Lat bhais on the Dhaka roads are not viceroys. But the Latin prefix vice meaning in place of and French word roy meaning king are integrally related to lat. The viceroys ruled India, then a colony of Britain on behalf of their king or queen. But in the land they ruled, their authority was absolute and unchallenged. The lat bhais are so powerful that a Bangla contemporary has rightly called them the lat bhais on the capital's roads. Not only on roads, but it is on footpaths that the lat bhais show their true colours.
By the way lat in Bangla evokes a sense of awe and pomp. Derived from lord, it refers to a person who has no equal. Actually the viceroys wielded unlimited power and no matter how irrationally they acted, their actions could not be questioned. They were not sovereign monarchs but in their mien they were more than monarchs. Lat bhais are called so because they could not care less when they are on roads or footpaths.
Rules and laws they break with impunity. They are omnipresent and use road space with disdain. They overtake buses, cars, trucks and rickshaws from left, right and sideways at crossings. So daring are their turns and twists and meandering manoeuvre that other road users including pedestrians feel threatened or worried about their own or some other people's lives. On empty lanes or roads the daredevilry reaches a new height with teenagers (chhoto lats or lieutenants) emulating their bosses.
How do they do it? Suddenly they gather extraordinary pace by changing gears in quick succession to race away with pillion while the bike veers sideways precariously. The exercise is either to show their skill or impress someone special to them. Little do they think that this can be dangerous not only for others, children in particular, and even themselves. But what makes the lat bhais and their lieutenants terrorise the locality is the running of their two wheelers without silencer. A little tinkering or adjustment with the exhaust pipe can turn it nearly mute or awfully noisy. A faulty silencer pipe can give a nightmarish time to an entire locality by the viciously disagreeable sound it produces at the time of starting the motor bike or when it runs.
However, even lat bhais who cross over to other lanes in order to have a short-cut route at times have to pay a heavy price for their lane violation. If buses in particular are their competitor in the race, a collision can be fatal. Quite a few such incidents have been reported not only from different areas of this metropolis but also from different parts of the country. There is no point staking the dear life for unnecessary pace.
In this context let it be noted that the lat bhais in Rangpur are being administered a dose of medicine they hardly expected. The local police administration has persuaded the filling stations to refuse sale of fuel to bikers not wearing helmets. All the filling stations are reportedly complying with the police and cooperating with each other. Teaching the lat bhais a lesson is not an easy job. But this one may be an ingenious way of starting the process. If this move is successful, similar other innovative ways may be tried to rein in not only the lat bhais but also the men at the steering wheel.
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