The classick adventures of DS and Dr Gonjo 5
This is part five of a series by Dhaka Shohor, who visited Desh recently. Please direct comments appropriately. — JR
These posts will contain inappropriate language, rampant racism/sexism/age-ism, random references to things good Bangladeshi boys and girls are not to know about until one day they get married and magically become experts. — DS
Back in December 2011, with Ayub Bacchu on stage on Cox’s Bazar beach, I reach into my pocket and fish out a chapstick. The weather is warm enough, but dry. I had bought the chapstick the day before from a roadside shop. It was a strawberry flavoured one from Meril. A bit strong on the strawberry, but I’m not a chapstick connoisseur.
Would the people I know back in Dhaka judge me for using a Meril chapstick instead of Chapstick?
What shallow shits Dhakaites really are! Even the “middle class”, which in reality is just part of the 1% or acts like it is.
In reality the new middle class, the true middle class, are all around Dr Gonjo and me. They are not ideological. They are not overly political. They were now rich enough to want leisure, to afford to let off some steam, and they did not care who provided it. The new middle are Meril’s customers, they are/have been Ayub Bacchu’s fans along with Dr Gonjo and myself. They are the big middle that Airtel is trying to tap into.
And they are choosing to enjoy themselves in ways that Dhaka’s “middle class” has become congenitally incapable of doing. In Cox’s Bazar on New Year’s Eve 2011, with the music, the flares, the crowd, and the glimpse of mascara-ed eyes in the darkness, I feel real pleasure. The pleasure of being there.
In Dhaka real pleasure feels merely like the the pursuit of status. The pleasure of telling people you were there. I’ll park my Bali next to your Pattaya — what do you think of that? I see your Burberry and I raise you a Prada — your move.
Bangladeshi goods confer no status benefits. None at all.
The only time Dhaka’s “middle class” (read elite) could really appreciate something truly Bangladeshi was if it was stamped as “heritage” (Bibi Russell, who does great work), “vintage” (every Grameen ad campaign) or some Western-oriented definition of “cool”. Again, anything that helps with their one-upmanship.
But to be Bangladeshi, here and now, to partake in the pleasures of average people, to stand with them, drink with them, sing with them, listen to ordinary music with them and gaze up at the sky with them — things I had done in five other cities in the past six years – that has no status benefits.
Five out of six. The only place I had not done it in was Dhaka.
(To be continued)