From Dhaka to Washington DC

I rode with Adnan (not real name) from Washington DC to Alexandria recently.  During the ride, we had a good conversation about family, politics, and driving in Dhaka vs. Washington DC.

Bryan: Your name is popular in some Arab countries.  May I ask where you were born?

Adnan:  I was born in Bangladesh.  My name is Arabic because my family and I are all Muslims.

Bryan: I’ve been to Bangladesh before. I like the people, the food, a lot of things – but I don’t like the traffic in Dhaka.  It’s the worst I have ever seen.

Adnan: Honk! Honk! Honk! That’s what driving in Dhaka sounds like all the time.  Honk! Honk! Maybe you can drive without brakes in Dhaka but you cannot drive without your horn.  That’s how you talk to people and let them know you are going to do.  It’s like a conversation that never stops.  You would get into many accidents without your horn.

Bryan:  In comparison, traffic is not so bad in Washington DC – although here we have traffic cameras everywhere now.  Do you live in the city our outside of it?

Adnan: I live in Arlington with my family.  I have a beautiful life.  I love my wife and my children.  I would do anything for them.  That’s why I work seven days a week, this and another job, to take care of them.  I am happy.  But you said you were in Bangladesh before – what were you doing there? It’s not really for tourists.

Bryan:  Well there’s one part of the country with nice beaches that the governments want to develop for tourism….

Adnan: Cox’s Bazar?

Bryan:  That’s it.  But it’s also close to where the Rohingya refugees are – but I was there years ago before the ethnic cleansing campaign by the Myanmar military.  Now there are over 800,000 refugees – that’s more people than are living Washington DC.  I have a lot of respect for Bangladesh.  It’s not a rich country but they’ve taken the refugees in and at least they are safe now. I appreciate Bangladesh doing that.

Adnan: The Rohingya aren’t the only Muslims in Bangladesh – but they look different than the majority of the population in Myanmar.  I think this has more to do with rascism than religion.  The government says Rohingya are terrorists but they have been abusing the Rohingya for so, so long – no citizenship, no freedom of movement, raping them, killing them.  What the government did to them – that’s terrorism too, isn’t it?

Bryan:  And then people lose loved ones, want revenge, and the cycle of violence continues…

Adnan:  It’s human nature.  It has nothing to do with religion.  Imagine someone killed the people you love the most.  I can’t even imagine what I would feel if someone killed my children just because of the way they look, the religion we are.  When a loss like that happens to someone, they want to die, they want to find ways to die.   We cannot give in to violence.  We have to be peaceful, we have to live together, we can’t give in to violence.

Bryan:  Thanks to Bangladesh for trying to do the right thing.

Adnan:  We try – but you know the government of Bangladesh has problems too.

Bryan:  Every country has problems these days including this one – but you are talking about the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, right? Would you consider her a…

Adnan: Dictator? Yes.  I think anyone who kills members of the opposition is some kind of dictator.

Bryan: Have you been back lately? How are things there now?

Adnan:  I have family in Bangladesh still.  I would like to go visit them as it has been almost four years since I was back.  It’s a long, long trip but I want to see my mother.

Bryan:  I hope you are able to go back soon.  Before we arrive, I like to ask drivers if they have had any unsual experiences while driving?

Adnan:  Most people are nice and polite.  Sometimes a passenger will be drunk and say rude things – but my job is just to drive them, not to get into arguments.

Bryan:  You like to drive late at nights? I’ve talked to many drivers who say they won’t do that because of drunk passengers who might throw up in the car.

Adnan: I almost hope someone throws up!  It’s like winning the lottery.  If that happens in the car, Uber gives me a $150 credit.  I can clean up and then go home.  If the passenger throws up out the window and any gets on the car, that’s $50 dollars.  $150 is a good night for me and I can stop working.

Bryan: My stop is up here.  Good talking to you, Adnan!

Adnan:  Five stars, ok?

Bryan:  Six stars!

Note:  There are Rohingya refugees in Pakistan, India, Malaysia, and most of all, Bangladesh.  Where they live in extremely large camps.  Take a look at articles in Guardian, Time and NPR to learn more about the conditions they are living in.  Donating to UNHCR and the many NGOs operating there is a good way to help.