Page 1

Competing with Myanmar 6

Eid snippets 18

FRIDAY OCTOBER 11 2013

vol 1 Issu e 2 5

Body stereotypes 26


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CONTENTS 2 This Week in Pictures 4 Bottled Up 5 Whose Line Is It Anyway? A bumpy ride 10 Post-Riposte Celebrating Eid

A Weekly Pro du cti o n o f

DhakaTribune

11 Top 10 Things to do in Eid

Vo lume 1, Issu e 2 5 O CTOB ER 11, 2 0 13

12 Big Mouth Strikes Again Smallness of imagination

Editor Zafar Sobhan

13 Photo Story Darasbari Mosque

Magazine Editor Faruq Hasan Weekend Tribune Team Sumaiya Shams Faisal Mahmud Yusuf Banna Joseph Allchin Shah Nahian Phil Humphreys Adil Sakhawat Rohini Alamgir

6 Feature Competing with Myanmar

20 6° of Connotations A mermaid’s tale 21 Crime File Murder in Kamalapur Railway Station

Art Direction/Photography Syed Latif Hossain

22 Tough Love 23 WT | Leisure

Cartoon Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Rio Shuvo Contributors Syed Samiul Basher Naheed Kamal Syed Zakir Hossain Souvik Aswad Nilufer Ahmed Dina Sobhan Ibtisam Ahmed Design Mohammed Mahbub Alam Production Masum Billah Advertising Shahidan Khurshed Circulation Wahid Murad Email: weekend@dhakatribune.com Web: www.dhakatribune.com Cover Illustration Altered reality by Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy

17 Everyday Economist Gorur haat calculations

24 Digital Bangladesh Online cattle business 25 The Way Dhaka Was Dacca International Airport 27 Obituary Tom Clancy 18 Pick of the Week Eid snippets

26 Culture Vulture Body stereotypes

28 Last Word

EDITOR’S NOTE

The times, they are (not) changing

RMG safety 6

Dhaka bus Map 18

s M sultan 26

FRIDAY OCTOBER 4 2013

vol 1 I ssu e 2 4

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hat makes this Eid special? There are the usual suspects: going to the haat with friends and relatives, celebrating Eid day with your family, watching your favourite Eid television shows, or simply sleeping away the day. Sounds like your average Eid? The WT begs to differ. As our special Eid issue reveals, we no longer have to go to Gabtoli to buy a cow; we can do it with a click of our computer’s mouse. Bus owners no longer have to hold you for ransom, there are now at least five different modes of transport available to take you to your favourite Eid destination. Love eating yummy Eid dishes, but hate cooking? No matter, just pay one of the many professional chefs to cook for you, and have them delivered to your house as well. The more Eid changes, the more it remains the same. Everyone at the WT desk would like to wish our readers a warm Eid Mubarak. We will take a break next week, but will be back with another issue filled with ideas, debates and news. Till then, have a safe holiday! n W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 1 1 , 20 1 3


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THIS WEEK

INTERNATIONAL

A Bahraini woman stands in front of graffiti depicting a man’s face during an anti-regime rally in solidarity with jailed political activists in the village of al-Malkiya, south of Manama, on October 3. A Bahraini court on September 30 jailed 37 Shiites for up to 15 years for carrying out “terrorist crimes” in the kingdom, during the two-year-old uprising, said a judicial source AFP/Mohammed Al-Shaikh

An Indian artist paints lions, part of idols of Hindu goddess Durga, at a workshop ahead of the Durga Puja festival in Mumbai, India, on October 3. The five-day festival commemorates the slaying of a demon king by Durga, marking the triumph of good over evil AP/Rajanish Kakade

Left to right: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Afghan Interior Minister Mohammad Omar Daudzai, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Afghanistan’s Deputy Defence Minister Enayatullah Nazari exchange symbolic keys during the handover ceremony of a German base to Afghan armed forces in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Sunday, on October 6. Soldiers of the German contingency of the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, withdrew from their base in Kunduz and the camp will be used by the Afghan National Army, ANA, and the Afghan National Civil Order Police, ANCOP AP/Fabrizio Bensch Frontier soldiers run as a storm surge hits the coastline under the influence of Typhoon Fitow in Wenling, Zhejiang province on October 6. China issued a red alert ahead of Fitow, which is expected to lash the east of the country on Sunday evening Reuters/China Daily

Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour, centre, Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, centre left, and other officials pay a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and President Anwar Sadat’s memorial as part of celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the start of the 1973 Middle East war in which Egyptian forces made initial gains against Israel on October 5. AP

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NATIONAL The student wings of the BNP and its key ally Jamaat-e-Islami locked in a chase and counter chase on October 5, during the 18-party public rally at Sylhet’s Aliya Madrasa grounds Dhaka Tribune

Taga, counsellor of the Embassy of Japan, with Arif Sikder, executive director of EC Bangladesh, and Ms. Sharaban Tahura, UNO of Munshiganj Sadar, on October 5, inaugurates the Radio Bikramur in Munshiganj Dhaka Tribune

Pellets used in grenades lie outside the burnt-out hostel of Jamiatul Uloom Al Islamia Madrasa. Police suspect the explosion occurred when the incendiary devices were being made at the madrasa run by Hefazat-e-Islam’s Nayeb-eAmeer Mufti Izharul Islam Chowdhury Dhaka Tribune

Former BNP minister Abdul Alim, sentenced to life in prison by the International Crime Tribunal, is taken to the court on October 9 from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Madical University Hospital . Dhaka Tribune

Fire service members taming a fire at the Aswad Composite Mills of Palmal Group at Gazipur on October 9

Rajib Dhar

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BOTTLED UP

letters to the editor

LETTER

of the week Mapping out Dhaka I

commute daily by bus and was ecstatic to read that we poor passengers might have a bus map on our hands soon. Dhaka buses run on their own set of rules, including starting and stopping almost anywhere at will. Mapping out their routes will of course help instil a sense of coordination. But what the author didn’t really elaborate was how the bus owners and drivers be beholden to the map. Meaning, what’s to stop bus drivers from disregarding the map altogether. n Kamal Ahmed, Mirpur, Dhaka

Say yes to religion I enjoyed reading the WT’s debate on whether the niqab should be banned in public spaces. My two cents is that Bangladesh being a predominantly Muslim country, Islam should not be deemed as an anathema to security issues. Surely, if authorities really want it, wearing a niqab and being a responsible citizen are not mutually exclusive issues. Sadia Rahman Proma Mohammadpur, Dhaka

Painful pictures The WT’s photo feature on the Bangladesh-India border made me realise that even in this day and age, we are still subservient to the politics of our powerful neighbours. When will our politicians realise that Bangladeshi citizens are not puppets in the hands of the Indian border guards? Debashsis Dasgupta Minto Road, Dhaka

Terrific Tedx I was in the audience in both days during Tedx Dhaka, and I was blown away by the ideas and ingenuity that was presented throughout. Hats off to the WT team for giving a nuanced view on the event! Khurshid Alam Baridhara, Dhaka

Send us your feedback at: weekend@dhakatribune.com

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WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?

A bumpy ride I wish to show people that I am with all of them at such a difficult time in our history. President Abdul Hamid

Don’t worry, AL will make sure we have fair polls. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

BNP will not participate if there is no caretaker government!

If they don’t give me a fair fare, I am quitting. Sick and tired of carrying freeloaders! Mr Mango

Mirza Fakrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary of BNP

Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

I am still confident that at the end, major political players will find a way for free, fair and credible election. Dan Mozena, the US Ambassador to Bangladesh

We would like to draw the government’s attention to the restoration of the provision of the non-party caretaker government in the Constitution for free, fair and unhindered polls. Zainul Abdin Farroque, chief whip of the opposition

Today, problems have been created following the caretaker government system. I realise that fair, neutral and controversy-free election is impossible under the current polls system. There is uncertainty whether the election will be held in time. The people of the country will not accept the election if it is held without the participation of all parties. Such an election will not be very credible.

We will do whatever is required to hold a neutral and credible election participated by all political parties. And we are ready to hold talks both inside and outside the Parliament. Mahabub-Ul-Alam Hanif, joint general-secretary of Awami League

HM Ershad, chairman of Jatiya Party W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 1 1 , 20 1 3


6 Joseph Allchin is a senior reporter at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on twitter: @J_Allchin

FEATURE

Competing with Myanmar

Myanmar: The next great economic challenger?

Joseph Allchin deliberates over whether our neighbour poses a real economic threat to Bangladesh

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t was not long ago that a visitor to Yangon would have to navigate the city’s largest market, weighing up which whispering street banker one trusted the most, just to change money. The currency, the kyat, was pegged by the then government to the ludicrous rate of 6.4 Kyat to the dollar, when in actual fact, the market rate fluctuated around 1,000. The government, which is now nominally civilian, accepted the folly in this charade and floated the currency. This move, economically at least, breaks with a half century of destructive denial. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) attributed Myanmar’s progress to an “ambitious

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reform programme” that is now “bearing fruit.” Despite Myanmar’s new-player status, its economy bears significant resemblances to that of Bangladesh, though there are important differences that give Bangladesh Plc. reason for concern. Both countries have GDP growth rates of around 6%, which is generally healthy in a global context. Myanmar’s, however, appears to be rising while Bangladesh’s has fallen in the short term. This could be a cyclical issue: Myanmar is “novel, and constitute[s] for a while, a more attractive narrative to sell to shareholders” according to Professor


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Joseph Allchin/Dhaka Tribune

Sean Turnell of Australia’s Macquarie University. Bangladesh is currently plagued by what Turnell describes as an, “increasingly insufferable ‘governing’ apparatus.”

