Scourge of fog in receding winter  

Shihab Sarkar     | Published: January 05, 2019 22:07:23 | Updated: January 06, 2019 22:08:05

The season of winter remains bereft of all its common features these days. It begins with the less severe, or brusquely speaking, toothless bite of cold. Except the northern Bangladesh and some pockets in the south-western region, the country doesn't feel the onslaught of the merciless winter of the bygone days. In the rural areas, the elderly segments of the population, however, go through a short period of discomfort. But this ordeal of the older people has seen a radical drop. Unlike in the past, the marginalised and the poorer people are now capable of beating winter with their winter clothing. The way they are found bundled in layers of winter-wear and covered by blankets by night was unthinkable in the past. Even the mild winter appears to have left the villages.

The urban areas, especially Dhaka, experience winter mainly as a ritual. The Bangla months of 'Poush' and 'Maagh' come and go every year. So do the colourful winter dresses. Fashion-conscious males and females are found lavishly clad in these clothes. To their chagrin, winter in Dhaka is now a fleeting seasonal feature. They eventually become objects of pity and ridicule of the chronically prosaic people. Apart from the dresses, the season in the city brings with it some ritualistic celebrations. These events are mostly dominated by different kinds of festivals and fairs, musical soirees etc. A notable aspect of Dhaka winter these days is its short duration in this highly populated city. It is becoming shorter with every passing year. Over the last couple of decades, the presence of the season in Dhaka has been seen plunging to just a few days in some years. Like in Bangkok and many tropical cities, the arrival and duration of winter in Dhaka goes mostly unfelt.

In spite of the depressing fading-out of the winter spectacles from Bangladesh, a few are found literally stuck in. Winter fog is one of them. Since ancient times, this aspect of the cold season has been recurring without pause. Thanks to the inconveniences related to it, winter fog has long earned the infamy of a hazard. It is mainly the rural expanses which bear its brunt. Apart from disrupting the pedestrians' movement at early dawn, the thick walls of fog in the past used to hamper navigation. The morning disruptions caused to river traffic movement in some years would drag to even early noon. The scenes haven't changed.  A river-dominant country, Bangladesh is still blighted by the scourge of winter fog. Accidents, chiefly the collisions between motorised vessels in mid-river, are common occurrences. Every year, a lot of people die or sustain injuries in these avoidable mishaps. In fact, recklessness coupled with a trend to beat others in senseless competitions has overtaken a section of people in society. None is prepared to spare a little space to others. Moreover, irrespective of people from a humble background or those in the upper strata, everyone is obsessed with grabbing the top spot. The desperate race to go ahead of others on river routes is but a single portrayal of this troubling truth. The scenario on the highways and roads speak of a reality which is equally dreadful.

When it comes to traffic fatalities, the ones occurring on the roads turn out to be more terrible than that of river routes. The reason is simple. The number of vehicles plying the roads is many times higher than the water transports. Moreover, despite being sloppily constructed and ill maintained, the speed-obsessed people prefer roads to river journeys.  People continue to fall victim to their self-spun web of deaths and injuries. These unfortunate road and river accidents rob the Bangladesh winter of whatever charm it still is capable of retaining as its own.

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