Page 1

Geneva Camp 6

Lalon festival 18


vol 1 Issu e 2 7

Manna Dey 27


CONTENTS 1 Editor’s Note 2 This Week in Pictures 4 Bottled Up 5 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Will the real “terrorist” stand up? 10 Post-Riposte NID to access social media

A Weekly Pro ducti o n o f


11 Top 10 Popular football clubs

Vo lume 1, Issu e 2 7 NOVEMB ER 1, 2 0 13

12 Big Mouth Strikes Again My beloved schizophrenic country

Editor Zafar Sobhan

13 Photo Story Winter is coming

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

6 Pick of the Week Geneva Camp

20 Interview Sarah Kamal 21 Crime File Torture in Rangpur 22 Tough Love 23 WT | Leisure

Art Direction/Photography Syed Latif Hossain

24 Everyday Economist US govt shutdown

Cartoon Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Rio Shuvo Contributors Syed Samiul Basher Promiti Prova Chowdhury Naheed Kamal Dina Sobhan Ibtisam Ahmed Nadia Chowdhury Design Mohammed Mahbub Alam Production Masum Billah Advertising Shahidan Khurshed Circulation Wahid Murad Email: Web: Cover Mohammadpur Town Hall Camp by Syed Latif Hossain

17 Digital Bangladesh Global liveability

25 The Way Dhaka Was Kamalapur bus station 26 Culture Vulture Alice Munro 27 Obituary Manna Dey

18 Thought Plot Lalon Festival

28 Last Word


‘Season change’ W

hen I was a kid and would catch a cold, my grandmother would blame “season change” as the culprit. Notwithstanding the fact that Bangladesh only seems to have two seasons these days (blame climate change for that?), my Nanu certainly had a bit of wisdom about her. With winter around the corner, a bit of “season change” is also affecting our culture. Joseph Allchin explores Baul mysticism and how it is at odds with how our society compartmentalises us according to our religion. Faisal Mahmud looks at the science behind

city ranking and how the math doesn’t add up when it comes to ranking Dhaka. And Shah Nahian draws up the most popular football clubs in Dhaka, with local giants Abahani and Mohammedan lagging significantly behind foreign "imports" Arsenal, Liverpool and Real Madrid. There is a "season change" around the corner, and the WT team wishes all our readers to curl up somewhere warm with the latest copy of the magazine in hand. n

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An Indian policeman detains an activist of Democratic Freedom Party during a protest in Srinagar, India, on October 27 AP/Mukhtar Khan

In this photo taken on October 24, a trained monkey that has had his teeth pulled out, reacts as it is being photographed in its cage at a village where many street performers live, in Jakarta, Indonesia  AP/Tatan Syuflana

The General Coordinator of the National Coordination Commission for Democratic Change in Syria (NCC) Hassan Abdul Azim (C) and members of the delegation leave after a meeting with the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on October 29, 2013 at the Sheraton hotel in Damascus. Brahimi visits Syria to seek support for peace talks  AFP/Louai Beshara

In this June 19, 2013 photo, US President Barack Obama, right, listens to German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Berlin. Germany’s interior minister is pressing for “complete information” from Washington on the alleged U.S. surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone 


Iran’s Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA), Reza Najafi, (second left), arrives for talks with IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards Tero Tapio

Varjoranta at the International Center in Vienna, Austria, October 29 


AP/Hans Punz


NATIONAL Picketers set ablaze the BRTC bus depot in the capital’s Gabtali area where a number of buses were burned to ashes on the first day of the 60-hour general strike called by the 18-party alliance  Nashirul Islam

Picketers hurl a sack of filled with glass bottles at police in the capital Chankharpul area on the second day of the 60-hour general strike imposed by the 18-party alliance   Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Cricket fans pour out on to the city streets and pass the heavily guarded BNP office at Nayapaltan on their way to the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium to watch Bangladesh-New Zealand first ODI on October 29, on the last day of the 60-hour hartal   Nashirul Islam

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letters to the editor


of the week

Too much la la about Malala

Will people stop debating about Malala already? That girl has done more good and shown more courage than you and I combined in our entire lifetime. I really don’t care whether she wins some sort of politically inspired prize like the Nobel; she is a beacon of inspiration for people all over the world, sans any kind of tin cup to validate her achievements. Shazia Wahed, Chittagong

Post Rana Plaza I

read Joseph Allchin’s piece “Six Months” Later with cynicism and hope: cynicism because, as usual, I do not expect our politicians and business community to really give a hoot about preventing another catastrophe like Rana Plaza, let alone care about Rana Plaza survivors. But also hope because of journalists like Joseph, who are constantly reminding the rest of us about the failings of our leaders. Looking forward to read more WT investigative pieces in the future. n Samina Azad, Eskaton, Dhaka

Proud to be a chick

I completely disagree with Naheed Kamal. I love chick lit, identify very much with characters like Bridget Jones, and do not feel such bodies of literature exhibit sexism at all. Women like Naheed need to stop being sanctimonious and pretend she speaks for all of womanhood. She definitely does not speak for me. Amani Majumdar, Gulshan, Dhaka


It was a fun-filled October and the WT’s photo feature did well to represent the month in all its festive glory. I don’t think there will be another month packed with so much fun in the near future, but if there’s something coming up, hope your photographers are there to cover it. Hamza Alamgir, Banani, Dhaka

Send us your feedback at:




Will the real ‘terrorist’ please stand up? If the government wants to occupy the Grameen Bank, we will teach them a lesson. Although Yunus has won the Nobel Peace Prize, his recent comments make him sound more like a terrorist.

Dr Muhammad Yunus

Finance Minister AMA Muhith

Will the politicians please stop terrorising us poor people! Mr Mango

Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

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Geneva Camp

Promiti Prova Chowdhury is a journalist at the Dhaka Tribune and is curious about different lifestyles

Photos: Syed Latif Hossain

A generation in the shadows

Promiti Prova Chowdhury sheds light on the turbulent life of a generation born without identity ‘If we went back to Pakistan now, how would we survive there? That is not our country, those are not our people. We cannot read or write in Urdu. Though we speak it here inside the camp we have a very different accent than those of the Pakistanis,’ says Kanij Fatema, 21, a student of Accounting at Mohammadpur Kendriya College and a resident of Town Hall Bihari camp



n December 16, they raise the national flag of Bangladesh high upon their rooftops or display it outwards from their windows, to celebrate the Bangladesh Liberation War victory of 1971. For Pahela Baisakh, these juveniles adorn themselves in red and white attires and accessories, and relish the bowl of panta-illish. When the Rana plaza collapsed in April this year, they rushed with whatever they had to help the victims in Savar. In many respects, there is nothing exceptional about these Bangladeshis. So, what makes them different? They are the youths inside the “Bihari Camp,” a zone meant solely for a group of Urdu-speaking people labelled as “Stranded Pakistanis.” Kanij Fatema, 21, a student of Accounting at Mohammadpur Kendriya College and a resident of Town Hall Bihari camp, says: “Those who were born long after independence like me love our country, Bangladesh. We are studying here and want to work here. But still people have a hard time trusting us. Whenever they find out the word ‘camp’ written as our address in any official documents, they neglect us.” In pre-independence British India, there was an Urdu-speaking Muslim minority in the Hindu majority state of Bihar. In 1947, at the time of partition, the Bihari Muslims, many of whom were fleeing the violence that took place during partition, fled to East Pakistan. After Bangladesh was born, in 1973, a survey was done on this community

7 which produced two lists: one of those who wanted to stay in Bangladesh; and the other those who wanted to go to Pakistan.

