Page 1

3G services 6

feedback 18

FRIDAY AUGUST 16 2013

vol 1 Issu e 17

a high school student 24


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CONTENTS 2 This Week in Pictures 4 Bottled Up 5 Whose Line Is It Anyway? Nervous students, shaky results 10 Post-Riposte Banning Jamaat-e-Islami

A Weekly Pro ducti o n o f

11 Top 10 Halim places

DhakaTribune Vo lume 1, Issu e 1 7 Au gu st 16 , 2 0 13

12 Big Mouth Strikes Again When I grow up, I want to be a Disney princess

Editor Zafar Sobhan Magazine Editor Faruq Hasan

13 Photo Story Muslims Unite

6 pick of the week 3G services

17 Everyday Economist Middlemen

Weekend Tribune Team Sumaiya Shams Faisal Mahmud Sheikh Mohammed Irfan Yusuf Banna Fuad M Hossain Joseph Allchin

20 Digital Bangladesh Internet fraud 21 Stranger in a Strange Land Eid 22 Tough Love

Art Direction/Photography Syed Latif Hossain

23 WT | Leisure 24 Day in the Life of A high school student

Cartoon Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Contributors Naheed Kamal Souvik Aswad Tamoha Binte Siddiqui Bassema Karaki Dina Sobhan Ibtisam Ahmed Nilufer Ahmed

25 The Way Dhaka Was Kabi Nazrul Islam College

18 FEATURE Feedback

Design Asmaul Hoque Mamun Sabiha Mahmud Sumi Production Masum Billah Advertising Shahidan Khurshed Circulation Wahid Murad Web: www.dhakatribune.com Cover Illustration Rabindranath Tagore by Khalid Muntasir Deep Send us your feedback at weekend@dhakatribune.com

27 Obituary Belal Mohammad

26 Culture Vulture Rabi Thakur 28 Last Word

EDITOR’S NOTE

What’s in a letter? F

or the Weekend Tribune team, a lot. For the last three months, we have been trying our best to provide a quality weekend magazine to our readers. But coming up with any publication is never a one-way street; response from the readers is vital in shaping Weekend Tribune just the way you would want it. From this week on, we are starting our own official letters page: Bottled Up. This is your chance to reach out to the WT team and express everything you have bottled up so far, the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. So do drop us a line at and tell us how you feel, and you might just win the much coveted Letter of the Week award!

Elsewhere, to commemorate Tagore’s 151st birth anniversary, we revisit why his work remains seminal in the 21st century. Tamoha Binte Siddiqui takes a trip down memory lane and visits the ups and downs of the rock band Feedback, Naheed Kamal warns us of the subliminal messages that Disney princesses often convey, Fuad M Hossain walks us through a day in the life of a high school goer, and close off with how the city’s famous Kabi Nazrul Islam College has changed over the decades. Hope you all had a wonderful Eid break. n

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THIS WEEK

INTERNATIONAL

Right: A Pakistani mother mourns over the death of her son, killed in a bomb explosion in Karachi on August 7. A bomb blast that appeared to be targeting a provincial government minister killed many people before dawn that day. AP/Shakil Adil

Above: Hundreds of Indonesians wait to receive “zakat,” given to poor people during Ramadan, at a tobacco factory of Gudang Garam, Indonesia’s biggest clove cigarette manufacturer, in Kediri in East Java province on August 6.

Above: Nigerian Muslims walk past an uncompleted mosque in Maiduguri, Nigeria on August 8. Suspected Islamic militants wearing army fatigues gunned down 44 people praying at a mosque in northeast Nigeria, while another 12 civilians died in an apparently simultaneous attack. The slayings occurred Sunday morning at a mosque in Konduga town, some 35 kilometres outside Maiduguri.  AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

Above: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (R) smiles as he stands beside Sartaj Aziz, foreign affairs adviser to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, after meeting at the foreign ministry in Islamabad on August 13.  REUTERS/Mian Khursheed

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AFP

Above: Police troopers guard a checkpoint on a street in Sana’a, Yemen on August 10. 18 of the 19 US embassies and consulates were closed this month due to worries about potential terrorist attacks. “Our embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.  REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Above: Indian policemen stand guard at a street during a curfew following riots in Jammu on August 12. Three people died in riots between Hindus and Muslims over the last weekend. Opposition parties linked the rioting to the renewed border tensions between India and Pakistan, because some of the protesters involved had brandished a Pakistani flag.  REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta


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NATIONAL

Above: Activists of several human rights platform form a human chain at High Court permises on August 12, protesting arrest of Adilur Rahman Khan. Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

Above: A Dhaka court granted police a five-day remand to grill human rights group Odhikar’s Secretary Adilur Rahman Khan. Photo taken on August 11. Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Above: Almost all the billboards in the capital were covered with advertisements depicting the various successful endeavours of Awami League during its current tenure as government. The ads were in place for a week, starting before Eid.  Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Above: People return home to Dhaka after the vacation of Eid-ul-Fitr. Photo taken at Sadarghat in the capital on August 12. Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

Above: Members of law enforcing agency are seen checking pedestrians near Kawran Bazar on the first day of the two-day hartal called by Jamaat-e-Islami.  Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

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BOTTLED UP

letters to the editor

LETTER

of the week Kudos to the WT team! T

he English daily Dhaka Tribune has done really well. I just love to read it. A few days ago, I read the Weekend Tribune (issue 15). It was a nice magazine and a few articles drew my attention, crime report “The Bridal ATM” being among them. It was really amazing, reporter Adil Sakhawat has done a nice job and the layout of the article was great. It was a touching report. I have a suggestion for the Weekend Tribune. You have to give space to the readers in your magazine. I mean you have to publish readers’ opinion so that we feel more interested to read and write. I hope you will consider my suggestion. Thanks to everyone. n Sandip Halder Dhaka

Missing iftar Hats off to the team for focusing on top iftar items and iftar places in the last few weeks. I’ve certainly updated my iftar address book for next year. However, I think you have missed out on a few tricks – how about making

a top 10 unusual iftar items for those of us who are bored with the traditional fare? Looking forward to that next Ramadan! Samia Majid, Gulshan 1

Young Sherlock Extract the finger-print from the clothes, for you never know when they might come in handy. It was mentioned the crime took place in East Rampura, so, maybe you can match some profiles of the dark people with mustaches. I know the police searched the place, but they might have overlooked some clues, like footprint, keys, money, etc. Have the mother interviewed again to learn more about what the daughter told her about the assailant, like if he wore rings or earrings, and stuffs like that. 

And the man might have been familiar with the grounds around the building. This can be a valuable clue, you know. Oh, and the money the assailant had given the daughter, check that out thoroughly. Asma’s aunt could be wrong too. It’s the 21st century and people are very daring in these times, especially youngsters. Rafia Ahmed, aged 12, keenly interested in solving crimes and helping others

Beyond graphs and charts I love Everyday Economist and think it’s a great new section. I am an economics student and I often struggle to convince my friends that it is a discipline that everyone can

use to have a better understanding of everyday life. Now, I finally have a reference point that I can use. Rubel Aziz, Mohammadpur

Chameleon culture I can see where Shabab Akhter is coming from, talking about how Eid has changed. However, I don’t understand why he’s lamenting about losing the cultural norms that were “borrowed” (his words, not mine)

from our neighbouring countries, when he’s all for protecting our “own heritage and culture.” Contradictory much? Samia Zabin, Dhanmondi

Send us your feedback at: weekend@dhakatribune.com

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WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?

Nervous students, shaky results

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

It is the BNP and Jamaat-Shibir who are responsible for this decline in pass percentage; they must take the responsibility. BNP and Jamaat-Shibir would have to answer to the nation why they destroyed the future of the students by imposing hartals ‌ can anyone say what they had achieved by imposing hartals? Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina

While increasing pass rates are encouraging, it does not always determine the standard of education. Similarly, when the pass rates fall, we cannot always say the education standard are deteriorating. Manzoor Ahmed, senior adviser at Brac University’s Institute of Education Development

In many colleges, particularly in the rural areas, there were not enough English language

teachers, compared to the large number of students. There are also questions about the quality of the teachers who teach English in the educational institutions. Serajul Islam Choudhury, educationist

Students depended on private tutoring to understand the new method, rather than in college, so they failed to learn properly. Most college teachers are not familiar with the creative learning system

as they were not trained properly. Thus, the students failed to get proper lessons in the classroom.

