Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Travel in Dhaka City: Where Life Moves on a Roller Coaster

As the twilight sparkles through the magnificent architectural glitz of the city, Dhaka unwraps herself from a tedious day of work to pave way for an evening that has loads to offer. Dhaka- a boring, unadventurous city of the seventies is now a total contrast, it is the half of all happenings, the city that throbs will all possible and imaginable diversity. Infused by a new blood of globalization the cosmopolitan infrastructure is constantly changing. A touch of experimentation can be perceived in all spheres. The city fabric itself under a manic metamorphosing process has lost the prosaic, bland colour that once upon a time made life-absolutely colourless. Be it food, entertainment, shopping or just hanging about, the people of Dhaka have a massive array of option to choose from. Madu’s canteen is now not just the only place.  Life is multifaceted, and Dhaka is hell bent to reap the fun out of life and her spices.

Start with eating, the capital has become a big-frying pan sizzling to the newly found taste buds of the city dwellers. Eat, eat and eat just stuff your stomach to your hearts content. That is the motto of the eating scenario. Bunking classes with mischievous looks on their face, young college kids hang around in the fast food joints. Munching on burgers and sipping sodas is their idea for a break. The latest Boyzone, Aqua lyrics are their driving force. To keep up with the demands of the “Tommy-Hilfiger” obsessed generation burger and fast food joints are springing up. The idle evenings are not spent on the roof philandering with girl next door. Now it’s cuddling in a fast food joint while listening to J.J Cale’s sensitive kind.  Rock lovers usually hang about the Rock CafĂ©. As Bruce Springsteen sets the ambience with “I am on Fire” the hips swing in the floors, the tension released through a bit of shakin and rollin. Dance-mania is on and Boogie-Woogie is a hit with the youngsters. American Fried Chicken, Southern Fried Chicken, Sously’s, Coopers and hundreds more caters to the gossiping, flirting young generation. Their identity now intertwined with a culture, that was once just a part of Archies comics. For a real hip and trendy ambience try the Hot Hut. Hot and wild-its got the delicious flavour of Eternity and Poison delicately blended.
The mobile food cart of Sajna and Yummy Yummy offer food in a novel perspective.
Travel in Dhaka City

Some prefer to hang about the market places. Life and high heels both can be observed without offending anyone. Go near fuller road. In the serenity of the university area pairs sit on the pavement-engrossed in one another, oblivious to the world-love being the most powerful of all things. Gossiping finds loads of adherents near the TSC where all topics from Sharon Stone to Sonali Bendre get brewed up with sips of hot tea. Near Shabag the Boi Para-gives sanctuary to those who claim to be a bit different from the others. Lenin, Che, Polanski are familiar names and Kurtas with jute bags hanging from the shoulders are the patented attire.
The greens of Ramna echo the resonant voice of a would be poet reciting Robert Frost. The theatre buffs hang around Baily road. The evenings there are full of activity. The stages come alive as the actors weave a hypnotic world of cultural perfection. People sit by the road talking about Eugene O’Neil or Tennessee Williams. The air is that of sophistication-trying to make its presence solid within so much mediocrity around. For those who work during the day evenings in Dhaka is a respite from the demands of life. They unwind, relax and let the moments pass by leisurely.

Bibliophiles stroll around the second hand book shops. Who knows they just might stumble upon Jeffrey Archer or a Frederick Forsyth. Rainbow, Soor Bichitra is the regular hang about place for the music-lovers. Waiting for the new released Ritchie Blackmore L.P inspires nostalgic chats that go back to the years of temple of the king and snake charmer. Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss are no longer met with questioning eyes. Brand lovers go about the flashy markets that offer everything from Cravats to Cuff links.

People with a weakness of art can have their aesthetic senses invigorated by dipping into a different world in one of the many art  galleries in Dhanmondi . Those with taste as well as money to spend to go to galleries not only to appreciate art but to acquire them. Gourmands paradise will be the best name for the cosmopolitan and one might want to spend the evening trying the Kimchi or the delectable Spaghetti washed  down with a fine bottle of Baron D’Arignac. Cordon blue food is served in the vast number of restaurants in Gulshan . If your aim is to having a lovely evening  having an agreeable meal with a glass of good wine then money should not be the deterrent. Royal Orchid, Ninfas, Lemongrass, Wakana, Young Bin Kawan, Sky Room, Lazeez, offer variety and class in the eating scenario. A nice evening , a lovely companion and good food –a potent combination that revs up the system to go on.  After work the health conscious end up pumping iron in the gyms. This gym-mania is the latest trend that takes up the time of many people. This is a short of elixir, that freshens the system, releases tension and makes me ready to face life’s fickleness said Ershad a reputed banker. Health centres are coming to the scene and along with Van Dame encouraged figures. A bit of billiard with a few glasses of chilled fosters is some people’s idea of living the life in Dhaka. For those who can not operate without a pleasant libation there are the bars. In the cool darkness, drenched within the melody of Pankaj Udas and an iced whisky many tend to severe all bonds with reality. The crystal glasses create a spectrum of illusion as the night gets synthesized with the Tequila charm.

