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Reality check 5

In defence of sharia 17

FRIDAY MAY 10 2013

vol 1 Issu e 4

No blushing matter 26


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CONTENTS

A Weekly Pro ducti o n o f

Vo lume 1, Issu e 4 MAY 10, 2 0 13

6 FEATURE Envisioning the cars of tomorrow

Acting Editor Zafar Sobhan Magazine Editor Faruq Hasan Weekend Tribune Team Fahim Razzaq Sumaiya Shams Faisal Mahmud Tamoha Binte Siddiqui Sheikh Mohammed Irfan Yusuf Banna

17 Real Politik In defence of sharia

Photography Syed Latif Hossain Cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Contributors Naheed Kamal Zubier Abd Ikhtisad Ahmed Rifat Islam Esha Bassema Karaki M.S. Newman Cover Nashirul Islam Design Asmaul Haque Mamun Mohammed Mahbub Alam Production Masum Billah Email: info@dhakatribune.com Web: www.dhakatribune.com

26 Culture Vulture No blushing matter

2 This Week 4 Whose Line Is It Anyway? What’s the big deal? 5 Big Mouth Strikes Again Reality check 10 Post-Riposte Savar: Who is to blame? 11 Top 10 For the love of the golden delights 12 6° of Connotations Youth involvement in Savar 13 Photo Story The wonder that is Dhaka Zoo 18 Digital Bangladesh Crawling through the web 19 Interview A pet’s best friend 20 What’s the Problem? No place to play 21 Stranger in a Strange Land Better sorry than safe? 22 Tough Love 23 Backbenchers’ Club 24 Day in the Life of A book-seller 25 The Way Dhaka Was Dhaka Medical College Hospital 27 Obituary Shahina Akter 28 Last Word

EDITOR’S NOTE

Predicting disasters of a different kind L

et me start off this issue by making a bold prediction: political and economic calamities that we Bangladeshis are so used to facing will be supplemented with environmental ones. We are, of course, used to floods, cyclones, and soon even earthquakes. But we are still far behind in grappling with disasters of the man-made variety. Savar will be a scar on our conscience for decades to come and in our Post-Riposte, we try to take a stab at the blame game. Both our columnists, Naheed Kamal and Zubier Abd, also focus on the man-made component of this man-made tragedy. On the brighter side, our cover story by Rifat Islam takes a peek at how environmental activists are busy getting ready to deal with air pollution, which, if China is anything to go by, will be the bane that comes along with economic boom. If levity is more of a flavour of the day, check out our Top 10 list for laddus in Dhaka. If you want to do a quick internet search to add to the list, why not give Google a break and try our own home-grown search engine Pipilika? Check out Digital Bangladesh for details. If your pet has been acting up, why not check our interview with veteran vet Dr Siamak and see if he has some handy advice. And of course we always have the Backbencher’s Club for comic relief and our weekly crosswords to tax those grey cells a bit. Hope all our readers have a relaxing weekend! n W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, May 1 0, 20 1 3


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THIS WEEK IN INTERNATIONAL AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

REUTERS/Gali Tibbon

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem April 21

REUTERS/Wong Campion

AFP Photo / Narinder Nanu REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

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Indian villagers and relatives of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian death row prisoner that was killed in Pakistan, carry his coffin during his cremation at Bikhiwind village some 45 kms from Amritsar, on May 3. Singh, an Indian convicted 16 years ago in Pakistan for spying and deadly bombings, died May 2 after being savagely beaten with a brick in Lahore prison, sparking a furious response from Indian politicians. Singh was cremated with state honours in his native village in northwestern India

A protester walks away after placing a smoke device on the ground in front of police officers during a May Day march that began as an anti-capitalism protest and turned into demonstrators clashing with police lies on the ground next to police batons, Wednesday, May 1, in downtown Seattle

A boy wearing a mask holds papers as he protests against a planned refinery which produces the chemical paraxylene (PX), at a square in Kunming, Yunnan province, May 4. Hundreds of people took to the streets of the Chinese city of Kunming on Saturday to protest against a planned refinery, in the latest show of concern over the effects of rapid growth on the environment. The Chinese characters on the paper to the right reads: “(it) is destruction”

The Springs Fire rages along the Pacific Ocean north of the Ventura County Line May 2. A wind-driven wildfire raging along the California coast north of Los Angeles prompted the evacuation of hundreds of homes and a university campus on Thursday as flames engulfed several farm buildings and recreational vehicles near threatened neighborhoods


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Mahmud Hossain Opu/ Dhaka Tribune

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Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

6 1. May 1. Heavy equipment deployed in rescue operation at Savar Rana Plaza collapse 2. May 2. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina calls a meeting with Awamil League leaders 3. May 5. Hundreds of thousands of Hefazat-E-Islami activists gather in Shapla Chattar area at the start of the Dhaka Seige program 4. Hefazati activists attack and vandalise vehicles at Paltan area of the city Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

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Focus Bangla

Rajib Dhar/ Dhaka Tribune

NATIONAL

5. Minors brought by Hefazat-e-Islami activists and leaders in their Dhaka Seige programme 6. Parked cars at office buildings at Dilkhusha area vandalised and burned by Hefazat activists

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line

is it anyway?

What’s the big deal? "Anywhere in the world, any accident can take place. You cannot predict anything." Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

"Well, I don’t think it is really serious … it’s an accident." Finance Minister AMA Muhith

Cartoons:Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

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Big Mouth strikes again

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Naheed Kamal

Reality check

This is real life and it is being televised

B

esieged as we are by images 24/7, 365, with lines literally blurred between reality and make-belief, often we forget that scenes on TV are not all films; some are real life. The sights at the building collapse last month jolted many out of complacency, and hopefully shocked the industry from acquiescence. I feel culpable simply because I worked in the industry, in “compliance.” When I worked for a particularly unscrupulous bunch, I had sleepless nights much like Lady Macbeth after gruelling days! So, I often wonder: how those actually responsible for the thousands of unsafe factories that do not “comply” with a single local labour law can sleep at night?

Have you ever wondered why in an industry supposedly empowering women, where women are the dominant workforce, there are hardly any women in middle or top management despite 40 years of experience? Makes me wonder ... On May 1, International Workers’ Day, I felt it keenly. For us to enjoy eight-hour workdays and two-day weekends, men, women and children paid with their lives. Changes to labour laws and work places came about after a number of incidences. But that was in another place in another time. Can we cite those instances from 100 years ago to justify our despicable actions today? I think not. It is frankly disgusting when many in the business howl with indignation, claiming they can’t be held accountable for the misdeeds of a handful. Excuse me if I am daft, but how can just a handful of “bad” factories continue to operate and bad people enrich themselves at the expense of so many, if the rest of the industry does not condone their actions? It seems to prove that the industry is inherently inhumane; after all, it was founded on cheap, unpaid, underpaid and disposable labour. In spite of fear-mongering and lack of accountability, and despite gruesome scenes, business continues as usual. But the families of the dead and missing, and those traumatised and disabled, won’t go quietly. Nor will the nation forget so easily. Nearly four million workers, mostly women, work in approximately 5,000 factories. They are the region’s youngest and cheapest. And most exploited. The ready-made garment industry accounts for over 13% of Bangladesh’s GDP, and approximately 78% of total

export earnings. Which is no mean feat, if you ask me. Women are the backbone of the industry and a highly productive and hardy bunch. If we compare their contribution to the nation with, say, Islamist activists who converged on Dhaka last week, and the trail of destruction, these men are undoubtedly the least productive by any standards. By now, we must admit we owe the hardworking women and men a great deal and need to make up for years of neglect and despicable behaviour towards them. Let’s not forget Rana Plaza was not the first time lives were lost due to sheer negligence. Let me refresh your memories. Dhaka, 1997: Nouvelle Garments Factory, Florence Fabrics, and Modern Garments, five dead and 50 injured. 1999: unnamed factory at unknown location, 100 injured. New millennium, 2000: Chowdhury Knitwear and Garments Factory, 52 dead in a stampede. 2001: fire at Europe Sweaters (ground and first floors), Four Wings (second floor), AJAX Sweaters (third and fourth) and Macro Sweater (fifth to seventh floors, 24 dead and over 100 injured. 2004: Shifa Apparels and Omega Sweaters, 50 injured and seven trampled to death. 2005: nine-storey Spectrum Factory collapses, 64 dead, at least 74 injured. Same year: Narayanganj, Shan Knitting and Processing, 28 burned alive. 2006: scene shifts to Chittagong; KTS Textile Factory fire, 63 burned or suffocated, over 150 injured. In another incident same year: 100 injured in stampede. We move to Gazipur, Salem Fashion, six dead in a stampede, over 50 injured. 2010, Garib & Garib Sweater Factory fire kills 21 in February, a month later in a second incident10 injured. Six months later, Ha-Meem Group’s That’s It Sportswear fire, 24 dead, many jump from ninth floor. Four days later, panicked workers return and over two dozen are injured in a stampede. 2011: boiler explodes at Eurotex and Continental, two trampled to death and 62 injured. 2012: Tazreen Fashions fire kills 112. So we come to the latest figures, over 700 dead, thousands disabled, many missing. In fact, the collapse of Rana Plaza is the deadliest catastrophe in the history of the garment industry!