Shekhar Dastidar, principal of Chittagong Government College

The one-and-a-half month exam schedule dragged on for almost three months, which hampered preparations and not achieving the expected results.

Md Arif Billah, a candidate from Govt Haji Mohammad Mohsin College W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, AU G U ST 1 6, 20 1 3


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PICK OF THE WEEK

3G SERVICES

Stumbling towards a higher ground

Faisal Mahmud writes about an auction that could change the telecom industry

Quamrul Abedin/Dhaka Tribune

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

3G enabled BTSs have been installed in the capital

B

y early September this year, the long-awaited auction of the license for 3G operation should place in the capital. I say would because the auction almost never happened. This license is basically the government’s consent for mobile operators to have a maximum 10MHz or a minimum of 5MHz from the 2100MHz band of the country’s precious bandwidth. This is the fourth time the government has rescheduled the auction. Before that, it was set to be held on August 1, mid-June and previously March and September 2012. They were all postponed due to technical difficulties, according to a statement by a government official. The GSM operators (sans Teletalk, which already has 3G) in Bangladesh – Grameenphone (GP), Banglalink, Robi and Airtel – have completed their preparations, as confirmed by their officials. Citycell, the lone CDMA operator in the country, applied to the (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) BTRC for

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, AUGUST 1 6 , 2013

switching to GSM technology so that it can take part at the auction. However, only three of the participants will be granted the license, according to the Ministry-approved 3G guideline. The guideline also states that one license will be given to a completely new operator. Sources from the Ministry of ICT, however, said a committee in charge of reviewing the guideline had advised the ministry to grant the licenses to three new and foreign mobile operators in order to bag foreign direct investment (FDI). Tata Telecom and Idea-Reliance from India and Vodafone from the UK have already shown interest to bid for 3G license in Bangladesh. Teletalk doesn’t need to participate in the auction, seeing as it already has the license. However, the company is still interested in the auction as, according to the guideline, they’ll have to pay the price of a single license raised at the auction in order to keep their license.


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About the auction

In 3G auction, the big operators will get the opportunity to buy more spectrums while investing a lesser amount for each MHz

The operators who will purchase 10MHz or 15MHz of the spectrum will pay alower rate than what operators buying 5MHz will pay

The regulators plan to go with the auction process in order to be able to give special discounts to a few large operators and sell the entire spectrum within the 2.1GHz band

A total of 40MHz spectrum will be sold to private operators through the auction

According to BTRC chairman Sunil Kanti Bose, if the operators purchase more than two blocks, each block containing 5MHz of spectrum, in the auction, they can avail a discount on the third block

What is 3G?

try to send a picture file, it takes longer than the text file, and if you want to send a video, it takes even longer. “This happens because of the data transfer capacity of the internet. The video file contains more data than the picture or text file. Data, whether it’s text or picture, is broken down into small packets, which are sent using a routing protocol. The larger the data, the greater the number of packets and hence the system takes much longer to send it to the designated destinations.” Therefore, to increase data transfer rates, the one other thing, besides creating better routing protocols, is increasing the capacity of the transmission mechanism.

Quamrul Abedin/Dhaka Tribune

Most people in the country harbour a vague knowledge regarding 3G technology. Simply put, 3G, short for third generation, is a faster way of communicating data and voice thorough mobile phones. Technically, it’s called High Speed Packet Access (HSPA). What good will the enhanced speeds brought by 3G technology do? Dr Saiful Islam, director at Institute of Information and Communication Technology, BUET, said: “People availing 3G services will experience faster data services that include multimedia and the internet.” Explaining the matter further, he said: “Suppose you send a text file through your regular e-mail service; it does not take much time. If you

The players in the market Teletalk has had a head start and launched 3G services on a smaller scale. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a video phone call to the late President Zillur Rahman by using a 3G-enabled mobile phone on October 14, 2012 and officially inaugurated the service. According to the latest update, around 100,000 subscribers are using Teletalk’s 3G services. Mujibur Rahman, managing director of Teletalk said: “So far, we have installed 700 3G–enabled base transceiver systems (BTS) in and around the capital. Initially, 400,000 new SIMs have been made available for subscription.” “Also, some of the early 3G subscribers faced minor technical glitches when the operators were installing the BTS. However, our team has resolved these issues and presently the subscribers are enjoying flawless high speed data services,” he said.

He further added: “The 3G service will be confined within the divisional cities during the initial stages. And coverage for the entire country shall start only after the issuance of 3G licenses in September.” Tanvir Mohammad, chief technical officer (CTO) at GP, said: “We have already upgraded our existing BTS countrywide. If we acquire the license at the auction, we will only need to bring a certain radio card to make those BTS 3G–enabled. Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer (CCAO) at GP, said: “3G is a long-term investment and we’re well aware of that. We definitely want to introduce the service as soon as possible, even though we know the return period on the investment would be no less than 15 years.” Zakiul Islam, senior director (regulatory and legal affairs) of Banglalink, said: “We have started mobilising funds to take part in the auction.” He, however, commented

that the base price of Tk1.56bn for 1MHz of the spectrum is way too high for a country like Bangladesh. Michael Kuehner, chief executive officer (CEO) of Robi, also said the government should rethink about lessening the base price. “It isn’t based on the economic indicators of Bangladesh and does not reflect potential 3G uptake and revenue,” he said. However, he confirmed that Robi would participate in the auction regardless of the price. Mehbub Chowdhury, CEO of Citycell, said the operator had applied to the BTRC to switch from CDMA to GSM. “We wanted to make the switch so that we can introduce 3G service in Bangladesh,” he said. Shah Mohammad Fazale Khuda, deputy general manager of Airtel,

Among the estimated 90 million mobile phone subscribers in the country, not more than 3 million have a 3G-supported mobile handset and a majority of these owners live in the divisional cities said: “We are looking forward to the auction. We have all the necessary technology required to introduce 3G services once we get the license.”

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3G SERVICES

Quamrul Abedin/Dhaka Tribune

PICK OF THE WEEK

Network expansion for 3G will gradually happen with the presence of other market players, as the service costs will diminish due to market competition. Also, in the near future, mobile operators will share a common infrastructure, so there’s no point in expanding the 3G network across the country alone Mujibur Rahman

Quamrul Abedin/Dhaka Tribune

Where will the money come from?

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Interestingly, the draft guideline on 3G mobile network instructs the mobile operators to bring their full investment in dollars, provided they acquire the license to lay out the 3G network (out of six operators, five have part or full foreign ownership). They are also required to get a clearance certificate from Bangladesh Bank to bring in the money legally. A high official from the BTRC said the regulators made that provision in the guideline after careful observation. The official also said: “The local commercial banks have already been suffering from severe liquidity crises due to excessive credit expansion. The foreign mobile operators are partly responsible for this calamity as they took out huge sums from these banks to pay their 2G license

renewal fees.” The official claimed full investment in dollars will increase the flow of foreign remittance into the country. “Bangladesh is expected to earn over Tk100bn foreign remittance through this 3G auction,” he said. Abu Bakar Siddique, secretary at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, said: “The 3G spectrum will be technology-neutral, meaning operators will be able to utilise the spectrums sold to them to provide 3G, 4G or LTE (long-term evolution) services. The government has affixed the price of $20m for each MHz of spectrum sold. However, if any spectrum remains unsold, it will later be put up for sale to the operators, though a single operator cannot purchase more than 15MHz in total.”