Those with a liking for the drink but unable to go to the bars settle for bottles bought from the Banani area. Meanwhile some just prefer the local stuff.

As night gets older, the skin of inhibition falls off the night-clubs roar. As the fog lights flash on the dance floors couples get wild in ecstasy –Ricky Martin pierces through the heart as the limbs roll with the bit. Tramps,
Atlantis, the International Club take life to the peak of fulfillment. Clad in Armani skirts and Gap t-shirts, young girls with their curvaceous figures chill out. “Youth passes in the blink of an eye so enjoy it while it lasts” is their motto and they surely are living up to it.  With the clock reaching for the 12 o’clock mark life slows down. Down to the waterline or Sultans of Swing play in the car stereo as many take long drives through the isolated streets of the capital.  The cool night air freshens the lungs. Some just sit around the corners of silent streets and savour the lucidity of silence.

The sun shines again over the capital and announces the beginning of another new day in the city. Life and her variations roll again and one is reminded of that famous saying in a different way. “If one is bored with Dhaka, he is bored with life, cause Dhaka has everything that life has to offer.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Travel in Dhaka: The Life and Times of Dhaka in My Eyes


Travel in Dhaka: The Life and Times of Dhaka in My Eyes
There is a short anecdote about Jug Suraiya, the renowned columnist, which I am fond of retelling.A fellow guest at a party in Greenwich Village told Jug Suraiya that when he visited Calcutta, Satyajit Roy showed him around the city. “I bet I know your Calcutta better than you do” he said. “No,” Suraiya replied. “You know Roy’s Calcutta not mine.” So it is with Dhaka. Anybody who has stayed here or even visited the city has his own pleasures and pains, memories and anecdotes. Though I was born in Calcutta, my first conscious memory is that of Dhaka. In Dhaka I have been moving from houses in Madan Mohon Basak road, to Azimpur, to Dhanmondi and now in Uttara. All these movements have coincided with distinctive eras in the history and development of the city. In the fifties and sixties  I have stayed in  Madan Mohon  Basak road  and then Azimpur, which were at that time the newly developed areas, and then in the  seventies and eighties in Dhanmondi which has now become replete with offices and multi-storied apartments, making it too crowded for my tastes. Uttara is now for me a place with urban amenities and with the quiet of the suburbs. The secret of karate is to turn your adversary's strength to your advantage. Similarly to survive in Dhaka, the secret is to make every adversity, every misfortune, and every misery work to your benefit. At least that is what I have been trying to do in my Odyssey through the city. Perhaps no other place exercises quite the same kind of lure, composed of about equal parts of nostalgia and anger.

In the various decades and the various areas I have stayed in the development of the city I have seen the first paving of roads as Madan Mohon  Basak road transformed from a bed of brick chips to a broad swathe of asphalt, along with others in that area and elsewhere north of the railway tracks. Speaking of the railways , the railway canteen  of Sorabjee's at the Phulbaria railway station was a good place for dining out, as were the ‘cabins’ of Sadarghat, where cutlets-prawn or chicken-were a prime attraction. Then came the Chinese restaurants, first Cafe China and then Chu Chin Chow. This ‘Chinese’ revolution has brought about by now the highly popular concept of eating out in a Chinese restaurant. The Gulistan building housed the Chu Chin Chow, and Gulistan cinema hall itself, which was in the fifties the largest and the first and only air-conditioned cinema hall.

One of our principal recreations in our younger days was to loiter around in that novel market place, the New Market, the first example of a shopping mall in our country. In the evenings a saunter around the New Market, mostly to ogle at women and sometimes to browse in book shops. And then an hour or more of chatting at a tea shop. The chatting is one institution, present also in the neighbouring metropolis of Calcutta, which is most importantly an instrument of cathartic release. All the pent up emotions that the average Dhaka  dweller builds up in the course of his daily Odyssey, careering between  the Scylla of chronic shortages and the Charybdis of chaos rampant, while clinging on to an overcrowded minibus, are poured out in the Homeric epic of the chatting. The daily chatting acts as an emotional armour which protest the participant against the slings and arrows of outrageous urban life. The range of chatting is as vast the city and as small as the closed circle of cronies. From street corners and the tea-stalls there, to the private clubs such as the Dhaka club, and in between the two extremes are the tea shops in the markets and the educational institutions, these are the locales of the Dhaka citizen for his marathon talkfests.

