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The sound and the fury

  • Published at 12:01 am February 21st, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:24 am February 21st, 2017
The sound and the fury

There’s a sign planted on the road divider in front of Square Hospital on Panthapath that implores commuters to refrain from honking out of consideration for the patients admitted there.

At any given hour on most days, standing on that very same road divider, one is witness to vehicles of every size and shape, leaning on their horns as if their lives depend on it, all in the name of progressing a few inches forward in the terrible jams that continue to plague the city. A similar situation prevails in front of the other hospitals located on Panthapath, near BIRDEM at Shahbagh, or any of the roads leading to any of the many hospitals scattered all over Dhanmondi.

If you happen to live near a public school, then you’re sure to be familiar with the dreaded morning assemblies that involve the national anthem being butchered over the microphone by groggy-eyed students who probably didn’t get enough sleep the previous night, thanks to construction work carried out into the wee hours, all over this bustling city of ours.

And let’s not even get started on the government holiday mixtape featuring a medley of Ekushey and Victory Day songs and the March 7 speech, blaring at full volume at your favourite fried chicken outlets on each of these holidays (pick one, any one) and all over the national university campuses from February through to the end of March, exams and sleep be damned.

And let’s not even get started on the government holiday mixtape featuring a medley of Ekushey and Victory Day songs and the March 7 speech, blaring at full volume at your favourite fried chicken outlets

We’ve certainly proven we’re good at creating noise to the detriment of others around us, at being loud when it comes to ridicule and shaming, because who doesn’t love a good joke, especially at someone else’s expense? Among the many effects of long-term exposure to high levels of noise include irritability, permanent deafness, and heart problems.

This might explain why we can’t stand to listen to opinions that differ from our own, why we must ban books lest they hurt our political or “religious” sentiments. It’s the irritability, you see.

This is why we’re deaf to the plight of minorities whose rights continue to be violated on a daily basis, to the abuse doled out to journalists, to the danger posed to writers, and bloggers. We can’t help ourselves; it’s the hearing loss.

When it comes to making some noise and raising our voices to effect a positive change, to help others, we lack the heart. It’s much easier to make memes and ridicule “CGPA5” students who think Neptune is the capital of Nepal, than to band together and demand a higher standard of education.

Ditto for jokes about errors in the school textbooks, but silence on the subject of insidious indoctrination being slipped into the curriculum, in line with the demands put forward by extremist groups.

That damned heart trouble again.

Our failing ears may fail to note that the present generation of students, regardless of the medium of instruction in their respective institutions, can’t hold a full conversation in their mother tongue or English, leaning instead, on the crutch of a bastardised amalgamation of the two to get their meaning across.

Our feeble hearts are burdened enough with the worry of what’s happening in distant shores, without needing to pause and consider that our bookstores are dwindling and the reading habit is on its deathbed.

One could point out that February 21 is meant to be a celebration of literacy, of intellect, of diversity of language, and freedom of expression.

But that, like so much else, will probably be drowned out by the noise.

Sabrina Fatma Ahmad is Features Editor, Dhaka Tribune.

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