M

ost “occurrences” in factories are unreported, and so unrecorded. Dangers range from fatal injuries, rapes and disappearances, illnesses owing to unsafe conditions and long hours, exposure to hazardous material, denial of basic rights, access to toilets, rest or first aid, and illegal deductions, non-payment of wages, benefits and

compensations. Forget maternity pay, they don’t even get maternity leave or any leave, or payment in lieu. It is not uncommon to find workers are not paid as records indicate. Threatened and harassed, physically violated and abused – we can’t deny labour and lives are undervalued in Bangladesh. For which we must accept a degree of collective guilt. After the latest incident, and the scenes on our screens, we cannot continue to deny lack safety and security in factories; even if it is a handful of factories, they are one too many. Given the circumstances, can we possibly question the roots of rising radicalism in our society? I am particularly irked to hear well-connected and powerful factory owners (more like petulant brats and bullies, in my opinion) describe poor and powerless workers as a threat to their safety! That rampaging mob only went berserk because many in the industry continue to shirk all accountability at best, and behave like thugs at worst. Don’t be surprised to find disquiet and discontent simmering below the surface when factories are virtual death traps, structurally unsound, improperly designed, erected on marshland, without permission, and forced to work in unstable buildings and so often locked inside these places, where they so often succumb to fires, caveins, and worse. My humble suggestion: Acknowledge the industry’s failings, stop seeing those who make your cushy lifestyles possible as the enemy, and most importantly, recognise workers as fellow human beings, not disposable (human) resource. I am talking to you, the lady who “even had lunch with workers” to placate them – just pay them their dues! I draw the attention of the entrepreneur who collects super cars that rust in his garage, but enforces 20 hours daily without days off and doesn’t pay minimum wage or over time; the scion of a “group of industries” who wears $1,000 shoes, and keeps multiple, not just “double” books for each buyer, some of the most disreputable brands in the world. Or the chairman who employs thugs and uses violence on a regular basis on any employee who dares to complain about anything at all. Wake up! We saw everything on television. We know the truth. By all means pay me no heed, but I shall leave you with the final words of August Spies as food for thought: “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.” n

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!

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FEATURE

ECO-RUN BANGLADESH

Envisioning the cars of tomorrow

Rifat Islam Esha is a staff correspondent and social media editor at Dhaka Tribune, who throws words around at her whims

Rifat Islam Esha writes about the competition and its potential influence on our automotive culture

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Mono Tsu’kuri (pronounced as “monozukuri”) is a coined word that roughly means “creating something.” The basic idea of Mono Tsu’kuri is creating something on one’s own that would stand out

lmost all children have played with toy cars. It’s then that they learn what a car is, how it is run by four wheels, or more, based on their ability to understand things. The whole structure of the toy car, before being destroyed into bits and pieces, stands as an immense source of information to the children. They bend and twist the toy and try to fix it, rebuild it in their own way. Adults are no different either, even though an average adult wouldn’t break his/her car and try to reassemble it for sport. My point is, cars are fascinating, and their technology will draw anyone, more than their outward look. As amazing as this invention is, it has gone through and still going through a lot of upgrades to suit our timely needs. For years, countries like Japan and Germany have come up with innovative ways to make the functionality of cars better. Specific aspects have been modified by keeping the interest of particular groups of people in mind. In the light of such progress, one comes across fuel-efficient cars — a gift of automobile engineering that has been vying to come with new ways to reduce fuel consumption. Some of the world’s biggest automobile manufacturers have worked really hard with the concept of “fuel efficiency,” but with the use of lower brake-specific fuel consumption or turbocharged direct engine, they could increase the fuel efficiency of a regular car only by a small fraction. However, the stark and ugly fact remains – 32% of the world’s fuel (oil and gas) is used by the automobile industry, and this amounts to the 43% of the world’s carbon emission. Now, here’s some hard facts: did you know that Bangladesh is the fifth country in the world in terms of worst air pollution? Did you know that we have 1.2m vehicles that alone are responsible for the pollution? In a country where we are still vying to create our own cars, we are barely concerned with the concept of fuel efficiency. However, in the age of Google Glasses, one can be ambitiously hopeful that Bangladesh can make energy-efficient cars one day. That cannot happen overnight, though. Thanks to JICA (Japan International Cooperation

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Photos: Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune


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Agency), a potential inception of such initiative has been possible in the form of a competition called Eco-Run Bangladesh 2013 – the fuel-efficient vehicle design contest and exhibition held for the first time at a national level.

Eco-Run

Eco-Run is a contest for fuel-efficient vehicles that compete against one another using only one litre of petrol. In Japan, teams have driven over 3,0004,300 kilometres with only one litre of petrol. Mostly, three-wheeled vehicles with small displacement (below 125cc) are used for the competition, but EcoRun Bangladesh 2013 was an exception — there were four-wheeled vehicles in the competition too. Initially, JICA had approached BUET in May 2011 to host a national car competition modelled after Eco-Run contests that are held every year in Japan (since 1982). BUET was immensely interested and accepted JICA’s proposal. In September 2011, an inaugural meeting of Eco-Run Bangladesh was held at BUET. Many companies were invited to participate in this competition, but eventually, only engineering students of various universities of Bangladesh were granted entry in it. A very strong steering committee was formed for the event, which consisted of members from the BRTA (Bangladesh Road Transport Authority), JICA, Walton, Runner, Uttara Motors and most of the participating institutions – BUET, CUET, MIST, IUT and RUET. Toshiya Okawara, special adviser from JICA at the competition, explained how exactly he had approached BUET. “I first made two cars with two teams of 30 students when I was teaching at Barisal Technical School and College (BTSC),” he said. “I love cars; I believe that the whole process of creating a car with one’s own hands with the help of a team can bring immense satisfaction. That is what Mono Tsu’kuri is all about, which is the philosophy of all Japanese manufacturing industries.” After the success on his project at BTSC, Okawara was convinced that this could be done in a grand way by including cars from all parts of Bangladesh. That’s when he contacted BUET. He believes that Eco-Run can actually inspire students to grow the automotive industry of Bangladesh in the future.

The Competition

This competition gave the students an opportunity to work on their own from scratch. The students got the chance to design and develop their vehicles from concepts to prototypes. Even though Walton Hi-Tech Industries Ltd provided the teams with 15 100cc engines, the students had to work on their cars - from welding to wiring, every decision made was their own. This whole process aligns with the concept of Mono Tsu’kuri. The students also had the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge on their cars and learn something new from this experience. It was a platform for the participants to come up with their very own concepts, designs and

Winners l Four-wheelers

First prize – NYPTA-8 Second prize – Prototype Third prize – Avengers l Three-wheelers

First prize – Marcus Second prize – Graffinz Third prize – X-R Wagon l The best fuel-efficient cars

(both from BUET) were recorded to have covered 42 km/litre and 72 km/litre, respectively.

The cars were essentially evaluated on the basis of how fuelefficient they were. Design presentation, fulfilment of technical specification, fabrication quality, aesthetics and vehicle functionality were also judged

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FEATURE

This could bring about a revolutionary change in our automotive industry in the future, given that the event takes place annually

development of cars targeted for the local market, keeping the aspects of energy efficiency and the impact on the environment in mind. “The engineering students created something that they had never expected with a sense of infallible contentment. Their team work produced cars that they had only dreamt of creating,” Okawara said. After a long wait and months of preparation, on March 15, 2013, Eco-Run Bangladesh 2013 was held at Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) in Sher-eBangla Nagar, with a great turn-up. The participants of the competition were: for the four-wheelers, NYPTA-8 (BUET), Prototype (CUET), IUT Inceptor (IUT), Motomist (MIST), Graffinz (RUET) and Barisal Riders (BTSC), and for the three-wheelers, Automech/Marcus (BUET), Vrroom (CUET), Optimus (CUET), X-R Wagon (CUET), Red Army (IUT), IUT Knight Riders (IUT), Autometos (RUET), Avengers (RUET) and Barisal Lions (RUET).

