The other day, my wife, our kids and their nanny went to Chittagong Zoo which is smaller than Dhaka zoo but cleaner and properly maintained. I also like their architectural work. There is one information board in front of every cage. Those boards are really helpful to know more about animals' living habitats, eating patterns, ovulation stage, procreation, life expectancy and so on. There are some guidelines that show how we should behave with the caged animals. Poignantly, many people don't follow those instructions. They have a children's park, which adults, I have seen, been using also for dating. Nobody seems to be bothered about it. Children do not have enough place in their allotted space.
The zoo authorities have clearly stipulated that we should not offer drinks and nuts to caged animals, but some people, despite reading the instructions, do not even pay any heed to them. They pelt foods at them. It would have been understood had children only got involved in those immature acts. They may not have enough maturity on their shoulders. Unfortunately, parents were more interested in offering foods to those animals. What will their children learn from them? One day, those children will be parents. Will they teach them the same thing? Will they start feeling that breaking norms is just a normal course of life?
Unfortunately, there was nobody from the zoo management to discourage those lawbreakers. I always receive a lukewarm response whenever I try to talk to people about these habits. Either my common sense or their common sense goes out of the window. There are some sliders which children below 12 are allowed to use. Surprisingly, one will find more people exceeding the age of 12 using those seesaws. My wife and I had to request them to vacate their seats for enabling our children to use those spaces. Those seesaws, specially structured for children, cannot endure more load than they are preordained. Unfortunately, by using those tools, many adults and teenagers alike are making these establishments fragile. One of the rusty sliders has a huge crack. Unless the authorities report on the crack, that slider may inflict back and head injuries upon any unfortunate individuals. Children may get injured if it is not fixed soon. That would be very sad! Our lack of ethics brings troubles for others. Why do some flesh-eating animals look pale and thin? Have not they been fed properly? I watched a report some years ago. That report shows (readers will find it on YouTube) that zoo animals don't get to eat enough. They don't get required portions. Every Dick, Harry and Joe knows where the meat goes! I hope that this is not the same case in Chittagong Zoo, still one of the best ones in Bangladesh.
True, we are becoming more educated. The more literate we have become on pen and paper, the less ethical we have turned out to be in our practical lives. When I look at myself in front of the mirror, I feel that I have been failing to perform my duty as a conscious citizen. There is hardly any footover-bridge in Chattogram. Even if we had footover-bridge, I am very sure; many people would not have used them; they would have used the same old approach of hitting the deck quickly to cross the road instantly or talking over the phone. If I suffer from an accident while crossing the road, I will definitely blame myself first. In Dhanmondi 15, there is a footover-bridge. When I lived in Dhaka, I didn't not use it regularly.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the driver, even if he does not have any fault of his own, bears public wrath for hitting any commuter. When a vehicle hits or rams over anyone, then that driver flees from the scene aiming to find an escape route to cross our border to reach India. Mostly our diligent law-enforcing agencies nab these absconders. I agree that there are illegal drivers and unfit vehicles. About half of the time they are guilty of causing accidents. However, we need to question ourselves too. The way we cross the road, flout traffic rules and take unnecessary risks has to be looked at.
In Jugbani, our national poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam urges young people not to take drastic measures when the issues of national interests come up. He advised youngsters to gauge any situation better for chalking out a better plan. I don't support the way students block streets to protest. I think, many of them block roads just for the sheer fun of it. They have a false sense of heroism. Not all of them are genuinely protesting. They should find a separate platform somewhere like Rabindra Sarobar in Dhanmondi for raising their voice and staking their claim. The whole city gets gridlocked when people take to the streets for pressing their demand. No protest will bring any solutions as long as corruption is rampant in our country. Allah does not like corruption. We are instructed not to besmirch our sacred land. Why on Earth we don't listen to the words of Almighty and lead an honest and spiritual life? The answer lies in our lack of ethics. How can we purify ourselves when our souls are corrupt?
Human beings cannot remain rational. We all have lost our ethics at least once or twice in our life. Let us learn ethics to apply common sense better. We talk more than we act. This is the right time to live life ethically.
(The writer is a Lecturer, Department of English, Chittagong Independent University.)