"Dola is my world. Can the price be so low for a world?" This is how father of Rehnuma Tabassum Dola who along with her friend Fatema-Tuz-Johra Brishti has been missing since the night of devastation at Churihatta, Chawkbazar in the capital poses a poignant question. The father clings to the last straw and hopes for a miracle. A miracle of just six minutes! As the investigation team of law enforcement agency are on the verge of wrapping up their search for and analysis of the fate of the two girls, Dalilur Rahman argues it is the beginning of the probe.
The two girls were last seen in a video footage of a private bank on Nandakumar Dutta Lane that serves as an approach alley to Churihatta. The video footage recorded at 55 seconds, 25 minutes past 10 and the Churihatta fire broke out at 31 minutes past 10 on the night. So there is a gap of just six minutes and five seconds. Dola's father likes to believe in a miracle of just this short time and space. Sure enough, a loving father is overwhelmed by his emotion and anguish but still hopes against hope that his daughter and her friend may have run away from the inferno that engulfed the area immediately.
No news of the two girls as their bodies were yet to be identified by Tuesday. But there are reports that five bodies appeared to be women's of which two were identified. Members of the two families have given DNA samples. If the samples match with two of the three female bodies still unidentified, Dola's father will have no option but to accept the most heartbreaking reality. If the samples do not match, it will give a fresh twist to the whereabout of the two girls. To go by the investigation officer's search, though, there is little hope of their survival. For their rickshaw was heading towards Churihatta only six minutes before the breakout of fire.
An ugly twist to the search for the missing girls has already been delivered by brutes in the shape of humans who have ploughed money from the two families in exchange for bringing news about the two girls. The exploitation of a most tragic event has not been confined to this alone, a ransom money of Tk 50,000 has been demanded from Dola's father. When the nation mourns the tragic death of so many people in the fire, how can a scoundrel do this to a grieving father?
It is exactly at this point, Dalilur Rahman has expressed the universal boundless love for his daughter. It seems the families are progressive and culturally enlightened and had no objection to their participation in cultural events. Dola was studying law at the Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) and Brishti studied at the Home Economics College but their meeting point was their love for cultural activities. On the fateful night, the two friends, both involved with a recitation society, were returning home on conclusion of their performance at the Shilpakala Academy. They had to take a detour via Chankharpul and Chawkbazar because roads to the old Dhaka residence of one of the two were off-limit on the night on the occasion of Ekushey February.
Dola's father has brought to the fore the universal paternal alter ego that parents store in their bosoms. Through his claim he has protested against the unnatural death of children. He refuses to accept the reality because a parent's instinct is to live in those whom s/he begets. Indeed, children are more than the world or the universe. The man has uttered what lies mostly treasured in the innermost chamber of heart.
Accidents of outsize proportion are the price of modernisation and conveniently modern civilisation has accepted such casualties as a painful necessity. But in societies where underdevelopment together with avarice is demanding needless sacrifices too frequently, there is little solace. Not necessarily, those whose acts lead to such a catastrophe fall victim to it. The innocent and unsuspecting are often the victims. So common are the man-made disasters that people are reduced to mere numbers. When this happens, there emerges an Orwellian vision. But to the near and dear ones, the association is so lively and vivid even in the absence of the fallen that those alive become literally dead under the lingering trauma suffered. They simply forget to smile.
Like Dola and Brishti, each of the victims at Churihatta has his or her agonising story. It was so at the time of Nimtoli tragedy. More or less each one harboured a dream in their bosom to secure their future. Like Dola and Brishti, of the passers-by, three friends who were on their way to Chawkbazar to do some shopping on the occasion of marriage of one's sister also perished in the fire. There were many more who happened to be there at that fateful moment without the slightest inkling of what awaited them. Silence will reign over the way they fell victim to the fire.
This is reason enough for the authorities to be strict on regulations and discipline. If things are streamlined -be those on roads and highways, in warehouses of chemicals and other inflammables, construction of buildings and other infrastructure, on waterways where vessels carry passengers - annihilation of lives on a mass scale can be averted.