From the participants’ perspective

To know more about the future of Eco-Run, I talked with a few of the participants and Prof Dr Md Ehsan, the convenor of the competition. Dr Ehsan seemed very hopeful about the prospect of Eco-Run in the country. “After convening such a competition and its success, I only hope that it reaches a wider audience and people other than engineering students participate in the future events,” he said. He believes that, with ample support from sponsors, Eco-Run can actually get more exposure; this way, W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, M AY 1 0, 201 3


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How Eco-Run Bangladesh came to be July 2010

JICA launched the project

September 2010

The teams started the first two activities at BTSC

more people, and not just students, will show their eagerness in participating. Debashish Saha, an alumnus of BUET and the event manager, thinks that events like this are tough to arrange. “But so is every other event that is held for the first time,” he said. “One should consider that an elaborate planning is necessary to actually make such events successful. Organising, bringing the universities together, working on the booklet, keeping track of everything – these are tough jobs. However, in the end, the hard work paid off and that’s what matters.” He mentioned how the teachers, sponsors and JICA helped the students in every possible way. Since this was the first time that such an event took place in Bangladesh, the target participants were engineering students. However, as Debashish believes, in the later phase of Eco-Run, there will be participants from outside engineering institutions, just like the Eco-Run in Japan. Imtiaz Ahmad, a team member

March 2011

January 2012

December 2011

March 2012

A test competition was carried out in Barisal

Inauguration of the Steering Committee took place

of Marcus, one of the participating teams, said how thrilled his teammates and he were when they heard of Eco-Run. “Initially, it was an unexpected opportunity for us, but we never doubted our own potential. We were optimistic and determined from the start. We were confident that if we really tried, we could accomplish making our own energy-efficient car with the help of the professors and JICA,” he said. However, Imtiaz pointed out how they did have to compromise their initial plan as they didn’t acquire the kind of material they needed. “That‘s why sponsors are important,” he commented. He hopes that Eco-Run can contribute to the car industry of Bangladesh in the future. MHM Majedur Rahman of Marcus told us that, before this, they had only watched videos of Eco-Run, and now they had the opportunity to participate in the competition themselves. “And we surely want to take part in it next year,” he said. He believes that

Teams were established in CUET, IUT, and RUET

March 2013

Eco-Run Bangladesh 2013 was hosted

Official practice running at IUT

“Initially, it was an unexpected opportunity for us, but we never doubted our own potential. We were optimistic and determined from the start. We were confident that if we really tried, we could accomplish making our own energy-efficient car with the help of the professors and JICA.” - Imtiaz Ahmad

Eco-Run will interest general people, but it will take time, like everything else. ”We can expect to see energy, efficient cars (of our own) on the roads, which will bring about less fuel consumption,” Rajesh Sarkar of Marcus said. Nahian Bin Hossain, a member of the team NYPTA-8, explained how, initially, there was confusion regarding the design process of their car, as they were not yet familiar with the concepts of automotive that were required. “But we weren’t demotivated

at all. We picked up on the concept and received help from our supervisor, alumni and JICA,” he said. “We’re happy to design our own car. The feeling of welding and using machines with our own hands was incredible. The whole process was very invigorating but hectic, as we had to work on our project amidst our regular studies,” he added. He, too, believes Bangladesh’s future in the automotive industry is very bright and that Eco-Run will reach general people. n

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POST-RIPOSTE

Rana Plaza

Savar: Who is to blame?

Faisal Mahmud and Fahim Razzaq debate on who is most responsible for Savar incident

Garment manufacturers pass the buck Right after the incident, Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) held a press conference where they stated that the association had instructed the factory owners to keep their factories closed after cracks had developed in the eight-storied building. The president of the BGMEA, Atiqul Islam, claims that the factories in Rana Plaza were kept open despite their instructions. The five factories were

later suspended from BGMEA. Incidentally, BGMEA did not explain why these factories were granted membership in the first place, when they were operating without necessary compliance. As per the regulations of the Control Union, which is an independent global garments auditing body, it falls under BGMEA’s responsibilities to check the compliance of any factory before it’s made a member. n

Big brands’ greed is to blame!

Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

Local problem requires local solutions

Factory owners missing in action

The Savar Upazila is located 24 kilometres to the northwest of Dhaka city and by definition, any construction within the 1,528sq/km area around Dhaka falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Rajdhani Unnyan Kartipakkha (Rajuk). In contrast, the “Imarat Nirman Bidhimala” and the national building code suggests that any construction of a building under a municipality should be approved by the designated personnel concerned under said municipality. Officials of the Savar municipality said that the building owner of Rana Plaza had placed a layout plan in 2008, which they approved. The municipality has a small wing comprised of two engineers for approving building layout plans. Yet, Rajuk chairman Engr Nurul Huda said that no municipality within the (mentioned) area has the authority to permit any building construction without Rajuk’s approval. n

On April 30, the owners of the factories in Rana Plaza – Anisur Rahman (Ether Tex), Aminul Islam (Phantom Apparels and Phantom Tac), Mahmudur Rahman Tapas (New Wave Bottom) and Bazlus Samad Adnan (New Wave Style) were taken to the court after cases were filed against them. The High Court also ordered authorities concerned to confiscate all movable and immovable properties of said owners. When the owners were questioned by the media, they refused to comment. Survivors of the collapse stated that they were forced to work by their employers despite cracks in the building’s structure were found two days before. Supervisors from Phantom Apparels pointed fingers at their employers as they were forced to work given a huge pending order. However the accused stated that they received assurance from a local engineer and Sohel Rana, the building owner that it was safe to remain inside the building. n

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Consider the five months following the fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd in November 2012. During that time, a proposal was made for improving safety from labour unions, which was rejected by the retailers. Instead, what transpired was that the clothing brands implemented a cheaper option, albeit an alternative patchwork system of private audits and training. It is important to note here, that this system has done little to prevent the 41 other fire “incidents” in Bangladesh factories. According to a labour organisation from the AFL-CIO umbrella group of American unions, such incidents ranged from a deadly blaze to smaller fires or sparks that caused employees to panic. And today we are faced with the Savar crisis. There are immediate questions you have to ask, why weren’t the proposals for improving safety approved? Would

it really have cost them that much more? Well, here is an interesting survey from the Institute of Global Labour and Human Rights conducted 13 years ago. They found that a denim jacket made in a garments factory based in Chicago, costs $13.22 and the very same product when made in Bangladesh costs $3.72. The breakdown of which, sums to a total cost of materials at $5 and $7.47 labour cost when made in Chicago, versus material costs at $3.30 and $0.22 labour cost when made in Bangladesh. The differences in the labour cost say it all. While big clothing brands have the option to move their factories to China or India, the quality that Bangladesh delivers is obviously what is of consequence here. Not to mention, it is always favourable to choose to operate under a bureaucracy, where money matters more than lives. n

Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune


TOP 10

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Places to Get Laddus

For the love of the golden delights 10

Mohan Chand and Sons

This veteran sweet shop has eight branches in the city and serves mouth-watering laddus at reasonable prices. Their specialties are Maowa and Bundiya laddus.

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Bismillah Mishti Mukh

Imagine a world where you don’t have laddus displayed tantalisingly on dalas and kulas at your cousin’s Gaye Holud. Imagine not getting to use phrases and idioms like “Porikkhay laddu khawa,” “Mone laddu futa,” and “Biye holo Dillir laddu.” It’s hard, isn’t it? For all the laddu-loving Bangaldeshis out there, Tamoha Binte Siddiqui gives you the top 10 places to get laddus in Dhaka.

Although this sweet shop has only one branch in Uttara, Bismillah Mishti Mukh makes it to our list for their unique Shemai laddu. The soft spongy core contrasted with crispy fried shemai sprinkled on the surface is a pleasant surprise for the taste buds. You can also try their Bundiya, Mihidana and Maowa laddu, which are just as good.

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Bikrampur Mishtanno Bhandar

With branches spread out all around the city, you surely cannot miss out on trying any of their sweet sticky laddus. Their laddus have retained traditional Old Dhaka flavour, unique to Bangladesh.

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Captain’s World

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Sweet shops in Shakhari Bazar

Shakhari Bazaar, one of the oldest mohallas in Puran Dhaka, enjoys the status of the most popular choice as a venue for Hindu festivals, such as Durga Puja. Due to these festivals, there are a number of burgeoning sweet shops in this lane. The laddus found in these sweet shops are unique in that they are bigger in size compared to the laddus found in other parts of Dhaka, and also due to their juicy and soft texture.

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Rosh

Another sweet shop that is a heaven for laddu lovers. They have Motichur, Bundiya, Maowa, Rosh, Badami, Cream and Kadam laddus, available at their

outlets in Dhanmondi Road 4, 5 and 27, Gulshan 1, Gulshan 2, Banani, Magbazar, Panthapath and Airport. Their Maowa laddu is popular amongst the people of Dhaka for its distinctive taste.

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Haldiram’s

One of India’s largest sweets and snacks manufacturers based in Nagpur, India opened its first branch in Bangladesh in Banani Raod 12 this January. Their world-famous Kesar and Motichur laddus are available here if you want a tasty treat.

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Khazana Mithai

A popular sweet shop based in Gulshan with a branch in Uttara,

Khazana Mithai boasts its use of superior ingredients and hygienic stateof-the-art kitchen to bring delightful desserts. Amongst the three kinds of laddus available here, the most popular is their Motichur laddu, which is also one of their specialties

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Jaipur Sweets

This veteran sweet shop brought its recipes straight from Rajasthan. It has four different flavours of laddus—Maowa, Motichur, Shadika/Bundiya and Kashmiri. Kashmiri Laddu is worth mentioning, with its smooth blend of carrots and cream that leave a lasting taste in your mouth for a lifetime. You can try them at the shop’s outlets scattered in Dhanmondi Road 27, Uttara, Tejgaon, Dhanmondi Road 9/A and Satmasjid Road.