The 5-year cycle

Bangladesh has weathered storms before, or, as Shadab Sajid of W&W commodities traders describes, “We weather them every five years.” It is a cycle whereby every time there is an election, political instability causes Bangladeshi economy to slow in growth as investors take fright at the sight of our leaders’ attempts to grab power for whatever financial or political gain it can offer.

Garments

Bangladesh, of course, has a trump card: the garments sector.The tragedies of Rana Plaza and Tazreen fashions, however, raise fears that investors may be wary of the image that brand Bangladesh’gives to their products. This is especially so as Bangladesh labours with implementation of regulations and basic legal cases; there have been no arrests made in either the case of the murder of labour organiser, Aminul Islam, or in the case of the owner of Tazreen Fashions, Delwar Hossain. While orders for garments were, according to the Financial Express, down by 30-35% for the spring/summer season, the EU has awarded Myanmar GSP status. The EU is Bangladesh’s single biggest export

destination for RMG. Myanmar also possesses extremely low labour costs, which is possibly the single biggest consideration for the international trade. Moreover, there is concern that with expected wage rises and new compliance obligations, prices in Bangladesh will soon start to rise, as savings are not added as wages go up.

Infrastructure

The garment sector cannot set up in Myanmar over night, and many of the challenges that plague Bangladeshi manufacturers similarly plague Myanmar, namely, as Turnell states, “infrastructure (the world having decided it can live with the country’s politics). Electricity is the big issue here, of course. The cost of generating it privately (very necessary to maintain the production lines required) fast erodes labour cost advantages.” In essence then, both countries now have a challenge: to provide their countries with electricity and transport. As a result, the Padma Bridge experience is worrying. Corruption is a major issue in Myanmar too, but foreign stakeholders have not had their fingers burnt yet, since the Myanmar government stopped servicing loans from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the late 1980s (which resulted in a freeze in lending from the major multinational financiers such as the World Bank and the ADB). The enthusiasm for Myanmar has meant that a slew of foreign

governments and corporations have stepped in to look at infrastructure, a move that could see Myanmar not only possessing similarly cheap labour costs, but also working systems and services. It is early days yet for Myanmar, but a comparison between a proposed Tata industrial estate in Bangladesh, which was shelved in 2008, and projects such as the Thilawa port near Yangon, are worth making. The Tata project would have been one of Bangladesh’s largest foreign direct investments, with a steel plant, two power plants and a fertiliser plant. It was shelved, allegedly, because of an anti-India bias here. The Thilawa port and the proposed Dawei project are two foreign-led port and industrial estate projects that aim to produce transport hubs in Myanmar. Thilawa is Japanese-led and Dawei Thai-led, with potential Japanese funding. While Myanmar and Thailand share neighbourly rivalries and a troubled history, Dawei is not being stifled by such animosities, but rather the over ambition of its Thai creators.

The countries share a great many virtues as well as vices, that grant each potential. [Myanmar] is the coming nation. Of course, the foundations and institutions are little better, but they are novel and constitute for a while a better narrative to sell to shareholders. Professor Sean Turnell

Good neighbours?

Myanmar has a large advantage here. Her neighbourhood, while far from being a bed of roses, is far more functional than Bangladesh’s. Myanmar, for all its political problems, does not have political parties that are defined by their animosity to its neighbours. There is a common suspicion of China, but Myanmar can W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 1 1 , 20 1 3


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FEATURE

Competing with Myanmar

Dawei Dawei port is planned to be one of Southeast Asia’s largest deepwater ports. Dawei, located on the Malay Peninsula, is extremely close to Thailand’s industrial heartland and bypasses the longer route via Singapore. Thai engineering firm Ital-Thai is attempting to develop the project. However, the plan has stalled over funding commitments. Japan has considered investing in the project, but this has not been

Leptadaung mine fully confirmed, with the Japanese appearing to look instead to the Thilawa port and special economic zone project much nearer to Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon. The Asian Development Bank however, has committed to finance infrastructure crucial to Dawei’s viability and meetings are in progress to re-engage Japan’s funding commitments.

This giant copper mine in Sagaing division has, in many ways, become a symbol of modern Myanmar’s economic development. Bitterly opposed by local residents this giant military-Chinese joint project was due to be expanded before protests erupted, only to be brutally suppressed by para military police. The mine used to be owned by the Canadian mining multinational, Ivanhoe, before it was forced to sell

Bank estimating that much bilateral trade may be illegal.

Tourism

Tourism is another sector where Myanmar will likely see doubledigit growth while Bangladesh will lag. Myanmar’s tourism sector has boomed since the country had its apparent opening to the world. The country is far less densely populated than Bangladesh, and so has more of the rural idyll to offer. Though Myanmar has bigoted politicians, it does not have parties or mass movements that call for men and women not to mingle in public: which would be an obvious joy kill for any family holiday. The country’s acceptance meanwhile of leisure activities such as drinking or peacefulness, also gives it an edge over Bangladesh. Tourism may not seem like a decisive industry but can be extremely potent for developing economies, offering it, mass, lowskilled employment and export earnings with little complex planning needed. play that huge power in the north off against countries within the ASEAN bloc. Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, for instance, offer huge potential for FDI, not least because the ASEAN free trade area will take root in Myanmar as of 2015. While this may cause longer-term internal deficiencies, in the medium term, this will provide steady and potentially decisive investment. Myanmar planners confide that it will be a race against time to equip the country’s businesses to be ready for this transition; Myanmar companies are hungry to absorb skills and capacity ready for this new-found exposure to one of the largest single markets on earth. India, for its part, is not an ideal neighbour to either country. However, Bangladesh is much more wedded to

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it by geography and history. Indicative of it being a poor neighbour is the relative speed with which Indian hydro projects have progressed in Myanmar compared to their Chinese counterparts, and India’s flip flopping with regards to their Myanmar stance. In the 1990s India supported Myanmar’s democracy movement, but over night, in 1998, became accustomed to working at the behest of the Myanmar military intelligence to ruthlessly suppress opposition. Regressive trade policies between ASEAN and Myanmar, and India and Bangladesh also stand in stark contrast. While Bangladeshi politicians block Indian transit to their northeast, Indian politicians place prohibitive non-tariff barriers on Bangladesh, which sees a huge trade deficit in favour of India; the World

Remittances

Bangladesh, of course, has an answer in the form of remittances which keep Bangladesh’s current account rosy, even as we experience capital flight equivalent to about double yearly FDI inflows, partly a result of our five-year cycle of political instability. Remittances also help Myanmar, but are, until now, largely off the books, partly as a result of the lack of financial institutions which say the IMF is another sector in which Myanmar will experience double-digit growth. However, the Bangladeshi tradition of exporting labour will take some catching up to, particularly given the strong and organised links that the country has to the Middle Eastern petro states; relationships that Myanmar has still to foster.

its stake to China’s Norinco. The deal was said to have been hugely lucrative to intermediaries such as military crony businessman, Tay Zar.

Natural resources: curse or cure?

Myanmar has been kept afloat by an enviable natural endowment in the form of natural gas, timber, gems, and other minerals. Much of this has been wasted already. The Yadana pipeline carries gas to Thailand, yet much of the profits have been spent on building the new capital, Naypyidaw, and the military, which numbers around half a million men. Profits were allegedly pilfered via a scam involving the country’s fake exchange rate: in the books, the gas profits were accounted for at the rate of 6.4 Kyat to the dollar, when in reality it was sold for the more realistic market exchange rate of around 1,000. However, this exchange rate scam has now ended and according to the US Energy Information Agency, Myanmar has 10 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves whilst Bangladesh has 6.49. This has meant an in-rush of foreign multinationals into Myanmar, eager to exploit the reserves, contrasting with a slowing of enthusiasm toward Bangladesh. This will only be decisive if Myanmar can now equitably spend those profits, by no means a given, even in a democracy. The example of the UK and Norway is salient. While they split the same hydrocarbon bounty in the North Sea, the UK has suffered growing inequality, de-industrialisation, and two recessions since striking oil. Norway, by comparison, has attained the highest living standards on earth, and its state pension fund is the largest owner of equity in the EU. The challenge therefore, for both countries, will be management of natural bounty. This could be decisive and, in this respect, Bangladesh could learn from the mistakes Myanmar has already made: spending money on infrastructure for the gas or electricity industries, as opposed to a submarine for the vanity industry, for instance.