Festivals such as the Eid, the Pujas, Christmas, and also Bengali New Year and fairs of all types such as Ekushe Boi Mela, and Export Fair, are occasions for us to indulge in an orgy of festive activity.  All our bottled-up emotions and sentiments are let loose and we undertake recreational parades around the town and on the fairgrounds. The simple reason is that there are now precious few places to wander around.

The only park worth the name, Suhrawardy Uddyan, is like New York’s Central Park, quite forbidding at night, and not quite enjoyable in the daytime. The same goes for the zoo and the botanical gardens. The minuscule Shisu Park is always overcrowded.

Cultural events in the city are of infrequent occurrence. The most regular amongst these are the theatrical performances, while public musical or dance performances are rare and often relate to events like Bangla New Year, or Boi Mela or visits from artistes abroad. These days cable television has literally opened a window on the world but we are at the same time swamped by the invasions of other cultures.

The city therefore seems to be all past and no future, and so capable of inducing a virulent attack of nostalgia. Random, haphazard, raucous the city has lived through wars and riots, epidemics and floods. But Dhaka, as many of us have discovered, is a movable chatting. In our homes, in the clubs, in tea shops, and on the streets, Dhaka is everyone's childhood, measles mumps and all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Travel in Thailand :Loy Krathong-Festival of Lights

Travel in Thailand :Loy Krathong

Tens of thousands of jubilant Thais from all walks of life thronged along the banks of Ping river  to float away candle-lit offerings to the water spirits, while five hundred fire works , one after another, lit the sky of Chiang Mai.
Attired in traditional costumes, men and women of all ages also brought out colourful processions with decorated vehicles. They danced, they sang to celebrate the Loy Krathong (festival of lights) which fell on the full moon night of November 3.
Loy Krathong is one of the most celebrated events in the northern region of Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai the 700-year old city located at about 7000 kilometres north of Bangkok
On this special night of festival, people gather at river banks, reservoirs or ponds to float their offerings known as Krathongs as a gesture of paying homage and gratitude to the river Goddess for providing  as a lifeline for agriculture and human existence. People also seek forgiveness from the river Goddess for intentionally or unintentionally polluting and exploiting the river ways in the previous year.  
Krathong or float  is made from a piece of banana  trunk as the base decorated with banana leaves artistically folded in the form of flower petals  and fresh flowers, a candle and three joss sticks . Besides floating Krathong as a sacrificial offering, people also make wishes for a better life, love, education, family and career and hope that the Krathongs will take away bad luck and misfortune from their lives.
Explanations of the festival's significance vary. One belief is that as the floats embark on their journey, they take with it the owner's misfortunes. Most Thais also believe the floating of the Krathong is a yearly sloughing off all the sins and calamities that has befallen a person.
On a lighter note, it is also believed that lovers can forecast the fortune of their romance by watching their Krathongs float downstream together. Krathongs that remain together into the darkness, promise life-long partnership.
Besides fire works and fire crackers, balloons made from thin paper and containing smoke are released into the air as a part of celebration which continues throughout the night.
The annual festival, also celebrated in other neighbouring countries, is held on the full moon day of the 12th lunar month.
The festival is believed to have its beginnings -at least in Thailand--in Sukothai province, north of Bangkok, almost 800 years ago.
 A stone inscription from Sukothai period describes an ancient Loy Krathong festival. "There are four main gates in the city of Sukothai .On festive occasions; people jam the city to witness the light of the festival in progress."
When the ancient Sukothai city was restored to its former splendour as the Historical Park of Sukothai, endeavours were made to bring back ancient festivals and the legendary festive atmosphere .This brought  the Light Festival and has remained a major attraction since.
Festivals are an important part of Thai life, particularly in Chiang Mai, where they may have religious, or cultural, or agricultural, or purely local significance. Besides the Loy Krathong, the two other most attractive festivals in Chiang Mai are the Flower Festival in February and Songkran, which marks the traditional Thai New Year each April.
I had been to Thailand many times, but had no opportunity to be in Chiang Mai, popularly known as the 'Rose of the North' because of its pleasant climate, scenic beauty, and numerous sightseeing spots.
Someone described Chiang Mai as:  the land of beauty, warm hospitality and good manners....the land of fascinating, mist-shrouded mountain scenery and fertile valleys...the land of religion with nearly 1,100 Buddhists temples ..and the land of Thai art.
Chiang Mai is also the home to traditional Thai handicrafts such as silk and cotton weaving, pottery, silverware and lacquerware.
It was really delighting for me when I got the opportunity to revisit Thailand this year, especially to attend the Loy Krathong festival in Chiang Mai, as one of 10-member media team from south Asia  and Indo-China.
As the flight of Thai airways entered the sky of Chiang Mai on November 1 morning, the "Rose of the North" was clearly visible at the foothill of huge green mountains.
There are a lot of mountains and valleys in Chiang Mai, which has the status of a province of Thailand. Plains are also there in the middle part along the banks of the Ping river river. The Inthanon mountain has the highest peak in the country at 2,565 meters.
Mountains surrounding Chiang Mai are essentially foothills of the mighty Himalayas, and besides providing scenic beauty in the form of forests and waterfalls, host several formerly itinerant hill tribes of Tibeto-Burman origin.
Chiang Mai's population is around 1.6 million comprising 1,410 communities. The province has 11 major tribal groups made up of Karen, Lahu, Lisu, Iawa, Asha, Yao, Meo, Khamu, Hmong, Chinese Tribal, and Barong. In addition, there are several other smaller ethnic groups throughout the Chiang Mai about 95 percent of the population are Buddhists and others include Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs.

