hartal hartal hartal. Writing from home on a national political strike day.

Since we are all talking about these hartals (political strikes declared by the opposition party where basically you stay home all day, etc. Click this link to read the basics), I should perhaps discuss some of my feelings too. Today is indeed hartal and I spent it out eating a lot—pepper steak and potatoe gratin for lunch at Timeout, strawberry cheesecake at the American Club while working on some ‘important’ things, and street-side fuchka in Gulshan 2. Just another day.

The thoughts about these things like hartals are mixed for me, as an expat with some but limited knowledge of Bangladesh’s politics, even though I have a minor in South Asia Studies. So who better to turn to than the pretty great piece written by Aasha Mehreen Amin, or as I call her, Aasha apa of the Daily Star, the Editor of the Star weekly magazine. I have known Aasha apa for a few months now and love working with her, whether that’s attending an album launch in Izumi or taking her guidance to write about Bangladeshi fashion. She wears a sari almost every time I’ve run into her—those nice cotton ones just pressed, with up to date prints, wrapped around her perfectly. She has a great way of speaking and making comments at the right time. In sense, I not only enjoy working with her but also talking to her about non-work related things (what are girls wearing these days?).

In her article titled “What People Say and What They Mean” Aasha apa in her usual funny way deciphers the past week and a half’s popular quotations by our famous political leaders in relation to this hartal and mess of the missing BNP leader, and other disappearances.

Example:

‘We will solve this case in 48 hours, we are doing everything to try to find the criminals.’

Decoded: 48 hours just sounds good, but actually I should have said 48 weeks or even months since we have no clue how to go about this; plus, hopefully other gruesome events will take place to divert public attention.

Click here to read the piece or grab this week’s newspaper for the Star Weekend magazine. Or read below for more.

What People Say and
What They Mean

Aasha Mehreen Amin

‘We will continue with our hartal programme until the government finds our leader who is still missing.’

Actual meaning: we really don’t give two hoots about what’s his name, we just need some excuse to create a situation that makes the government appear incompetent, petty and corrupt.

‘We will solve this case in 48 hours, we are doing everything to try to find the criminals.’

Decoded: 48 hours just sounds good, but actually I should have said 48 weeks or even months since we have no clue how to go about this; plus, hopefully other gruesome events will take place to divert public attention.

‘The law and order situation is in a better state than before (during the opposition’s rule). These are a few isolated incidents, which of course, we will investigate.’

Inner thoughts: I must say this mantra over and over until even I begin to believe it.

‘We would like the opposition to join hands with us to find what’s his name instead of resorting to such destructive activities as calling hartal.’

Interpretation:

Yeah right. We know they will never, in this lifetime do any such thing, unless we find another dictator to topple, but then again now we are the dictators so forget that. We just say these things because it makes us sound reasonable, open-minded and ah yes, democratic.

‘We were just holding a peaceful procession. There was no reason for the police to attack us. This is another example of how fascist this government is.’

We were just holding a peaceful procession. There was no reason for the police to attack us. This is another example of how fascist this government is.’

What was not said: We burnt a few buses along with a driver, terrorised a few CNGs and vandalised private cars and property. This will ensure that no fool brings out his vehicle the next day.

‘Hartal is a democratic right and although we know the public suffers the government has left us with no choice.’

Real meaning: Hartal means, burning, playing chase and counter-chase with the police, getting a few leaders bloodied, making sure a few dispensable ordinary people get killed, wrecking cars and generally creating enough panic among the general people so that they don’t come out of their homes.

‘We have to stay on guard to keep peace and to prevent activists from getting violent. We are just trying to do our job.’

Reality: It’s a good way to vent our anger against our poor salaries, uncomfortable uniforms, the unbearable heat and the fact that the rest of the people are lazing at home or are off to their villages while we have deal with these ruffians. We can beat the daylights out of these rascals without any impunity, even smash a few cameras of those pesky, arrogant journalists who make us look so bad in the next day’s news.

‘I have never been involved in any corruption. I have no idea where this money came from.’

Inner thoughts: That fool, what was he thinking.

‘A naughty nexus is wrecking our railway system. I am smelling a rat.’

Inner thoughts: The rat died a long time ago. One sort of gets used to the stink.

‘The people know that we are here to lift Bangladesh from the grip of poverty and put it on the map of the world as a growing, flourishing nation.

Inner thoughts: We just want to win the next election so a few empty promises are necessary.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012

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