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Myitsone hydroelectric dam

The Shwe gas pipeline

The Myitsone dam in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state was due to supply rapidly growing demand from nearby Yunnan State in China. Built on the nation’s arterial river, the Irrawaddy, this has become a test case for democratic reform, President Thein Sein won activist plaudits for suspending the work, but suspicion still lingers that the project will restart. Built entirely on Chinese money, its electricity would serve

Testimony to China’s ambitions in the region, this twin pipeline traverses the entire country carrying Bay of Bengal gas from Rakhine state and Middle Eastern Oil to Kunming, capital of the neighbouring Yunnan province. The gas pipeline was completed this year after enduring years of criticism for land seizures along its route. However, for China, this is both strategic and economic, as this enables around 200,000

Reality check

The picture for Bangladesh can at times appear gloomy, but there are bright spots. Arguably, Bangladesh has been through the worst of its troubled birth. The World Bank notes, for instance, “remarkable progress,” in eliminating extreme poverty. The same apolitical efforts must now be applied to attaining middle-income status. There are green shoots in this respect; in the diversification in manufacturing, ships have quietly left Bangladeshi shipyards, heading to foreign buyers, while the pharmaceutical sector shows

China for its first 20 years before being turned over to the domestic market. The suspension was also seen as symbolic of Myanmar’s foreign policy shift, away from stark reliance on aggressive Chinese expansion in the region.

growing promise, and the prospect of electronics assembly also rears its head. Success in manufacturing is a tribute to the country and its workers, and this must be built on to move up the ‘food chain’ and has been the classic route that Asian economies have developed to reach the top. This will be the best way to face stiff competition from our neighbours, but it will take a shift in political leadership to move beyond the bargain basement. The IMF predicts that Bangladesh’s GDP growth rate will slip below 6%, while the ministry of finance predicts

it will reach over 7%. If there wasn’t the scent of a power struggle in the air, Finance Minister Muhith’s prediction could be plausible. This is perhaps indicative of the problem: in the same way the Burmese generals pulled up their boots and admitted that their currency wasn’t worth 6.4 to the dollar, it is time for Bangladesh’s politicians to sell economic reality, as opposed to vindictive squabble. n

barrels of Saudi oil a day (a total of 6% of the country’s total oil imports) to be pumped directly into its under developed west, while also minimising, to a small degree, the country’s reliance on the congested and easily blockable straights of Malacca.

Bangladesh Population 163 million

GDP (Purchasing power Parity) $311 bn GDP per capita (PPP) $2,100 Urban population 28.4% Infant mortality rate 47.3/1000 births Foreign exchange reserves $12.75 bn

Myanmar Population 55.7 million GDP (PPP) $90.93 bn GDP per capita (PPP) $1,400 Urban population 32.6% Infant mortality rate 46.31/1000 births Foreign exchange reserves $7.551 bn Source: CIA World Factbook

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POST-RIPOSTE

Celebrating Eid

Home or away?

As Eid draws closer, the WT team deliberates over where to spend the holidays

Town mouse Faruq Hasan

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mpty streets, no traffic jam, no noise pollution, getting to appointments five minutes early, and a profound realisation that Dhaka is a very small city. No, this is not the first line to my unfinished novel, but an actual description of what Dhaka looks like for an entire week during Eid vacation; what it should be like always, instead of what it is like for 50 weeks in a year. And yet, Dhaka residents leave behind a veritable paradise for foreign shores during Eid. Get to your grandmother’s house in Eskaton from your Gulshan residence in 15 minutes. Take a rickshaw to Gausia

to get some post-Eid shopping done: nothing could be easier. Or cuddle up with your favourite snacks and maybe watch “Ittyadi,” “Chhayachhondo,” “Mon Er Mukut,” or other hidden BTV

gems that only reappear during Eid TV programming, because there is no load-shedding at all for the next 10 days. This is the one grace period (or two,

since we also have another Eid to look forward to) where Dhaka transforms into a pleasant surprise. So why leave? n

Illustrations: Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

Country mouse Shah Nahian

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here’s not much to do in Dhaka. When going out with friends over the weekend (to a place you’ve been to at least a thousand

times before), we end up spending a significant amount of time just stuck in traffic. The rest of the week we’re forced to endure the pollution, the

noise, the much more severe traffic congestions, work and the same old monotonous routine. Any excuse is good enough to break away from all this. And when you add dirty, bloody streets, the smell of death in the air, and the promise of spending more time at the same trendy, overcrowded venues to this already atrocious concoction, it is hardly ideal. Why spend your holidays this way when you can do it better? Now think about escaping to somewhere peaceful, away from the city, away from the carnage. Think about spending time with your close friends and family, getting to see and do things you can’t do any other day of the week and just breaking out of a very repetitive trend. Do you really need any more reasons to spend Eid outside of Dhaka? n


TOP 10

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Things to do in Eid

Enjoy the break!

As Eid-ul-Azha approaches, Shah Nahian lists the best ways you can spend the holidays. Stay safe, drive safe and enjoy all the delightful red-meat delicacies. Eid Mubarak!

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Work

So, it’s supposed to be a time away from work stress. But why not make the most of the shutdown to finish overdue work or even get ahead? That way, when life resumes after Eid, you’ll be able take things easy for the next couple weeks.

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Travel around town

It is not every day that you get to commute around Dhaka city with barely any traffic on the street. Make the most of the decongestion - strap on the running shoes or hop on your bike!

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Have a sleep in

With all schools and offices closed, why not take this opportunity to knock off the alarm, wake up really late and take everything slow. You never know when will be the next time you’re presented with such freedom.

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Distribute the qurbani meat

Enjoy a great feeling of satisfaction by distributing the meat to the poor. Feeding the hungry and to be able to bring a smile to their faces, even if it’s for just once every year, is always admirable and something to be proud of.

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Visit relatives

Eid is not complete without visiting all your relatives. So why not take the opportunity to visit the aunts, uncles, and cousins that you don’t get to see all that often? They are sure to be pleased to see you!

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Watch Eid specials

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It might not be possible to spend time with your friends and family, so venturing to a foreign land during eid can be the next best thing. You could be celebrating the religious holiday a world away from how we do it here in Bangladesh.

Why not organise or invite yourself to a party, and spend the whole day with good food, music, and have all the important people in your life under just one roof. You could throw or join the best party ever!

Going abroad

Shah Nahian is a staff writer at Dhaka tribune with a passion for music and art. When he’s not being forced to work, he spends his time daydreaming and hanging out with friends

Host/go to a party

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Dinner with friends and family

Eid-ul-Azha is usually associated with a lot of work and responsibilities. However, even after bearing the heaviest of workloads, you can still wash away all that stress and end your days by going out with your family/friends for a nice meal, fun conversations, and playful banter.

Spending the days watching the very best of what the Bangladeshi television networks have to offer is not a bad way of spending Eid. You can kick back and relax in front of TV shows of various genres, including programmes like Ityadi.

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Comforts of the home town

The definition of having a good Eid is going back to your home town and spending the special holiday with your loved ones. It’s the perfect formula for getting away from all the traffic, the pollution, and the noise of the city. The getaway is peaceful and you can spend the days doing things you normally wouldn’t be able to during a normal week. n

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Big Mouth strikes again

Naheed Kamal

Smallness of imagination Naheed Kamal is an irreverent and irreligious feminist. An old soul of indeterminate age, with one too many opinions and a very loud voice (for a little person), she laughs a lot, mostly at herself. She lives in Dhaka, against her best judgement. Mostly, Ms Kamal rants, a lot!

When Muslims reacted violently to the Dutch cartoon, the mediocre film, there was the incident at Ramu, and many others all the way to Salman Rushdie and ‘The Satanic Verses.’ What does it say about Muslims? Their capacity to take offence has reached epic proportions

The eye that sees no farther than its own lashes

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friend once called me a bigot; I have been called worse, so it didn’t bother me. I have endured insults to my intelligence, questions over my capacity for reasoning, and assumptions about what I was supposedly doing/thinking/feeling. The next day after the bigot comment, a message on Facebook appeared. I did not read it immediately despite spending half the evening listening to people tell me what I was thinking, as if I don’t know my thoughts. The same lazy assumptions were repeated in the messages. If you can’t respect another person’s views without reverting to lazy assumptions, then I don’t want to know anything you have to say. I should have taken offence and sought to end the silly matter when I was told I am offended by religion because I am an atheist. I found it all so laughable, but being labelled a bigot – that was one great leap. I am still laughing. As a rule, I refrain from debates and dialogues with believers because, from my experience, they are more like inquisitions: questions, interjections and declarations, unwanted answers, personal attacks and insults – all riveting stuff. I admit I laugh at people who take themselves and their beliefs too seriously, and I find it quite hilarious when they make ridiculous comments about me based on their religious beliefs. Theists seem to be oblivious to the fact that not all atheists are interested in baiting believers; just because Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens hurt your religious sentiments, does not mean you should have a go at me! The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a bigot as “obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who regards or treats the members of a group with hatred and intolerance”. But I can see why my friend with his absolute beliefs would call me a bigot. It could be because I question everything, which is not always welcomed by people