The tent city takes root

“Before Bangladesh was born this [the land where Geneva camp is currently situated] was a vast open field,” recalls Md Iqbal Hossain, organising secretary of Stranded Pakistanis’ General Repatriation Committee (SPGRC), “In 1972, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Red Cross came up with the scheme to repatriate the Biharis to Pakistan. They set up some makeshift tents here to accommodate the refugees. They set up a total of 70 camps, all made up of makeshift tents, in 13 districts across the country that accommodated 623,000 refugees. The relief work continued in these camps. The Urdu speaking Biharis who were residing in different colonies around the area from Zakir Hossain Road to Mirpur 1, came here to take shelter.” However, despite efforts by the Bangladesh government to repatriate people to Pakistan, diplomatic negotiations stalled and over time it became clear that very few of the “Stranded Pakistanis” would be able to go to Pakistan. “When the war of 1971 took place, it happened for a cause. To gain the right to speak in mother tongue and that is how Bangladesh was born. Now, we are born and being raised here and we have accepted the fact that we are Bangladeshis,” says Fatema.. Mehnaz Akhter Shyama, 19, another Town Hall camp resident, has just been admitted to BBA in Bangladesh University. She says: “I was raised here since birth. Why would I go over there? Moreover, that is a risky country to live nowadays. However, may be my mother would like to go there as many of our ancestors still have little inclination towards Pakistan. But we, the younger generation have no fascination about it. We have our future here and may be thinking about our future, our ancestors would also leave the thought of going back to Pakistan.”

Camp stigma

A serious allegation that comes from the youths inside the camps is that they highly suffer in finding suitable jobs, not because of a lack of qualifications, but because of the word “Camp.” “I am pursuing BBA. One day I would like to work in a bank or in a reputed company. But the employers hesitate in recruiting us. For that many end up in jobs that are way below their. Like job of a receptionist or a teacher at any local kindergarten,” says Fatema. Md Aftab Alam, 22, student of Northern University and resident of the same camp, says he went for an interview for a part-time job at a renowned retail outlet in the capital.

However, immediately after realising he belongs to the so-called ‘Bihari’ community, the interviewer showed him the way out of the room. “May be I at least got the call because I mentioned my address as ‘Zakir Hossain Road, Mohammadpur’ not ‘Town Hall Bihari camp’,” says Aftab. Both Fatema and Aftab claim the word ‘camp’ is like a blemish on their identity for running day-to-day

activities smoothly. For any official purpose they put the address of any ‘Bangali’ friend or neighbour living near the camp. Rani, 14, Tarannum, 16 and Morjina, 18, three cousin sisters in Geneva camp, have not studied beyond class four or five. They now spend their time watching daily soaps on television and doing needle work. They said different NGOs (Non-government organisations) had come to the camp

and provided short trainings on sewing and knitting to the young girls. They had learnt a few of them. Now they sometimes get orders from the NGOs to do embroideries on ladies wear. For each piece of cloth they get Tk150 to Tk400.

Overcrowded and unsupported

The bigger problem for most “Biharis”, however, lies not only in getting a job, but also in terms of availing the

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Geneva Camp

“Biharis” in Bangladesh: A timeline It is estimated that by 1971, over 1.5 million such non-Bengalis, ‘Biharis,’ were present in East Pakistan.

‘There was no official design behind building the Camp. We made it brick by brick with our hands’ W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, NOVE M B E R 1, 2013

In 1971, the Biharis were a torn community. The Pakistan army, sensing this divide, apparently recruited some Biharis to fight the rebellious Bengalis.

simplest facility that any citizen of the country is entitled to. Md Iqbal Hossain says: “Until 1979, Bangladeshi government and the NGOs were able to send some 169,000 people to Pakistan. However, by the end of 70s, the process stopped. In 1977, late Nasim Khan founded the SPGRC and started constructing semipucca tin shed houses replacing the tents. In 1980, the whole camp was torched by fire. Then three NGOs Rabita al-alam al-islami, Al Falah and Heed International - came forward and established semi-pucca houses for the stranded people.” “Today you can see the dilapidated condition of the camps. Eventually when we found no light at the end of the tunnel, we started to reconstruct the houses by ourselves with our little savings and income. This huge camp was built without any concrete design or plan. No engineer or patronisation

Over half a million registered Urdu-speaking Pakistanis were impacted by the Simla pact of July 1972. As per the agreement, the Bengali prisoners were released and sent to Bangladesh, in exchange for ‘Biharis’ going the other way.

from the government was involved. As a result, it is a very unplanned and vulnerable one,” he adds. “Do you see the unhygienic environment around?,” says Md Serajul Islam Rubel, 22, who runs a small shop inside Mohammadpur Geneva Camp selling paper packets and bulbs, “There is no proper arrangement of sanitation, let alone privacy inside this camp whereas the population is growing rapidly.” “If our younger brothers go to the nearby field to play in the evening, they won’t be allowed in. The teams that come to play there would say, ‘you are stranded Pakistanis, why have you come here?’ After working or studying the whole day, the young people can’t even get a proper bathroom or go play in the field,” he adds. When asked about his identity, he says: “We consider ourselves as Bangali, but unfortunately the

In 2008, the Bangladeshi High Court ruled that “the refugees who were minors in 1971 or born after the independence of Bangladesh are citizens of Bangladesh,” after years of legal wrangling and ideological debates in the country. However, those who were adults in 1971 were not covered.

Bangalis consider us as Biharis.”

You are what you speak

Md Sadeq, 18, studied in the Kaderia Madrasa nearby the camp up to class eight. He says: “We faced huge problems while getting admission in the madrasa. They said they would not admit any child from the camp. They said ‘you speak Urdu, you live inside the camp, what will you do by studying?’”. Sadeq says after repeated pleas, they admitted him. “But the discrimination never stopped inside the classroom,” he adds. Shamima Khatun, (not her real name) an HSC candidate from Lalmatia School and College, also faces problems at school due to her place of residence: “I never disclose my address to my classmates. Because if their parents find out that I live in the camp, they would prohibit their daughters to

9 In 2008, the ‘Biharis’ were granted citizen status and voting rights, but still the discrimination persists, and still they struggle to find good jobs. Not because of their qualifications, but because of one word: camp

mingle with me. They have a mindset that the young boys and girls inside the Bihari camps are spoiled.” Regarding the corrupt image of youths inside the camps, 55-yearold Md Hasan, the father of three youngsters who all live in the Geneva camp, says: “How can you expect a young adult to stay within the cultural and social norms when he does not study, or have any option for healthy entertainment? Moreover, due to dropping out from school and getting in work, they start earning money at a very early age. As a result, they get

involved in unsocial activities liking gambling and taking drugs.” “Now let’s get into the root of it. Outside the camp they are being constantly discriminated. As a result they keep coming back inside the camp and due to peer pressure get into such activities. Parents marry off their daughters early to keep them away from unethical practices,” laments Hasan. He says: “My mother brought me to the camp when I was very small. Now my oldest son is 22. Still I continue to see my children being discriminated

against in almost every field. Be it admission, getting jobs, making passport or simply playing at the nearby field.”

Rights returned, but problems remain

In 2008, following a writ petition, the high court of Bangladesh issued a verdict to reinstate citizen status and voting rights for the whole “Bihari” community. Five years later, when asked what they wanted from the government, a number of youths from the Town Hall

camp arrive at the same point. They say: “What was the point of providing us a national identity card, if we cannot avail facilities like any other citizen?” “During the national and local elections, this community plays a role in electing representatives,” say a number of them, “So we have to ask why our situation is still so dire. We want to stay here and work for the country. We can emerge as a potential manpower of the country. Discriminating us may result into loss for the government.” “If we cannot get a good job or education because of our address, then how would we be able to go outside the camp and make a better living?” they explain. Md Iqbal Hossain also sees little change despite the change in the status of his community: “According to the verdict of HC in 2008, we are now Bangladeshis. Still the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief bears the burden of paying millions of money as charges for water and electricity supply in these cramped camps for 2,500,000 people.” “We would request the government to make some permanent arrangement for our rehabilitation. There are still many unused lands in the country. If they give us those lands in lease at the fixed government rate, then burden for both sides could be lessened. We can pay the rates in instalments,” says Iqbal. “The Urdu-speaking people who reside outside the camps are not stigmatised. So if we could live outside these camps, our young generation would not be discriminated against anymore just because the tag of ‘camp’,” he says. For the “Biharis”, that change cannot come soon enough. n

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NID to Access Social Media

Is the extra precaution necessary?