Premium Sweets

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Bigstock

The sweet corner at Captain’s World is surprisingly well-endowed when it comes to tasty laddus. With three different and equally savoury laddus on their menu, Captain’s World makes it to our top 10 list. You can try laddus in theiroutlets near Jahangir Gate, Uttara and Satmasjid Road.

With seven distinct and colourful array of laddus available at this prestigious sweet shop, Premium Sweets undoubtedly holds the top spot. Their display of Mihidana, Motichur, Maowa, Goalior, Premium and Classic laddus is sure to make your mouth water. Their specialty is, of course, the orange-red Motinut laddu – soft, juicy, and topped with delicious nuts. Be sure to try it at any of the Premium Sweets outlets in Gulshan, Dhanmondi, Uttara, Panthapath, Mirpur, Satmasjid Road and Lakshmi Bazar.

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6o of connotations Zubier Abd is a writer, thinker, scientist, and avid ice cream lover all rolled into one

Zubier Abd

Youth involvement in Savar Rise of the commoners during the national crisis

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t’s been almost a week, yet the rubble of the factory refuses to budge. Under the detritus of a once large building lie hundreds of trapped souls, trapped there for more than five days, trapped in darkness with their only company being the deceased and each other. While their unceasing cries fell on the deaf ears of our political leaders, they were not unheard. In an unprecedented display of compassion and humanity, ordinary people from all over the country and all over the world, old, young and everything in between, pledged their time and energy to help the victims of the Savar collapse, helping them become survivors. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, one of the most valuable commodities necessary was blood. Scores of people were being rescued with horrific injuries, bleeding profusely, who would have died without blood transfusions. Blood is a scarce resource and even the largest hospital or college in Bangladesh would not have had enough blood to help everyone, let alone the small beleaguered Enam Medical College in Savar,

Savar was an opportunity for our government to show leadership, but once again we were let down by the authorities where the survivors were rushed for medical treatment. But thankfully, it was the youth of the nation, including people like myself, who managed to collect enough blood to help out through their combined efforts. Exact figures are hard to come by – the sheer number of people involved make it difficult to keep track. I learned from a friend of mine, who is a member of the North South University Social Services Club, that they, in conjunction with Quantum Foundation, had organised a blood drive at the university campus last month. They donated over 800 bags of blood for the victims. In addition, they raised over Tk600,000 in charitable donations from the students and staff of the university. Aiding the rescue operations was another segment where the youth of the nation surpassed itself. Many

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things were necessary to help those who were buried under the rubble: oxygen tanks, battery-operated torch lights, medical gloves, masks and food were among the vast list of things needed to rescue the victims, and they were all expensive. Oxygen tanks cost around Tk800 per tank, and the other things, though not as expensive, were needed in large quantities for the rescue efforts. A lot of people, especially students from many educational institutions in the city, donated significant amounts of money for these purposes. Students from the Institute of Business Administration of Dhaka University managed to raise over Tk270,000. Numerous universities from all around Dhanmondi, such as the University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh and United International University, raised over Tk400,000 for the health and rehabilitation of the survivors. A source at United International University said that they had already used Tk25,000 from the donation to purchase wheel chairs and another Tk25,000 to purchase medicine for the injured. They are keeping the remaining money in reserve, which they plan on using to rehabilitate the survivors. Bangladeshis abroad were also involved in donating for the cause. Sneha Foundation, JAAGO Foundation, One Degree Initiative and a slew of other organisations accepted donations from Bangladeshis living abroad. None of these organisations were willing to discuss exact figures, yet going through the list of the donors of Sneha Foundation, which has over 350 entries, gives an inkling of the support they have received. Students in campuses across the world also had a hand in fundraising. A source at the University of Nottingham managed to raise £140, at the time this column was being written, in donations from friends and family for the benefit of the Savar victims.

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inally, the huge number of people who volunteered their time and energy in searching for survivors through the rubble of Rana Plaza must be noted. According to JAAGO, who helped facilitate and organise the rescue efforts, hundreds of volunteers worked in shifts in order to help with the

rescue. Official figures have not been released by the organisation, but the invaluable work of their members and all those who helped in the wake of the tragedy must be appreciated. The first phase of the rescue process is over

National crises get the nation together; Bangladeshis both home and abroad become one force and people from around the world are working tirelessly on the second and third phases, which involve giving out wheelchairs and crutches for the physically handicapped and their rehabilitation. While researching for this article, I noticed one glaring absence from the headlines of the various newspapers I was combing through. It was that of a dedicated, sincere effort by the government to solve the humanitarian crisis at Savar, to help those who were helpless. Asinine comments were made, and there was a general air of apathy from the authorities. Instead of leading by example, our leaders were more inclined to blame each other for what happened. On the other hand, we have our youth, our students, the brave men and women from the fire service, the armed forces, our corporate employees, our fledgling doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs who answered the call and are devoting their time and energy, their tears and their sweat for those who need it the most. We have a system that should be by the people and for the people. Yet, when push comes to shove, what we see is that it’s only the people who are there to do anything about it. n


PHOTO STORY

13

DHAKA ZOO

The

wonder that is

Dhaka Zoo A photo story by Nashirul Islam Dhaka Zoo, the largest zoo in Bangladesh, was established in 1974 and spans about 186 acres. It has an estimated population of 2,150 animals of 134 species, including more than 91 species of birds, 13 species of reptiles and 28 species of fish. If you haven’t paid a visit yet, please do so at your earliest convenience, otherwise you might miss the faunas - they have been regretfully neglected to such an extent that they are now facing the risk of death. n W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, May 1 0, 20 1 3


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PHOTO STORY DHAKA ZOO

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PHOTO STORY

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DHAKA ZOO


REALPOLITIK

17

Sharia Law

In defence of sharia Ikhtisad Ahmed writes about the origins of Islamic law

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quating sharia law to Islam is erroneous and insulting to a rich religion and heritage. Any commentary on it has to be prefaced by making it clear that it is not a critique of Islam. Religion has directly played a role in the development of jurisprudence. Bangladeshi law, from the Constitution to marriage and inheritance laws, is derived from the religion of the majority, the same way American or British law is from theirs. There is a utopian element to sharia law. It originates from the Qur’an, hence allowing for the possibility of an absolute legal order based on divine law. Unfortunately, the strict definition of sharia and its actual practice are very different as Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh, does not stop where it begins. The code of conduct laid out in the Qur’an was expanded by rulers and scholars, during the Islamic Golden Age that took Plato and others into consideration, and beyond. The latter used a combination of interpreting sources and human reasoning, both collective and individual, to develop what is known today as sharia, while the former allowed the development as long as it furthered their agendas. This was epitomised by the oppressive and unjust Umayyads, who were instrumental in the expansion of sharia law. Legal scholar L Ali Khan argues that “the concept of sharia has been thoroughly confused in legal and common literature” because “it also includes fiqh,” which depends on human sources that often differ. Hence, it is a myth that sharia is God’s law. On the contrary, it is a harsh reminder of the use of religion and its blanket immunity to manipulate and rule. Countries that have adopted sharia as the codified state law have done so by applying derivatives of oppressive interpretations, instead of reverting to its strict definition or developing that. This trend towards fundamentalism is owed to the fact

Did you know? n

A madhhab is a Muslim school of law. There are at least six madhhabs that survive today, thus allowing for at least six different legal interpretations n

Blasphemy, a crime for which people seek the death penalty, is a sin for which the Qur’an itself mandates no penalty n

Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

that it establishes absolute power that liberalism does not allow. Implementing sharia in present-day Bangladesh as Hefazat, supported by Jamaat, intends to do, thus comes not with the free-thinking and modernisation that defined the prosperity of the Golden Age, but with the negative connotations of extremism and politicking. The 13-point demand attests to this.

