A big crowd – with brooms in their hands in Dhaka's Gulistan – repeatedly swept the same spot in tandem, singing "Mon Shundor Jar, Se Rakhe Desh Porishkar" (Those who have a beautiful mind keep the country clean).
The dust on the road found no place to settle as everyone in the congested assembly passed the dust on to their neighbours' feet and vice versa.
They did it for a while, until the then-Dhaka South City Corporation mayor joyfully made an announcement, on 13 April 2018.
The crowd of 7,021 volunteers and 15,000 onlookers had just completed what was required to set a new Guinness World Record for Most People Sweeping the Floor (Single Venue).
A distinctive sign saying "Record Holder" with the emblem of the Guinness World Records still decorates the façade of Nagar Bhaban – the Dhaka South City Corporation headquarters.
The irony is that the sign in no way labels Dhaka city as a clean habitat, but rather reminds one of only the cleaning extravaganza. The reason is obvious: the outcome of the campaign – building mass awareness about cleaning and hygiene – was short-lived.
Given the constant failure to check various types of pollution, Dhaka is now one of the least liveable cities in the world. And Nagar Bhaban officers cannot avoid their responsibility in this respect.
Nagar Bhaban's backyard itself has turned into a dumping ground for damaged poles, broken concrete blocks, temporary road diversions, and unauthorised rickshaws.
Underneath the Mayor Hanif Flyover stretching to the rear of Nagar Bhaban, an unauthorised city bus terminal has turned the AHM Kamruzzaman Avenue into a total mess. Transport workers urinate openly at the flyover's pile cap, using the piers as a cover.
Waste generated from neighbouring marketplaces is seemingly not managed well. Piles of garbage on the open spaces by the road prove this statement. The dilapidated roads surrounding Nagar Bhaban have become a major source of dust.
The front lawn of the building appears clean and well decorated, with a garden heightening its appeal. But a close look at the tin-fenced boundary wall of Osmani Udyan in front of it is disappointing. All the concrete tubs attached to the wall for gardening are now filled with garbage.
Small vendors who regularly sit on the Udyan's footpath never bother about cleaning the spots. People in the neighbouring marketplaces, too, neglect the importance of cleanliness.
The condition of Nagar Bhaban and its neighbourhoods regarding waste management can only be regarded as a hint of what could be happening in other parts of the city.
"The mega cleanliness campaign [on 13 April 2018] saw no success. It was merely a huge demonstration of people with brooms. It failed to draw the masses to the cause," said Air Commodore Md Badrul Amin, Dhaka South's chief waste management officer.
Amin expressed frustration over the negligence. At the same time, he pointed the finger at people responsible for waste management in the localities.
"Crores of taka have been spent on waste control. But the outcome is disappointing. There should be accountability in waste management," Amin said.
Between the fiscal 2017-18 and 2019-20, Dhaka South spent Tk47.65 crore, particularly on waste management.
For the current fiscal year, the city authorities have allocated Tk63 crore as regular waste management expenditure and Tk31.49 crore more for 18 new wards.
A few years ago, Dhaka South installed more than 50,000 waste bins in 57 wards for the collection of light waste. But the project did not work.
Most of the bins were stolen and apparently no one was there to protect them. Recently, Dhaka South installed a few bins tied to metal chains to prevent them from being stolen. Air Commodore Badrul Amin finds this type of protection rather peculiar but a necessity.
"It is very tough to manage waste in an overpopulated city. We are now planning to engage the ward councillors more with the task, and they will be made more accountable," he said.
Two years ago, brandishing their brooms, the crowd celebrated the Guinness World Record achievement that had just put India's Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) behind.
The VMC had set the record with 5,058 people's participation on 28 May 2017, breaking the earlier record achieved by 1,767 participants at Drinks Depot in a Mexican city.
The VMC has kept up its cleanliness campaign. It has been placed among India's top 10 cleanest cities for the second time in the last three years. In contrast, Dhaka has experienced no improvement to its environment.
"Unless citizens are inspired by the cleanliness programme under a comprehensive plan, sweeping events like the one in 2018 will only end up being a political show," said Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon General Secretary Sharif Jamil.