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3G technology at a glance Evolved from 2G (digital voice transmission), 2.5G (GPRS – Global System for Mobile Communication), and 2.75G (EDGE - Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution)

Applications include voice telephony, mobile internet access, fixed wireless internet access, video calls and mobile TV

What the others will get

Quamrul Abedin/Dhaka Tribune

About 200 software firms besides hundreds of IT freelancers have been eagerly waiting for the 3G auction to take place. They have long been developing software for 3G-enabled mobile phones for foreign buyers at cheaper prices. With the introduction of the 3G service in Bangladesh, these software developers could do the same for local mobile operators, quoted the software industry experts. According to Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPIA), 1.9 million 3G-enabled handsets has been sold in the country in the past one year. Once the 3G networks are up and running, compatible handsets would arm people with a range of useful services, including global positioning system (GPS), cheaper internet connections, emails via mobile phones, faster encoded data transmission and live television coverage. Heads of a number of software

Data transmission rate can go up to 2Mbps (megabits per second)

development companies said that this could help develop a large market for mobile softwares, worth at least Tk500bn, as they are fully equipped and capable of designing customised corporate mobile software. “We have, for the past two years, developed mobile software by using Rubis on Rails (an open-source web application framework for the Ruby programming language) for several small and medium corporate firms based in the US. If the country launches 3G services, we can develop software for Bangladeshi corporate houses too,” Simon Azim, CEO of Thinkcrest, said. Azim believes 3G would be a perfect solution for the corporations in Dhaka. “A good deal of time is lost in traffic jams these days. Once the 3G backbone is in place, corporate executives and employees can do part of their office work while stuck in traffic gridlocks, simply by using their smartphones or 3G handsets,”

he note. AKM Fahim Mashroor, the president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS), said: “Software companies in Bangladesh had long has the capability of designing mobile software. “A number of companies that design these types of software for overseas clients are likely to get local contracts with the arrival of 3G.” The BASIS president also added

that a number of institutions had already been provided training in mobile software development. Hence, creating skilled manpower for this purpose would not be a problem. n

3G services will also help develop the education sector, health care system, agriculture, offices and so on, since a lot more work can be done remotely due to faster data transmissions W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, AU G U ST 1 6, 20 1 3


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POST-RIPOSTE

Banning Jamaat-E-Islami

Secularism in practice? L

et’s, for a second, conveniently forget Jamaat’s proven link with atrocious war crimes during the 70s. Based solely on its ability to abide by the criteria set for the existence of a political party, Jamaat has failed miserably to adapt. Ever since laws were amended in 2008, Jamaat refused to change key portions of its constitution. For instance, Jamaat failed to remove discriminatory mandates on gender and religion from its party constitution. In the most recent ruling that has been hitting the headlines, the High Court has upheld an important principle: democracies can’t cede space to forces committed to destroying the principles of democracy. Both our politicians and citizens face an easy choice: we could adopt the Pakistani political model whereby every Abdul, Jamal and Hamid in the streets resort to God as a political panacea and result in bringing disastrous consequences upon themselves. Or we could stick to a new trend in our politics which has roots in our secular origins as a nation and focus on being a modern and peaceful nation. n

Abide by the Constitution Faruq Hasan

Don’t mute what you fear Joseph Allchin

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, AUGUST 1 6 , 2013

S

ecularism is not a tool to vanquish enemies with. It is an ideology, which falls flat when the arbiter (the state) appears to use it selectively. There is a real danger that banning Jamaat will extinguish legitimate political voice. On the contrary, it will push a swathe of society underground and into more dangerous territory. Secularism is doomed to fail if its application is not done in a just manner. Looking from both sides of the spectrum, whether it’s jailing people for expressing their lack of belief or persecuting people for believing the wrong thing, ultimately the hall marks of secularism have been eroded by the use of law as per political motivations. This makes the Election Commission’s actions look tainted, thereby only strengthening its intended target. If the courts (or the party) really believe in secularism, get back to affording women equal rights with inheritance, ensure freedom of speech and worship and, dare one say it, the freedom to love who one wants. You don’t win an argument by silencing your opponent. n


TOP 10

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HALIM hangouts

Taste for all seasons 10

The Weekend Tribune teams up with Dhaka Halim Appreciation Society to look back at some tasty halims in Dhaka this Ramadan season, and beyond

Star Kabab (Karwan Bazaar)

Rather a disappointment, as traditionally it’s a powerhouse. Oily, bone-filled halim does nothing to appease the hungry palate.

9 Asiatic canteen

Thick consistency, just enough spice, succulent mutton pieces and it has a twang which is thoroughly enjoyable.

8 Dhaka Club beef halim

It’s all about balance and the Dhaka Club halim epitomises what it is to have an overall excellent halim, not too spicy but not bland either.

Rabbani Hotel

Mirpur 11, opposite bus station. Thick, with just the right mix of daal and meat. Another fantastic economy choice.

6 Kasturi (Gulshan 1)

Rich, creamy texture with lots of mutton pieces. The spice is just right, but for some reason didn’t have the same oomph from previous years.

5 Hujur’sHaleem

Sits in Gulshan 2 circle, inside the DCC market. Extremely delicious halim, the daal is thick and plenty of meat inside.

4 Fakhruddin’s (Banani Branch)

All ingredients blended right for a very thick and consistent recipe. Their halim is spicy and not at all bland. The mutton could have been tenderer and there was too much turmeric involved, but overall a fantastic offer.

3 Hotel Jannat, Townhall, Mohammadpur

2 Mama Halim (Kalabagan)

Whoever Mama is, he is one heck of a halim chef. Mama’s Halim has been around for decades now and although the establishment has changed hands, the recipe remains consistently simple and elegant.

Chawk Bazar iftar spread

There is a reason why Old Dhaka is considered the best among the iftar items sold in the city and the halim sold in the neighbourhood is no different. Filled with succulent tender meat, spices and thick gravy, almost all the vendors adhere to an unwritten standard of high quality and taste combined. Undoubtedly our number one in the list and don’t see that changing next year. n

The mixture is perfect, the right amount of spices, beef and mutton that actually taste like beef and mutton and plenty of it too.

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Quamrul Abedin/Dhaka Tribune

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Big Mouth strikes again

Naheed Kamal

When I grow up, I want to be a Disney princess

The desire to be and play ‘princess’ is an integral part of many young girls’ lives 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!

C

hildren, especially girls, want to be princesses, as we are told. Disney princesses are the next best thing to being a real princess. And the Disney princess franchise, spinning off from the chain of animated films, has captured the hearts and minds of countless impressionable young girls across the world. If you asked me, I couldn’t tell you the names of more than a handful of the Disney princesses, but I can immediately identify one when I see one. Like it or not, Disney characters have some kind of mass appeal, and despite the hackneyed formula, the films and characters never fail to appeal to children everywhere. I find the entire thing a little creepy. There is something contrived in the helpless yet “spirited” women who make up the gaggle of Disney princesses. As for Prince Charming, or the male lead, he is hardly very charming, is he? The franchise makes a lot of money from sale of related merchandise. Coincidentally, the best selling Disney princesses are the ones that wear the most “bling.” The more I watch, read and see the consequences of Disney’s sinister franchise, the more convinced I am that all the vain, spoiled children who are not very childlike, who grow into self-obsessed women with unrealistic expectations, are the products of years

Boys don’t care much for Prince Charming, but he is evolving and is more real than the princesses. With Merida, Disney made a conscious effort to make her androgynous and socially relevant of over exposure to Disney! Yes I know, I sound crazy; you’re thinking Disney is safe and good family entertainment. And why is a grown woman fixating on children’s cartoons? Most Disney animated films are based loosely on traditional folk tales and fairy tales, favourites being Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm, though recently we’ve been treated to Native American history, South Asian and Middle Eastern narratives. These tales tended to have a moral or lesson tagged on, and some of the Grimms’ stories are utterly terrifying and bleak. So trust Disney to take what suits them and make the stories W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, AUGUST 1 6 , 2013

more “American.” Altered beyond recognition to suit Disney’s vision and garner highest possible returns, the final product is imagined, embellished and rewritten that fits tried and tested storylines. They add dollops of fantasy, magic and slapstick; there is always a sidekick, a villain, a love interest and a rival. If there is a moral, it is one that Disney promotes: all little girls can be princesses, if they marry a prince, and live happily ever after. Not everyone appreciates Disney’s clear-cut but archaic model for happiness, but they are resistant to change. As if that’s not bad enough, there have been accusations of racism and sexism. We’ve heard for so long how Disney princesses are the best possible positive role models for little girls, that we don’t question the statement. But are they really, and do the girls today care for them at all? Between the first princess (Snow White) and the latest (Merida), it’s been almost a century. Naturally, the earlier princesses have old-fashioned ideas that reflect the time and place they were from – Post WWI America in 20s-30s. Seen by today’s standards, the classic Disney films can make for uncomfortable viewing with female characters who are passive, frail and not very ambitious. In fact, their only ambition is to get married. They wait, patiently, for a man to come along and save them. Whatever gumption they possess is not very effective or empowering. But that was then; in the new films, we have modern young women. Yet, in every princess film since the first, Disney presents narrow and incomplete female characters who are seemingly modern, but not wholesome, strong, or capable, when you take a close look. Disney has unabashedly presented female characters who are not worthy of any modern girl’s adoration. So why they are cheered on and hyped up is a mystery. Perhaps the fact that Disney has so much money to spend on PR blinds us to the actual facts?

