Peaceful “pots” and roads

The literal meaning of the Bangla word “poth” is a straight or serpentine gateway. The word is directly related to ‘pothik’, a passerby. The English “path” has almost a similar meaning. One person, normally a man, uses these gateways. Since ancient times, “pots” have been distinguished from roads, which could also be partially concrete. In the context of Bengal, “pots” can be both short and long. The longest cover distances covering kilometers, crossing village after village, sometimes crossing seemingly endless expanses of land. Traditionally, a “pot” is made of earth, narrow in width and has a fairly smooth surface. As they get wet from the rain, the “pots” could become slippery.

“Pots” have been an integral part of rural life in Bangladesh for ages. Even after the advent of city life in Kolkata, Dhaka and other cities of Bengal in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the “pots” that were used for land communication in areas outside of cities and towns. villages. The English language has the word “dirt road”. Their character resembles that of Bangla “pots” and they are large in some places; because they must facilitate the movement of carts and horse-drawn carriages. In earlier Bangladesh, as in the West, “cooking pots” in some areas were getting wider to accommodate oxcarts. People familiar with Bengali culture are well aware that the very word “poth” has multiple meanings. Sometimes a “pot” alludes to a spiritual aspiration or, at another time, to a philosophical quest. The notion of “poth” has been used liberally in the popular culture of the country. The word comes up in the songs of folk bards like Lalon Shah or Hason Raja. Even great poets like Tagore and Nazrul used “poth” in their lyrics where they found it appropriate.

Ironically, “pots” still dot Bangladesh’s vast countryside. One feature that sets them apart from their previous counterparts is that they have makeshift layers of a hard surface. In the frenzy of making Bangladesh’s villages developed and useful, rural dirt roads have continued to be the focus of successive governments; “Local governments” to be precise. In order to make the dreams of urban leaders come true, almost all of rural Bangladesh has long been earmarked for development. Few sectors have been spared. Not even the “jars”, built to meet the needs of people who are never in a hurry.

Over the past 3-4 decades, hundreds of dirt roads have been turned into concrete roads. In addition to making the primitive “pots” visibly comfortable for pedestrians, many of them have been enlarged to meet the needs of motor vehicles. But few local government authorities seem to have ever thought about the terrible shape these roads could take during the monsoon. To put it bluntly, walking or traveling in a pedicab or baby taxi on these poorly constructed roads gives a glimpse of what an ordeal could be. By forcing them to walk or circulate in vehicles on these so-called roads, the people concerned are practically led to pay the price of dreaming of urban amenities in the villages. But why are the innocent villagers singled out? They never appealed to the authorities to give them a taste of urban life.

In fact, with the roads rapidly turning into a means of punitive experiments, villagers have recently started to fear the very idea of ​​using these “developed” roads during the monsoon. The danger of these roads begins with negotiating on foot swaths of sticky mud going from ankles to knees, and ends up getting stuck in a rickshaw or ‘tempo’ halfway through. There is hardly anyone to help someone in a rural wilderness. And during the summer, people are buried under layers of dust. Perhaps this is why the wise old rural bards find it hard to forget the charm of the “jars” of the past.

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