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t has to be reiterated that Muslimmajority countries, even secular ones, have not dismissed the religion of the majority in formulating its laws. Bangladesh is one such nation. The spirit of the Constitution remains Islamic. Aggravating religious sentiments and defaming a religion

are crimes punishable by long-term jail sentences. Fundamental rights and laws affecting the everyday lives of citizens have the interests of the majority religion in mind, at times to the detriment of the minorities. Abandoning the existing legal framework, however flawed, and going down what is perceived as the sharia law route will only mean that a large, unrestricted group of people, who have not been elected and have no formal legal qualifications, will decide what constitutes the law of the land and how to implement it. The more important difference is that this equally flawed system cannot be challenged. The argument for religious law wrongly asserts that it protects the

Islam is a religion that greatly values and respects women, yet the application of sharia law has seen an interpretation that demands their oppression

moral fibre of society better than other forms of jurisprudence. It misjudges morality, which humans have. Penn Jillete, an American magician and thinker, said: “Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats.” The argument also undermines the rule of law, which serves its subjects by reining discretionary power. All religions accept that human beings are imperfect. The law of any land, including those that implement sharia law, is crafted by humans and their interpretations. Therefore, it too is imperfect and needs to be subjected to intense scrutiny while being upheld, so that it may evolve. The alternative is autocracy in the guise of theocracy. n

Road to establishing sharia in Bangladesh 767: Al-Shafi’i, the father of Islamic jurisprudence, is born 1263: Islamic scholar and theologian Ibn Taymiyyah is born on January 22. His teachings would go on to influence the ultraconservative Wahhabism and the Deobandi movement

1857-1858: The British quash a major rebellion against their rule over India, empowering other European nations’ imperialist ambitions as well. Muslims respond by increasingly associating sharia with selfdetermination as national and religious identities fuse. This goes on to be known as the Deobandi movement

1977: President Ziaur Rahman inserts Islamic principles into the Constitution, including the addition of “Bismillah-Hir-Rahman-ArRahim” to the Preamble 1988: President HM Ershad amends the Constitution to found Islam as the state religion

2011: The ruling Awami League passes the 15th Amendment that retains Islam as the state religion and the words “Bismillah-HirRahman-Ar-Rahim” 2013: Hefazat’s leader Ahmad Shafi puts forward a 13-point demand that includes implementation of sharia law in Bangladesh. Hefazat’s programmes are fully supported by Jamaat at this point W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, May 1 0, 20 1 3


18

DIGITAL BANGLADESH Pipilika

Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis. He is also in charge of the weekly Tech page for the newspaper

Did you know? n

Pipilika can be used in both Bangla and English n

The main information that the search engine shows are collected from different Bangla newspapers, blogs, Banglapedia and government and nongovernment websites n

Pipilika has its own Bangla dictionary, so it can make intelligent predictions and correct typos

Crawling through the web

Faisal Mahmud writes about the first Bangladeshi search engine

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he most popular male name in Bangladesh – Masud Rana. The most popular female name in Bangladesh – Sharmin. The most popular “father” name in Bangladesh – Abdul Hai. The most popular “mother” name in Bangladesh – Khodeja Begum. Most of us probably didn’t know these seemingly useless facts. Even if you “Googled” them, you would not find the answers. The good news is, now you don’t need Google to look for such information. We have our own search engine. On the eve of Pohela Boishakh this year, Pipilika (www.pipilika.com), the first-ever search engine developed in Bangladesh, was launched. It was jointly developed by 11 researchers from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) and Grameenphone IT (GPIT) Ltd. Dr Mohammed Zafar Iqbal, professor at SUST and the supervisor of the project, said: “Not many nations can claim to have such a search engine in their own language.” Dr Iqbal, also an eminent writer and educationist, said that the search engine would spark off the content development in Bangla and ultimately contribute to the advancement of the language. About the naming the search engine Pipilika, he said: “The concept came from the nature of pipilikas (ants). Our search engine will gather the enquired information just like the way ants seek for food by roaming here and there. “There are several big, wellknown search engines in the world,

but Pipilika is our pride; we build it completely on our own,” he added. The fact that Pipilika is a product of industry-university collaboration is what makes Dr Iqbal even more proud. “In western countries, almost all the greatest scientific and technological inventions took place because of such collaborations. But this practice has not developed in our country yet. Pipilika has initiated it,” he said. Raihan Shamsi, CEO of GPIT, said that they are really proud to be part of the Pipilika team. “Developing a search engine is a highly technical job. But our students have built it with their own expertise. It’s a matter of great pride for the whole nation,” he said.

How it started

Ruhul Amin Sajib, chief researcher of the project, said that back in 2003, some students from the CSE department of SUST decided on building a Bangla search engine for their final-year project. At the first phase of the development process, it was not exactly a search engine; rather, it collected information from different databases and showed them. Then the team developed the mechanism as a page directory, which systematically sorted out the information and showed it on a page-to-page basis after an enquiry. By the time it was finished, the project became a search engine as information from over 60,000 organisations was linked to it. “It also served as an analytical search engine for the share market. We then named it Ekushe Finance,” Sajib said, adding

Instructions to integrate Pipilika into the search bar of a browser can be found at www.pipilika. adhikari. net. It can be integrated with Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. Detailed information can be found at www.pipilika. com/manual/ lang/bn

that Ekushe Finance was runners-up in the City Financial IT Case Competition in 2009. Then some students of the ’04 and ’05 batches from the same department got involved with the project and helped build a fully-functional search engine. At the end of 2010, Pipilika was launched as a small-scale search engine in the local network of SUST. At the beginning of 2011, it won the National Collegiate Programming Competition. Then students of the ’06 and ’07 batches joined their team and started working on the language processing. “Dr Iqbal then asked us to develop a full-scale search engine by integrating all the features. He personally started to supervise the project. GPIT approached us and provided us with the technical and financial assistance,” Sajib said. “Pipilika is the end product of our tireless efforts. It is something we are really proud of,” he said. Students who were involved with the project are – Mahbubur Rahman, Mohammad Mohiuddin, Talha Ibne Imam, Tauhidul Islam, Sajjadul Haque, Baker Anas, Farhad Ahmed, Mohammad Maqsud Hossain, Thimpu Pal, Asif Samir and Madhusudan Chakravarti. n

Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

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INTERVIEW

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Siamak Shamsi Bahar

More on Siamak n

Renowned veterinary surgeon in Dhaka for household pets

Tamoha Binte Siddiqui is a staff correspondent for Weekend Tribune, because weekends are the highlights of her life. True story!

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Soon-to-be owner of the first clinic for pets in Bangladesh n

Holds Master’s degree in Obstetrics from Bangladesh University of Agriculture

A pet’s best friend Do you plan to move your practice to a larger facility? Yes. I have recently bought an apartment in Uttara, which I plan to turn into a full-fledged pet clinic. It’s going to have different facilities, like a separate surgical room and over-night wards for the animals if they need to get admitted. Frankly, this is something very new and has never been done for pet animals in Bangladesh.

taking care of a street dog or cat and even sharing what little food they have with the animal. However, it’s true that there is a religious stigma in Bangladesh against certain animals, such as dogs. The clergies have convinced a section of people that dogs are untouchable. If you ask me, I believe there’s a logical reason behind every religious doctrine. The reason dogs were termed “untouchable” 1,400 years ago by Islam is because at that time there was no cure for rabies. Due to modern medical science, rabies can now be treated. Hence, I believe that any person believing in progressive religion should not have a problem with dogs.

You must have had to euthanise many animals in your career. How is the experience like? Personally, I am pro-life and never want to euthanise animals unless it’s absolutely necessary. However, sometimes a dog or cat reaches a stage when he/she is under a lot of pain. This happens especially during old age when their bodies start collapsing and they lose control of their bladders. At times like that, not only the pet owner but also the pet becomes unhappy and it’s more humane to end its suffering.

Do you think the culture and attitude towards animals is changing in Bangladesh? Yes, it definitely is. However, there are still some people who are wary of keeping animals at their homes. For example, sometimes parents of children who have pets come to me and ask me to convince their child against keeping a pet at home. I counsel the parents instead and tell them how animals can be a source of comfort and emotional support for a child.

How does people’s attitude towards animals in Bangladesh differ from people of other countries? In every country in the world, there will always be people who either like or dislike animals. In Bangladesh, there’s a misconception amongst the elite that the underprivileged people do not care about animals. This isn’t true, as I have seen many poor people

How can we help raise awareness against cruelty towards animals? I think campaigning through television, radio, and even in schools is very important. Unfortunately, most of the cruelty committed against animals is done by young children. It’s important to convince, explain, and teach our children that any form of life is important. n

Tamoha Binte Siddiqui talks with the veterinary surgeon

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y cat Othello owes his life to Dr Siamak Shamsi Bahar, like hundreds of other cats and dogs in Dhaka. When I found Othello as a kitten starving by the side of the road with a broken tail, I saw no hope for him. However, due to Dr Siamak’s expert surgical skills, Othello soon grew healthy. Now, he’s three years old, tailless and happy. Many other pet owners in Dhaka will tell you similar stories of how Dr Siamak was a Godsend for their pets in times of need. The gentleness and care he treats the animals with, as well as his medical acumen as a vet, has led to Dr Siamak becoming a household name in Dhaka’s pet owner community. However, while chatting with him, I got to see beyond the veterinary surgeon and found a man who is trying to make the world a better place, one animal at a time. You’re originally from Iran. How did you come to be a vet in Bangladesh? I was a student in Iran back in the early ’80s, but after the [Iranian] Revolution, there was a gap in education in Iran. I had a friend here who invited me to come here to pursue higher education. After I arrived, I decided to pursue my childhood wish of helping animals by becoming a vet.