I

n the real world, women are no longer confined to “traditional” gender roles, but in Disney world, all the stereotypes are alive and kicking. Insignificant concessions are made to modern women’s life choices and lifestyles, and most of the princesses are one-dimensional. These cartoons and the scripts

are not harmless entertainment, as researchers discovered. England, Descartes, and Collier-Meek analysed Disney characters for traditional gender roles: strong, assertive and athletic are some of the male traits, while female traits include being prone to overt emotions, tending to appearance and collapsing in tears! All the princesses scored high for all the female traits, and where they possessed any male trait, it was countered by double doses of weak/ negative female ones. In general, the princesses fit “traditional” gender roles or stereotypes, all the way through. The princes show a marked change; they have become less overtly masculine, possess positive feminine characteristics and are reflective of modern men. The researchers noticed the princesses constantly groom themselves or clean the home. Emphasis is always on looking good and how others describe them in terms of beauty: as fair, beautiful and pretty. Non-traditional behaviour never goes unpunished: Belle likes to read, the only “intellectual” trait in any of them, but she is bullied and ostracised. And a defiant girl must redeem herself by becoming traditionally feminine and subservient to the Beast. None of the princesses have to work to get anywhere – if they want it, they can get it. They are born into power, except Tenia, who did have a job but found power through marriage. When they can’t get what they want, they use feminine wiles or resort to crying. Disney’s unrealistic and improbable settings, where no matter what happens, princess and prince meet or see each other, fall in love and marry to live happily ever after, after overcoming odds, and/or sacrificing everything including family and health, or in Ariel’s case her speech, is perhaps the worst lesson learned from these films. The young men are usually a little slow, often chauvinists, but passionate and loyal. But the young women are troublesome, indecisive, and prone to illogical behaviour. They make random harmful decisions, which gets everyone in trouble. Did I mention they cry a lot? But that’s not so strange, given that Rapunzel is locked in a tower, Belle must endure a beast, Snow White was sent out to die, Sleeping Beauty put to sleep, and Cinderella enslaved. Maybe I don’t want to be a Disney princess, after all. n

I know they are only cartoons, but all children are influenced by what they see on films and imitate how people act or behave – that is a fact. And Disney has a channel aimed at children, which they watch all day. Scary!


PHOTO STORY

muslims unite

Eid-ul-Fitr

13

AROUND THE WORLD

Muslims offer prayers on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr inside a mosque in the northern Indian city of Allahabad on August 9. 

REUTERS/Jitendra Prakash

This year, the Muslim world marked Eid-ul-Fitr amid a lot of chaos and violence. There were protests in Egypt, blasts across Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, riots in Kashmir and mosque attack in Sri Lanka. Yet, there were smiles and colours. Here is a collection of photos from across the world – some of celebrations and some of the loss suffered in the violence.

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14

PHOTO STORY muslims unite

A child takes a picture of herself with a mobile phone at an Eid al-Fitr party for Syrian and Iraqi refugee children injured during violence in their countries. The party was organised by the French humanitarian aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in Amman. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

An Afghan cleric, far right, talks to villagers during a funeral ceremony of 14 members of one family in Nangarhar province’s Ghany Khel district, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 8. A bomb planted in a graveyard in rural eastern Afghanistan killed those members, as they were marking the start of Eid-ulFitr holiday with a visit to the tombs of relatives. AP/Rahmat Gul

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15

A Muslim girl has her face decorated as Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr in Valby, Copenhagen, on August 8. AP/Joachim Adrian

Iraqis enjoy the Eid-ulFitr holiday in a park in Baghdad, Iraq, on August 10. Photo: AP/Karim Kadim

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16

PHOTO STORY muslims unite

Mostly Palestinians from the West Bank enjoy the Mediterranean Sea on the last day of the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday in Tel Aviv, Israel on August 11. One of the most important holidays in the Muslim world, Eid-ul-Fitr is marked with prayers, family reunions and other festivities. Tens of thousands of Palestinians visit Tel Aviv and other places in Israel after Israel granted travel permits to West Bank Palestinians. AP/Oded Balilty

Nigeria muslims greet the Shehu of Borno, al-Hajj Muhammad al-Amîn ibn Muhammad al-Kânemî, not seen in picture, during a celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr in Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria on August 8. Nigerians celebrated Eid with devout prayers and a joyful show of adulation for their king, which attracted more than 10,000 people. It was the first durbar in three years in the city of Maiduguri and the joy that it could take place - albeit amid massive security was heard in the cries of ululating women, screams of delight from children and men chanting “Long live the king!” AP/Sunday Alamba

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Everyday Economist

17

middlemen

Getting into the middle of things Souvik Aswad unravels the world of middlemen, price distortion and Ronaldo’s salary

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

AFP/ Soe Than WIN

souvikaswad@gmail.com

T

he middleman, or simply a dalal in plain Bangla, is one of the most hated titles in our country. Shoppers resent them, patients despise them and farmers demonise them. For most, they are an odious, greedy bunch, constantly in the hunt for profits, distorting prices, suppressing demand and supply. In short, we think of them as pseudo-businessmen who make a bunch of money by doing no real work, and instead preying on people’s lack of access to information and plain bad luck. Yet, why is it one business that has never seen a recession and in fact has thrived over the last 40 years? Are middlemen really a bunch of preying vultures who add no real value to the economy? Or do they actually serve a function which we love to deride but at the same time find indispensable? Let’s find out. Middlemen in Bangladesh carry the greatest stigma in the agricultural sector. There seem to be valid reasons behind all the vilification. After crops are reaped from the harvest fields, they move through a lot of hands and when these food crops finally land in the city markets, we the consumers find that their price is way more than it was at the hands of the farmers who grew them. So, why does this happen? Why

do these crops have to come through a series of agents and mediators and go-betweeners? Why can’t we get the price the farmers sell them at? And why does all this “brokering” increase prices so much? Imagine a farmer from a remote village in Rangpur. He grows potatoes. He has to spend all day in his field to grow a healthy harvest of potatoes. After an intense harvest he finally reaps a very good yield. His task now is to sell them. Where to sell? He can sell either in the village haat, the nearest town market or the big city bazar. Suppose he decides to sell in the city bazar. But he suffers from indecision and information inadequacy, or what economists love calling “asymetric information.” Which city to sell in? How to get there? In which bazar of the city should he sell in? What would he do if his potatoes remain unsold? He realises that, despite his best intentions and interests, he cannot sell in the city markets by himself. Therein comes the middleman. The middleman buys the potatoes from the farmer, takes them to city markets and sells them to us, the customers. That middleman can do so because he has the know-how about urban grocery markets, has the means to travel uptown and definitely has a

place to crash when night falls. But does all their access to markets and information really warrant such a steep hike in final price? Consider this: if our hardworking farmer from Rangpur were to commute to Dhaka’s Hatirpool bazar on his own, rent a place for selling and lease a room to spend the night, he also would have sell at a price substantially higher than what he usually sells for in his own village haat. All of these seemingly “weird” activities stem from the economic theory of comparative advantage. In plain English, you’d better concentrate doing what you are good at. If our proverbial farmer were to focus on growing crops, market them and transport them all at the same time, he would find out that each aspect of his business would suffer simply because either he does not have time for it all, or simply because he is a much better farmer than a businessman. Orthodox economics wants people to specialise and compartmentalise. Let’s use Christiano Ronaldo, one of best footballers in the world, as an example. When he transferred from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009 for a world record transfer fee of £80m, he himself did not go through his contracts, nor did he negotiate his wages

directly. His agent did it. Why? Because Ronaldo is good at playing football and his agent is good at negotiating. Of course, for facilitating the transfer, his agent got a share of this huge transfer fee. Ronaldo’s agent here also worked as a middleman. Our last example brings economic theory closer to home: let’s take a look at student tuitions. A big source of income for students is tutoring others, but they all face problems finding the right ones for them. They have to look up all sorts of contacts, request their friends and paste their posters on walls so that the perfect tuition opportunity finds them and calls them up. But the recent Facebook groups who mediate between parents wanting good tutors and students willing to deliver their services solve this problem. These Facebook groups are working as middlemen as well. At the end of the day, it all comes down to bringing buyers and sellers together. But it needs to be done through the most efficient route. At some markets this task is easy, but in others it is not so. The middlemen simply try to make those hard markets a little bit easier to navigate, but at a price of course. After all, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, even in the dry world of economic textbooks. n

