New Year’s Eve in Dhaka, 2011

This year’s new years eve in Dhaka will again include memorable scenes of miles of traffic in airport road across the Radisson or on the way to the five star hotel, puking teenagers in the sidewalk at 3 am, some of whom have probably never drank before or know what the tonic on vodka tonic is, and glittery, salon-done makeup that makes 15 year olds undistinguishable from 35 year old mothers  who left the kids to the maid who can’t go to sleep until 5 am. It is one of the few days in the year when the conservative city (but a thriving underground scene) has don’t ask don’t tell parties for Dhaka’s young generation who have been waiting to dress up and flirt like they only get to in new year’s. One wouldn’t think such a scene takes place in Dhaka (10,000 BDT, or approximately $140 tickets to parties at the Radisson, anyone?) where only foreigners have access to alcohol, technically, and barely any skin can be seen during the day and night, otherwise. But yes, even Dhaka knows how to party, or rather how they perceive parties to be like from the multiple cable channels that hook them up to New York, Dubai, London, to Bangkok.

This year however, the number of public parties has gone from 9 to 2. Police and security have almost doubled, and alcohol-detectors and breath analyzers have been in the hands of some. I have been personally asked to carry around my passport, just in case. At least 5,000 RAB personnel would be deployed to maintain “law and order.” Last year, half of that figure was deployed. Entrances to the tri state, specifically Gulshan will be closed from 11 pm (more likely 9 pm) and the harassment will begin. The life of a boring police and security guard in the blue army suits changed.

BDNEWS24 reports, “Warning of stern actions against revelers for any misconduct, the DMP commissioner urged people to refrain from careless driving and anti-social activities in the name of celebration.” Misconduct? Anti-social activities? For the good of the pure and constructive society that Dhaka is? The Daily Star notes, “Anyone arrested with drugs or alcohol will be tried on the spot by the mobile courts, he said, adding that roadside bars have to be closed by 6:00pm.” Last year, they were asked to be closed at 7 pm.

In an age of transition for Dhaka’s youth and elites, more of whom are going abroad and coming back with new accents that they fault to their one week vacations in Europe every year, the police have been equally aware and determined to maintain “order”. The problem is, problems do occur. The rate of crimes, offenses, and sexual harassment seems to increase tri-fold on January 31st, more so than most other countries, like those that party-goers want to imitate. With a society still new to the concept of parties and night life, extremes take on a new definition in Dhaka.

So to those who will be confined to their rooftops, happy new years!  Next, year, I call for fireworks (the pretty, sparkly, nice kinds that actually hit the sky) since the rooftop will probably become the “it” place as more and more are done to keep the city safe on the eve of a new year.

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