I am so happy that I'm alive… in one piece and short. I am in a world of shit, yes …but I'm alive. (Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick)
Few days ago, I sank in the deep sea of a book while remaining in the traffic jam of Bijoyshoroni. Suddenly, a gentle tremor broke my book-meditation forcing my eyes to look above the shore which presented nothing short of an appalling scene. My car was being videoed by a traffic man while my driver was engaged in a battle with the brake. By the time the videographer asked for the licence, I along with my driver began pushing the car to a safe side.
A lot of spectators gathered and started raining advice. However, my driver kept paying his full head into the nerve system of the car which made a weak but life-saving sound within a minute. I rushed to the nearest Traffic man for my papers; however, I was commanded to find the right man. I needed to cross the busy Bijoyshoroni three times to discover the cape of the right man. After receiving the good news that the car is now okay, the antenna of the cop leaned a little to pronounce that the car has committed an offence and there will be a punishment. Soon another man was taken into my notice, apparently senior to him, for facing the 'court'. After a patient hearing of the story with my pleading of early acquittal, the 'court' shouted to his fellow colleagues: "Why did you make him wait here? He is in a hurry. Please sue him soon."
Everything around me turned dark in the broad daylight. To get some respite, I walked to a nearby tree-bed where I found another traffic man, in a leisurely mood though. I started telling him the shocking story not for a sympathetic statement which I required badly to survive the moment. This man seemed deeply moved and came up with a solution for me: "You are a gentleman. Why bother arguing with the policemen? Please give a nominal fine and leave the place soon."
Since I was a gentleman, I didn't ask for the law which instructs them to sue a car which stops in the middle of the road without any fault on its part. I didn't also ask whether taking video without permission breaks the privacy law. I didn't even ask whether a citizen paying tax regularly, if faced with danger on the road, can expect some kind words from a policeman paid by the state. I avoided all these questions since I love prestige and time more than anything else in the world. Above all, I believe that I am a gentle man.
Bangladesh is a land of gentlemen. We wait gently in a long queue for a slow lift in a Government Office in the daytime; however, we storm Facebook with words at night after having dinner. A new 'Made in Bangladesh' might appear in the sky of the earth for our 'Gentleman Industry'. This is not the gentleman of Moliere depicted in 'Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme'. This is also not the so-called 'Babu' produced in the nineteenth century Bengal. This is a new variant of Gentleman who accepts dishonour to save the very honour itself.
Once on a sunny election day, I was strongly pursuing women of my family to show up in the voting booth because it was not only a right, but also a devoted duty deserving our full attention. When they were called, some guys surfaced from the air and said in a very polite (or political?) voice: "Dear mother and sister, the work has already been done." My sister was a bit unsettled. "Why will this happen?" she asked. One of them chuckled, "Apa, why don't you enjoy the holiday? Why will you need to toil coming and standing here in the long queue?" My mother and sister left the place hurriedly. A perfect example of gentility, isn't it?
Who knows the meaning of the word 'Gentle' more than a banker? Once the picture of an unruly man surfaced in my office. Before I could ask anything, I was ordered to honour a cheque. I tried my best to remain calm while drawing his attention to the customs practiced here. Out of the counter service is sometimes offered to the senior citizens as well as women having little kids. The man didn't sound happy over my statement. "Don't you know him? Are you new here?" - asked a man who stood behind the first man. "Nonsense! Does it matter whether he is new or not? He needs to know important people if he needs to do the banking here," said another cohort. To avoid any untoward situation, I rushed to the counter myself. A gentle breeze began blowing and they agreed to have a cup of tea in the end.
Some days ago, another story of gentility appeared in a packed ferry ghat of our country. This time thousands of Eid Holidaymakers acted in the film of gentility. A wretched VIP car fell behind and to save the very important time, an alternate route was devised overnight by our intelligent policemen. When the car was passing hundreds of other vehicles, numerous gentle faces glimmered through their windows.
What is the secret of our being gentle? Maybe, we follow a mantra: if you need to lower your head a bit, please do it. It is only an easy physical exercise, free of any pain and you can live well in exchange. Yes, we can eat and drink well like the animals; however, only to be sacrificed by the powerful ones in the end. The powerful utilizes their faces to do all their businesses. Meanwhile, the powerless sacrifice their faces to save their livelihood.
The whole world knows that a mask protects people from germs; however, the gentlest nation on the planet knows that they need to wear a mask for tolerating dust, sand, smoke, etc. for the sake of development. According to the latest Air Quality Life Index prepared by University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute, Bangladesh is the world's most polluted country, which cuts short of the average life expectancy of Bangladeshis by 6.9 years. Furthermore, Bangladesh ranked 7th most vulnerable country in the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.
It is said that gentle people win the world. However, this is not true in all cases. If people remain gentle when they shouldn't, they become arrogant in the end. Some days ago, people were sacrificing animals on the road. While I was driving to address an emergency, some of them showed no sign of giving me the side. At one stage, I protested saying that the road is meant for public use and no one can take it as private property. The gentlemen doing the holy sacrifice got violent in no time and attempted to break my car. So, our gentle faces are giving birth to the harsh hearts silently. A man gentle to the outside world is often seen in a furious form inside their house. Recently, we have read in the newspaper how a man has killed his wife, children and turned himself in a Jashore Court. We have found that people have attacked homes of minorities just after gentle prayer in the mosque.
There remains a famous verse of Bob Dylan: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." When a nation conceives gentlemen of such a great number, what is the need for policemen? Here lies the true nature of our gentility. We remain gentle or rude based on the presence of power swinging around us. Our gentility is likely to explain too much which way the wind is going. A couple of days ago, I noticed a young man stopping his car in the middle of a busy road only to take his friends in. However, he couldn't escape the eye of the nearest traffic man and began begging his pardon for being the gentlest boy in the world.
In one place of 'Roktokorobi', the famous Drama by Rabindranath Tagore, we find Nandini to suggest Bishu to keep silent out of fear of the King's men. Bishu replied that they can even hear the sound of remaining silent which is likely to result in more danger. In psychology, overly gentle people are sick persons; they will grow tall, but remain short in merit and won't be able to add any value to society. We had better understand that we don't need to compromise with our 'gentility' if we question whether our development is backed by security of our environmental and civil rights. If we fail to do so, we will be marked as dying men, not gentlemen.
The author is a banker. [email protected]