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who are convinced they are right and will broach no doubts, give no explanations, and react belligerently to any asking for answers to awkward questions. I may be many things, I am a total bitch, but a bigot? Certainly not. People struggle when it comes to the right “not” to have someone’s religion and beliefs and opinions imposed on others. It should take a whole lot more to threaten beliefs and offend religious sentiments, but any excuse will do. Isn’t it absurd that such strong belief systems and such firm believers are so easily threatened by satire and laughter? Before people started to take offence, they had a sense of humour. Now everyone is pissed off all the time. I am shocked still have to explain where I stand. I refer back to my column that warned: “Do not read if you are easily offended”? (Issue 3 of the Weekend, May 3). The author Salman Rushdie, who offended a whole bunch of people and nations, was at the Edinburgh festival this August, when he criticised the rise of religious and political tribalism and how people now define themselves by what they hate. He used a turn of phrase that made me laugh out loud: “That what defines you is what pisses you off. And if nothing pisses you off, who are you?” The Urban Dictionary says a believer is “someone who rejects logic and fact in exchange for faith in fairy tales, mythology, and misinformation; which they wrongly declare as truth.” Because believers are taught they don’t have a choice, they must believe any old tosh. Here’s an idea: you do have free will, so let’s try and exercise it a little. I use rational thought and freedom of choice for my mental workouts, do you want to be my gym buddy? No? Can’t do it. Perhaps that is why so many believers feel weak and vulnerable. When people say they are offended, they mean they feel insulted or disrespected because they have been mistreated or snubbed. There are people we meet and must endure daily who are unprincipled and mean-

I admit there’s room for debate: I may have become extremely sensitive towards religions and to people manifesting their religious allegiance because they are so easily provoked. My reactions say a lot about me, and knowing what I know, it is hard to dissociate any religion from its history and context spirited enough to do and say offensive things. If we are offended, it is because we choose to be so; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed by someone, or something, on anyone. An atheist’s strength lies in generosity; knowing what I don’t know, I am empowered by my knowledge and experience, so I am in a position to be gracious. With blind faith, there comes a degree of ignorance and arrogance, a smallness of imagination, shaped by being taught not to question god’s will. Because so often religions play on people’s fears and insecurities, and religious differences always lead to bloodshed, we must learn to agree to disagree about matters we take so personally. In my opinion, the three main religions are intellectually dishonest, socially manipulative, and sexually discriminatory. That’s my opinion and I ask you to respect it, because I respect your right to believe in a god of your choice, and I respect these rights and your freedom to choose to believe in a religion. I would defend these rights and freedoms, even if you don’t respect my right and freedom not to believe. There are too many aspects without rational explanations that make religions irrelevant, making the tenets incompatible with our world, where I have the freedom and reserve the right to say what I think, to mock a social phenomenon, such as a religion, and to say things about it that some may find offensive. People are free to do the same to me and pick holes in my lack of beliefs. Believe me, I won’t take offence. n


PHOTO STORY

13

Darasbari Mosque

A special pilgrimage PHOTO STORY BY

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SYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

he Darasbari mosque is one of the two jami mosques of Gaur. It is situated about one kilometre to the south-west of the Kotwali Gate and about 500 metres to the west of the Chhota Sona mosque in Chapai Nawabganj. According to an inscription, this brick built mosque was constructed by the restored Iliyas Shahi sultan Shamsuddin Yusuf Shah, the son of Barbak Shah, in 1479. Time, weather, and locals pillaging for building materials have severely damaged the mosque and it is at present without a roof and has a fallen verandah. In size, it is the third largest mosque in the city of

Gaur-Lakhnauti after Bara Sona and Guntanta mosque. It was ornamented by terracotta plaques. Some terracotta plaques are still visible on the western and southern outer wall surfaces, under the cornice. The architecture of this mosque is interesting because it successfully integrates the influences of many of its contemporaries; the most discernible being that of the great Adina mosque in Pandua. This connection is reflected in the Darasbari mosque’s simple decoration and the ground plan of the excavated madrasa associated with the mosque. n

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PHOTO STORY Darasbari Mosque

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PHOTO STORY Darasbari Mosque

Syed Zakir Hossain is the chief photographer at Dhaka Tribune

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 11 , 2013


EVERYDAY ECONOMIST

17

Gorur haat calculations

The cow and why

Souvik Aswad is an inquisitive observer who likes to fuse economic theories with human behaviour and watches the outcome with enthusiasm. Anyone who thinks he is writing nonsense is welcome to shout at souvikaswad@gmail. com

Souvik Aswad explains cattle market economics

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urbani is back. Oh, how I’ve missed it! The amazing fragrance of freshly cooked meat, the mind-blowing taste of just prepared beef, the thankful pleasure of dining with the family – the countdown to the cattle buying extravaganza has begun. When granddads, fathers and sons flock to the market, they bargain and they holler. They become shocked at some prices, and they laugh inside at others. Always they wonder, why is it one price today and something else tomorrow? Why do prices fluctuate so much? It is time to uncover the cow and why. This week, I have watched how the prices of cattle heaves up and down as time progresses towards the much awaited Eid-ul-Azha. At the beginning of the week, cattle dealers and owners were upping their prices in the hope of getting good deals. As the week progressed, however, the market value of cattle dropped. Next week, expect to see prices stoop to their lowest two-tothree days before Eid, before rising once more until the midnight before Eid day. Then something incredible happens: the price drops again, and keeps plummeting for every passing moment before Eid morning as dealers rush to clear their stocks. For unorthodox activity like the once a year sale of cattle, why does the price fluctuate so much in the haats? The key to understanding cattle market economics is acknowledging the role human expectations play in determining market price. If people expect the price to be high, dealers set the price high. The opposite is also true because when people believe the price will be low, dealers cannot go in too high with their opening price. Although obvious, the implications of this theory are wonderful to observe. Prices invariably start high, but as market days pass traders realise they are not selling enough to make the amount of profit they envision. Many buyers in turn take a tactic of waiting and watching until the market price comes down. These two conditions together lower the price of cattle to the point where both the buyers and

sellers expectations are met. The lowprice period continues until two-tothree days before Eid day. But when traders feel the slow trickle of customers becoming a stampede, the price goes up again to maintain balance between this aggravated demand but almost static supply. Traders as a result hike up the price to maximise revenues. After midnight before Eid Day, however, the sellers begin to realise they still have a lot of unsold cattle. Having spent so much money transporting their stock to haats, and spending on their own lodgings, the traders want to at least recoup their unit cost investment before they move out. Hence they try to sell off their cattle at whatever price they can above cost. If everyone flocked to the market after midnight to grab themselves a bovine bargain, would they all get that ultra-low price? The answer is no, because the reason prices fall after midnight is that demand drops below

supply. If demand held up, so would the price. So now you know. When you embark on the adventure of bringing home the best cow and goat you can lay your hands on this weekend and

next week, just pause for a moment. Look into the eyes of the trader, and allow yourself a smile. Because now you know what they’re thinking; but will they know what you are? n

Snippets According to most daily newspapers, almost 60% of the trade in cattle markets happens between three days before Eid day until Eid evening.

Prices can fluctuate as much as 40% in the first week of operations in the cattle market

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PICK OF THE WEEK

Eid Snippet

The many faces of Eid Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis

Faisal Mahmud finds out what it takes to prepare for the various businesses centring Eid-ul-Azha

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ith just a few days to go until Eid-ul-Azha, Dhaka has gotten busier than usual. Interestingly enough, it’s not just the cattle traders who are getting ready for this year’s festivities.

A field day for a few

The road on the right of Bhola Mia’s paan shop at Bibir Bazar in Kamrangir Char, which is normally abuzz with industrious activities, has been quiet for the past few days. Occasionally, one would hear the hissing sound of the sharpening of knives, boti (bill-hooked cutters), meat cleavers, choppers, axes and such. This, after all, is home to some 2,000 boti dharwalas – people who sharpen boti and knives. Aloke Karmakar, 64, who has been running a kitchenware shop for the last 20 years, says: “Normally, mostly butchers come to my shop to sharpen their tools. But ahead of Eid-ul-Azha, most knife-sharpeners mount their grinders on a wooden frame and leave this place for the city in order to meet the huge demand. They provide doorto-door services, as people need their knives and cutters prepared for the occasion.” The dharwalas usually earn Tk2,000 per day at this time of year, as opposed to the Tk300 they make on regular days. When asked why he isn’t out, Karmakar says two of his employees have gone on his behalf. “I am too old for this now,” he replies with a broad grin.

