrians literally run to cross a street without looking left or right. And even if I were a conscious driver following every rule in the book, I wouldn’t have been able to save them from harm. But then, there are times when they die despite using the zebra crossing. There are times when they die despite being motionless people in a bus stop.

“I think this proves that even if pedestrians are aware of the rules, these accidents can and are still happening because of reckless drivers.”

Said Nima Mahal

So, to think that one might potentially die despite following the rules, to think one might die merely by existing on the streets of Dhaka is, in a word, terrifying.

I wanted to write an enormous section about traffic rules in other countries and its implementation, but what is the point really? What is the point of talking about law enforcement in a country that will stick to every bad thing in the world rather than embracing the good? What is the point of talking about following the laws when it isn’t the laws itself that are the issue, but the fact that they were never taken seriously?

And after today, what is the point of talking about traffic regulations in a country where drivers are as careless as commuters?

“Changes can come if tried. Our country has changed for the better in a lot of ways so why not this?”

Said Minhaz Shafi when asked about our governing system.

And it’s true. Many people have seen bikers wearing helmets and noticed the presence of traffic police in certain places. But that’s probably where it ended.

Afrin Zaman, a student who rides the bus to reach university told me about an accident she was recently in. “It was one of those bus racing incidents where a random bus driver starts driving rashly. No one died but a friend had to be taken to the hospital as a small shard of glass impacted a side of her body. It was scary,” said Zaman as she further mentioned how cheap and accessible the bus system is in Bangladesh. “I’ve always felt that the bus system was so easily accessible! The helpers also helped me get off on the road but despite all this, the risk is seriously undeniable,” added Zaman.

As a believer in change, I am hopeful change will come.

But as a realistic citizen of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, I just feel sad.

Before writing this, I took time to read every news article I could find surrounding this incident. As of today, Mayor Atiqul Islam has pledged to build a foot over bridge named after Abrar, the victim, along with vowing to take action against the murderers. And to me, the actions said to be taken seemed fairly promising.

But then again, if you were in a country that faced the gruesome murder of two students, followed by a ground-breaking protest, maybe some reformation just to have the same thing happen the same way only 7 months later, how hopeful would you be?

*Names have been changed so to keep individuals’ identity anonymous.

How life in Dhaka University changes you

Dhaka University, along with all the universities around Bangladesh, has welcomed in their newest batch of pupils. Being in my final year as a Dhaka University student, it has been quite an experience seeing most of the freshers of different departments flocked together in TSC, Curzon Hall or in front of a random tea stall in the campus.

Dhaka University, despite all its flaws, will change the outlook of its pupils.

Whether it is good or bad, that remains a question. With that in mind- here’s how Dhaka University will change you.

But hey, if you want to go abroad, we can help you a little there too!

A bit of a culture shock

Dhaka University is a melting pot for all sorts of people around Bangladesh. It’s an entirely new scenario for a majority of the fresher’s. The first few weeks in DU can be a bit daunting for most, irrespective of whether they were born and raised in Dhaka or came from a remote suburb or village of another district.

For some, this culture shock might be a bit too much to handle. But asking anyone who has studied in DU for more than a semester, they will all more or less agree that waiting out the initial shock was totally worth it.

Judging a book by its cover

Judging people based on where they’ve come from or their background is one of the dumbest moves a fresher can make. Some of the best people you will meet in DU will probably have come from completely different backgrounds than yourself. DU gives its student a place to interact with hundreds of like-minded people. Don’t let something as minor as different backgrounds get in your way from achieving it. Be the first to introduce yourself to seniors, peers or juniors.

Learning to take responsibilities

Whenever a student is admitted into Dhaka University, he or she is pretty much thrown into the deep end when it comes to doing things by themselves. From giving tuition fees to filing for lost id cards, Dhaka university’s excessive bureaucracy will make you much more responsible whether you like it or not. And nothing sums up that expression more aptly than DU’s notorious “Registrar Building”. A place where according to myths, time slows down equivalent to travelling around a black hole. Freshers, you have been warned.

Becoming street smart

Being Street smart is always a great quality to have. And Dhaka University is the perfect space for even the rookies to hone this amazing quality. They know the right people for the right job. They can bargain to get a better rate on books or clothes in new market and Nilkhet. They have ideas about the best routes to travel around the city at minimal cost. These are just some of the things the students get a grasp on in just the first few months in DU. And we all know these things can’t be learnt from textbooks.

“Being here has definitely helped me become a better negotiator and conversationalist”

Says Amitabh Sarkar a third-year student.

Political awareness, because duh!

It’s generally quite hard not to be politically aware in most public university in Bangladesh. The credit goes to the culture of having student wings of most of the prominent political parties. Dhaka University is still the largest hub for student politics and activism in Bangladesh dating all the way back to the British era. Even in today’s political climate, DU still seen a bastion for free speech and progressive ideas and movements even with the ever-strengthening presence of Big Brother.

“However you don’t automatically become politically aware just by studying here. The truth is, awareness comes from the will to be aware. And comparatively, we do get the opportunities here”

Says a third year Peace and Conflict Studies student Megh Mallar Boshu.

Exploring the more artistic side of life

The artistic side of life draws you more? Then you cannot go wrong with DU. Take a stroll around Charukola compound. Attend the many concerts, poetry recitals, and movie screening.

It’s undeniable that DU nurtures the appreciation of different forms of art. The students’ associations, clubs, and societies work to showcase, promote, inspire and support many budding artists within the DU community.  

Afternoon tea breaks taken to a whole other level

DU students gain a newfound appreciation for tea. It is much more than just tea, it’s the whole experience. The afternoons at TSC with a cup of tea of your favorite kind and the mingling with virtually everyone. The heated conversations in those afternoons are the things that shape the person you turn out to be later on.

Dorm life and the bed bugs scourge

No DU experience is complete without staying at the dorms at least once in a while. And having a good friend or two who staying in dorms will make your time in university so much easier. The life in these dorms is no joke. People struggle the most during the tenure of their undergrad. But these five years of dorm life will teach you valuable life lessons that you can’t get anywhere else.