Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Highway to hell

Luckily I had already secured my seat in the bus

Luckily I had already secured my seat in the bus

Well, maybe it’s not so much a highway to hell, because I like where the road is taking me. To lovely, calm, quite Rangamati.Or to the land of ice cream and pizza in Dhaka. So maybe a better description would be highway IN hell. The trip to and from Dhaka is NOT fun. 

It’s a single lane carriageway, and it takes over 8 hours to travel the 300 or so kms. Everyone travels at one speed: as fast as they possibly can. There are buses, trucks, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, people, cows, goats, and everything inbetween. Everyone is vying for a piece of tarmac to call their own, and it is survival of the fittest out there. 

And size does matter. The bigger you are, the harder you push. A safe following distance is something that happens in other countries/continents. Not here. Who cares if you’re overtaking on a blind corner and can’t see if there is oncoming traffic. Driving here is very much done by sound, not sight. People are HEAVY on the hooters. I’m speeding up, I’ll hoot. I’m slowing down, I’ll hoot. I’m going to overtake on a blind corner, I’ll hoot. I’m pushing you off the road, I’ll hoot. I’m swerving to miss an ongoing truck, I’ll hoot. I’m the oncoming truck so I won’t back down in this game of chicken, I’ll hoot.

There is an awful amount of swerving, slamming on breaks, skidding, driving off road and driving like a bat out of hell. All to the sweet melody of hooting from all sides. And loud Bangla music from inside the bus. Something I so very much enjoy being subjected to for 8 hours.

The safest place in a bus is in the back on the left hand side. Fact. We were told that in our induction. It’s the furthest place from the oncoming traffic that might hit at any point. But if you do survive any accident in the back, it takes time for your lower intestine to unwrap itself from your left lung. With bad roads and lack of functioning suspension, it is bUmPy in the back. So I take my changes in the front of the bus. On the left hand side. 

Thought for the day: Remember a while ago I posted a photo taken when sitting in a bus, in a traffic jam, on a railway level crossing (here). I wondered if it was a disused train line, or if not, what would happen if a train appeared on the horizon. Evidently this is what happens: 

This happened in Dhaka on 17th June, and amazingly no one was killed. Other occurrences of this certainly do result in death. And there are other occurrences. Often. And why does the guy in orange seem quite so calm?

P.S. No, the photo of the bus is not really the bus I take. It’s the bus other people take. Mine looks a lot the same, just without the people on the roof.


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