Unlike in the previous years, Eid-ul-Fitr shoppers' movement throughout a large part of the city this year is apparently fraught with different types of handicaps. The multi-faceted metro rail construction work is going on in full swing, the track's length covering a distance of 20 kilometres. The line is set to connect Uttara with Motijheel via parts of Mirpur. Apart from building viaducts on pillars for the elevated track, the construction works also centre round 14 overhead stations necessitating segregating large blocks at mid-road. This segregation is also required for building some critical infrastructure. This has resulted in the squeezing of the roads, along with improvised demarcations for vehicle and pedestrian movement. Piles of loose earth and dust as well as mud during rain are now normal spectacles in Dhaka. Add to this the seemingly never-ending road digging work by different agencies for laying out one or another underground utility pipe. These construction and repair works have already made movement in the capital miserable. In an adverse situation like this, the perils facing Eid shopping need no elaboration.
The Eid which comes after a month of fasting is the largest festival of Bengalee Musilms. With days ticking away, people now have to wait for only a fortnight to find themselves in the midst of festivities. But a most essential aspect of the festival --- Eid shopping, still remains incomplete for many. However, the shopping spree has lately reached its crescendo despite the typical urban hurdles standing in the way of smooth visits to markets. In fact, the shopping started picking up from the first week of the Ramadan. Those who want to avoid crowd and noisy bargaining these days complete the task of Eid shopping just after Shab-e-Barat, a holy night that is observed 15 days before the start of Ramadan. Amazingly, the typical Dhaka-based tradition sees many old town people doing their shopping throughout the previous night till the early hours of the Eid Day. This practice is fast dying out, with the 'original' Dhaka dwellers fast joining the mainstream segments of population residing in the city. Nowadays, the whole fasting month of Ramadan witnesses Eid shopping. The hours vary. Some prefer to visit the clothing, children's wear, trinkets and shoe markets from morning to early afternoon. Many others begin shopping in a relaxed manner, especially after Iftar, and make rounds in the outlets of all products. Crowds do not tire them out, as they appear to be enjoying the shopping in the midst of enthusiastic men, women and children. As the Eid approaches, the time of a section of shoppers' hopping from market to market continues to linger. Many like to return home with cars and taxis filled with choice buys at midnight.
However, there are lots of people who are miffed at the deteriorating state of Eid shopping. What annoys them most is the bitter experience on the road during shuttles between shopping malls. Not everyone has private car. A great percentage of Eid shoppers depends on auto-rickshaws, buses and cycle rickshaws. Squabbles and bickering over fare, especially that of rickshaws, are now common features. The app-based taxi service appears to have come up with a pragmatic way out of this plight of shoppers.
With the number of shoppers increasing, this year is also set to witness jovial buyers of different Eid items fan out across the shopping centres. High-rise shopping malls comprise a significant part of them. Undoubtedly, shopping in a festive mood has been a noticeable feature during the run-up to Eid for the last few decades. But alongside festivities, a lot of urban ordeals have also been marring the shopping atmosphere. Buying inferior or defective products or being cheated and 'harassed' are among them. Ranging from different kinds of hassles, jostling, remaining stuck in traffic jams for hours to sufferings caused by the searing heat, the Eid shopping at times becomes an exercise in a nightmare. It is the families coming to do shopping in the mid-town after travelling miles on ordinary buses who suffer the most. It's only a few people who can afford the services of the app-based taxis. For the rest, comprising mostly middle and lower middle-class people, coming out for Eid shopping finally turns out to be a mixed experience, i.e. a mood of exhilaration laced with myriad types of bitterness and revulsion. In spite of this nearly punishing atmosphere awaiting them, the number of Eid shoppers continues to soar.
In the earlier days, the rush of Eid shoppers would remain concentrated on the city centres spanning the greater New Market, Elephant Road and Mouchak-Moghbazar areas. With the fast expansion of populated areas into the previously neglected areas, shopping complexes kept sprouting on the fringes of the busy commercial areas. Prominent among these areas include Gulshan-Banani, Rampura, Badda, western Dhanmoni --- and, of course, Uttara. Long considered a suburb, Uttara with its shopping centres has for some years attained the glamour and importance of a bustling commercial hub. The same applies to greater Mirpur. Thanks to the great inconveniences suffered during trips to the traditional city centres, a sizeable number of Eid shoppers nowadays complete their shopping in their neighbourhood markets. A different section of clientele has already been fully drawn to online shopping. It saves their valuable time, keeps them free of the collision with shoppers on frenzied rush and of the painful and annoying phases of haggling over products' prices. It's undeniable that a great portion of Eid festivities is inherent with shopping. This part of the occasion should remain free of all troubles. Moreover, the city authorities ought to ensure that despite the dislocations caused by metro rail construction and other sources of chaos, the traditional beauty of Eid Shopping remains unscathed. The threatened strike by the jute mill workers also looms as a dreaded spectre.