Did you know? Middlemen can make things easy for you, like when you have to rent or buy or sell a house n

They can also breed inefficiency within a structured institution, like government hospitals n

Technology can be leveraged to sidestep this middleman conundrum. The buying and selling of secondhand goods through websites is a good example of such a bypass

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18

FEATURE

Feedback

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

Photos: Courtesy

Down memory lane Tamoha Binte Siddiqui writes about the beginnings of a historic band

I

t will be very hard to find a Bangladeshi person who has not sung “Melai Jai Re” by the band Feedback at the top of their lungs at least once in their lives. Bangla New Year or Pohela Boishakh simply seems incomplete without this song and, over the decades, the song has transcended the status of being a mere piece of music into an inextricable and integral part of the Bangladeshi culture. Though Feedback has been immortalised in the history of Bangladesh because of “Melai Jai Re,” the song is not the band’s only popular

number. During the late 80s and early 90s, Feedback was one of the most popular rock bands in Bangladesh that gifted the nation with songs such as “Ei Din Chirodin Robey,” “Ek Jhak Projapoti,” “Jhau Boney,” “Udashi,” “Moushumi 1 & 2,” “Kemon Korey Hai,” “Janala,” “Majhi,” “Bidrohi” and “Geetikobita 1 & 2.” The band is considered one of the pioneers of classic rock in Bangladesh, alongside Souls and Miles. Feedback’s journey began in 1975, when it was known as Feedback 20th Century. Members involved during

Musa used to tell me: ‘Mac you have got to start listening to your voice within. You have got it – but hear it loud and clear.’ And over the years, I did Maqsood

The band saluting back to the crowd during a concert in the 90s.

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the band’s inception include Murad Rahman, Ershad Moinuddin Popsy, Foad Nasser Babu, Salim Haider and Zakiur Rahman. Maqsood is not a founding member of the band, but was good friends with Murad and Popsy and played with the two of them at a New Year’s show in Dhaka Club. That’s when he was first noticed by the other members of Feedback. He was soon invited by them to perform at the Cheshire Ball of Hotel Intercontinental (now Ruposhi Bangla Hotel) in 1977 and officially was inducted into the group after a week or so.

Feedback became the house band at Hotel Intercontinental in 1976, playing regularly in its Chambeeli restaurant. They were hired right after the Windy Sides of Care (Windies) split up and were asked by the management to fill the gap left by the Windies. During that time, Feedback consisted of Foad Nasser Babu, Salim Haider, Murad Rahman, Pearo Khan and Maqsood. They feared they would never match the standards set out by the Windies. They struggled hard, but fortune favoured them as the former Windies guitarist Omar

“The song ‘Melai Jai Re’ was my way of revolting against the construct of culture,” Maqsood said. He further elaborated that during the 80s, festivities in the Ramna Park during Pohela Boishakh became a solemn and elitist affair constrained by a set of unsaid rules and marked by the monotony of Rabindra Sangeet and recitations of Nazrul’s poems. In sharp contrast to the western New Year celebrations, Bangla New Year had no laughter, no dancing, or any other form of fun. Through “Melai Jai Re,” Maqsood hoped to challenge these cultural notions. The Boishakhi mela, or fair, for him, symbolised the very essence of the excitement of Boishakh and the rural flavours of Bangladesh that it commemorated


19 Trivia on Feedback Feedback became the first band to receive an award in Bangladesh when it won the Jai Jai Din Best Band Award in 1995 for its album “Bongabdo 1400”

“Bongabdo 1400” was a historical cultural statement by Feedback. The album is the only official record of the Bangla year 1400’s commemoration. In an interview, Maqsood said: “There is no postage stamp, first day cover, sculptor, or art, nothing of tangible significance using which Bangalis in era 1500 will officially remember 1400, other than this album”

Feedback remains the only Bangladeshi band to have been recorded by an international label. Recorded between 1990 and 1992 at the HMV/EMI studios at Gramophone Company of India Limited, “Joar,” a compilation of 10 songs made popular by Feedback, was released simultaneously in Bangladesh and India

Musa inadvertently inspired me to take a sociopolitical stance through my music, when years ago, Musa mischievously smiled at me while driving me mad and said: “The revolution will NOT be televised – the revolution will be LIVE!”

Khaled Roummy joined them in 1977. According to Maqsood, Roummy’s experience and calm composure taught them things that they didn’t even know could happen while playing music. Moreover, being a spinner and a batsman for the Bangladesh cricket team, Roummy also taught the band all about discipline.

More on “Melai Jai Re”

According to Maqsood, through the line “Bokhate chhele der bhire lolonader rehai nai (Young girls are not safe in a crowd of wayward boys),” he was one of the first to publicly speak about sexual harassment or eve-teasing in Bangladesh

When founder member and bassist Murad left for the US in 1979, Feedback found itself in quite a fix. Bassists were rare back then and Feedback was already struggling. It was Roummy who suggested that they “get hold of the Moose” – Musa Rahman, ,the band leader of Windies. When Maqsood went to sweet talk Musa into joining Feedback, he was warm and cordial but also complained about the band’s repertoire, as the band was stuck playing rock and disco music to cater to the Chambeeli diners’ taste. Musa, before joining Feedback, cautioned Maqsood: “If you want to be good and as good as the Windies, if not better, then you have to be progressive and

Maqsood

Moose, Mac Haque and Roummy.

play jazz, blues, boss nova, etc. Also, you guys are thoroughly undisciplined. I have had an earful from Roummy, so rest assured, if I join Feedback, I will be kicking some mean ass, okay?”

T

he members of Feedback were more than okay and rolled out the red carpet for Musa. Musa, in turn, put them through the toughest practice sessions the band had experienced

Moose, Mac Haque and Roummy.

The song also makes subtle sarcastic remarks on the hypocrisy of our culture, such as the use of foreign perfume on Bangla New Year, as portrayed in the line “Bideshi shugondhi mekhe aj premer kotha bola (We will speak of love today while wearing foreign perfume)”

till then. In a month’s time, Feedback had a completely new sound and Babu magnanimously stepped back as band leader to let Musa take charge. Musa worked on Maqsood’s vocal skills for months by guiding him though difficult jazz tunes during weekends. “The worst punishment was when he would take me to the corner of the room, make me face the wall with a pillow pressed to the back of my head till I got the note right,” Maqsood reminisced.

Maqsood soon established himself as a powerful and versatile vocalist who could cover more than 500 songs from various genres, such as pop, rock, reggae, blues and jazz. Foreigners and the local elites alike flocked to the restaurant to enjoy the music played by the band. They went on to play regularly at the restaurant for 11 long years, from 1976 to 1987, which is a testament to the quality of their performances, as the restaurant maintained an international standard of music. Later, the band went on to recording smash hit albums such as “Feedback Volume 1 (1985),” “Ullash (1987),” “Mela (1990)” and “Bongabdo 1400 (1994).” Subsequently, Maqsood left the band in 1997 to pursue a different brand of music, much to the shock and heartbreak of fans, and Feedback has never been the same since. n

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20

Digital Bangladesh

Internet fraud

Bangladesh: sili-CON delta

Joseph Allchin writes about a Bangladeshi niche in the global IT industry

B

angladesh has a secret IT sector. It eludes most people and is not terribly photogenic. It is not housed on pretentious and manicured campuses. According to a documentary by Britain’s Channel 4, this elusive Bangladeshi business is the “epicentre of online fakery.” The documentary focused on a marketing trend where the profiles of brands are artificially enhanced to make the brand look better or appear higher up in internet searches. To do this, companies hire small Bangladeshi firms who get their employees to routinely click like on Facebook fan pages, or to watch Youtube videos to give them “views.” The clickers, according to one entrepreneur who was filmed secretly describing his workers, would endlessly create new profiles to make them unique hits. The documentary, which was filmed undercover in the capital in January, met with around 10 different local entrepreneurs. The director, BAFTA nominated Chris Atkins, posed as the owner of a small, made-up UK marketing company called Fresh Talking. Online marketing is still worth only a quarter of the more traditional forms of advertising in the West, but it is growing fast at around 10% a year in the UK. The largest chunk of this does not go towards the annoying banners that sparkle while your content is still loading. It goes towards what is known as search engine optimisation (SEO). This in effect is to make your product, service or brand appears higher up in online searches. So when a