The government has recently deliberated on whether they should necessitate the use of the national ID number to create profiles in and log in to Facebook, Twitter, etc. The idea is to be able to track people who ‘abuse’ social networking sites better. The proposal has spurred debate about its viability in the WT desk.

It could work Joseph Allchin


Cartoons: Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

It could violate rights Rohini Alamgir


ince we formed the government … we tried to run democratically. For the first time, people are enjoying their fundamental rights, their constitutional rights … that, we have ensured.” For those who do not remember: these are the (almost verbatim) words of our honourable prime minister at a HardTalk Interview with BBC just last year. Democracy implies a “for the people, by the people” form of governance. The idea of using the national ID number to access social media, just so the government can keep tab on the users, seems neither practical, nor reasonable. And what about the users who are not 18 yet? Since 9/11, the US government has dramatically upped their security measures, a move that has been criticised heavily by the world. If we complain about the US government monitoring their people, then it’s time to get introspective. What our government is proposing is very similar. When a crime is committed, the criminal should be caught and brought to justice. Yet, pre-emptive measures that allow the government to control the people can hardly be acceptable. When we think of cyber


bullying, we forget that just a year or so ago, the government blocked Facebook because of a political cartoon. In civilised nations, this is called “freedom of speech/expression.” In Bangladesh, it’s enough to get you arrested as a “political threat.” The question is: can we accept this dictatorial governance? I sincerely hope the answer is no.

he internet makes people think they are anonymous. While its ability to democratise information dissemination should be applauded (even though the vast majority of the planet has no such access), the idea that you can say or threaten anyone online because it’s “just you and the computer” brings out some horrifying tendencies – bullying and death threats, for instance. If we think people should be held accountable for saying such things in public, we should do the same on the internet. Social media should be about openness and accountability, not about blackmail, libel, political slanders and bullying. This is what a legion of (largely) young men have decided to use the internet for. Let’s look at the case of slain blogger Rajib Hyder – according to, all the blog posts that he was killed for were posted on the day he died. It’s difficult to trace who did this, but it is clear that he didn’t write the dozens of posts that media, such as Amar Desh, reprinted and attributed to him. What is clear, however, is that a bright young Bangladeshi was defamed and killed by anonymous people because of his openness online. Open free thinkers should be protected, not cyber bullies and thugs.

TOP 10


Popular Football Clubs


Shah Nahian and Phil Humpreys list the football favourites – the clubs that drive the sports-crazed people in this country, well, crazy. This list was generated from the WT poll on the Dhaka Tribune Facebook page. To take part in the next one visit https://




AC Milan are the joint most successful club in world football in terms of international trophies, winning 18 official UEFA and FIFA titles (equal with Boca Juniors). The Rossoneri (Red and Blacks) are owned by media mogul and former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

Manchester United

With a record 20 English league titles and three European Cups/UEFA Champions League trophies, The Red Devils are a team to be feared. The retirement of their legendary manager, Alex Ferguson, after 26 years in May, has left United scrambling to regain their lost status, but it has done little to shake their cult-like fan following.


The “other” Spanish giant, Real Madrid Club de Fútbol were founded in 1902 and are celebrated as one of the most successful football clubs of all time. Their honours include a record nine European Cups/UEFA Champions League titles, three intercontinental cups, two UEFA cups, and one UEFA Super Cup. The biggest of the current Galácticos is undoubtedly Cristiano Ronaldo.


AC Milan



Established in 1933, Dhaka Mohammedan Sporting Club are the oldest sporting club in the country. Mohammadan have won a record 15 national league titles and they have also enjoyed more international success than rivals Abahani.



Formed in about 1972, Abahani Limited is one of the oldest sporting clubs in Bangladesh. Although famous for a variety of sports including hockey and cricket, Abahani is largely followed as a football club. They are best known for star players such as Monem Munna, Sk Aslam, and Kazi Salauddin.

FC Bayern Munich

The most successful German club in history, Bayern Munich have won 23 national titles and 16 national cups both records. Bayern have contested ten UEFA Champions League finals and won half of them, including the all-German final at Wembley Stadium in May.


FC Barcelona

FC Barcelona are one of the most successful teams in the world. Placed No.1 in the all time world club rankings by IFFHS (International Federation of Football History and Statistics) and UEFA club rankings, the Camp Nou club boasts players such as Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.

Real Madrid CF

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 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

Liverpool FC

Liverpool FC is the second-most successful club in English domestic football and have won more European trophies than any other team in the country. They have won five European Cups/UEFA Champions League titles, three UEFA Cups and three UEFA Super Cups, but they have not won the English league title since 1990.


Chelsea FC

Based in West London, Chelsea FC have won four league titles, seven FA Cups, four League Cups, four FA Community Shields, two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, one UEFA Europa League Cup, and one UEFA Champions League, most since Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.

1 Arsenal FC

An English Premier League club based in North London with 13 first division titles, 10 FA cups and the record for the longest uninterrupted period at top of the league table, Arsenal have a long and proud history. Once home to icons such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie, Arsenal have not won a trophy at home or abroad since 2005, but Gunners’ fans have big expectations this season following the latest addition to their team, Mesut Ozil. n

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Big Mouth strikes again

Naheed Kamal

My beloved schizophrenic country 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!

There are many lessons to be learned, even from distorted histories


he history of Bangladesh is littered with contradictions and distortions, making it a little difficult to glean any lessons from it. With each rewriting, it has become more confusing. All the bickering over who declared the independence of Bangladesh, for instance – was it just Zia, was it Zia on behalf of Mujib, or was it Mujib declaring it in a telegram, and why didn’t he just write it? I think it was a spontaneous declaration by the people. Does it matter, when the majority of the population have bigger concerns? History has always been revised and rewritten with the new ruler, king or conqueror glorifying his name; some were kinder than others. But all accounts are prone to errors; Marie Antoinette never said, “Let them eat cake,” and Henry Ford didn’t say, “History is bunk.” Ford said: “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.” Historian Eugen Weber’s essay “Doing History” analyses the statement and explains how and why it would have been changed. One of the key lessons gained from studying history is that context is everything, and Weber uses Ford’s statement to show how our understanding of history can easily be distorted unless we are aware of the context. Ford’s response to a reporter’s goading about his stance on the war in Europe, ongoing for two years in 1916 – and America was not yet part of it – warned that past attachments stand in the way of progress by drawing

people into conflicts in the present over unrelated grievances of the past, which was exactly what the situation was in Europe. If the European leaders were not already aware of the consequences of their conflict when they started, by 1916 they knew enough about the horrors of trench warfare, damage inflicted by advanced weaponry, consequences of shelling (shell shock!) and sheer inhumanity of the war to stop fighting. They, however, went on for two more years. Over nine million lives were lost before they decided to stop the slaughter, and a generation died fighting for old men’s grievances. So when they said it was the war to end all wars, you would think the crotchety old guard had learned their lessons and would consider the consequences of spiteful decisions before imposing humiliating restrictions on Germany … of course not. The Treaty of Versailles was directly responsible for the rise of Nazism and Hitler, and consequently the Second World War, which spanned the globe and only ended when atom bombs devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan was also humiliated the way Germany had been; as for Germany, it was split in half. What could be worse for a nation that was born when many independent small states came together to unify? Lucky for the world, both Japan and Germany learned the lessons of history and did not repeat the same mistakes. South Asian countries have similar histories - dynastic politics holds sway from Sri Lanka to Indonesia, from the Philippines to Pakistan. In Bangladesh’s context, it makes very little sense to expect two women who

Most of us live in a perpetual state of social and economic distress – the strikes and political uncertainty adds to it. In the long term, we fail to focus on bigger issues, especially when we must hear the two ladies harping about non-issues, we too forget the real issues haunting us


