Shopping for Eid, with care

Shihab Sarkar | Sunday, 19 March 2023

With the memories of the March 5 and 7 blasts coiled in the subconscious layer of their mind, people in Dhaka are preparing to come out on Eid shopping at the city markets. Many started shopping a week ago to avoid crowd. The blast scenes appeared to have been erased from their memories. Their number is few. Eid shopping scenarios in Dhaka are more or less similar. They comprise festivity-filled children and their parents hopping from one spot to another to buy their choice items. The shopping starts at around 10 in the morning and continues up to 10-10:30 in the night. As the time is Ramadan, the Iftar time, marking the day's ending of fasting arrives at sunset amid peak-hour shopping. Most of the shoppers break their fast at the temporary Iftar corners set up under sheds or in the open. They use mostly open-air gas burners for deep-frying of Iftar items. These traditional spectacles are a part of the Ramadan observance in the capital.
But those haunted by the memories of the two terrible blasts in Dhaka in early March may feel jittery as they move about the markets. Like in the previous years, all large and medium supermarkets turn into Eid shopping outlets. Few would care for doing shopping this year at the densely crowded indoor markets. But conscious people this Eid might think twice before entering chock-a-block markets. Apart from explosions caused by gas accumulated in old, dilapidated pipes, dust-laden or defective AC etc, blast-prone fire remains a potential threat. It's natural to become oblivious to the two blasts which have occurred in the first week of last March. In the Bangladesh cities, especially Dhaka, the Eid festival starts veritably with the shopping fever. It's the very time when people tend to forget about duties and must-dos. Before entering a suspectshopping mall cautious people must now think twice thanks to its worn-out look. Those who do not resort to this precautionary step invite hazards for them and their near and dear ones. Of late buildings, offices and markets are used to wearing deceptive looks. While entering a well-furnished building, unwitting persons feel tempted to take it to be a safe place. The average people are even unaware of the many intricate aspects of a high-rise building. If the building is an old one, it remains replete with dozens of devices vulnerable to fire outbreak and blasts.
In Dhaka at the moment there are dozens of 2 to 3-storey old buildings popularly known as all-purpose Eid markets. Their clients mainly include middle and lower middle-class people looking for clothing, shoes, child wear, cosmetics etc. These buildings, along with some so-called exclusive markets, are being surveyed for built-in faults and technical shortcomings. The authorities concerned have already identified many of them. Critics are doubtful about the success in spotting these faulty buildings. During the Eid shopping razzmatazz and the latent festive mood, the time doesn't seem to be right for any survey of defective buildings. But the authorities concerned can, at least, mark out the vulnerable marketplaces for future action.
As Dhaka continues to grow into a cosmopolitan city with newer commercial and private establishments in place, it keeps inviting hydra-headed maladies. Those were beyond the furthest recess of imagination even three decades back. Nowadays with no violence around, explosions and blazes kill people while other possible spots brace for small-scale catastrophes. They result from human error, negligence and nonchalance. If they take place accidentally in the festive time of Eid, there might be literally no place to shed tears of sadness and the inner rage. Well- orchestrated and unified campaigns, thus, come up as a way out.
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