“Click farm” work is poorly paid and cheap. For $15 (Tk1,170) a businessman called Russel who was filmed could do 1,000 likes in three or four hours. Don’t try this at home though, that’s a lot of scurrying around on Facebook for just $15 customer is searching for a product of yours, it will more likely be chosen over rivals. Moreover, it is not just when people are shopping online, but also, for instance, when someone is working out what restaurant to go to or what watch to buy someone as a gift. More popular sites appear higher in searches on both Google Facebook and Youtube. As a result, small businesses in the capital are

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hiring individuals to sit in small offices and create fake profiles on Facebook. They then use this profile to click like once on every product the company is being paid to promote over and over. When you click the “like” button on a Facebook page, the automated software within creates a link to your profile, where you notice that it also displays other pages that you the user “like.” The software running these pages measures this and pushes the liked pages higher. One such business was called CreativeIT, run by a guy called Ali Asgar. Ali was found to be promoting a page for an area of outstanding natural beauty in the UK called the Peak District. As a result of Asgar’s work, the Peak District has more “fans” in Dhaka than any other city in the world, apparently. This means that unsuspecting tourists to the UK may end up there as opposed to a place that really is popular. So it’s a bit like a tout or a commission man, hanging out in a market telling you that he has the best pants, thereby meaning you miss out on the commission man’s rival, who has those PVC sequined ones that you actually want. Asgar started out as a freelancer, working from home; this seems to be a growing trend. This has further been helped by the welcome growth of electronic payments such as Paypal. The government’s Digital Bangladesh policy has helped this. Hereby, people at home can take a break from browsing racy photos and spend their days endlessly clicking “like” on random pages. One of the biggest ventures with this model is shareyt.com. Here people at home do all the work for elusive or tiny payments. The users are not required to create new profiles on this one, but rather are presented with a box and click on pages of the various clients of shareyt.com. Once a user or clicker has watched the requisite length, they will be presented with the next. One prominent example that appeared on Shareyt was a Youtube video of a Coca-cola advert for the US Super Bowl. Shareyt helped the video (which has now been removed) gain six million “views.” This would make you think that the thing was worth watching, thereby enticing you to reach for a red bottle, instead of the blue one at the next opportune moment. Shareyt clickers are paid in online currency, which can then be transferred for real currency. The owner told the documentary that a clicker would earn about Tk2,340 per quarter. He estimated that he alone had around 25,000 clickers in Bangladesh. Akin to the garments industry, Bangladesh has developed a niche in an international business. This is positive, provided these small ventures can develop skills and the know how to move away from the unscrupulous sides of the industry and develop sustainable businesses (as some already have) that provide jobs and development the country needs, without conning unsuspecting internet users. n Joseph Allchin Is a senior reporter at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on twitter: @J_Allchin


21

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND eid

Eid Mubarak!

Bassema Karaki indulges in the festivities of Eid-ul-Fitr in Dhaka

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he moon appears and “Oi Romjan er oi rojar sheshe, elo khushir Eid” is playing on TV and radio, fireworks are exploding in the streets, homes are infused with the scent of halwa and firni, and families are hugging, kissing and wishing each other “Eid Mubarak.” Eid is more than just a holiday in Bangladesh;it’s a literal transformation. The country’s congested capital becomes a calm, spacious city; roads go from traffic-jammed to completely empty overnight. People are no longer absorbed in a mad rush to make money and family bonding becomes the centre of activity for all. From mosques filled with people uniting under one roof to pray for God’s blessings, to families and friends gathering in homes to enjoy delicious, traditional comfort food, Eid-ul-Fitr is a time that Bangladesh is at its best. This one holiday is enough to keep people smiling for months. My first day of Eid here began at 6:30am, when I was awakened to get ready for prayers in the mosque. After getting dressed, I came out of my room to find a feast on the table, with different types of colourful halwa, lachchha shemai, paratha, luchi, aloor dom and much more set out, asking to be devoured. There are no words for how wonderful it is to have such a bountiful breakfast after a month of fasting, and sitting together with my family for an early meal was only the beginning of a full day of special bonding. After arriving at the mosque and being bombarded with the usual high influx of beggars taking advantage of the season, I was pleased to see the women’s section filled for once. Women were dressed in gorgeous salwar kameezes and saris, little girls were dressed in fancy dresses, and all of them had intricate or simple henna designs on their hands. After listening to a long speech that unfortunately had little to do with Eid and was more the ranting of an angry mullah, we stood in harmony to pray and seek God’s favour. The unity flowing from congregational prayers has always created a positive vibe throughout community, and Bangladesh is no exception. After completing our prayers, all the women got up and hugged each other with beaming faces and contagious smiles, and on our way out we became much more tolerant of the beggars we were previously frustrated with.

It’s the one time roads are empty and homes are filled with overwhelming love and joy; it’s the best time of year in Dhaka

With all that excitement, it was only natural for our stomachs to start growling, and so Eid invitations fell perfectly into place. My husband has an enormous family (as do most Bangladeshis) and so the bonding and feasting literally goes on for at least five days in our case. Usually, I would be averse to overindulging, but somehow the excitement of Eid – the constant chattering and laughter, the games and pictures, the gifts and greetings –

kept my appetite open, so I was able to enjoy the absolutely delectable dishes cooked during this festive time. Eid in Bangladesh is somewhat like Christmas in America. People exchange gifts and greeting cards, but in this case it’s done either before or the night of Eid. My husband and I became Santas on the eve of Eid, going from house to house and distributing cards and gifts, which were all clothes

giving us salami, telling us we’d always be children to them. At first I was embarrassed to take the money, but by the end of the day my wallet was a lot fatter, and I wasn’t complaining! I was once told that Eid is a reflection of heaven on earth for a day, and in Bangladesh, this statement seems to be true. With Muslims embracing each other with salam and big smiles, it is truly a time of peace

by tradition, to his cousins. We were so pleased to see all of them wearing those clothes within the next couple of days, and it felt great to be wearing new clothes ourselves. Besides getting together and catching up with people we hadn’t seen in months, it was tradition here to receive “salami,” or token money, from our elders. Although my husband and I are definitely not children, all his aunts, uncles, and elders insisted on

and harmony in a country otherwise plagued by corruption and chaos. I can only hope that the spirit of this holiday will live on and prevent violence in the never-ending hartals of coming days. n

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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22 Dina Sobhan is a freelance writer and cautions readers not to take her “advice” here too seriously!

TOUGH LOVE 1

My wife is very competitive. This would not be a problem if she did not bring her competitive spirit into our marriage as well. Everything is a contest for her: who earns the highest salary, how many chores we can finish on time, how to impress our neighbours by throwing the biggest party, etc. I’ve tried asking her to tone it down a bit, but that seems to make her more aggressive. I don’t want to “play” this game with her, but how can I make her see this is a problem?

DINA SOBHAN If your wife is pathologically competitive, you just need to do everything better than she does, simple. You just need to beat her at her own “game.” While it might go against your better judgement – and yes, you’ll be stooping to her level of immaturity and downright inappropriate behaviour – it may be your only option. Of course, if you’re willing to meander down this path, be sure you are actually better than she is, or your mission will be thwarted from the get-go. Additionally, it would be good to know that your cuckoo-er

half will not go Lorena Bobbit on you in retaliation for being better than she is at X, Y and Z. If that is in fact the case, you would do better to seek some counselling lest her “competitive spirit,” as you so charmingly put it, puts you out of the competition for good. You could also just nip this whole thing in the bud, dump the broad and go find yourself some PYT whose idea of competition only applies to the length of her skirt, but I think the former is the cheaper and possibly more effective method. n

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

2

I’m afraid I have two spoilt brats on my hand. I myself grew up in a family where we struggled to make ends meet, so I decided if I ever became a parent, I would never make my children go through the same hardship. But now it looks like my plans have backfired; not only are my two kids completely spoilt, but they have no sense of gratitude and are constantly nagging me to get them more stuff. Is there any way I can reverse the process?

