A special place for cyclerickshaws

'Top of the world', a restaurant atop this tower in Kalurghat, is a popular spot in Chittagong.-VIJAY LOKAPALLY

The cyclerickshaw, we are told, is an integral part of Dhaka's character. It symbolises the slow pace of the city, a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the metros of this modern world. Vijay Lokapally's impressions.

May 9: Dhaka may not be a vibrant, modern city but it has a charm of its own. There has also been progress. The roads have improved, swanky malls have sprung up in different places and new hotels offer slick service. But the traffic continues to remind you of the Dhaka of old. Cyclerickshaws are the most popular mode of travel. They have their own rules but they stick to their lane, unlike the motorists and auto-rickshaws, who revel in swinging sideways, missing vehicles by a whisker. The buses, in keeping with the reputation of the sub-continent, are a menace — polluting the air and spreading a scare on the roads with their speed and honking. Cyclerickshaws have been in use for more than 70 years in Dhaka and their number seems to be growing. Colourful and decked up, they come in thousands, forming a long line on the left of the road, leaving no space in between, and making crossing of the road a hazardous task. Not necessarily a poor man's transport, they are widely used by smartly-attired office-goers, and of course the school-kids. The cyclerickshaw, we are told, is an integral part of Dhaka's character. It symbolises the slow pace of the city, a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the metros of this modern world.

May 10: ``It is a privilege to report from this swanky press box. It can accommodate more than 100 journalists... ..'' Rica Roy and Anisa Khan, from NDTV, take turns to do their piece to camera (PtoC). The press box is indeed swanky, but is overcrowded. The number of dailies and journalists (200 in the media box alone) in Dhaka has grown amazingly. The din in the swanky press box matches the ruckus in the stands. It is getting too noisy and suddenly one senior scribe loses his cool when he spots someone unfamiliar. Power goes off and the press box, without the air-conditioner, becomes an unpleasant place. Rica and Anisa make an exasperated pair. They are shaken by the nightmare of being stuck in a lift for 15 minutes. "It was so suffocating. I thought I will die,'' Rica is rattled. Anisa too decides she would stay away from the lift. By evening, at the end of making six trips to the ground and climbing five floors, Rica obviously has revised her opinion on the swanky press box; she is panting and in no mood to do any more PtoCs.

May 11: Surendra Bhave is the administrative manager of the Indian team but he is distinctly uncomfortable with the assignment. He has obviously not been briefed and is most reluctant to part with information. Manoj Tiwari is injured and leaves for home. The media learns about his departure from the BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah, who is in India, since Bhave is inaccessible. Getting Bhave's mobile number becomes a privilege. Having played first-class cricket for more than a decade, Bhave is surprisingly apprehensive of the media, the sting operation by a news channel seems to have had a devastating effect on the former Maharashtra cricketer. He was known to be a dogged batsman but is out of place in his new role. The lack of communication between the team management and the media becomes a sore point even before a ball has been bowled in the series. At the end of the day, the most-asked question is "Do you have Bhave's number?'' He promises to give it when he acquires one.

May 12: Rabeed Imam has worked for the Daily Star as a cricket correspondent and is now busy making things easy for the cricket writers in his country. An energetic professional, he was offered the job of media manager by the Bangladesh Cricket Board on a short-term basis. He did such a fine job that he was asked to continue. His pleasant demeanour is infectious. The local scribes too go out of their way to make you feel at home. Mustafa Mamun, Aghore Mondal, Utpal Shuvro, Nasimul Hasan Dodul, Syed Mohammad Mamoon are well known cricket writers in Bangladesh, often travelling with the team and taking pride in its progress. They ensure that the Indian media is looked after well. Rabeed is an encyclopaedia on Bangladesh cricket. He doubles up as the media manager for the Indian scribes too, giving valuable information and facilitating interaction with the Bangladesh players and captain. In the absence of a media manager, the Indian scribes find Rabeed a boon really, a solution for all their problems. In fact there is an earnest request to him from the Indian media contingent. Why not apply to the BCCI!

May 13: Time to leave Dhaka for Chittagong. The Biman Airlines flight is cancelled and passengers, mostly connected with the cricket series, are stranded. The GMG Airlines has not altered its schedule. Only, the flight is delayed. Following requests from the Biman travellers to accommodate them, GMG delays the flight further. "We are arranging a bigger aircraft,'' we are told. An hour later, we are directed to board and the aircraft comes as a shock. It is a 40-seater and one wonders "what would have been the smaller aircraft like'' even as we are air-borne. It is warm and sticky inside the aircraft because the air-conditioner is not working, but thankfully the engine is and the flight takes a mere 30 minutes before the plane lands with a thud at Chittagong, a fascinating port city.

May 14: Kalurghat is a landmark area in Chittagong. It was from a radio transmitter here that Zia-ur-Rehman, a Major in the Army then, declared Bangladesh's independence in a broadcast on 27 March, 1971. The nondescript building was witness to a historic announcement that ended a bloody war of liberation. It is not exactly a tourist destination because one needs special permission to enter the building. A lone guard stands at the entrance and escorts you inside with a polite warning not to take pictures. The room from where Major Zia, later President of his country, made the announcement is locked and access to the place is restricted. But changes have taken place around the building. An amusement park indicates the choice of the times and a revolving restaurant, appropriately called `Top of the World' on a tower adjacent to the building, is a very popular spot.

May 15: A dreaded cyclone, named Akash, threatens to hit the city. The warning signals are placed at seven on a scale of 10 and people are advised to stay indoors. It rains heavily in the morning and strong winds cause devastation in the rural belt. But the cyclone spares Chittagong and drifts towards Myanmar. The sun breaks out and crowds throng the Bir Shrestha Stadium. The queues are long but patient. There is no chance of play and the media attention is concentrated on the indoor nets where Sourav Ganguly is a huge attraction. The photographers are a harassed lot because their movements are restricted by securitymen. The designated spot is the entrance where they take turns to `shoot'. There is laudable camaraderie among the lensmen and work is accomplished smoothly, with Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S. Laxman and Anil Kumble enjoying the media attention.