As long as we ignore the lessons of history, we are condemned to repeat cycles of crisis – military takeover, return to democracy directed by the army, attempts at sham democracy, and so on have lost their families to violence to be caring and good leaders. Many of us find it hard to grasp what propels us to trust political elites who have proven themselves as villains, why we allow them to mock us with the sham telephone conversations such as the one we heard of, and then heard on television. I listened in painful silence to the conversation between the two ladies, as I was writing this. I wish I hadn’t, because it reinforced my worst fears. As Thomas Jefferson and H L Mencken said years later, we get the governments we deserve. I am afraid it is true for us, because we are still one of the least developed, poorest and most chaotic nations in the world, while the glimmer and glamour of high-rise buildings and flash cars blinds us to the reality. When a section of the population does rise out of the mire to ask a few pertinent questions, politicians are quick to shift blame, point fingers back and discredit the queries. In Shahbagh, we saw how the the spontaneous gathering was threatened and divided with attacks from within and without, insinuations about “pro” versus “anti” liberation, Bangali versus Bangladeshi, atheist versus theist – all a bit silly, unless you are at the receiving end of a sharp object. But the movement’s spontaneous nature made the old guard nervous. Power has been concentrated in the hands of a small group of oligarchs and political godfathers from the start, and for any change to come we need to uproot them. Few have retained their integrity given the opportunity to earn massive amounts of money quickly and easily. But there really is no excuse for our continued greed, corruption and lawlessness, which allows the same

bank defaulters, tax evaders, corrupt officials, petty intellectuals and their thugs to continue to treat this country like their personal fiefdom. Wasn’t that the reason given for assassinating Sheikh Mujib and his family? Along with accusations of failing to deliver, what he was meant to conjure and deliver under the circumstances, given that the country was in a bleak state would be an understatement. And did we get the perfect democracy after Mujib’s death? No. I have to ask: was it worth it? The coups and counter coups, the fear, the loss of personal freedom and the subjugation of ideals that gave birth to Bangladesh were lost along the way. Instead, Jamaat returned and was welcomed back with open arms. As a nation, we continue to collectively battle the demons of our past even today. The war crimes trials should help exorcise them, but we can’t avoid answering how and why we allowed these men to rise again? We can’t move forward until the denouement of the very first chapter of the nation’s history, The worse joke played by destiny on Bangladesh is the rise of Ershad. The cunning old goat thinks he has a chance at the ultimate goal if the ladies continue to bicker. We don’t really want Uncle Ershad back, so ladies, heed the wise words spoken by Napoleon: “You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.” n


Winter is coming


Goodbye, autumn

A photo story by SYED LATIF HOSSAIN

The rains become more sporadic, and slowly absent. Early mornings are foggy and just a bit lazier. The cool morning breeze sweeps over and whispers in your ears, winter is right around the corner. It is as if the weather is weary of sailing through the hot days of summer and wants to slow down. The end of autumn is like the pleasant retreat of a tree’s shadow under a setting sun. Here are some images of the season from Dhaka and its suburbs.

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3



A boy flies a kite against the autumn breeze by the riverside, while a man is at work drying Aman harvest at Dhamrai a suburb of Dhaka W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, NOVE M B E R 1, 2013


W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3



Syed Latif Hossain is the Art Director and Photographer at Dhaka Tribune




GLobal liveability

The (in)exact science behind ranking cities Faisal Mahmud describes the dodgy calculations delegating Dhaka as one of the ‘worst’ cities to live in Once again, Dhaka has been ranked as one of the worst and environmental measures with cities in the world in which to live by the Economist multiple sources of variability that are ignored when ranking studies are Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Ranking and conducted. Report 2013. This is, perhaps, inevitable when, according to the UNFPA, a little under 18 million people try to fit Cloudy criterion study for the American Journal for in inside an area of 364sqkm. By latest UNDP estimates, APublic Health stated that to date, there Dhaka is the most densely-populated city on earth. has not been a systematic analysis What’s in a ranking?

The EIU ranks cities according to five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Little surprise, then, that a city like Dhaka is unable to make a good score. Interestingly, last year, EIU the world city ranking specialist published another list combining the livability index’ with a new measure that focuses on spatial characteristics. The ‘Spatiality adjusted livability index’ took into account seven other characteristics: sprawl, green space, natural assets, cultural assets, connectivity, isolation and pollution. In that list, Dhaka performed slightly better, but it was still ranked as the No.8 worst city to live in. In the last ten EIU lists, Dhaka has been ranked as one of the worst cities to live in about seven times.

A lot, apparently

The EIU is the business information arm of The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist. Through its global network of more than 650 analysts and contributors, they continuously assess and forecast political, economic and business conditions in over 200 countries. EIU helps executives make better business decisions by providing country intelligence and analysis on worldwide market trends and business strategies. EIU’s city ranking is considered the most reliable ranking in finding the world’s most livable cities. Nevertheless, controversies exist about whether the ratings accurately reflect the “livability” of cities and the extent to which such reports can be misleading. A city’s ranking varies depending on the quality of life criteria used in a particular study. Furthermore, these criteria typically include public health prevalence data

of ranking studies, attempting to determine the extent to which their findings are methodologically sound. It said the editors of studies, published in popular magazines and on the Internet are not bound by criteria imposed by peer-reviewed journals such as requirements to complete source citations and discussion of study limitations. The AJPH study conceded the ranking studies are popular and will continue to be published, in part as a result of the plausibility of relationships between environmental factors, behaviour, and health outcomes. Editors are left to do their best with limited resources, and many appropriately choose a combination of available statistics. Cities are complex systems with multiple causal pathways between environment, population dynamics, behaviour, and health conditions. Ranking studies may oversimplify these complex systems. Furthermore, combining environmental,

behavioural, and disease outcome measures without clarifying the differences between them may confuse and mislead readers. Public health policymakers can benefit from ranking studies while recognising that such findings may need to be reinterpreted, once more reliable hierarchical linear models are developed, opined the American journal for public health.

Still the best, for now

Dr Sarwar Jahan, professor of department of urban and regional planning of BUET, said that ranking a city as ‘liveable’ is based on some selected criteria which vary over time and geographical location. “It needs a lot of data collection and analysis of the data,” he said. Dr Jahan said that other than the lack of scientific basis, limitations posed by available data are often the greatest weakness associated with a ranking study. The primary issue is the paucity of comparable, timely data collected at the city level through the use of stable and reliable procedures and representative samples of the population of interest. ‘Every statistical analysis has a scope for making improvement. EIU’s ranking is not perfect but it surely is the most reliable rating of the world’s livable cities at present’, he said. n

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

Method of ranking cities n

In ranking studies, data is often transformed to normal distributions, although statistical ranking methods were developed to analyse data that are not normally distributed. n

Rankings based on normal distributions identify the best and worst cities but misrepresent the relative positions of the many cities in between, the reason being that most of the scores cluster near the mean. n

The highest and lowest scores are easy to identify, but the remaining values could be statistically indistinguishable


W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3


THOUGHT PLOT Lalon festival

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

Looking for a liberal, syncretic soul The five-day Lalon festival in Kushtia drew mystics, music lovers, and our own Joseph Allchin on the road for a good story Setting the scene

Kushtia hangs like a dream in the curious foreign imagination as I traverse the terrifying Bangladeshi highway. This small town, near Jessore on the banks of the Padma packs a serious cultural legacy. It was here that Lalon Shah, the great Bangali mystic, poet and thinker, was found, or so legend has it, floating in a river with small pox at the tender age of 12. Like a fresh Bob Marley, there is something alluring about the poet revolutionary. His legacy is much more than the songs and poems he left, none of which he wrote down as he had no formal education. His thinking, it could be argued, inspired the Bangali renaissance and the birth of a distinct Bangla identity. In so doing, he inspired Asia’s first Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore lived in Kushtia, where he translated his epic

Lalon Shah famously refused to identify with either Islam or Hinduism, and his followers use him as a reference as to how difference in faith is not necessarily an obstacle W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, NOVE M B E R 1, 2013

poem “Gitanjali” into English, which would ultimately win him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. His old house on the edge of town is now a museum and is set amid beautiful, lush green paddies. So I also stop by here on the occasion of the Lalon festival, October 17--the anniversary of Lalon Shah’s death.

