The traffic in Dhaka is terrifying. The roads are crammed with heavily scratched buses and autorickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, people pushing carts piled with produce, and cars, none of them in lanes. It’s a never-ending game of chicken: who will be chicken and give way first? Remarkably the modern white car in which I’m driven has not a single scratch. The driver is a master at the game of chicken. He turns to cross three lanes of hooting traffic without a tremor: he knows exactly when the go and when to give way.
And the roads are also full of people. Moments after we leave the hotel we come to a point on the six lane road where people are constantly crossing. Most simply walk into the traffic as if walking in an empty park, although they do tend to go in groups. Sometimes they hold out an open palm towards the oncoming cars, almost as if to block the impact. But the impact never seems to come.
Deeper into the city people have a different way to cross the road: they form human bubbles. People gather in brightly coloured clumps. The colour come from the women’s saris, every colour of the rainbow and more. The clump gradually grows, like a bubble or a blow out in the inner tube of a bicycle. And then it goes, expanding into the traffic and stopping the traffic. The human multi-coloured bubble moves across the three lanes.
Traffic lights may be safer but not so wonderful to watch.