I see a mass of humanity, surging forward on Elephant Road. It is ten
minutes to iftaar, and musollis are distributing small snack packages.

This close to the city capital, the rush of poverty overtakes any
semblance of traffic police-created order. Hundreds lunge forward,
moving from their sitting position to get to the front of the line.
The mothers rush with their children in arms, it gets them to the
front of the begging line. Those with older children, leave them in a
safe space. One mother pushes her son, she is hobbling, she wants him
to take her place. “Ja na” she pleads.

Behind the ranks are the cripples. One man, in a wood cart. I have
seen him for many years now. When I was going to school, he had jet
black hair. His dark eyes said to me, don’t pity me, don’t you dare.
Give me alms, or move on. At a distance of a decade, his hair has
turned white. His look is not that fiery any more. Too many people
took him literally. Every now and then his cart snags on a rock, he
falls behind.

This is actually one of the good moments. The homeless and the dirt
poor, but during Ramadan there is increased generosity and alms and
iftaar. A spirit of giving and piety infuses the city. It is one of
the good moments to be a Dhaka dweller. Most of the time,
unfortunately, people are too desperate trying to make ends meet in
the middle.

A writer once talked about the darkness “behind the BMW shine”. While
business and development has improved parts of our life, poverty is
still everywhere. There is no end to the crises in our lives.
Spiralling prices are bringing markets to a standstill and driving
shoppers insane. A government official suggested that people use pepe
instead of begun for the Iftaar favorite. Food substitution: sign of
the times.

Jute mills closing down, business coming to a standstill. Garments
factory orders drying up as the follow-on to last year’s anarchy
politics, garment workers go on rampage, a foreign buyer stranded in
middle of Tejgaon begs workers to stop destroying their “own”
factories. But who listens. The evil times have not left us.

But tonight I sleep in peace. Because out on the street are protesters
and leaders who are marching, chanting, leafletting, shouting,
threatening, deadlining. All to make sure a blasphemous cat can be
destroyed without a trace.

I feel safer already.

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