A diverse identity

Lalon Shah famously refused to identify with either Islam or Hinduism, and in this he anoints some unity to identities that have riven the sub continent since Islam’s arrival. Hoping for a piece of this tranquillity, this liberal soul heads into the fairground style field. Littered with stalls much like fairs anywhere in the world, lighthearted atmosphere is unremarkable at first encounter. Soon, however, the exotic cult of Lalon rears its head in the

form of the Baul singers and itinerant followers. With long flowing hair and an air of freedom they are camped in small huddles emanating timeless ethereal tranquillity.

A bideshi in the ’desh

As soon as the curious 'bideshi' stops, however, the mystics take a back seat for the crowds at the Lalon Mazar, as it’s known locally. Nowhere that I have been can the sight of a foreigner elicit such interest. I have not wondered much what it is like to be a celebrity for a day and now I certainly don’t need to. Traversing the site, I stopped to chat. After the end of the conversation, I slowly became eerily aware that huge crowds, possibly hundreds strong, have begun circling. There is certainly warmth about such curiosity, but soon after posing for

Photos: Joseph Allchin/Dhaka Tribune


As the only ‘bideshi’ at the festival, I felt like more of a celebrity than most of the famed musicians at the fest

the 14th photo it becomes tiring and slightly disconcerting. When seated on the ground you realise that one of the crowd is inches from your face to listen to every discernible detail. It is, however, in some ways gratifying being the “only bidehsi in the village.” Compared with many other popular destinations in Asia, Kushtia is free of the tired sight of scraggly western travellers trying to be more ‘worthy than thou.’ This cannot only make the traveller question their own anaemic culture but it also dampens the magnificence of somewhere like the Himalayas. Not so in Bangladesh, here the challenge is access, purely because one is likely to become the attraction. Seeking Lalon then is tough when a permanent crowd of onlookers or potential friends who want their photo with you, shadows you.

What you smokin’

At one interval your weary correspondent sits down to enquire about quite what was being smoked in reverential fervour (and so ignored by the authorities) and soon not only had crowd gathered but my head was being stroked, in an affectionate manner (anywhere else and the description would have been creepy/ somewhat homoerotic). Mystics and crowds of onlookers don’t generally mix; especially when you’re a professional onlooker, a journalist. It’s hard to shoe people away from taking your photo, when you yourself are clicking away with an obtrusive Canon hanging round your neck.

The sun never sets on Lalon

As the sun sets, the legs begin to tire. Its not easy to absorb a place, when you’re entirely on the run. However, a few minutes of peace are possible with one pilgrim from Dhaka. Nahid Bhai is a professional musician and follower of Lalon. For him it seems Lalon is all about, “mind expression.” Lalon’s music he says was not poetry, scripture or story telling but “mind expression,” which I interpret to mean evocation of soul or perhaps more an ethereal truth. There is says Nahid also a political or cultural nationalism to Lalon. There was a time “we had to learn in English or Arabic, but lalon expressed it in Bengali; the mind expression of the Bengali.” With reverential music wafting over the gardens around Lalon’s shrine, there is something very powerful and surprising about the cult of Lalon: something that is so Bangladeshi (or Bangali?) and yet is so unseen amid the chaos of urban Dhaka. This, explains Nahid Bhai, is partly to do with the threats the cult of Lalon poses to hard line Wahabi Islam that has become virulent and well-funded of late. This, he says, explains the gaggles of policemen guarding the place. A reminder that this corner of Bangladesh, which seems as jovial, as liberal and as Bangladeshi a place you will come across, is under threat. n

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3



Sarah Kamal

Change starts here

Faruq Hasan discovers that patriotism and drive are still thriving in Bangladeshi youth through the efforts of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Faruq Hasan is the Magazine Editor and the resident devil’s advocate

The five steps to leadership Position People follow you because they have to. A leadership position is given to people because they have leadership potential.

JCI was founded in conjunction with eight other countries, in 1944, as a membership-based non-profit organisation. It is comprised of 200,000 young people, ranging from 18 to 40 years of age, and it has branches in 5,000 communities in more than 100 countries around the world. Every JCI member believes that in order to create lasting positive change, we must improve ourselves, and the world around us. The JCI members, like Sarah Kamal, seek solutions to unique problems in our communities, with the aim of building a better world and creating a global impact.

Tell us about how you got involved with JCI Bangladesh.

I joined because of my husband who was deeply involved in JCI, travelling from one place to another every alternative month. He is currently the elected 2014 President of JCI Bangladesh. Not only did he introduce me to JCI, but he also encouraged me to be an active citizen of the world by being a part of this great organisations. My first international conference for JCI last year in Taipei opened vast opportunities for me, and since then, there was no going back. I have had the privilege to work with some of the most dynamic young leaders, and since joining, I have learned something new every day. At JCI, the voice of the youth doesn’t go unheard. All this makes me love being a part of JCI, and doing what I do.

There has been a great evolution of philanthropic activities and organisations in our country over the last decade. It started with a couple of organisations like Rotary, Lions, Anjuman Mufidul Islam etc. Personally, I believe that philanthropic and voluntary activities took a giant leap after introduction of the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact. After that, with the encouragement of government, corporations started working with the Commitment Sustainability Responsibility (CSR) Center and individuals also began philanthropic, voluntary activities. Recent surveys show that one out of three university students, wish to contribute a little something for the underprivileged people of the country.

What challenges have you faced while organising youth leadership all over the nation? Is there potential in our young people (maybe provide some examples)?

Permission People follow you because they want to. People go along with leaders they get along with and because the leader makes work more enjoyable.

People have different reasons to join JCI. Some join to be involved in community work, while others want to increase their networks for business and work. Then there are those who want to build selfesteem and establish themselves as individuals. The challenges have been in identifying each member’s characteristics, strengths, and expectations from the organisation. We have to be careful that we do not offer something which we won’t be able to deliver in the long run. I have had the opportunity to work with some dynamic, young people from different backgrounds: doctors, engineers, businessmen, architect, lawyers, etc. I see much potential in our young people, especially when I consider our project “Better Health for Better Life,” which is on improving maternity health. The members of JCI Dhaka Cosmopolitan played a crucial role in implementing this globally appreciated project. They have been involved in each and every step, which is why the project is doing so well.

Production People follow you because of what you have done for the organisation. It separates leaders from people who simply occupy leadership positions. People Development People follow you because of what you have done for them. This promotes the creation of new leaders by bringing out the best in people. Pinnacle People follow you because of who you are and what you represent. This is how a leader creates legacy in his/her own organisation.

What are your personal ambitions as far as the organisation is concerned? Where do you want to steer JCI in the long run?



What was the evolution of philanthropic activities in Bangladesh over the last few years?

As far as my personal ambition is concerned, I would like to serve JCI Bangladesh as National President in the near future, and since I have been involved with JCI outside Bangladesh,

I see myself perhaps as the world president for JCI. It’s still a dream, so fingers crossed, because it’s not impossible to achieve with hard work. In the long run I see JCI as the leading global network of young active citizens, an organisation where the great future leaders are born. JCI can be the ultimate youth-driven organisation.

Tell us about some specific projects that you are directly involved with

Our project ‘Better Health for Better Life’ is the signature project of JCI Dhaka Cosmopolitan. The purpose of the project is to serve the people who have limited or no access to healthcare facilities. It primarily endeavours to fulfill the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (UNMDG) number five, “improving maternal health” and number four,“reducing child mortality,” by educating women in the early reproductive age on the essentials for improving maternal health, through a series of medical camps. The medical services include, but are not limited to, counselling on proper self-care during the reproductive age, and advice on hygiene, menstrual cycles, and fertility. Antenatal counselling is also available for pregnant mothers, covering advice on diet, blood grouping, tetanus vaccination, blood glucose examination, weight, medication, ideal visitation schedules for pregnant women according to World Health Organization (WHO), and how to receive emergency ambulance service. JCI Dhaka Cosmopolitan offers brief physical examinations for each woman who visits the camps and notifies them of their respective blood group and issues an on-the-spot health card for emergencies. The free medicines which are given are sponsored by the pharmaceutical partner Eskayef Pharmaceuticals Bangladesh Limited. These medicines serve as a prophylaxis to prevent anaemia which is prevalent in more than two-thirds of women of reproductive age in Bangladesh.