Seasonal business

Fakhrul Alam, 42, is a boatman who ferries people across the Shitalakhya River. For a week every Eid, he changes his profession and sells seasonal grass, hay, lentil husk and wheat husk. He does this because “it’s good money.” Alam has been selling this kind of cattle food in the capital during Eid-ulAzha for the last 10 years. He got the idea for this business when he used to ferry around people bringing cattle food from countryside to the capital ahead of Eid. “I talked with some of them and found out that it’s a good business, so I decided to join in,” he says. According to Alam, this year’s price for each bundle of green grass is Tk15, while for each bundle of hay it’s Tk30. A branch of jackfruit leaves and a bundle of mango leaves also cost about Tk20; lentil husks cost Tk30 W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 11 , 2013

Photos: Quamrul Abedin

Work, profits, and efficiency are synonymous with Eid for some Dhaka residents. While we frolic, they continue making a living


19 they bought for the earlier festival. “There is hardly any time to show off new clothes on Eid day. I have to take care of the sacrifice and then prepare the meat,” says Golam Morshed, an investment banker, adding: “Besides, a panjabi is not something that I would wear on a regular basis, so last Eid’s clothes will do for this one as well.” Iftekhar, an employee at Calcutta Dry Cleaners in Dhanmondi, says business is better than ever during Eidul-Azha. “While we get lots of orders for dry-washing panjabis before Eid, it’s really after the festival, with all the blood-stained clothes, that we become deluged,” he says. Tailoring shops for women are also benefitting, as Mizan, a tailor at New Style in Jhigatola, clarifies: “We were booked solid two weeks ago with delivery deadlines, as late as the eve of Eid. We haven’t been taking new orders for days.” a kg, and wheat husks cost around Tk45 a kg. He explains why this move is more profitable: “I usually make Tk1,500-3,000 daily during the last week before Eid-ul-Azha, depending on which qurbani haat I have access to. Usually, the business is good in front of large qurbani haats like Gabtoli, Agargaon and Chankher Pool.” Alam says he brings the grass and hay from Narayanganj and Bikrampur. His brother also helps, as he has a van.

Gourmet’s choice

While inflation eats away at the daily kitchen budget, ground spices remain the gourmet’s choice for preparing the delicious delicacies of Eid-ul-Azha. The going rate of a traditional stone grinder at Kotowali wholesale market reaffirms this, and the hundred or so stone grinder shops located there have been doing brisk business over the past couple of days. Ayan Biswas, 27, owner of one such shop, says the medium-sized grinders are the most in demand, but they have all the sizes. “A medium grinder costs about Tk280 per piece,” he says, adding that the large one costs Tk400, while the smallest goes for Tk100. “I sold about 30 stone grinders yesterday,” Biswas says. “Business is good at this time of year; apart from buying a new one, many people also come here to fix and polish their old grinders.”

After cows go, the dung comes handy

Eid-ul-Azha is also business for non-Muslims alike. Meet Dhiraj, for instance. If you think cleaning the mess is not a thing to like, you haven’t met Dhiraj yet. “I collect cattle faeces from the qurbani haata,” he says. “I pile it at one corner of the haat and gather it in a large basket later.” Yes, nothing at qurbani haat goes to waste, not even the dung. Workers like Dhiraj clean the shallow drains that run between the rows of cattle. He says the dung will later be dried and made into dung cakes, called ghute. “Cow dung cakes have a great demand in slums areas as fuel for cooking,” Dhiraj will also sell the dung to fisheries to be used as feed. Eid, it seems, is never immune to entrepreneurs. n

lucrative.” By profession, he is a furniture maker who works with bamboo and cane. On the other hand, people like Suruz Ali buy khaitta and chatai from wholesale markets like Shakhari Bazar and then sell these in vans in front of qurbani haats or regular markets before Eid. “People across the capital don’t have time to visit here (Shakhari Bazar) to buy these things,” Ali says, “so I take them to their doorsteps.” According to Ali, this year a khaitta will cost between Tk250-350, while a chatai will retail betweenTk100-250.

For that last wash

The running tailoring shops are not the only ones experiencing a boom in business; the laundry owners cannot complain as well. With Eid-ul-Azha following close on the heels of Eid-ulFitr, most men are re-using the panjabi

Khaitta, Chatai

Shakhari Bazar is famous for selling two popular Eid items: khaitta, a chopped circular wooden piece used to chop the meat, and chatai, a mat woven from reeds to keep the meat on. Usually the principal buyers are the butchers from nearby Koshaituli, but during the last couple of Eid days, these are sold all around the city. Altaf Mia has brought over 600 chatai for this Eid from Shibpur, Narsingdi. “For the last one month, we have been preparing these to meet the Eid demands,” he says, “because selling chatai during this time is more W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 1 1 , 20 1 3


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6o of connotations

Nilufer Ahmed is a columnist and a profound thinker. She has travelled widely and gained unique exposure to varied cultures, societies and intellectual lives, trying to absorbing the best of the east and west

Nilufer Ahmed

A mermaid’s tale

With shattered dreams, she keeps waiting for better days

S

he sat on a rock – a beautiful mermaid, with black, waistlength hair, looking on wistfully with her big, black eyes at the dark ocean stretching far into the horizon. Waves came and went, bringing with them tales from the faraway lands. Her world was underneath her rock, a world she knew and loved as her home. And day after day, she surfaced and waited for her prince. But he didn’t come. Every day, Princess Parul, the mermaid, sat on the rock and stared at the foamy waves, crashing by her blue-green tail. There was an old witch living inside a cave deep in the waters, who had promised her legs like the humans. But she would never be able to come back to the Sea World – her home – again. She had been born with legs when they lived in Shundor Desh hundreds of years ago. She had a tail now: it was shimmery, matching her crown of seashells that dazzled in the sunlight and sparkled in the moonlight. Then the big Black Wave came, flooding the land, hills, forests, buildings and palaces, and they were all turned into sea creatures – mermaids, dolphins and sea horses. Her father, the sea king, said this was once a bay with a beautiful sandy beach where the humans came with their children. She had heard all about the humans, who were her ancestors, and who had lived on the land instead of the Sea World. All she could do was swim from her father’s palace at the bottom of the sea, to the rock where she would sit and watch the ships, all lit up, sailing away to the faraway lands, where she dreamed of going one day. The sea king lived in a palace that was, once upon a time, called the Round Parliament. This was where the people gathered and discussed everything under the sun, except for

If Parul had human legs, she could have gone up the hills and climbed the snow-capped mountains. She could have joined her handsome prince on a beautiful, white horse and galloped away before the Black Wave came

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how to bring about peace. They argued and fought all the time about some issue or the other. It was the perfect place for her to play hide and seek with her friends from the underwater world. Her father was a good man who wanted to make Sea World a country of abundance – one where women and children were looked after and there was plenty for everyone to eat and be happy. In the Sea World, there was no poverty and want. The king made sure the big, bad guys did not bully – or kill – the small fishes. They went about in groups so that they could be safe. The sea king had three queens. He gave two of his queens two palaces: The Red Bagh Palace for the elder, and the Shonar Prashad, about 2,000 laps away from the Red Bagh Palace, to the younger. The youngest queen, Princess Parul’s mother, was given Bongo Palace, which was perfect for her, as this was near the Round Parliament where the king lived. Much to his regret, the sea king didn’t have any son. Princess Parul missed having brothers, so when she asked her mother’s midwife, she came to know a story. The king had gone to the nearby Shundor Forest where a sage had given him a mango for the three queens to eat, so that they could give birth to his heirs. The Shundor Forest was the biggest forest in the land, and there were tigers of the rarest kind, beautiful trees, and animals who were happy and wandered around in the great, big wilderness. The king gave the mango to the three queens to share equally. According to the midwife, the two elder, jealous queens ate the mango and gave the peel to the youngest queen, whom the king loved the most. Ironically enough, the youngest queen gave birth to seven boys! When they were born, the two older queens stole the babies buried them in the garden outside the Round Parliament. After a fortnight, a tree bearing seven champa flowers grew on that very spot. When the queens left with the baby boys, the youngest queen gave birth to a baby girl – Parul – and passed away. The two jealous queens did not know of her. The midwife hid the baby girl and cared for her, and so no one knew about her except the king. He taught Parul about the sea and the humans, who had lived in the palaces and the houses, and had so many cars that took them all over the country. She learned about the people fighting

The king became sad while telling the story to Parul. He said the greedy people had committed an excess of sins, and the gods were angry. He said he missed his youngest queen, because she was the only one who had made him very happy inside the Round Parliament, and the White Palace of Justice where wrongdoers were punished according to the laws of the land. Shundor Desh was a country where, hundreds of years ago, sages and saints had lived and wise men preached about being good and doing away with evil. The forests had plenty of trees that bore fruits, had animals and birds, and had hundreds of rivers that flowed from the the mountains into the sea, making it the most fertile land ever. Merchants from all over the world came to trade and, over the years, settled down, since they loved the rich soil and the wealth of resources that Shundor Desh had. Parul had heard her father saying there was gold deep within the land in Shundor Desh. Everyone in that country was happy. But it so happened that some evil, greedy people started grabbing land and even parts of the rivers, from where people used to generate electric power and formed a livelihood from the bounty of fish. Fighting and killing started between the land grabbers and the people living beside the rivers. The land grabbers became rich overnight and the poor people got poorer. Some of them turned to begging. There were beggars everywhere. What’s more, foreign invaders started plundering the resources and killing the people of Shundor Desh. Then the Black Wave came crashing towards the land, and all was lost. Nothing could be seen except the water and the mountains in the north. Shundor Desh and the bordering countries went under the water. The palaces of the rich and the houses and forests remained intact as testament for Shundor Desh’s history. The songs of the whales and the sirens are now only heard by the sea creatures, the mermaids, and Princess Parul and her father, the sea king. n


CRIME FILE

21

Murder at Kamalapur Railway Station

Death in the vault

Adil Sakhawat investigates the killing of a railway staff member at Kamalapur

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Profile

nidentified miscreants allegedly murdered Mohammad Israfil Hossain, 59, a contractual ticket-booking assistant of Bangladesh Railway who worked at the Kamalapur Railway Station. They also looted over Tk1.7m, which had been earned from ticket sales on 4 October. The police recovered his body from inside the vault, which is covered by four layers of security, during the early hours of 5 October.