Where did you get your training from? I enrolled in the Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh, and completed my undergraduate studies from the institute. Later, I pursued my Master’s in the same university, specialising in Obstetrics. How is treating an animal different from treating a human patient? Humans can talk and express their pain and discomfort. In case of animals, though, you have to understand and deduce by seeing the symptoms and asking the questions to their owners. Which animals are the hardest to treat? Why? All animals are loveable, but some animals can be too sensitive. Some breeds of cats and dogs may get aggressive if you touch them, because they feel insecure and try to protect themselves. I have been seriously injured three times by both cats and dogs, so I have to be careful when handling them. You have your chambers at your own home. Does that affect your family life in any way? No, because my wife is very cooperative and loves animals. Even my children are animal lovers. My daughter has two cats of her own.

Tamoha Binte Siddiqui

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20

What’s the Problem?

Playgrounds in Dhaka

Sheikh Mohammed Irfan is a pragmatist, bringing spotlight to the persistent problems in Bangladesh

No place to play

Syed Latif Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Sheikh Mohammed Irfan discusses the lack of playgrounds in the city

A Placing a child in a school with no playground is like placing a fish out of water – they will both eventually be suffocated by their surroundings

ccording to Unesco, special opportunities must be made available for young people, including children of pre-school age, to develop their personalities to the full through physical education and sport programmes suited to their requirements. Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, most children are denied their basic right to physical education and therefore cannot develop holistically. It’s common knowledge that Dhaka has a serious lack of adequate playgrounds for children. Unfortunately, the dire consequences of this situation are grossly overlooked. To blame the government or the unstable political situation of the country would be to look at only half of the issue. This problem requires a much deeper look at our society and how it functions. For years, playgrounds have been disappearing from neighbourhoods in Dhaka in order to build housing for the growing population. To make matters worse, schools with limited facilities and no playgrounds have been mushrooming across the city. In any other country, the mere idea

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of establishing a school without a playground would cause public alarm, but sadly, such schools have existed here for years, without protest or call for change. Schools have an obligation to provide holistic education, which includes physical education and social learning, but with the limited facilities and no playgrounds, Dhaka’s children aren’t receiving the complete education they deserve. The problem cannot be blamed on the lack of space, when countries with less space and more people have better equipped schools. So where does the root of this issue really lie? Throughout the developed world, education systems aim to create an academic and social environment that challenges students to achieve their potential, become lifelong learners, and contribute to a changing global society. In Dhaka, however, education is focused on academic achievement, because parents want their children to follow secure professions and become doctors, engineers, lawyers or bank managers. They fail to recognise that sports and extra-curricular activities, which promote positive communication and interaction

among children, are not just recreational, but constitute a critical part of their development. It’s this lack of understanding that allows such schools to be established successfully without any objection from society. Parents don’t question the schools’ audacity to run without playgrounds, nor the government’s decision to eradicate existing playgrounds.

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hildren are the key to the future, and neglecting their development is neglecting our own future. With globalisation in motion, our children will have to deal with people on an international level. Our university students, both within the country and abroad,are mingling with classmates from all over the world. Therefore, we need to develop a plan to ensure that our children will bewell equipped to achieve success. The government has a responsibility to ensure the rights of our children and to provide safer and improved environments in which they can grow. But it cannot function alone, and requires the support of its people. Parents have the same responsibility to fight for the rights of their children. Simply providing

the finances and demanding high academic results aren’t enough. To become independent, critical-thinking and creative citizens of the future, they need the space to expand their horizons and develop holistically. Knowledge is power. Through extensive research, science has established that lack of physical activity is correlated not only with a higher risk of diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, but also mental decline. If we want to avoid damaging our society and the future of our nation, we must tackle the problems it faces, determine where we’re going wrong, and rectify our course of action. Science has given us insight into the effects of physical activity, and has proven that mental welfare is dependent upon physical welfare.In other words, it has given us the key to what children need in order to fulfil their utmost potential. By implementing the knowledge we have about the benefits of physical activity, we can create a generation of empowered children for the future. Education is one thing that should never be compromised, unless we want to remain stuck in the dark ages. n


STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

21

Safety Hazards

Better sorry than safe? Bassema Karaki contemplates the Bangladeshi indifference towards safety

Bassema Karaki is a LebaneseAmerican married to a Bangladeshi. She shares how strange, crazy, and humorous life in Bangladesh can appear to an outsider looking in

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Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

hether it’s walking into a cracked building or strolling across the middle of a highway, it never fails to astonish me how lightly most Bangladeshis take their safety. With the prevalent belief that “when it’s time to die, I’ll die,” they take living like there’s no tomorrow to a whole new level. The tragedy of Savar led to the death of hundreds of people, most of who were bullied into entering a cracked building. Only a select few of the garment workers had the reasonable fear to refuse orders and stay at home. The rest, it would seem, were persuaded to go against all good sense and enter a building their instinct told them was on the verge of collapse. The attitude of the superiors who decided it was okay for these people to risk their lives completely contradicted the “better safe than sorry” ideology that had been ingrained into my mind since childhood. What surprised me even more was how the survivors of the collapse were “rescued” by being slid down long pieces of cloth from dangerous heights. This ridiculous rescue method actually put the survivors in just as much danger as they had been when trapped under the building. In fact, hundreds of rescuers were putting their own lives at risk by standing beneath massive, unstable ruins that could collapse further at any moment. As I watched them scramble around protruding shards of metal with nothing but plastic slippers on their feet, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them would end up with tetanus by the end of their mission. Their disregard for their own safety could have easily turned them into one of the victims they were trying to save. Speaking of death, every day since I’ve been in Bangladesh, the news reports an average of 10 deaths by road accidents. The latest WHO statistics show that the national average of deaths by road accidents here is 21,000 a year – more than the average of those who die of breast cancer or kidney disease! With such a high death toll caused by mere recklessness, one would think people would be more cautious about road safety, but that is not the case. When I was young, I was taught to always “stop, look and listen” before crossing – a technique I assume no pedestrian in Bangladesh has ever

been taught. Pedestrians who have lived here their whole lives seem completely unaware of the danger they face when they throw themselves into traffic. A couple of weeks ago, I read the account of a man, his wife and their two children being hit by a bus while crossing the highway. As the only survivor, the man claimed that the road had been completely empty when they decided to cross, but then a bus appeared out of nowhere and hit them at full speed. The first thing I wondered when I read this was: “What was this man thinking when he forced his whole family to cross the middle of a highway – a place where transport is meant to speed?” The second was: “Was he thinking?”

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o make matters worse, drivers are actually aware of the fact that they are steering weapons of mass

destruction, but it makes no difference to them as they carelessly race down the roads and attempt to overtake traffic. Bus drivers simply refer to other vehicles as “plastic” and don’t mind running them over. Pedestrians are victims of “hit and run” drivers on a daily basis. I will never forget the response of a CNG driver when my husband asked him how he would have felt had he been in the place of the woman he almost ran over. He simply replied presumptuously that he “gambled” with his life, as did most Bangladeshis! What shocks me more than any of this is that the “brave” attitude that comes with devaluing life is something most Bangladeshis are unwilling to forsake. Many of my closest Bangladeshi friends have parents who proudly refuse to take medicine because they believe nothing can stop them from dying when the time

Let’s climb into a collapsed building without taking precautions. We don’t need protective clothing or proper equipment; if anything happens to us, it was meant to happen!

comes. This stubborn attitude led one of them to undergo an easily avoidable open-heart surgery. This same attitude is what leads others to take medicine they are well aware is extremely risky. Once, the help at my house took an abortion pill after I specifically warned her against it. She almost bled to death and was in the hospital for two weeks. When asked whether she had learned her lesson, she simply replied with a laugh: “I have to do what I have to do. Whatever happens to me is Allah’s will.” Her response was the equivalent of saying “I will jump off a cliff and live if God wants me to!” Despite my efforts, I cannot seem to stress the importance of safety enough to change the attitude of even my colleagues. It is not cool to “gamble” with your life, and if you jump off a cliff, chances are you will end up dead and sorry! n W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, May 1 0, 20 1 3


22

TOUGH LOVE

DINA SOBHAN

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Dina Sobhan is a freelance writer and cautions readers not to take her ‘advice’ here too seriously!

My long-term girlfriend and I are about to be married. Everything is great except for one small problem: she has a nasty ex. By nasty, I mean he’s one of the biggest mastaans in the city. Although my girlfriend assures me that she has no feelings for him, he still calls her regularly and wants to meet up for coffee or dinner. I’ve tried to ignore it, but this has been going on for a year, and he shows no signs of giving up. So, while pissing off a gangster is not on the top of my to-do list, part of me feels like a real man would confront this guy and tell him to back off. What do I do? What are you, an idiot? Were there no other single girls available in Dhaka city? Or were you the only one desperate enough to date her knowing you might lose your life or maybe a limb in the process? Dump your girlfriend and run as fast and as far as your legs can carry you. Don’t even bother packing a suitcase or saying goodbye to anyone. Just go. Now. Obviously, you could risk it and marry this girl, but what kind of life would you have looking over your shoulder constantly, wondering if you’d make it home from the bazar in one piece? You could opt for the direct approach, of course, and request a man-to-man talk with this ex, but make sure you have some “back-up” with you and be prepared to be shot (down). Your last option is to change your name and move to some exotic (read: where nobody would ever choose to live) location with your girlfriend and pray that he stops hunting for you eventually. n

Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

I am a confirmed kleptomaniac. I go to shops, friends’ houses, even my grandmother’s place, and I unconsciously steal things. I say unconsciously because only when I return home do I find things in my pocket that don’t belong to me. And I honestly have no recollection of how they got there! So far, I don’t think anyone has noticed, but I’m scared that this habit will get me into some serious trouble one day. What should I do?