Youth leadership is a vague term sometimes, don’t you think? Far from being a vague term, the scope of youth leadership is massive. One quarter of the total global population is young, and they certainly have a lot of power. The youth worldwide play vital roles in organised action. Even in our country, they were a tremendous part of the language movement and the liberation war. n



Torture in Rangpur

Throwback to the Middle Ages

Adil Sakhawat investigates the medieval persecution of two people in the hands of the local UP chairman


Crime timeline

mzad Hossain (35) and his cousin Sahirul Islam (30) were allegedly tortured publicly by Sahidul Haque Manik, chairman of Kalupara Union Parisad in Badarganj, Rangpur, and his accomplices on October 13, in a way that can only match medieval methods. Apparently, they were “punished” because they did not take part in the campaign for Sahidul during the local chairman election. As both Amzad and Sahirul fell unconscious after nearly four hours of torture, they were handed over to the police, based on a cattle-lifting complaint. According to the case filed by Amzad’s father with the police, Sahidul and his accomplices beat Amzad and Sahirul in front of the villagers with iron rods and sticks, after their hands and legs tied. Sahidul continued with the heinous crime even though Amzad’s children begged him to stop.

October 12

Amzad buys a cow from Sahirul for Eidul- Azha

October 13

Photos: Courtesy

rickshaw in Chittagong. He came home before Eid to enjoy the festival with his family.” Abdul Gafur, Amzad’s father

Prime suspect

“Among the accused for the torture are Kalupara Union Parisad Chairman Sahidul Haque Manik, VDP members Abdur Rahim, Abdul Mannan, Shafi Mia and Mosharraf Hossain, and seven other unidentified people.”

First police on site

“I arrived there at around 3pm. Before that, no one had informed the police about the incident. When we arrived there, the two accused were in a severe condition after heavy torture. The chairman and his accomplices handed them over to us and said they had stolen cattle. We took them to hospital first and then to the police station.” Zulfiker Islam, assistant sub-inspector, Badarganj police station

Lead investigator

“Immediately after Amzad’s father lodged a case with us, we arrested two people:

Abdul Mannan and Abdur Rahim, both members of the Village Defence Party (VDP). They were bailed out the next day (October 18). The court has already cancelled their bail and issued a warrant against them. We are trying our best to apprehend them. We have already raided a few places after we were tipped off; so far, there has been no success. Komol Mohon Caki, sub-inspector, Badarganj police station

Victim’s family

“The police still have not arrested anyone. Supporters of the chairman and his bodyguards, Razu and Monjur, have been threatening me frequently; they told us to keep silent about the torture. Yet, the police do nothing. My son is not a thief. He drives an auto

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

Komol Mohon Caki, sub-inspector, Badarganj police station “The Chairman headed a meeting at Bairampur High School in order to decide how to punish Amzad and Sahirul. He declared death penalty for both of them, claiming that anyone who did not participate in his electoral campaign were drunk, gamblers and thieves, whereas those who supported him were good people.” Mohebbul Hossain, Delwar Hossain and Dulu Mia, Amzad’s neighbours


“Amzad is a very good person. His family is also renowned – our village is called Gafurer Para, named after Amzad’s father Abdul Gafur. Torturing him like this in the name of punishment is unfair, as well as violation of law.”

Mohebbul Hossain, Amzad’s neighbour “When my husband worked in Sahidul’s opponent campaign, Sahidul threatened him. What he did on October 13 was just his revenge. He beat my husband in front of our children, even though all the family members pleaded him not to.” Kulsum Begum, Amzad’s wife


“Sahidul is in hiding, aided by Masiur Rahman Chaplu, chairman of Kutubpur Union Parisad in Badarganj. If the police want, they can easily arrest him.” Abdul Gafur, Amzad’s father This reporter tried to contact Chaplu several times, but he could not be reached. “What this union parisad chairman did was a complete violation of the law. Although the UP chairman has the power to make judgement calls in any matter relating to his jurisdiction, he has no power to torture anyone. Sahidul should be punished by law.” Biswanath Sarkar, chairman of Badarganj upazila n

8am VDP members detain Amzad and Sahirul for the lack of sales record for the cow 8:30am Amzad and Sahirul are taken to Bairampur High School ground 9am-1pm Both Amzad and Sahirul are beaten mercilessly 3:30pm The police arrest them under Section 54 of Criminal Procedure Act and send them to the Rangpur Court 4:30pm The Rangpur Court orders to send the two arrestees to the Rangpur Jail

October 17

8:30pm Amzad’s father files a case with Badarganj police station, accusing 12 people of beating his son and nephew, including UP Chairman Sahidul 9pm Police arrest Abdul Mannan and Abdur Rahim, two of the accused and VDP members

October 18

Two accused arrestees get bail from special court

October 21

Amzad and Sahirul get bail

October 22

Both Amzad and Sahirul are admitted in a local hospital in Rangpur

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3



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


I have a difficult time understanding whether women are flirting with me or not. Often times, I act on a perceived “come-on” only to be rebuffed. It’s led to several embarrassing situations that I really want to avoid in the future. Is there a sure-shot way of knowing when women are interested in me?



Oh, if only I could’ve been there for one of those scenarios…. purely in the interest of research, mind you. In most cases, men learn after one or two failed attempts what to do, or else retire to a life of playing online video games in their parents’ basement. But, to elucidate the obvious, a woman is interested in you if she smiles, flips her hair, looks at you for a second too long or simply comes up to you, introduces herself and offers to go home with you. She is not interested in you if she glares at you, rolls her eyes or laughs

when she catches you looking at her, or dumps a drink on your head and says, “Did I give you permission to ogle me, you gobbet?” Nor is she interested in you if she excuses herself as she grazes you accidentally while getting on the elevator. Bengali men, many of whom are unaccustomed to female company, commonly regard the latter as an advance. Sweet pea, it’s not rocket science. Just hang around looking interested and/or desperate and someone will eventually throw you a bone. n

My husband has a separate, “fake” Facebook profile. I asked him about it and he laughed it off, saying that it’s just for “fun.” But I am weirded out by the fact that he seems to have a separate online life that he kept hidden from me. Should I ask him for a proper explanation, or do you think I am overreacting?

I think both you heart and your friends are idiots and you should listen to your parents, who probably care about neither your heart nor prestige, and just want you to make sure you don’t starve to death in some back alley in Badda. You may be a perfectly decent photographer, but you’re competing against a bunch of people who have been at the game for a lot longer and are

more than “pretty good” at it. And wedding photography seems to be the big thing in town at the moment, because every Potol, Titun and Hamu has a billboard in Moakhali advertising their expertise. Do yourself a favor and get a proper job, or at least one that does not ensure a one room bedsit in the furthest reaches of Dhanmondi, not to mention the inability to pay for

dinner nor afford anything more than a daily scooter ride to visit your aforementioned friends in Banani, who once you arrive will only mock you for being an impoverished and unemployed wedding photographer. n

Girl, I don’t think you’re overreacting sufficiently to this very disturbing revelation by your husband. I think you may have inadvertently married a stalker at best or a pedophilic pervert, at worst. Does he disappear for long periods of time sans explanation? Does he keep his office or drawers locked, or have a private shed or basement that is off limits to you? If so, I would skip all demands for an explanation and high tail it out of there pronto. If he does appear otherwise normal, clearly he isn’t receiving enough stimulation (ahem, ahem) at home and needs you to create some additional excitement to prevent him from assuming his online identity as Bunny Froufrou, the exotic Egyptian massage therapist. n

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune


I work as a part time photographer and I feel I am pretty good at it. I eventually want to open my own wedding photography business. My friends however think I would be making a big mistake: they feel that there is no money to be made in being a wedding photographer, and apparently it’s not a “prestigious” job. Should I listen to my heart, or my friends?





