One evening arriving at Shimulia launch terminal, it was found that passengers were boarding the launch and it was already overcrowded. Despite the launch not having even an inch of space to accommodate more passengers, people pushing and shoving to get on the launch. Some passengers were shouting they would not board the launch. They were saying it would be risky; the launch is already filled to the limit. They won't go. The bus conductor, however, was pushing the passengers to catch the launch, saying this is the last trip and there is no launch after 8:00pm. A few passengers decided to cross the Padma in a ferry, how long it takes.
Once just before the Eid festival while travelling from Dhaka to Khulna by microbus, it was found there was a long tailback from the ferry terminal. There was mismanagement at the ferry terminal. There was no order. Some people with cars and microbuses were mysteriously getting on the ferry, ignoring the line at the terminal. The traffic police turned a blind eye. Finally it was possible to get on the ferry. But there was strong current and the ferry was small and old. Tension prevailed while crossing the river. It was a sigh of relief when the ferry reached the other side of the river at the Zajira end of Shariatpur.
Innumerable days have passed on this route while travelling to Khulna from Dhaka, but the memories of the crossing the Padma by launch returns recurrently. Whether it is from Khulna to Dhaka or from Dhaka to Khulna, after getting on a launch especially if there is strong current or bad weather, or overcrowded passengers, one thing comes to mind -- where to sit? Where to stand? The lower decks may be not safe. It is better to stay on the upper deck. Which side would be more safe, back or front? If the launch capsizes, which side would be easier to swim ashore?
During such an anxious journey, passengers would take photos of the under construction Padma Bridge. There were discussions among the launch passengers as to when the construction of Padma Bridge will be completed, when hassles will go. Many view it will take a long time, as in Bangladesh context the completion of any project takes time and the project duration is extended frequently. When such a discussion came up one or two years ago, it could not be anticipated, actually the time is not far from reality. Brushing aside all uncertainties, the country's longest infrastructure 'Padma Bridge' is set to be inaugurated on 25 June and the travellers will be allowed to run on it on the following day. It will be exciting and a hassle-free journey from Dhaka to Khulna for days to come.
* Rabiul Islam is a journalist at Prothom Alo. He can be reached at [email protected]