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It’s probably too late to “reverse the process,” but it’s never too late to beat your children! While I’m not a fan of corporal punishment, I can’t say enough for good old-fashioned discipline. The problem with kids these days is they just have it too easy. They should be forced to walk the 17 miles to school in shoes that are barely held together by their laces and other such challenges met and conquered by their elders. At the very least, stop having them dropped to school in their chauffeur-driven limos, and no gourmet lunches and creased trousers awaiting them in the morning. They can eat shingharas

with the rest of the schlubs if necessary. They need to learn to take care of themselves, and the sooner you stop mollycoddling them, the better it will be for all humankind. Take away their Xbox 360s, limit TV time and make them clean their rooms and wash dishes, even if your house is littered from top to bottom with domestic staff. Of course, it’s absurd and rest assured that they will put you into a retirement home in Comilla as soon as your hair starts to grey, but at least you’ll have the pleasure of knowing you’ve tried to instil some character into the little punks. n


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23

WT LEISURE DILBERT

Across 1 5 6 8 10 11

Boast new sovereign (5) Atom of metal, by the sound of it (3) Breakfast around daybreak - of champions? (5) Southern harbour, like Rugby? (5) Eno comeback number (3) A time back where Olympians battled (5)

Down

PEANUTS

1 2 3 4 7 8 9

Arrived many to Arthur’s court (7) Not even nothing, dead empty (3) Endless river has no goal (3) A tinier movement, or lack of it (7) Decapitated insect becomes reptile (3) Red or Dead, for example (3) Love us to be in the red (3)

Solution and clues for last week’s crossword

Across

5 English turn in after parking a bird (7) 6 Snug male and female in shy embrace (5) 9 Kept in vinegar in one’s cups (7)

Down 1 2 3 4 7 8

Baths popularised first in South Africa (3) Bill, a singer on great form? (7) New York city mozzarella provider (7) Colour in, in black finally (3) A pint would be appropriate (3) Not even comic Ken loses his head (3)

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24

DAY IN THE LIFE OF

Fuad M Hossain is subeditor at Dhaka Tribune. He is also exceptionally geeky and loves to play video games

A High School Student

Finish your homework Fuad M Hossain looks into the day of Avita Maheen

An average day for Avita 5:45am Wakes up, has breakfast, gets dressed for college 6:30am Gets on the college bus 7:25am Classes commence

12:30pm Takes the bus to home 2:30pm Reaches home, showers, has lunch and goes off to coaching 6:30pm–1.00am Comes back from coaching, indulges in leisure activities, finishes homework and goes to bed

“T

he worst part of a day to begin is waking up from sleep. As a high school student, my day starts before the sun rises,” says 18-year-old Avita Maheen. She is currently a student at the Rajuk Uttara Model College and every day she has to wake up at hours when most of us are tucked snugly in our beds. To the uninitiated, it may seem natural for a student to wake up during the early hours of the day, but she thinks otherwise. Describing her start of the day, Avita says: “As I live in Lalmatia, I have to wake up at 5:45 in the morning. Finishing my breakfast and dressing up for college as fast as possible, I have to run for the college bus, which arrives at 6:30am sharp.” She adds her regular classes and activities while at college are simultaneously interesting and boring. However, her horrors begin when college breaks at around mid-day and she has to endure

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Courtesy

12:15pm Classes end

a long frustrating journey back home. “Travelling like that every single day is pathetic, even worse, when the traffic never seems to end,” she says. Getting back home, she barely makes time to pop in for a quick shower and some lunch, following which she has to attend at least two coaching sessions. Being sleepdeprived, she tends to feel dizzy during her coaching classes, even dozing off for a few seconds and waking up suddenly. Following an arduous day of travel and coaching, she comes back home, eats something light and drinks coffee. She spends her evening on her computer and indulges herself with internet, Facebook, Youtube, etc. She claims to have a strong affinity towards music; hence, on most occasions she will listen to music at full volume. After her brief session of entertainment, she sits down to finish her homework and other important

activities. Owing to her tight schedule, she usually never gets to study much at home; yet, somehow she makes it work. Dinner is usually followed by

“Minus all the difficulties, my high school life is fun, but the fun doesn’t seem to balance out the difficulties.” Avita Maheen

watching TV and then back to studying again. Avita says: “It gets late for me to finish all the work that I have; sometimes, I wonder how quickly every single day comes to an end. It is due to this tight schedule that I am deprived from the necessary amount of sleep. But now it has become a

rather prevalent pattern. I have been living my life like that, everyday, hoping that this pattern would come to an end someday.” According to Avita, everyday counts and is a new beginning. Despite her hopes for this monotonous schedule to come to an end, she relishes these moments and misses it all after her day is over. In addition, since the entire day is so hectic, she questions herself if she has done well to pass her daily challenges. She does realise it’s difficult for almost anyone to accept and complete each and every challenge that being in a high school presents, though. “This phase of our lives as students is rather critical, while we strive to strike a balance between being disciplined and our freedom,” she says. n


THE WAY DHAKA WAS Kabi Nazrul Islam College 1880

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Kabi Nazrul Islam College I only studied for two years in the college during the 80s, but they were the two most fantastic years of my life. Being a student at Kabi Nazrul Islam College meant you had to be an all-rounder: you had to excel in academics, sports and culture. There was simply no way around it. On top of it all, the teachers and school staff were always encouraging you to try your best in everything. Along the years, I have heard that standard has dropped. But those two years spent there were fundamental in my life Ashok Chowdhury businessman, New Eskaton

Bangladesh Old Photo Archive

Today Navila Kabir

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Culture Vulture

RABI THAKUR

The Great Bard of the 21st century Faruq Hasan is the Magazine Editor of Weekend Tribune and the resident devil’s advocate

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f you are Bangladeshi, chances are you could not have escaped Rabindranath Tagore’s influence on our culture one way or the other. Unless you have been living in a rather large, dark cave, Tagore’s music, poetry and fiction seems to be omnipresent. Growing up, I was a Tagore rebel: I never read him much till about a few years ago, simply because I could not relate to his work, either emotionally or at a more cerebral level. To me, the great Bangali Bard’s repertoire resonated with unrequited love, mysticism and paeans to Bangla monsoons that I was not necessarily looking for in my bedtime reading list. Simply put, I

really didn’t think Tagore had anything to offer for a reader in 2013. Mind you, I had my own cultural blinkers on: I grew up on a strict diet of Shakespeare, Keats, Wordsworth and other classic English writers and poets. I couldn’t really blame my teachers as

English medium schools in Bangladesh were not really known for teaching holistic English literature courses. I was comfortably numb till my university years all the way to the United States, where I first encountered Tagore in a World Lit class. My introduction to Tagore was more of two ships passing by, rather than a collision really. But this was the first time I actually sat down and read his works and I realised two things: Tagore was not just a writer in the conventional sense of the word. He was a philosopher, musician, statesman and scientist all rolled into one. But as I actually sat down with the “Gitanjali”

Even more than a writer, Tagore was a political being, as is your average Bangladeshi living in 21st century living either home or in the diaspora. In his poem “Proshno (The Questions),” he asks God: “O God! Those evil men, who have poisoned Thy holy air and have extinguished Thy holy light, have You forgiven them and have You loved them?” Tagore’s “Proshno” was critiquing British oppression of India more than half a century ago, but it could well be directed to today’s confrontational politics that seems to divide Bangladesh, or speak to religious and cultural divides in a post-9/11 world.

for the first time more importantly, I realised it didn’t matter whether you were a mathematician striving to solve a theorem or a mother of two looking for something to read during your kids’ football practice; Tagore would get inside your heart and head.