Across 1 5 6 8 10 11

A girl upset chalice (5) Ear bent for a long time (3) Illuminated, I’m in for the maximum (5) Release from service of French mafia (5) Feel bad about constant leader vacancy (3) Grow wild about new sin (5)

Down 1 2 3 4 7 8 9

Room for paintings, largely abstract (7) Am I in goal? (3) Rent permit (3) Cards win purse (7) One concerning wrath (3) Join up drops on lawn (3) Jersey speak for way of doing nothing (3)

Solution and clues for last week’s crossword


Across 1 6 7 8

Apt season for a leap year? (6) Magistrate concerning first lady (5) Thin glass instrument (5) Greeny sort of power (6)

Down 2 3 4 5

Smell of each French smoke (7) Shipping hazard of lettuce (7) Actress Jackson might dangle oddly (6) Not much of a pudding (6)

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3

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


US Govt Shutdown

What happened there? As our minds churn at the political standoff here, it may make us feel better to examine a standoff in the capital of world’s pre-eminent power: the great US shutdown of 2013. What exactly happened and why? Joseph Allchin explains it all


he US shutdown was very similar to the caretaker government standoff in Bangladesh, but instead of being over the structure of politics, it was about government spending and therein was uniquely ideological. In short, the opposition Republican Party refused to allow an increase in US government borrowing. The Republican Party has dominated the House of Representatives since winning the House in 2010; this gives them the power to veto an enlargement of US government debt limits. The solution that conservative Republicans such as Ted Cruz offered was to cut Obama’s health care plans to cover all the Americans; a plan which is common in the developed world, but has proved particularly difficult for Obama to institute in the US. The US government is about $17tn in the red. Bangladesh’s gross domestic product (GDP) or the value of the economy as a whole is about $115bn. To put that into perspective, after the debt limit was opened up and

a deal was reached on October 16, the US government debt grew by $328bn – almost twice the size of Bangladesh’s entire economy – in a single day.

Where does all the money go?

While the Republican politicians are using the health care issue to push for a reduction in government spending, military spending has been the big growth area. In 2000, the US government’s annual spending on the military stood at $350bn. That figure now stands at $670bn, equivalent to around 42% of the world’s total defence spend. Indeed, the night before “the shutdown,” on September 30, the US government spent $5bn in a single night, just before the end of the fiscal year. To put that into perspective again, this is around $1bn more than what the 160 million people in Bangladesh spend in a year on health care, both public and private. Obama plans to cut military expenditure to around 30% of the global total, back to the year 2000 levels of around $350bn. Medicare and Medicaid, two

The 2013 shutdown is the third longest in the history of the US federal government, after the 18day shutdown in 1995-96 and the 21-day shutdown in 1978

similar programmes together, make up around 20% of the US government expenditure. These two are the sticking points for the Republicans, who object to the state providing free health care to poor people. These are means-tested, whereby to be eligible, as around 40 million people in the US are, you have to prove low income to receive this “social safety net.” This costs the US government around $800bn a year. US health services are some of the most expensive in the world. Because they are private, the US spends about $8,608 per person, per year. Compare this with one of the “healthiest” countries on the planet, say Sweden, and it’s around a third less at $5,331, despite achieving far better results. This is partly down to US health insurers not spending money on treating patients. Private insurers often spend on insurance professionals, mostly trained doctors themselves, whose job it is to find out reasons for ineligibility of subscribers to their policies, or on paying shareholders of the insurance company. Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, attempts to penalise health insurers who spend less than 80% on patients care as a means to cut the excessive per person “health spend.”

What the shutdown did

The shut down meant that for around two weeks, all non-essential staff of the US government went home on unpaid leave. This is said to have cost the US economy around $24bn, about as much as Bangladesh’s annual earnings from its most lucrative export industry – garments. This saw national parks shut, as government staff were not able to work in looking after them. This included tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, which runs a zoo in Washington DC, and a number of museums. However, perhaps of more concern W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, NOVE M B E R 1, 2013

was the question it asked of the viability of the US as a borrower. The country borrows large amounts of money from countries like China, who have lent the US around $1.28tn as of July. If the US had not reached a deal, this would have had serious repercussions for the global economy, as the US would have had most likely have slipped into a recession as government spending withdrew. Celebrated economist Paul Krugman further notes: “Failure to raise the ceiling would mean missed payments on existing US government debt.” This would have had several repercussions, which Krugman labels as potentially “terrifying.” It would have undoubtedly raised the cost of US borrowing as lenders would have lent at less competitive rates, and it would be viewed as a less safe bet. The country already spends around $223bn servicing those loans, around 6% of annual government budget. But, as Krugman says, it would also have disrupted the global economy, which relies on the “green back” as security. It would have been quite possible that default would create a huge financial crisis, worse than that of 2008, says Krugman.

How it all ended

With just a day to go before defaulting on their loans, a deal was signed with a number of Republicans siding with the Democrats to allow the government to borrow more than $16.7tn. This came after stern warnings from the likes of China on the reckless tactics that hard-line, right-wing Republicans had deployed. Just like with the issue of the caretaker government here, the opposition challenged the actions of a democratically elected executive in order to make a point. In Washington, this was precisely to object to the economic idea that a government should protect the health of those most in need. n



Kamalapur BTRC Bus Stand Kamalapur BTRC bus stand, 1989

Bangladesh Old Photo Archive 1989


Chanchal Kamal

Bus depots are busy places in general, and the Kamalapur bus depot has never been an exception. Every time my family and I used to take a train from Khulna to Dhaka, we would get off at the Kamalapur Rail Station, and then invariably make our way to the

bus depot to take a ride all the way to Lalmatia, where my grandparents lived. Little has changed in the 20 years, but I must say, despite the increase in traffic, the bus depot hasn’t become totally chaotic. Laila Ferdous, Gulistan, Dhaka

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3


Culture Vulture

Alice Munro

Welcome to Munroland Yusuf Banna writes about the winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for literature

Yusuf Banna is a staff writer at Weekend Tribune. He would be happier if he could be a poet. He also dreams of being a painter and is envious of those who are


t was neither unexpected, nor surprising that Alice Munro won this year’s Nobel Prize in literature, ahead of other heavy-weight contenders like Haruki Murakami, or Milan Kundera. At the age of 82, Munro received the prize after being considered a perennial contender for many years. Munro is the first Canadian writer to win the prize, and also the first laureate who writes only short stories. The Swedish Academy called her a

“Master of the contemporary short story” and this significant achievement will focus attention on a literary form that has fallen out of popularity with many readers. In an interview with Adam Smith of, Munro said, because she works generally in the short story form, “this is a special thing I think, to get this recognition.” The National Post quoted her telling the Canadian press in Victoria, “I knew I was in the running, but I never thought I would win,” adding that she was delighted and “just terribly surprised” when her daughter woke her during the night to tell her she had won. The choice by this year’s Nobel committee has been broadly welcomed as it avoided the controversy of some of the recent winners, who were criticised in some quarters for being obscure, difficult to apprehend or politically biased. Those who have not read Munro can be assured that there is a pleasant treat awaiting them. As one begins reading one of her stories, it becomes almost impossible to pause without finishing it. Since winning the Canadian Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her 1968 debut short story collection titled “Dance of the Happy Shades,” she has produced a further 13 collections at regular intervals, and in 2009 won the Man Booker International Prize for her

entire body of work. Obsessively influenced by the celebrated Russian short story writer Anton Chekhov, the reclusive Canadian has been called “Our Chekhov” by her people. When it comes to developing a character and building crises in the narrative, Munro’s visceral domain is limited to exploring the twisted relationships between men and women, their small-town existence and the fallibility of memory. As she works with the very basic instincts and instances of life, readers from every part of the world can easily identify with her stories. Munro applies the “cookie-cutter approach” in telling her story. A female protagonist dejected by the circumstances of life at an early age and her reaction to encountering the same set of circumstances over a long period of time, the sexual frustration, intense solitude and dilemma of life – these are her elementary particles in constructing her narratives. After trotting the globe, Munro consciously returned to being a country girl of Ontario province in her stories, keeping her characters local and portraying her birthplace much better, deeper and in a more detailed way than any other place in the world. What makes her stories special, then? It is nothing but her mastery of telling simple things in an easy way (which we all know is the most difficult