Mohammad Israfil hailed from Singair, Manikgaunj. He was born in 1954. After his SSC in 1970, he joined the East Pakistan Railway, where he worked for 41 years, before retiring in 2011. His honesty and sincerity ensured reappointment as a contractual ticket-booking assistant with Bangladesh Railway. Surviving him are his wife, Sayeda Begum, 50, and his two daughters, Taslina Akter, 32, who is a computer engineer, and Tania Akter, 30, who is a doctor. Photos: Chanchal Kamal

First police on site

“Israfil’s body was found in a place protected by a wooden door and three collapsible gates. The rail-line police are not even allowed to enter there. After killing Israfil, those marauders have also looted money from the vault. It seems that this murder happened simply as a repercussion to the looting.” Mohammad Abdul Majid, officer in–charge, Railway Police, Kamalapur

Lead Investigator

“We are investigating how the assailants had entered the room, crossing a wooden door and three collapsible gates. It is difficult for someone to breach such heightened security. Only railway clerks and officials are allowed into the area. We have also collected the close-circuit

camera footage and the Israfil’s mobile call list.” “I cannot give out any more information until our investigation is finished. The Detective Branch (DB) and Crime Investigation Department (CID) of police are also investigating the matter.” Rafiqul Islam, sub inspector, Railway Police, Kamalapur “Three railway employees are being watched and we have already interrogated six officials and booking clerks about the matter.” A police official, Railway police, Kamalapur, requesting anonymity

Witness

“Look, this is a simple issue. Being a normal, third grade employee of Bangladesh railway, I can understand the motive behind this murder; so why can’t the police? We all know about Israfil’s

honesty and simplicity. Today it’s Israfil, tomorrow it could be any one of us.” A railway staff member, requesting anonymity

Prime suspect

“Jahangir, a railway staff, was caught redhanded with train tickets which he wanted to sell in the black market and Israfil had provided the information which led to the capture of Jahangir. The latter was temporarily suspended for his actions, and this could easily be a motive for murder.” A railway staff, requesting anonymity “We have finally arrested one Md Liton alias ‘Kata’ Liton as a suspect in the murder of Israfil Hossain.” “The arrested youth is a vagabond and has already been accused in at least one other murder and several other cases. He has been sent to a Dhaka court, seeking a 10-day remand.” “Although Liton is not an employee of the railway, he was used to live in the station area.He also used to visit almost all the offices and rooms at the station.” Nazrul Islam, superintendent, Railway Police

The victims’ family “Employees of the railway who have access to the place may have committed the murder while looting. Some days ago, my father told me to buy him a new mobile SIM card as he was

being disturbed by phone calls from many people asking him to arrange tickets for them.” “My father had no personal clash with anyone. Of course, someone from the ticket booking section might have killed my father because he was simply too honest, and didn’t support the black market ticket sales scam. Even after retirement, Bangladesh railway hired him on a contractual basis because he was such an honest employee. We, the family members, are really astonished as to why the culprits have not been arrested yet; we want capital punishment for the murderer.” Dr. Tania Akter, Israfil’s second daughter

The railway authorities

“The victim was in charge of the ticket sales money. He used to spend the night at the station and leave at dawn after handing over the money. He was sleeping in a small room beside the counter, and around Tk1.7m from Friday’s ticket sale was with him. “We were astonished to see that the other locker at the counter next to the murder site had almost Tk1m, and yet that locker was untouched. A committee headed by the Railway Ministry’s Joint Secretary, Shashi Kumar Singh, has been formed to investigate the murder and looting.” “Station master, Sakhawat Hossain Khan has filed a case with the Kamalapur railway police.” Khairul Bashar, station manager, Kamalapur Railway Station

Adil Sakhawat reports on crime for Dhaka Tribune. Any information can be sent at weekend@ dhakatribune.com

Crime timeline October 4

10 pm Israfil starts work at Kamalapur Railway Station

October 5

12 am – 3am This is the suspected time span in which Israfil was murdered 5 am Morning shift staff enters the room and sees Israfil lying on the floor next to an open vault, with a piece of cloth tied around his neck 5.30 am Law enforcers arrive on the spot and recover the body 9 am Railway Minister, Muzibul Haque, along with other railway authorities, visit the spot 9.30 am The station authorities suspend six security guards and four railway police personnel 9.45 am Railway Minister orders the institution of two probe committees and asks that they submit their reports within the next three days 10 am Israfil’s body is sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital for an autopsy 3 pm The body is taken to Kamalapur Railway Station for the namaaz-a-janaza 6 pm Israfil’s body is laid to rest at Singair, Manikganj

October 7

Md Liton alias ‘Kata’ Liton is arrested as a suspect

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22 Dina Sobhan is a freelance writer and cautions readers not to take her “advice” here too seriously! Got problems? Write to Dina at weekend@ dhakatribune.com

TOUGH LOVE 1

I’ve been through three jobs in the last year. The first one I quit because the boss made me work longer hours than I had signed up for; the next one was because I had to take two different buses just to reach work. The last one I quit because the air conditioning never works in the office and I felt like I was in a sauna half the day, five days a week. I know you might think I am a quitter, but as you can see I have valid reasons. Any tips on what I should be doing, so that I don’t have to play office musical chairs anymore?

DINA SOBHAN You might make a decent living providing people with excuses on how to avoid work and all things uncomfortable, boring and otherwise unpleasant. Perhaps write a book, except that would involve thinking … never mind. You could consider investing a little effort into searching for someone to support your lazy behind since it is allergic to anything resembling work. I’m assuming you have other wonderful qualities that will make you a suitable spouse, seeing as you are, in every other way, more vegetable than human being. n

2

I feel guilty – a lot. If I forget to do the household chores and my husband does it for me, I can’t sleep the night. If I think I should be working harder at work, I feel my whole day is gutted. If I don’t call my mother at least once a day, I feel like I am a horrible daughter. My friends tell me to take a chill pill, but I constantly feel I’m letting people down. Any hope for me?

My professional diagnosis is that you are suffering from useless anxiety syndrome and need a literal chill pill to sort yourself out. You can think of it as performing a public service for all those unfortunate individuals who have to tolerate you and your hair shirt on a regular basis. If you think you’re suffering, you should stop and consider the feelings of those who have to suffer you and your meaningless sense of duty. Or you could join a monastery and spend the rest of your days in penance for all the sins you think you may or may not have committed, such as “over-bhunoing” the “torkari.” n

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

3

Every Friday evening, I have poker night with the boys. But my wife hates the idea of me hanging out with what she calls “a bunch of alcoholic, misogynistic losers.” How do I tell her that sometimes a boys’ night out is simply a boys’ night out?

WE E K E N D TRIBU NE FRIDAY, O CTO B ER 4 , 2013

Next time your wife gives you a hard time about it, tell her that boys’ night out is exactly that: a bunch of misogynistic losers drinking copious amounts of alcohol and spending all their hard-earned cash to deal with the fact that they are married to women they barely like and their lives are a gargantuan fiasco. Clearly articulate that it’s the one day a week

that allows you to manage the rest of your lives without wanting to commit homicide and hara kiri both, and she should get off your back. For good measure, you can give her a wink over the shoulder as you strut away in a manly fashion. n


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23

WT LEISURE DILBERT

Across 1 5 6 8 10 11

Animal that is all about Mum (5) In London a china version of 2 (3) Fail to please, strangely (5) Iron newspapers (5) Endless ale for queen (3) Unit of the Royal Marines (5)

Down 1 2 3 4 7 8 9

PEANUTS

Tune a bully plays after first light (7) A record peak (3) Copy primate (3) Prosper on May’s first after British defeat (7) Knight of the Zambesi river (3) Favourite Geordie term of endearment (3) Look for sounds of Scottish approval (3)

Solution and clues for last week’s crossword

Across 1 6 7 8

Odds of lollies being pepper or mace (6) Material we found in short cuddly toy (5) Bird starts to divebomb throng (5) Rory loses nothing after lady drink (6)

Down 2 3 4 5

Gap in tarmac where grass grows? (7) He and 2 x 500 in vehicle making cheese (7) Tempt French nobility into peek (6) Occurs around springtime, this flower (6) WE E K E N D TR IBUN E FRIDAY, O CTOB ER 4, 20 1 3


24

DIGITAL BANGLADESH

Online Cattle Business

Digital haat!

