I had absolutely zero plans for a swim in the near future. But last night, I had an unplanned dip or you may say a swimming expedition. But not in your run-of-the-mill swimming pools in Dhaka—those are way out of my budget league.
This aquatic adventure took place in a vast, flowing expanse of water, replete with waves reminiscent of the mighty Meghna River and depths that challenged my chest's capability.
While taller people out there might barely get their waist wet, alas, God didn't bless me with long legs or the rest of that vertically gifted body. But, ironically, this was precisely why I could enjoy the experience more than those lofty, towering individuals. So, I laughed and pitied them.
Here's the lowdown: Whenever it rains and I have got somewhere to be, I usually wait it out for an hour or two until my patience metre hits rock bottom.
Well, last night, after wrapping up work, I waited a tad too long for the rain to call it quits. It might make my boss happy, but it sure doesn't do me any favours.
My patience finally threw in the towel, and I decided it was time to hit the road. I had a raincoat with me (though I should mention it was just the upper half – no pants included. That's why I did not start earlier), and I protected my bag with a rain cover too.
When I first set out on my trusty Veloce Legion 40 bicycle, the area around my office appeared relatively less under water. My nimble two-wheeler navigated the shallow waters, just reaching halfway up my knees, with ease.
I was determined not to let a single drop of rainwater touch the upper half of my body, even if it meant conceding the lower half to the inevitable soaking.
As I was steeling my resolve, a car on the opposite side zoomed past and unleashed a giant splash of water, soaking me from head to toe! I took it as the curse of the fact that I left my colleagues stuck in front of the office who could not manage anything nor did they have a bike like me.
Needless to say, I seethed with anger at the inconsiderate car driver, yet little did I realize that this would be a mere ice-breaking to prepare me for the watery ordeal that lay ahead.
I had no idea what I was getting into as I cruised past Bangla Motor Square and headed down the road to Katabon. It was only when I got close to Hamdard Public College that I started realizing things were taking a watery turn. It felt like I had burnt a week's worth of energy just trying to pedal my bike through that waterlogged road to finally reach the Panthapath Circle.
Panthapath was an absolute madhouse, with people and all sorts of vehicles stuck in every direction. It was like an impromptu pool party out there, and it seemed like nobody was in any hurry to move. Even with all my bike-handling skills, it took me a good 10 minutes of dodging and weaving to break free from that crowd.
Just when I thought I was in the clear and about to breathe a sigh of relief, my breath caught in my throat as I saw a sea of vehicles – cars, bikes, trucks, you name it – blocking the road to Dhanmondi 32. It was like these vehicles decided to join the party too.
In Dhaka, I usually rely on my trusty bike because I can sneak it onto the footpath, but last night, the sidewalk was swarmed with people rushing somewhere in this crazy rain. I guess, as an unmarried guy, I'll never quite understand why everyone's in such a hurry to get home. Maybe there are some mysteries of married life involved that I'm just not privy to.
I decided to resort to the road dividers, where there was a tiny strip of space for me to walk and lug my bike along. It was as if my bike was trying to tell me, "Hey, buddy, it's not always going to be me carrying you; sometimes, you've got to carry me." At least, I wasn't ungrateful to my lovely two-wheeled companion.
As I deftly manoeuvred between the trees on the divider and the cars on the road, I finally reached the 32 junction. Oh boy, the ordeal was sinking deeper, quite literally. I did my best to pedal, shifting to the lowest gear, but my bike seat was gradually submerging in the rising water. So, with some fancy footwork and evading the sidewalk crowd, I reluctantly took to the pavement.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing on the sidewalk. People started shouting at me, so I had no choice but to venture back onto the road, or they might have tossed me there themselves. Just as I reached Rapa Plaza, I couldn't help but notice a bike on the road, completely submerged, with only its handlebar grips peeking out like little ears.
Seeing that, I quickly scratched my plan of getting a 300cc Royal Enfield or BMW bike, which had recently been approved for the roads here in Bangladesh. To anyone out there considering buying those bikes, you might want to give it a second thought.
After making the turn onto Road 27 toward Shaat Masjid Road, I thought, "Why not make this ride less boring and strike up a conversation with some fellow swimmers?" So, I ran into this guy named Fahim, who works at a motor workshop in Panthapath. He was chatting about how TikTok would soon be flooded with flood videos, but then he became all concerned about the poor souls who had parked their vehicles in underground garages, which were now more like underwater garages. He kept on babbling as we both pedalled along on our bikes towards Saat Masjid Road.
Halfway there, I noticed a bunch of folks with umbrellas over their heads. I couldn't help but wonder what good those umbrellas were doing since they were already in water up to their waists, and, of course, they were soaking wet. But then I realized the smart ones were using their umbrellas as makeshift walking sticks to avoid stepping into potholes.
Then there were some kids who were competitively swimming to collect different kinds of floating plastics, mostly plastic bottles. Probably they are climate activists. Nowadays, there are too many of them.
As I continued on Road 27 and Mirpur Road, I saw cars, CNGs, and trucks stuck everywhere, some due to traffic jams and others because their engines had given up. I had a sinking feeling that these folks wouldn't be making it home before midnight, and indeed, some of them confirmed this on Facebook.
But my main concern was for the guy stuck in one of those cars who needed to urgently answer nature's call. I shuddered at the thought of his predicament. What's even scarier is if he had already gone, and now his waste was mingling with the water I was wading through.
It's common knowledge that Dhaka's waterlogged streets tend to bring out all sorts of unpleasant surprises, including human waste. Now I felt like gagging, realizing my legs, including my trusty Apex shoes, were submerged in water. I wished I could have just flown home, but just like those car-bound folks, I was stuck in my own way and had to inch my way forward.
Finally, I reached Saat Masjid Road, but as expected, it was jam-packed. Luckily, the wrong side of the road was somewhat passable, so I took my chances there. My apologies to any traffic police, if there happened to be any around.
I felt fortunate that I hadn't gotten submerged on Mirpur Road or Road 27. The silver lining in this watery ordeal was that my raincoat was neon and fluorescent, making me at least visible and possibly savable by people or any potential traffic police – again, if there were any around.
But the real challenge lay ahead as I had to navigate through a narrow alley by the boundary of Government College of Physical Education. Oh god, the water looked murkier here, but it seemed a bit shallow, around knee-deep. My bicycle finally picked up some speed, hitting a blazing 5 km per hour.
After an hour and a half, I finally made it home. I did it; without getting electrocuted, I braved the water. And then, as you might imagine, I had to scrub myself clean with a bucketload of sanitizers. You see, that water was super "holy".