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OP-ED: What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?

  • Published at 10:02 pm April 3rd, 2021
cars night

Either you are on the road to redemption, or you are on the road to nowhere

There are roads that lead through the outskirts of the city, go right through Uttara, and leave the city as the planes fly above it. The road has many beginnings. Some prefer to take the exit out of Banani, while others prefer to take the exit out of Mirpur. No matter what preference one has, all exits lead to one destination. Either you are on the road to redemption, or you are on the road to nowhere. 

“What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?”

The road is travelled on by many. It is a natural destination for the parents, of course, off to who knows where to do who knows what. This is the first group, the group for which flights have become commonplace. This is the first group, the group for which all the secrets of life have been made transparent. When it comes to the second group, well, the well-adjusted always come back. And for those who don’t, well, a margherita in Shangri-la and a tea in Mirpur is all the same. 

“What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?”

It’s 2019. Or it’s 2020. Hell, it might even be 2022. But it doesn’t matter. Time moves steadily until it is one’s 18th birthday, and after that, time comes to a halt. Whether it is 2019 or 2020, the digits on the calendar don’t matter. It’s all the same hell, just different levels. And unless one can realign his compass, well, the hell turns into a purgatory, an eternal torment full of souls of the damned. 

“What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?”

We zoom past Kalshi, or Banani, or the Army stadium. As we make our way on the expressway, the last of the smoke inside the car is blown away by the wind, leaving a heavy shimmer underneath the silver moon. There are no cars on the expressway. The entrance can’t be seen, and neither can the destination. The expressway is elevated just right -- so much so that even inside a burning carcass made of metal -- you feel weightless. The expressway is elevated just right -- so much so that even while you are diving head first into the unknown -- you feel free. Unfortunately, you can’t enjoy this suspension for long. No matter what you do, all highs will eventually dissipate. 

“What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?”

The traffic starts right when the city ends. At first, it is dismissed as being something normal, a part and parcel of everyday life. But as time goes on, the traffic starts to show its true colours. All the cars are in the same lane. All the cars are in the same hell. Well, that’s not true. You see some cars getting airlifts to the airport, while other cars are crushing everything in their way. They are made of the same elements as you are. They are made of the same thing as you as well. The only difference is between the cars, something you are assigned at birth, or something that you stumble upon through the course of your training. Then why is it that they get to have their cake and eat it, while you get nothing? 

“What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?” 

By some miracle, you are able to make some progress. But there’s a new problem. The indicator beside the speedometer is flashing red, indicating that you are running out of fuel. 

The roads seem to have disappeared, replaced by a darkness so dense that even your hands seem to be disappearing in them. It’s the same darkness on both sides, it’s the same darkness everywhere. Around you, there are only a few bars, a motel, and the airplanes. You decide to shack up inside your car and wait for dawn. Surely, the dawn must come sometime, right? 

“What kind of adults will we be in three to five years?”

You don’t remember how long ago this happened. Your clock has stopped working as well. The car still has fuel in it, but it is very low. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to go through the darkness all around. 

You’ve met many people here. Friends, colleagues, lovers, relatives. You even came across someone who looks like your dad. You asked him to take you home, to lead you through the darkness. He gave you a funny look and said: “What are you talking about? Have you been drinking again?” 

Everyone has passed through the darkness. Everyone except you. You try to drive through it, but the car doesn’t move an inch. So, you’ve decided to squat here permanently. Your body is deteriorating, and your mind has already given away. You take nothing but wine and cigarettes. All the while, you see people pass by you. All the while, you are invisible to them. But on some nights, when the stars are visible, you can make out a vague outline of a rope that leads to the heavens. And on nights like that, you imagine your escape. How easy it would be. How little effort you would need? All you gotta do, is reach out your hands. 

But even that seems like too much work. And on the off chance you do reach out, you see that it was but a dream, nothing but a mirage. So you take a sip of whiskey, and kiss yourself good night, all the while repeating this little mantra inside your head.

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and an intern at the Dhaka Tribune.

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