Faisal Mahmud writes about the up and coming avenue of cattle trade ahead of Eid Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis

D

r Momin A Babul has been living in the Netherlands for the last 41 years. Last year, his relatives in Bangladesh wanted him to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha with them, but with his busy schedule, he couldn’t make the trip. However, Momin did one thing: using his credit card, he bought three cows online, to be delivered to his home from amardesh.com. The Bangladeshi e-portal is a component of the Amar Desh Amar Gram (ADAG) e-commerce initiative of the Future Solution for Business (FSB). Sadequa Hassan Sejuti, managing director of FSB, said: “We developed the ADAG e-commerce initiative to cater for non-resident Bangladeshis and also the busy city-dwellers who want to avoid the hassle of going to the qurbani haat (cattle market for Eid).” The trade for qurbani at amardeshshop.com took off in 2012, as an extension of the existing business of ADAG. “We started selling different agricultural products through the website in 2009. Last year, we introduced the online cattle market for Qurbani,” Sejuti said. amardeshshop.com has “centres” in eight districts across the country – Narsingdi, Tangail, Jamalpur, Kushtia, Mongla, Sirajganj, Rangpur, and Jessore. “Farmers in those areas can come to our centres and upload information regarding their cows. We have two trained individuals in each centre to help farmers with the process,” Sejuti explained.

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 11 , 2013

Ayesha Begum, who hails from Pathorail, Tangail, sold her cow via Amardesheshop.com last year, and used the profit to marry off her daughter Once a prospective customer logs in and has chosen a particular cow, the rest is taken care of by the website – from the moment of purchase till the delivery of the “product.” “The customer only needs to ensure the online financial transaction,” Sejuti

said. The prices are inclusive of service and bank charges, and range from Tk50,000-100,000. Payment is taken by card, direct bank transfer or bank draft. Sejuti says the company offers home delivery services for the clients

at a cost of Tk5,000 on average. According to Sejuti, the website sold 25 cows last year. “This is not just a mere business that we are doing with the website. We reach the farmers directly and facilitate the process of selling the products without going through middlemen,” she said, adding that five cows have been sold via the website as of October 7. “Our website now has the pictures and information of 52 cows. Another 70 cows are going to be added to the database,” she said. It’s not just amardesheshop.com; bikroy.com, a popular e-commerce site in the country, says it sells “everything from used cars to mobile phones and computers.” Now, they also have cows and goats on the list: 612, at the last count. Ishtiaq from Shahjahanpur, Dhaka has put up information on two cows he wants to sell on the website. He said: “I have those cows at my village in Munshiganj, and I’m asking for around Tk70,000 each cow. With a site like bikroy.com, it has become easier to do business.” Babul, an electronic goods trader, has posted information about three cows on the website. “I have already received several phone calls from different prospective customers. It’s good business,” he said. An official from bikroy.com said anyone can register with the website and upload information about their cattle. When buying qurbani cows for Eid is this easy, why go to the open, makeshift haats at all? n


THE WAY DHAKA WAS

25

DACCA International AIRPORT Dacca international airport 1967

Bangladesh Old Photo Archive

Today

The first time I landed in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (then Dacca International Airport), it was 1978 and I was five years old. My family was coming back from New York, and the only other airport I had seen before, was the bustling JFK. I don’t remember much from that day, but I do remember how serene everything was. In fact, my dad even pointed out a cow grazing 20 feet away from where our airplane had landed! Since then, our airport has gone through several changes, mostly for the better. But I still hold on to that peaceful image that greeted me on my return to my motherland. Anika Noor, writer, Dhaka

Chanchal Kamal

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 1 1 , 20 1 3


26 Rohini Alamgir likes looking into the details of seemingly simple matters. She is constantly working on her autobiography because she thinks her life is worth reading about

Culture Vulture

Body Stereotypes

Cleaning up my closet Rohini Alamgir shares in ‘Open Secrets’ on stereotypes at the Goethe Institut

I

Photos: Quamrul Abedin

Life might be a series of hurdles and roadblocks, but the only way through for Murtada is to go forward relentlessly, as she says: ‘They [my family] chose the battles, but I chose to fight them, and I did it my way.’ W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 11 , 2013

n Bangladesh, if you’re dark, you’re not beautiful and there’s no way you’re getting married. If you’re “overweight” (who sets that standard?), you’re unattractive and there’s no way you’re getting married. If you’re bookish, you’re a nerd and you’re definitely not getting married. At the rate these stereotypes go, there should be a whole lot of unmarried people around, but obviously that isn’t the case. So why do these stereotypes persist? Why do they still haunt us in the modern times? Open Secrets was formed to get to the bottom of this mystery. Shamuna Mizan, co-founder and host of the September 30 event, believes there is an “adda” culture in Bangladesh, where people sit around with their closest friends and talk about experiences and taboo issues. “We soon realised how we only do this in closed circles, behind closed doors,” she said, “And we thought, why not provide a platform for others? The best part is, the conversation doesn’t end here – this is where it truly begins.” The members of Open Secrets, along with Tanvir Alim, the coordinator for cultural programmes at Goethe Institut, definitely got the conversation started, and creatively so. While the programme included readings of various poems and prose from certain hand-picked people, it was interactive and very much a giant adda. “I dream of a world free of prejudices where I can be who I want to be,” was the opening message delivered by Samara Murtada, reflecting the minds of everyone in attendance.

While battling her own demons – what she calls “the educated masses, illiterate about the world around them” – Murtada took the audience on an empowering journey of how to break through the stereotypes, not with angry words or violence, but with strong self-belief. On this platform, stereotypes didn’t just become a reality, but actually became a topic of amusement. “I don’t go around telling straight girls: ‘It’s okay you have feelings for a guy; it’s just a phase. It’ll pass,’” Naziha (name changed to protect identity) , a final-year university student, said. In her piece, she shared the “horrors” of coming out in Bangladesh and facing discrimination on multiple levels, and all with a huge smile on her face. She’s gay and she’s proud of that. She reminded her listeners that being a lesbian wasn’t a choice that was made, but rather a huge part of who she was as a person, and rejecting her sexuality was rejecting her entirely. Ahsan, a master’s student, was shy of speaking up, but eventually he grew comfortable about sharing his experiences. When he came out, he had to face a million questions and rejections. However, he finally achieved his breakthrough when his mother said to him one morning: “You know what? I’m sure you’ll never marry a girl, so why not marry a boy?” Jahan’s poem “I’m Fat” – presented by his wife – spoke of the preconceptions people have towards people who are labelled “overweight.” In “Imperfect Bliss,” Mahzabeen, a business developer, asks: “If the world

was perfect, would you still need to use your heart a bit?” Though she believes that it wouldn’t be necessary in a “perfect” world, there can be no scenario when it is not essential to use our hearts, and to love everyone and everything around us. Respect is the name of the game, and Rafique asks for exactly that. A high-school student, he has faced a fair share of shunning and name-calling because his interests lie in books and education, rather than in cell phones and girlfriends. He questions the religiosity of people whose very religions preach against sinning, saying: “We don’t commit crimes because it is a sin and we would rather go to heaven. Well, it’s a crime to hurt someone. Why do we not recognise that as a sin?” Not just satisfied with conversation, Open Secrets introduced a game: one person had to act out a stereotype and another had to guess the typecast. The difficulty that many faced while attempting to guess was indicative of the level of acceptance and understanding among the crowd. Yet, this was an enclosed (albeit packed) room. The world outside is very different, and the speakers and audience were heavily cognisant of this by the end of the night. Taking a cue from Eminem, Open Secrets gears its attempts toward cleaning out our closets. But all things start with baby steps. It is time to open the doors and move forward from conversation to action. n


OBITUARY

27

Tom Clancy

Immortalised in print

Ibtisam Ahmed looks into the life of the celebrated writer who gave thriller readers a whole new world of adventure

T

o know how much Tom Clancy has permeated the popular consciousness, all one has to do is consider the fact he has releases coming up in three major media – a novel, Command Authority, a film, Jack Ryan, and a video game, Rainbow 6: Patriots – just over the next few months. His impressive body of work is a testament to his talent and determination. All of that makes his

passing on October 1, at the age of 66, all the more tragic. Clancy was born in Baltimore and studied physics at college. However, he switched to English, explaining later that he was not smart enough for the intricacies of science, an ironic claim in light of the vivid and sound scientific detail prevalent in his best work. He joined the US Army during his years at university, but failed to serve in the