Or take his play “Muktodhara,” which on the surface is about an autocratic king and his subjugation of his subjects by damming a waterfall so that his people are deprived of fresh water, and how ultimately the tyrant’s son uses another piece of technology

He dabbled his fingers in all genres of literature, except for epics

He won Nobel Prize in 1913 for “Song Offerings,” the English version “Gitanjali,” the introduction of which was written by WB Yeates

Web

“The progress of our soul is like a perfect storm. It has an infinite idea which, once realised, makes all movements full of meaning and joy. But if we detach its movements from that ultimate idea, if we do not see the infinite rest and only see the infinite motion, then existence appears to us a monstrous evil, impetuously rushing towards an unending aimlessness.” Tagore to Einstein

Faruq Hasan explains why Tagore remains just as important today as he was half a century ago

to break the dam and literally free the people. The play centres on how technology can be both a tool to govern fairly and a weapon to subdue the general mass. Are the themes and narrative really alien to Bangladeshis living in a country where Facebook and YouTube are continually used and abused to spread information and propaganda at the same time? It took me about a year to finish “Gitanjali” in its entirety. Tagore expanded my notion of what I expect from a writer. Coming from a 21st century Bangladeshi, Tagore simply wasn’t what Shakespeare was to the Brits, or Robert Burns to the Scots. More than just someone who wrote great poetry and plays, Tagore works, philosophy and thinking encapsulated “Bangaliness.” No other writer was such an ambassador for his people and language as Tagore was to Bangalis in both Bangladesh and India and, in doing so, united people from both sides of the border. In 21st century sub-continental politics and literature, most Bangladeshis and Indians recognise him as someone who transcends national and linguistic boundaries by being, well, Tagore. n

Did you know? Tagore was the most travelled poet of Bangla literature, as well as the most discussed and criticised one

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, AUGUST 1 6 , 2013

He is probably the only poet who wrote the national anthem of two countries: “Amar Sonar Bangla” for Bangladesh and “Jana Gana Mana” for India


OBITUARY

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BELAL MOHAMMAD

Remember thy history

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

Ibtisam Ahmed writes about a forgotten hero

Over the years 1964 Becomes sub-editor of the Dainik Azadi newspaper and also joins Radio Pakistan 1971 Helps found the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra 2010 Wins the Independence Award for his contribution to the Liberation War 2011 Wins the Bangla Academy Award for his contributions to literature

Kawser Mahmud

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hile political squabbles about our declaration of independence continue to rage on, several elements of our Liberation War are indisputable. One of these is that the declaration was made at the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. While this fact is taught without complaint at all levels of Bangladeshi history, students are not taught about the significance of the radio station itself. In many ways, the lessons imply that the station existed long before 1971 by refusing to acknowledge the extraordinary presence of mind – and the courage – displayed by its founders. One of these founders, Belal Mohammad, who played a key role in the Liberation War, passed away on July 30. Belal Mohammad was born on February 20, 1936, in what is now known as Sandwip in Chittagong. He was heavily involved in politics from a young age and joined the local student union during his university years. Having grown up during the partition of India, he knew the importance of strong self-awareness and identity. During his early professional life, he worked in various journalistic institutions, allow-

ing him to acquire an informed view of the increasingly despondent situation in the country. Combined with his principles, this meant he was a willing member of the burgeoning independence movement. In 1971, Mohammad left his mark on our history. At the time of the non-cooperation movement’s inception on March 7, he was a government officer working as a scriptwriter for Radio Pakistan. He believed, quite correctly, that media like radio was a crucial way to share information and unite the nation very quickly. With the experience of working at a radio station already under his belt, he began to conceive the idea of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. Along with Abdullah-Al-Faruque, Abul Kashem Sandwip and two other engineers, Mohammad set out for the transmission station at Kalurghat. It was here that the Betar Kendra was officially founded.

A

fter the declaration of independence was broadcasted, he was made the assistant director of the station in June, 1971. Under his guidance, the station functioned as a vital part

2013 Dies at the Apollo Hospital. His body is donated to the Sher-eBangla Medical College to be used by students, as per his request

of the communications network for the war effort. Following independence, Mohammad continued to work at the station. Later, he would go on to become a writer of some renown, particularly for his poetry, but it was his work at the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra that brought him the most attention. He was awarded the Independence Award and the Bangla Academy Award in his later life. Belal Mohammad is a hero of our Liberation War and it is nothing short of criminal that his name is slowly being forgotten by newer generations of our country. The bickering over who really declared independence might not end any time soon, but it’s important that we do not forget the things we are all absolutely certain of. Mohammad led an extraordinary life – ranging from his work with the radio station to his final decision to have his body donated for medical purposes. Woes befall us if we choose to ignore his legacy. n

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LAST WORD Nilufer Ahmed

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

Parlez-vous Banglish? The ‘evolution’ of language can be, at times, confusing

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hile living in Paris in the mid 80s,  I was confronted with  a common question: “Parlez-vous Francaise?” Most times, my riposte would be, “Parlez-vous Anglaise?” and that person would disappear into thin air, with a quick mumble of “Excusez-moi.” The French, rather the Parisians, took it for granted that everyone who visited Paris would know and speak French. On the other hand, we Bangladeshis, regardless of who we are –students, housewives, pedestrians crossing the street, rickshaw pullers, shopkeepers, etc –  will go out of our way to speak in whatever form of English we can to please foreigners. In our overzealousness, we convert English into a brand new language altogether. Once, I stood at a zebra crossing near Dhanmondi and heard a young man giving directions to a foreigner on how to find a particular hospital: “First, go dandikey and cross road tar-

In a country that has a history of shedding blood in order to protect its native tongue, seeing the languages getting butchered is somewhat ironic por shop … mishti shop … then left turn big big buildings, go, go tarpor hashpatal.” The foreigner was dumfounded. I thought I should mind my own business, but having faced similar situations in non-English speaking countries, I  came to his rescue and asked what he was looking for. With a strong French accent, he asked me where the hospital was and, of course, I explained all  he  had to  do was cross the street and  then he would see the  hospital with a big sign. With a grateful “Merci beaucoup,” he left. Last week, I  asked a niece of mine to help me out with some documents that I had wanted to save in my Dropbox, which would eventually be picked up. Like most young people, she literal-

W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, AUGUST 1 6 , 2013

ly stormed into my room, took my laptop and launched into a tirade. “Okay, here we go ... look, koto simple. Eta click kore, documents e jao, see this button. Eta hochchhe magic button, bujhla? Okay, now ignore these habijabi and delete them. Oh no! There is a bit of shomoshsha  here in your laptop. Where are your documents? I can’t find them. Can I have some of that lebur shorbot? Is that shorbot, na? Or cleaning liquid in a glass? Okay, just give me ekta coke!” She held the laptop with one hand, kicked off her sandals and answered her continuous ringing mobile with the other hand: “Hi. I’m sort of busy. Kothay meet korbo? Oh okay, Voot restaurant … yeah I know that ‘bhootorey’ place. See you, bye.” I  asked her whether she could finish her multitasking and continue with saving my files. At the same time, I was also curious about this place Voot. “Hey, this Voot place. Is it a Bangladeshi or a Scandinavian restaurant?” I asked. “No, no aunty! It’s called Voot, as in ghost,” she laughed. I was not amused at all. “Oh, you mean ‘Bhoot.’ But why is it spelt with a V?” That is the question. Queen’s English? Not here in Bangladesh! Here English has its Bangla version. Here, it’s Banglish. But wait, what about Bangla, the foundation upon which our shonar Bangladesh stands?

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ike voot, which we pronounce as “bhoot,” there are now many words which sounds strange and very non-Bangla. Take “vai,” for example: Liton vai instead of Liton bhai. We seem to have imported these words and changed and corrupted the Bangla phoenetics. V has taken the place of bh and we seem to be unaware of it creeping into our written vocabulary. Bikrampur is written as Vikrampur, and Bhandar is written as Vandar. It’s rather appalling for us as this change is creeping into our lifestyle alongside many other imported ideas and stuff, entangling us with unpredictable im-

plications for our future generation. Last week, I was standing in front of Dhaka University, the same entrance of the Arts Faculty Building where we had such wonderful memories - our

Using a jumbled up version of two-three languages that barely makes sense may be an “it” thing nowadays, but to an organised mind, it’s most likely to be annoying teachers, who were our mentors too and dedicated to teach just as they themselves learnt. At a distance  from where I stood, there were walls full of posters and covered with  graffiti, where once there were whitewashed walls and an academic atmosphere. Walking past the library and the Arts faculty, or sitting under the shade of the trees discussing tutorials with classmates, was a boundless pleasure. To tell the truth, I couldn’t take my eyes off the walls covered with every kind of slogans and shuddered at the spellings in English as well as Bangla, wondering how and where to begin to get back those glorious days when students clamoured to get enrolled in the “Oxford of the East.” One slogan particularly caught my attention. It was written in big bold letters: “Cust your boat for Liton Vai.” While waiting  on the pavement, I watched a procession of youngsters,  carrying placards, marching by with a good number of street children tagging along. They were chanting slogans and one sounded like: “Liton Vaier choritro, phuler moto pobitro.” n


AV EN UE T TH UR SD AY, JUNE 6 , 2013


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