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You do realise that kleptomania is just a fancy way of saying you’re a thief, right? And there is no way you’re stealing things “unconsciously,” unless you’re sleepwalking while doing it. If you did your research, you’d know that kleptomaniacs are aware that they’re stealing, but they simply can’t resist the urge to do so. So, unless you find yourself picking up items that have no practical purpose, as opposed to that cute dress that you’ve been dying to “borrow” from your best friend, you may just suffer from garden-variety chorami. If necessary, look into why you’re doing it; is it for a cheap thrill, or maybe because you feel deprived and envious of those who have things that you can’t afford? In this society, which is particularly judgemental, you’ll be stigmatised and vilified when all you wanted was a nice pair of shoes. Address this problem by either getting therapy – or a job, as the case may be – before people start catching on and make you pay in ways that have nothing to do with money. n W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, M AY 1 0, 201 3


23

BACKBENCHERS’ CLUB

Across 5 Unspecific kind of soldier (7) 6 Compositon for eight etc to arrange (5) 9 Road not travelled found under a storm (6)

Down 1 2 3 4 7 8

Encourage that found on red faces (3) Fabulous creature Ulster business found in vase (7) Weapons collection sale ran wild (7) Cunning like Stallone? (3) The sound of a number crunched (3) Punch container (3)

Solution for last week’s crossword

Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

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24

DAY IN THE LIFE OF

A BOOKSELLER

The go-to man in Nilkhet Yusuf Banna is a staff writer at Weekend Tribune. He would be happier if he could be a poet, 24x7. He also dreams of being a painter and is envious of those who can paint

With a college degree, Mustafa’s love of books developed from the need to earn a living, but as he read his stock, he found himself reading more and enjoying the experience

Yusuf Banna introduces Mustafa Mama

I

n the maze that is Nilkhet book market, you will find a man who has become a sort of legend to all those who frequent the narrow alleyways in search of old and rare books. His name is Golam Mustafa, popularly known as Mustafa mama (uncle) to everyone. He lays claim to being the most reliable of all the book stall owners situated there. Specialising in old and used books, he has the knack for tracking down rare books for his ever-growing and loyal customer base. Mustafa’r Boighor, literally meaning Mustafa’s house of books, is one of the tiny temporary stalls that have evolved into permanent stores, and his store is filled to the brim with books, which serve various purposes, including furniture. I make my way to Mustafa mama around noon, which is when his day starts. A crowd has already gathered in front of his store when I find myself in familiar territory. Mustafa mama was regaling his audience with a story about the poet Nirmalendu Goon, who had once visited him with a weighty book to sell. “It was a rare and expensive book. I asked him why

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Mumit M/Dhaka Tribune

he wanted to sell such a collector’s item, and the poet stated without hesitation that the book wasn’t his but one he’d borrowed from Humayun Ahmed. He’d asked specifically ‘for a brick sized book.’ In this case, as I am running low on cash, I want to sell the book. In his case, size did matter!” Mustafa laughed, and that’s when I caught his eye. Since its humble beginning, the Nilkhet book market has grown into one of the largest hubs for books of all kinds, especially texts for students, old and used books, and if needed one can get a copy of text books photocopied as well. Mustafa mama’s business has grown simultaneously with the market’s popularity, his humble beginnings as a roadside hawker based on the footpaths is now long behind him. He has come a long way from has his coastal hometown of Patuakhali to become the man in Dhaka’s Nilkhet market, to whom everyone turns when anyone is searching for any old and rare publications. What does he like reading most, and what is he reading now? “I prefer reading nonfiction,

and I am reading the biography of Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay.”

M

ustafa mama has over 25,000 books in stock, and if the one you want is not there, he’ll procure it for you, given a little time. The master sales man sips his tea, caters to customers’ queries, keeps an eye on them and answers my questions about his day and work with ease. The book stalls start to open for business around 10 in the morning, and shuts down by 9. Seeing that we are meeting on a day when there is a hartal called by the opposition party, the market isn’t so busy even though it’s lunchtime. I ask if business suffers when there are strikes, and if public holidays or strikes make any difference to his business, to which he replies, “It definitely does. I had to start late today and will close early, in case there is trouble on the streets I will lose business. This evening there will be fewer people on the roads even though usually that is when we have our busiest business hours.” On a good day, how much does he make, I ask, and Mustafa mama shows me

the meagre earnings in his cash box, with around Tk 1,500 in there. This is just about what he expects to make, though he recalls with fondness how, not too long ago, things were different, “Back in the ‘80s, just earning Tk 100150 made me happy. “From dawn to dusk, I’ve made my own journey; now sometimes it can get frustrating,” the master of Nilkhet states with a trace of dejection in his voice. It doesn’t last, though, because as soon as a customer approaches he is back on top and enthused to provide them with the books they want. As the day draws to an end, I ask him if there is a worthy lesson he has learned from his years as an old books seller, “A book is an escape; a serene sense of contentment overtakes one when we read and gradually our interest in the content and writing grows. This is an experience I always have whenever I pick up a new book, and I am sure it is the same for everyone who loves and reads books,” Mustafa says as he sighs deeply. n


THE WAY DHAKA WAS

25

DHAKA MEDICAL COLLEGE HOSPITAL

Bangladesh Old Photo Archive

My first introduction to Dhaka Medical College was in the early 80s as a patient. I had just broken my hand playing football and was rushed off to the orthopedic centre. Luckily it was a clean fracture, but I still remember the care with which I was treated. 15 years later, I was an medical internee here and things had changed so much. More traffic of patients, fewer resources to work with, and more complicated cases to deal with. Things have really taken a turn for the worse in the last decade or so. Murshidul Islam is a doctor living in Kakrail

Dhaka Medical College 1978 Syed Latif Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

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CULTURE VULTURE

The Vagina Monologues

Did you know?

The first few shows featured Eve Ensler, whose brainchild this show is, performing all the monologues, with consequent shows featuring three actresses, then individual actresses performing each role and story

Ensler adds a new monologue each year to highlight a current issue that affects women around the world. For example, she wrote Under the Burqa in 2003 to highlight the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule

The Vagina Monologues form the foundation of the V-Day Movement, whose goal is to end violence against women. Benefit shows are held between February 1 and April 30 to raise money towards this cause

Shadab Shahrokh Hai

Conversations with friends, sharing anecdotes and eventually interviews with women on relationships, sex and violence against them are at the heart of the Vagina Monologues

No blushing matter

Sayeeda T Ahmad observes many impressions of the episodic play on its varied audience

I

was studying in the US when I first heard of the Vagina Monologues. The shows took place on my campus every year, but somehow I missed all of them. After returning to Bangladesh, I heard a performance would be held in Dhaka. Jumping at the chance, I asked my mother if she wanted to go. Surprise, deep thought and then hesitancy followed a reluctant nod. I was nervous. What was she thinking? There was little discussion afterwards about whether she liked the play (she did). Only recently did we rehash what had gone through her mind. “Before university, I had never attended classes with boys. Even then, we girls didn’t talk much with them, except for school-related things; rather, “representatives” of each group spoke with each other. In fact, right before I started university, my father told me: ‘Now that you are about to start classes with boys, you have to do all you can to keep your honour.’” She had never heard of the Vagina Monologues before, until I showed her the invitation. To say she was shocked would be an understatement. “What did you think when you saw the invite?” “People are so open now! This is very surprising.”

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“Why is it such a surprise to you?” “Because, in my time, even uttering the word vagina aloud was unthinkable. We did not talk about love or sex. The extent of “prem” was writing letters to each other. I don’t know what the young men thought.” “Ah ... you never asked. You never thought to question them.” “Right. We couldn’t even utter the word.” “Which word?” “Vagina.” “No, Ammu! I meant love, or like.” “Oh! That someone liked someone else and they wanted to get married was shocking. A bad thing. It was not done.” “What did you think when I invited you?” “I wondered what kind of programme it was, what could possibly be discussed there. Then I thought: ‘Okay, let me see what the new generation has to say about this word.’ I wanted to see how they spoke about something my generation could never utter.” “What do you remember from the show?” “It was about women: their words and stories. As I watched the performances, I realised that what

they said was right. In my time, most women remained quiet about everything in their families. Even about sex. Their husbands’ needs always came first; they didn’t even know they had needs. “The performers talked about the abuse that women were subjected to by their close family members, but never allowed to speak out. The performers also frankly said: ‘We have the power to claim ownership of what is ours.’ And I agree. Why should men always hold power over us?” “Any final words?” “Watching this play made me more aware of many things. As human beings, women have the same rights as men, and should be treated equally. Women make themselves small and inconsequential. They refrain from saying what’s on their minds. This is wrong.”