Vietnam War due to poor eyesight. After his graduation, he got married and joined his wife’s family insurance business. He wrote during his spare time and achieved near overnight success with his very first novel, “The Hunt for Red October.” The manuscript for the novel had been sent to the Naval Institute Press, which had never ventured into original fiction before, but the gamble

paid off. Early endorsements included praise from President Ronald Reagan, who got the book as a Christmas present. This helped put Clancy on the literary map – and the New York Times bestsellers list. He went on to write a total of 20 books, of which 17 were bestsellers. His protagonist from “The Hunt for Red October,” Jack Ryan, became an iconic character of the modern literary pantheon. The continued success of Clancy’s writing spilled over into films, the first being the 1990 Oscar-winning adaptation of his first work. He began to churn out novels at the rate of at least one a year, and this steady output helped make him one of the wealthiest thriller writers of all time. He credited his success to his longstanding belief in research; despite his disinterest in science, for instance, he regularly read and consulted leading scientific journals to ensure realism in his work. Clancy also branched into the world of video games, spawning the critically and commercially acclaimed “Ghost Recon” and “Splinter Cell” series. He remains one of the rare individuals who is idolised by both avid bookworms and hard-core gamers – arguably the biggest compliment one can get from the younger demographic. Despite his slightly rocky relationship with Hollywood due to his general lack of faith when handing over his work to someone else to direct, he commanded a high level of respect in the entertainment industry as well. A lifelong conservative and supporter of the Republican Party, he was also extremely vocal in his support of the Second Amendment, having been a member of the National Rifle Association since the 1980s. In the closing years of the 20th century, he successfully predicted the use of commercial airliners as missiles and was a vocal opponent of the Democrats post 9/11. Nonetheless, he remained a strong critic of Islamophobia and often derided other right-wing figures for using anti-Islamic views to simply gain votes or market shares. Clancy believed his success was down mostly to good fortune. He once told AMC News: “What happened to me was pure dumb luck. I’m not the new Hemingway.” But he always maintained that his luck stemmed from his willingness to take risks. Combined with his hard work and his modesty, this made him one of the biggest writers of our time. His death shall forever remain a great loss. n

Ibtisam Ahmed is a student of history and politics. He lives in a fantasy and writes about reality

At a glance 1947 Born on April 12 in Baltimore, the US 1969 Graduates from Loyola College (now Loyola University), marries and gets his first job 1984 Successfully publishes ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and is catapulted into fame 1996 Co-founds the Red Storm Entertainment video game company, which would go on to develop the ‘Ghost Recon,’ ‘Splinter Cell’ and ‘Rainbow 6’ series 2008 Hands over his video games’ intellectual copyright to Ubisoft, but retains control of all printed work 2013 Passes away on October 1 after a brief illness at Johns Hopkins Hospital, near his Baltimore home

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, O CTOB E R 1 1 , 20 1 3


28

LAST WORD Phil Humphreys

The truth is up there The Sajal Khaled case raises new questions about the ethics of high-altitude mountaineering

Phil Humphreys is a British, former journalist who worked as a management adviser to an NGO in Rangpur, before joining the Dhaka Tribune as a consultant

W

hen asked in 1924 why he wanted to conquer Mount Everest, the British climber George Mallory replied simply “because it is there.” The world’s highest peak had been identified by Radhanath Sikdar, a Bangali mathematician, seven decades previously, after four arduous years of unscrambling data collated by the Great Trigonometrical Survey (GTS), which began in 1819. At the time of Sikdar’s discovery, the ceiling for human endeavour was thought to be an altitude of 22,000 feet; scaling anything higher was considered humanly impossible. When a US search expedition stumbled upon the body of Mallory in 1999, lying face down on a ledge at around 27,000 feet, team photographer David Hahn said he felt he was looking at a Greek marble statue, so perfectly preserved was the corpse. Some believe Mallory died on his way down from becoming the first person to summit Mount Everest – 29 years before Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. But it was the tweed jacket and wool trousers of the fallen climber which most astounded Hahn. “I cannot be more clear,” he later said, “I have street clothes that are thicker than what Mallory was wearing on Everest.”

on 11 April, and he became only the fifth among his countrymen to reach the roof of the world six weeks later, on May 20.

The Sajal Mission

Confusion and conjecture surround the circumstances of Sajal’s death. He had signed an agreement with the Seventh Summit Treks agency of Kathmandu, though the papers for this went missing. He was assisted in his climb by three highly-experienced mountain guides, or “Sherpas” - an ethnic group from the Himalayan region of northern Nepal. They are now accused of “abandoning” Sajal in the death zone. His belongings and his corpse are still to be recovered. Last month, a four-person team led by Sajal’s widow, Tahmina Khan Shaily, a former journalist who now runs a boutique house in Dhaka, travelled to Nepal in search for answers. Talking to the Dhaka Tribune on their return, Shaily said they had received a police report which provided “confusing information.” “The original report, written in Nepalese language, says Sajal died as he ‘slipped’ from Everest,” she said, “While the English version says he was ‘flown away’ by the air.” In the broader context, this detail is incidental. Sajal remains where he fell: just below the South Summit, at about 28,750 feet. The more disturbing question, surely, is why nobody helped to bring him down?

In the “death zone” of the world’s 14 mountains over 8,000 metres, an unaccustomed climber could expect to lose consciousness within two to The death zone There are 14 mountains in the three minutes. world which top out above 8,000 They would lose metres (26,250 feet). At this altitude, pressure is about a The mountaineering code their life soon atmospheric third of that at sea level, resulting On May 15, 2006, the lone British after in one third less oxygen. Breathing mountaineer David Sharp died while apparatus is essential for all but the most experienced climbers. Without it and adequate acclimatisation, a normal person could expect to lose consciousness within two to three minutes. Most would lose their life not long after. Among mountaineers, this is fearfully known as the “death zone”. Since 1953, around five people have died for every 100 who have followed Hillary and Norgay to the top of the tallest peak of all. Of these, one in four died on their descent. Adding to that grim statistic in May this year was the Bangladeshi adventurer, Mohammed Sajal Hossain. Popularly known as Sajal Khaled, the 35-year-old from the Srinagar area of Munshiganj was no climbing novice. He started his 15th expedition and second attempt to scale Everest

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, O CTO B E R 11 , 2013

sheltering under a rock overhang, 450 metres into his descent from the peak. In a press interview conducted a week later, a double-amputee climber from New Zealand, Mark Inglis, revealed that his party and many others had passed the distressed Sharp, without attempting a rescue. “On that morning, over 40 people went past this young Briton,” he told ABC News, “Trouble is, at 8,500 metres it’s extremely difficult to keep yourself alive, let alone anyone else.” David Sharp was making a solo attempt on Everest. The trouble now for Tahmina Khan Shaily and her “Sajal Mission”, is that the Nepalese Sherpas were being paid “large sums of money” to help take her husband up the mountain, and to help bring him back down again. For her and others,

the death of Sajal has reopened the debate on climbing ethics, especially when applied to the death zone. There has long been an expectation that you do not overlook a stricken mountaineer, even if they are not from your party. Shortly before his 2008 death, Sir Edmund Hillary said he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb to save another’s life, but he knew the times had changed: “I think the whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. People just want to get to the top,” he told the Otago Daily Times newspaper. Shaily is demanding the formulation of a mountaineering policy, “so that this misfortune would not happen to anyone else”.

The tourist trap

Sadly, it may be more about the money. Over 80% of all ascents of Everest have occurred since 2000. Indeed, in a single day in May 2010, more climbers conquered the highest mountain on earth – 169--than in the three decades after the first successful assault. These statistics say two things. Firstly, that reaching and surviving the death zone is getting technologically easier to do. And secondly, that the summit is becoming a prize that can be bought; a push to the peak for anyone fit and rich enough to apply. Expeditions are the primary source of income for Nepal, and licenses are issued from around $25,000. Less experienced climbers who want to ascend with a seasoned group of Sherpas can pay up to twice that. Confronted with these significant upfront costs, summit challengers face the increasingly difficult dilemma of whether to abandon their own lifetime goal - possibly forever - to help save the life of another in need. Even then, there are no guarantees of a successful outcome. The air at the top of Everest is so thin, even the recovery of corpses can prove impossible.

The price of life

There is another twist to the Sajal story. It has been reported that the three Sherpas accompanying the Bangladeshi climber would have brought his body back, “had they been paid”. Subsequently, in the final days of the 2013 climbing season, the Bangladesh government hired a 12-strong Sherpa team to recover Sajal’s body for $20,000. Though they claimed to have not found his corpse, one member of the group reportedly confessed privately to having seen one. This can no longer be purely an issue of mountaineering ethics. The bravery and tenacity of the Nepalese highlanders is beyond doubt, but if this last account is true, why did these Sherpas shirk their task? Was money the issue? Could they not trust the Bangladesh government to stump up the cash? More tellingly, would Sajal have been left behind had he been European, Antipodean or North American? In the week after David Sharp’s death, a stricken climber was found alive on Everest by a party of four others, despite him being declared dead the day before. Andrew Brash, Dan Mazur, Myles Osborne and Sherpa Jangbu sacrificed their own summit attempt to stay with Lincoln Hall while a team of 11 other Sherpas was sent up to carry him down. Hall made a full recovery. Hall was Australian. There is nothing to suggest the same quartet would have walked on by Sajal Khaled. But it is difficult to ignore the possibility that his fortunes may have been different, were contemporary climbers more like Mallory and Hillary, and modern day mountaineering less of a win-at-allcosts, rich man’s race to the top. n

Four in five of all ascents of Everest have occurred this century. The summit is becoming a prize that can be bought; a race to the top for anyone fit and rich enough to enter


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