Chaotic tangles of cables nesting above the pavements may be a common sight in South Asia but the Bangladesh capital Dhaka is certainly a prime contender for the International Excessive Wiring Award. For us tourists it can be treated as the light entertainment of an indigenous art form but for the residents it is more of a sociopolitical statement that goes to the heart of everyday life, a visible reminder of what’s wrong with the country.
The imagery is not simply a representation of the turmoil of life in Dhaka but a product of the rampant corruption that interferes with most facets of existence at every level, from the president to the peasant. Many of the wires you see are for cable TV and due to their unfettered installation by numerous companies, distracting people from the otherwise pristine, idyllic vistas of Bangladeshi streets, the government brought in strict controls on their use. As with much else interfering with free market economics in the country the cable companies simply made suitable donations to police benevolent funds to sidestep the law and carried on as usual.
Weaving across the faces of office blocks are disjointed webs of wires from top to bottom and side to side. Although a bit of forethought would have led to the installation of central supply cables with individual off shoots to each customer, this would have denied us of this haphazard creativity and the police of extra-judicial income. Every time the installers are working they leave additional loops of cable to make future jobs easier, adding to the artistic value of their works.
Finally, the mains electricity supply is not without its own idiosyncracies as evidenced below in this unique, mobile (well at least as far as the cables allow) electricity sub-station – their legendary cousins in Central Asia must be seething with jealousy at such innovation and we can but wonder, what on earth is the point of it? No doubt the numerous electrical network engineers reading this will come to our aid and enlighten us as to the purpose of this delightful folly.