Alice Munro’s short story collections 1968 ‘Dance of the Happy Shades’ 1971 ‘Lives of Girls and Women’ 1974 ‘Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You’ 1978 ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ 1982 ‘The Moons of Jupiter’ 1986 ‘The Progress of Love’ 1990 ‘Friend of My Youth’ 1994 ‘Open Secrets’ 1998 ‘The Love of a Good Woman’ 2001 ‘Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage’ 2004 ‘Runaway’ 2006 ‘The View from Castle Rock’ 2009 ‘Too Much Happiness’ 2012 ‘Dear Life’

thing to do). A “Munrovian” mindset draws her readers in to whichever space she creates for her characters of the “Munroland.” Considering her signature style, popularity, characterisation and decisively simple narrative, Bangladeshis are reminded of our very own master storyteller, Humayun Ahmed. The more one gets engrossed in Munro’s work, the more fleeting glimpses of Humayun will come into view. Those who have enjoyed Humayun’s work will surely like Munro. Alice Munro will be presented with the Nobel Prize for Literature at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10. The notoriously publicityshy author has said her 2012 work “Dear Life” would be her last; perhaps she will not mind this one final moment in the literary limelight. n




Manna Dey

The empty Coffee House Ibtisam Ahmed looks back on the life of the legendary singer

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

he called “the lack of musical quality and the drop in music video quality.” He remained an integral part of the Bangla film industry, however, and also performed bhajaans and ghazals all the way until his final concert in 2012, at the astounding age of 93. Reviewers and audience members alike reported in various media that his voice was just as powerful and unwavering then as it had been in the 60s. Manna Dey was truly the last of a golden era of musicians. He was one of a quartet of unparalleled vocal talent along with Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Mohammad Rafi. He worked with the greatest music directors the Indian subcontinent has ever seen. And he still managed to stamp his own brand of artistry in an age of the vibrant creativity. With his passing, the page has finally turned and we are left mourning the loss of not just a voice, but of an epoch. n

At a glance


o matter which generation you are a part of, or which side of the border you grew up in, every single Bangali has heard “Coffee Houser Shei Addata.” Regardless of differences in musical tastes – and, indeed, differences in values – brought about by generational and geographical gaps, Manna Dey’s dulcet tones are an inherent part of every Bangali’s cultural identity. When he passed away on October 24 after a long illness at the age of 94, it was no surprise to see the entire region united in grief. Born as Prabodh Chandra Dey to Mahamaya and Purna Chandra Dey on May 1, 1919, his musical talent was nurtured from a very early age. Alongside his regular education, where he professed to being an average student at best who was interested in sports, Dey was given formal musical training by his youngest paternal uncle Krishna Chandra Dey and by Ustad Dabir Khan. He would later learn Hindustani classical music with Ustad Aman Ali Khan and Ustad Abdul Rahman Khan. In 1942, Dey accompanied his uncle to Bombay and started working as an assistant music director, first under his uncle’s tutelage and then with Sachin Dev Burman. At the

same time, he began his career in playback singing, with hits “Lapat Ke Pot Pahaney Bikral,” his first duet with Lata Mangeshkar, and “Subah Ki Paheli Kiran,” his first duet with Kishore Kumar. Between 1953 and 1969, Dey had what is considered to be his most productive playback period, singing an astonishing 758 songs for Bollywood films, including the ever popular “Aye Mere Pyaare Watan,” “Laaga Chunari Mein Daag” and “Aao Twist Karen.” During this time, he also formed long-lasting professional and personal relationships with the likes of Salil Chowdhury, Laxmikant Pyarelaal, Rahul Dev Burman, Naushad and O P Nayyar. Such a list of legends is impressive enough in its own right, but Dey also composed some of his own music as well as collaborating with lesser-known personalities in the industry. Along with his astonishing output in Hindi, Dey also continued to sing in Bangla and also branched into Malayalam. In 1983, Dey sang “Coffee Houser Shei Addata,” a song that will forever be a part of the Bangali popular culture. The sheer volume of his contribution to the music industry continued unabated until 1992, when he decided to withdraw from the Bollywood film industry due to what

1919 Born in Calcutta, then part of British India 1942 Begins an illustrious playback career after completing his education and accompanying his uncle to Bombay 1971 Awarded the Padma Shri for his services to music and the arts 1983 Sings the definitive Bangla hit “Coffee Houser Shei Addata” 2005 Becomes just one of a handful of musicians to be awarded the Padma Bhushan 2007 Awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award 2011 Awarded the Filmfare Lifetime Achievement Award, long considered overdue by many in the industry, and receives a minutes-long standing ovation at the ceremony 2012 Performs his final concert in Mumbai 2013 Passes away

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 1 , 20 1 3

28 Nadia Chowdhury contributes to the Weekend Tribune because she loves writing, oh yes she does. Read her works, you will love them

LAST WORD Nadia Chowdhury

Musings on a lost tradition Who does not adore books? Everyone does. Right?


Texts can be the most boring books in the world, but imagine the plethora of knowledge they contain, and the innumerable doors that knowledge can open


emember grade school deadlines and how you left your term paper for the last minute? That moment when you finally got around to reading the prompt, and you realised that your grades were depending on your writing about a book you’ve never read? And the fear of your parents finding out? Yeah, we’ve all been there, and it’s really those moments that made us dislike classics so very much. Years later, though, this prejudice just might change. It did for me. Reading literature was, and still is, a great way to learn about the world. In an age of super-fast technology, opening a print book could be, well, a really nice hobby. Having had friends who were astounded by the fact that I didn’t own an ipod or ipad, and my feeling rather more sad that Indigo closed the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, than my lack of electronic gadgetry, I recognise that times really have changed. For me, going into a public library and spending hours perusing through moth-eaten books, inhaling their musty smells, and feeling the crinkle of aged paper between my fingers, is akin to heaven. Yes, I really love books, and I dislike that the advent of visual and virtual technology has caused a decrease in reading. Well, reading prints at any rate. Now, when I visit local bookstores, all I see on the shelves are fading book titles; tomes printed a decade ago, gathering dust and dirt. The majority of these books are not only classics, but in some cases, pretty priceless ones. These days, people clearly do not want to buy books any more. Like many of my friends, people would rather spend money on the latest ipad. Not exactly a bad thing, but if your ability to string two words together is lower than your ability to drive a car, then you know you’ve got problems. What’s strange is that in an age of uber-fast, digital technology, a digital market exists, but most tech-hip people still have not managed to tap into the e-book scene. I digress though. I started this piece with the intent to lament the end (or impending death) of books: the real, pages and ink deal. Whether you’re glued to your computer screens all day, or an avid

My friends are tech-hip while I am not, but this doesn’t create a boundary between us; I forgive their disinterest in reading books, and they tolerate my technologically challenged self book reader like me, one language we all have in common is money. If you speak money, you should at least understand the monetary value of holding on to books. The self-sell tab on Amazon and Ebay, two websites every internet user knows, should have taught you by now that even if you’re not a reader, books are at least a great way to bring in extra money. Yet that should definitely not be the primary reason for owning books. If people do not know how to string two words together, well, read a book. That’s what books were good for. And not just for grammar or syntax. Books were also good for taking trips to unknown places, having adventures, and maybe even outsmarting the smartest person in the world – and all through the simple flipping of pages. If that’s not pretty damn remarkable, I don’t know what is. Unaccustomed to 21st century gadgetry, I will never know the attraction it holds for so many of my peers, but I do feel good when I see kids use their gadgets for stuff other than games and accessing social media. Even then, this rant on books, I feel, was necessary. The tides have changed, my friends, and for the worse in some ways, and the better in others. We may have gained technology, but we are losing the cult-like tradition of reading books, that failsafe way of making friends, and gaining acceptance anywhere. Enough said. Ranting makes me peckish, and I have just the thing to feed my appetite: I speak of food for thought, in other words, my books. I may not have changed your minds, but I hope my enthusiasm for books has been addictive enough. Happy reading! n

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