The first thing that hit me when I landed in HK was the thick humid air. Even though I grew up in a similar tropical climate in Bangladesh, my body has gotten adapted to the temperate climate of British Columbia. Human adaptability is a funny thing, it lets you survive in a new place halfway around the world, yet, you lose what you had for something new.
If the physical sensation of the humid air didn’t remind me that I’m in a completely new place. The pace of life in Hong Kong was like a jolt to my system! Hong Kong is the liveliest place I’ve been to in my 26-year-old life so far, at least the HK metro is. It is like a living organism moving at breakneck speed, you have no choice but to move with it as one. The crowd of people rushing to catch the train, the crowd getting out of the train, all under a confined space underground is akin to an ant colony. Standing and witnessing the HK metro in its full cacophony, an alien visitor would not find any difference between the ant colony and us humans. I’m very fond of the principle of Biomimicry, which takes design inspiration from nature. I wonder if the architects and designers took cues from nature. Moving a vast number of people is no easy task and Hong Kong does this so fluidly and efficiently. You may wonder why I’m focusing so much on the movement of people and the HK MTR. After all, isn’t this the norm in most places? Like Hong Kong my hometown Dhaka is a megacity with a population density to match. The biggest frustration of us locals is the transport system. The traffic is so debilitating that people leave the city for it. There is no subway system and it is utter chaos on the roads. People die as ambulances are stuck, relationships are ruined by a small distance of 10km, different neighbourhoods are almost like different provinces. Geographical mobility is an integral part of our modern lives, I have seen life without it and with it, I would even go far as to argue that it should be a basic civilian right but that’s a conversation for a different journal.
The next thing I found absolutely fascinating in the MTR was the crowd of Indonesian women. They were all wearing colourful dresses with matching headscarves and vividly stood out from the rest of the population. They were all young, dressed immaculately and seemed to be in a jolly mood. As first impressions go, I thought they were members of the Hong Kong upper-class population out on a weekend. However, professor Henry informed me that most of these women work as live in maids for Hong Kongers and Sunday was the only day off. So they were out-out doing what most humans do on their day off, going out and just having fun. I don’t really know how to unpack this observation intellectually or why this really stood out for me. Maybe because they were Muslim like me? Or maybe it's an interesting economic and phenomenon of globalization of labour. I really do not know. Not all things require explanations, nor a reason. Sometimes its a feeling or a visual that really stands out and for me, it was the Hong Kong Metro.