A

t this year’s final performance of the play, I spoke with a middleaged couple and two young men to understand what impact the show had on them. Ishtiaque Ahmad said: “I see this play as a way to support the women in our country. I thought that way before the show, and I still do.” His wife, Chinu

Ahmad, said: “I didn’t think it would be done so beautifully. Every sentence, every word is right. What I couldn’t say before, these performers said for me. I was very impressed.” Avijit Shayan not only caught the show, but also volunteered for it. I asked him how that came about. “It was that word that caught my attention: vagina. I went through the Facebook posts on the event page, was intrigued, and contacted the organisers. I think it’s great. I’ve never seen anything like this before. This show must have an impact and change how women in our society are treated.” Shadab Shahrokh Hai said: “I first saw the Vagina Monologues last year. When I heard about it, I was nervous, because I had recently covered the Under the Rainbow Festival at the Goethe-Institut, (which generates awareness of the homosexual community in Bangladesh), and I thought they would be similar. I was asked repeatedly to attend; despite my reluctance, I finally did. I must say, it was really inspiring and motivating.” These are encouraging and motivating words, but there is a long way to go before all women are treated and respected as the empowered human beings they are. n


OBITUARY

27

Shahina Akter

Defeated by death Faisal Mahmud writes about the harrowing tale of a Savar victim

Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis. He is also in charge of the weekly Tech page for the newspaper

Some little known facts n As several media outlets has broadcasted Shahina’s story, people from home and abroad now want to adopt Robin n Shahina was bitten by a poisonous snake when she was 12. She barely survived, as her father put it n Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

S

he told death for four days: “Not today.” On the fifth day, death won. As rumour has it, Stalin said: “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” The ruins of Rana Plaza are soaked with the blood of thousands. And soon this number will inherently be just a statistic for mankind. The definition of “accident” doesn’t apply to what happened in Savar. No, what the victims of Rana Plaza were subjected to demands a stronger description. Murder? Perhaps. When you are the prey of greed and sheer carelessness, and are dealt with a death as tragic as suffocating under piles of concrete, you deserve to be sympathised as a murder victim. But how Shahina Akter met her end is little more than a tragedy. After being trapped for four days

under the debris, Shahina, a native of Pakhimara village under Khepupara upazila in Patuakhali, finally saw a ray of hope when a team of rescuers found her, only to see that hope go up in flames. Literally. Led by the army, the rescue team ran a 20-hour operation to retrieve Shahina alive. She was stuck under a slab in such a way that the only way to rescue her was to cut the slab or to cut her out. Shahina was provided with food, water, oxygen and most importantly the comfort and assurance that she would be saved. After relentless efforts, the rescue team was able to bring her torso out. They kept trying to remove the slab, but it was proving to be incredibly difficult. Then one anonymous civil engineer claimed that he could cut through the rod of the slab.

What happened next is just an intelligent assumption. It was probably the flame of the rod cutter that sparked the fire near the place where Shahina was stuck. What little oxygen was there fuelled the fire even more, and Shahina died from smoke inhalation. The rescuers put in their best efforts, the media stood by her side, millions of people prayed for her. Bangladesh waited with a bated breath, hoping to see her out of the dire straits. But fate had the last, cruel laugh. The death shocked the nation. Those who were there – rescue workers, media people, mere observers – could not hold back their tears as Shahina was finally brought out. The cries of Abdul Motaleb, Shahina’s father, when her body was brought out ripped through everyone’s heart. Shahina’s death was a tragedy in

every sense of the word. Her life wasn’t a bed-time story either. Her husband, Ahsanullah, divorced her while she was pregnant with her son Robin, as her brother Zahiruddin confirms. To make ends meet, she had to work in this garment factory, leaving her only son Robin, one and half years old, with her sister Jesmin, who lived in Imandipur, an area near Rana Plaza. Shahina lived in a rented room in one Shahidullah Master’s house at Majidpur, an area adjacent to Imandipur. She always dreamt of her son to grow up into educated man. Even when she was stuck in the ruins, her only concern was for her son. All we can hope now is that her dream comes true, and she can see it happen from the world beyond. n

Shahina used to love khichuri. Even when she was stuck under that pillar, she wanted to have khichuri after getting rescued, Shahinul, one of the rescue workers who took part in the 20-hour operation, said

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LAST WORD M.S. Newman M.S. Newman is an American writer and researcher living in Mohammadpur, Dhaka

The falling and the crushed: How much should we see? There may lie a message hidden in a morbid image

“I

don’t want my photos to be beautiful,” Ayon Rehal declares. He has just spent six days photographing the disaster at Rana Plaza. His files contain thousands of images of twisted metal, broken bricks, live bodies, dead bodies. For a while, he even put down his camera and dug through the wreckage to rescue survivors too. But he’s a photojournalist, and his true mission is simple: to pass these images through his lens to the world. He wants to show the raw horror of the killings. After the collapse, a government minister asked the media to reconsider displaying gruesome images. He argued that showing them would provoke widespread fear. A national discussion has opened: how much horror should we see? Troubling images were plentiful this week. The Daily Star photographed Altaf Hossain as he lay crushed and dying. The New York Times showed a fireman holding a young man’s corpse. Magazines reprinted Taslima Akhter’s image of debris-covered bodies. Did these images of murder cause trauma in people who saw them? It’s possible. Exposing people to horrors they would not have seen otherwise can provoke fear, anger and guilt. A small number may develop lasting emotional problems.

The people most at risk are probably those searching for missing family members. Learning the grim fate of a loved one from an impersonal broadcast might be the worst of all possible endings The situation recalls “The Falling Man,” a controversial image from another famous catastrophe. The photo shows a man plummeting past a backdrop of skyscrapers. He’s one of 200 people who jumped, fell or were blown out of the bombed World Trade Center’s windows on September 11, 2001. Originally, newspapers (incorrectly) identified the Falling Man as Norberto Hernandez, a

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restaurant worker. This incited fury from Hernandez’s family, whose culture regards jumping as suicide and suicide as punishable by eternity in hell. “He was trying to come home to us,” his wife and daughters insisted. They regarded the photograph as a public assault. In the US, September 11 prompted caution about traumatic images. Photos of falling people were censored. Media remained careful: 11 years later, when America’s strenuous manhunt for Osama bin Laden finally ended, his body wasn’t shown, either. (Like many Americans, I didn’t want to see it.) In contrast, Bangladeshi media has had little discretion. Images of the stabbing death of Bishwajit Das were not censored in December. A deceased policeman whose eyes were gouged out during a hartal was photographed and displayed in March. 10 years after journalists misidentified the Falling Man, a journalist again interviewed Norberto Hernandez’s family. “Are they healed?” the article says. “They are not.” I wonder how Das and the policeman’s families feel, just months after seeing public images of their loved ones’ murders. Unlike the anger of hartals, the dominant emotions of the Rana Plaza disaster are grief and empathy. Many people want to treat victims and their families with kindness. Kindness takes time. To turn away from the wreckage without understanding it wastes the opportunity for this crisis to create lasting change in Bangladesh. We have an obligation to bear witness and to remember.

T

aslima Akhter’s photograph of Rana Plaza is strangely captivating. Two bodies lay embracing, encased in twisted metal and broken bricks. The woman leans back, as though trying to escape falling debris. In the last moments of life, the man has wrapped his arms around her in a gesture of protection. In death, his face rests lightly on her chest, as though calmly listening for the heartbeat that is no

longer present. “The Falling Man” is similarly compelling. It is visually clean: the man is vertical between two shining steel towers. He is head-down, and his

There is a way to visually portray grief and tragedy, and the burden often falls on both the photographer and the editor to show compassion and acumen at the same time body looks surprisingly relaxed, even resolute. “He departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it,” journalist Tom Junod wrote about the image. These images document raw horror, but also calm gestures of purpose. Presented with a terrifying but oddly tranquil moment, we have the chance to stop and look and feel our grief. Because these photos are well-composed, immediately comprehensible images – heeding Ayon Rehal, I dare not call them beautiful – they allow us to bear witness and to remember. “The Falling Man” hit the American public like an arrow to the chest. At first, it was hated. But 12 years after the bombing, the photo remains in memory through articles, films and fiction about it. The man stands for the brutality my country endured on that terrible day, and for our uneasy self-reflection since. So in the end, the question may not be how much carnage we show, but why, and in what way, and with what small blessings hidden within. We must ask how images capture not only the violence, but also the message of this moment. For families of the photographed dead, helpful words may come from Gwendolyn Briley Strand, the sister of Jonathan Briley, who was finally identified as the Falling Man: “The photo’s so much bigger than any man, because the man in the photo is clearly in God’s hands. And it’s God who gives us the grace to go on.” n



Vol 1 issue 4