The provincial administration of Chiang Mai is separated into 22 districts, 204 sub-districts and 1,828 villages. The seat of the provincial administration headed by a governor , is in the capital city of Chiang Mai
The main function of the Loy Krathong festival was organized on the street in front of Chiang Mai municipal office on the bank of Ping River. The festival started exploding fire crackers and displaying fireworks after the sunset while the full moon was shining in the sky.
The prime attraction of the function was the grand parade of 23 groups representing different organizations and institutions. Young men and women along with children and elderly people in colourful dresses marched beating drums and playing musical instruments. The processionists carried Krathongs of various sizes and shapes which were later floated in the river water.
Some colourfully decorated big Krathongs were dragged by the cheerful participants.
We, the members of media team, were invited by the lord mayor of Chiang Mai to attend the function and join the festival.  We did, and also floated Krathongs in the river along with the rejoicing Chiang Mai people. And we wished all the best for all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Of Persons with Light Fingers

Of Persons with Light Fingers
A thief believes everybody steals. When two thieves quarrel, the farmer whose cow was stolen by one of them gets back the animal. This is a Finnish proverb. Ambrose Bierce is of the opinion that a kleptomaniac is a rich thief. Most people have a criminal propensity and Edgar Howe says that many a man is saved from being a thief  by finding that everything is locked up. This means absence of opportunity compels him to be honest.

Published over three decades ago, Manoj Basu's Nishikutumba details the modus operandi of a burglar named Shaheb-chor(Thief) who  surreptitiously enters at night the room of a recently-married young woman and fondles and hugs her while she is asleep. As his tender but nimble touch on sensitive parts of her body arouses her libido she is immersed in sensuous pleasure. While she is in the orgastic urge, he removes the necklace, waist-lace and other jewelry items on her person. Afterwards getting to sleep again, she loosen her grips and the thief quietly slips out of the house to decamp with the gold ornaments.

People who are cheated by shopkeepers or spend more money than others while buying things, keep it a guarded secret at home lest they are ridiculed by the members of the family. An overly self-confident in-law of mine-once a robust sportsman with the credit of being a university blue in the forties -was a victim of attack by a 'light-fingered gentleman' at a bus terminal. Prior to his journey to a north-western town of the country he was repeatedly cautioned not to tuck his purse into the hip pocket of his trousers because that is the spot from where pickpockets can easily pick up money and other desired objects. Giving a damn to urgings and words of caution he put the purse in his hip pocket and the inevitable happened. Then, it is by borrowing from a fellow passenger that he could reach his destination.

Well, he is not alone cheated. Hundreds of bus passengers and men and women in crowded places find their pockets cleared off everywhere in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Myron Stearns wrote an article on these people in the Rotarian magazine which was subsequently abridged by J Maxtone Graham in 1965. He began his write-up speaking about the skill of a conjurer called Borra. In the Christmas of 1964 a man taking a ringside seat for the circus at Olympia reached for his money to buy chocolates. His leather wallet had gone. In a dozen seats around the ring other circus goers were also discovering unexpected losses. Not only wallets were missing; wrist watches, cuff-links, purses and coins  had vanished, even from trouser pockets. One man lost his spectacles  but their case was  the circus authorities  assured the worried patrons that their property would be found before the performance ended.

In the middle of the show a man in flamboyant Ruritanian costume entered the ring and rapidly produced each of the lost items from his pockets, restoring them to their owners. Only then did the relieved patrons recognize the face of the attentive man who, in usher's uniform had shown them to their seats. Continuing his act, the "Ruritanian" invited three members of the audience into the ring where, without their knowledge, he stripped them of watches, jewelry, money, ties and braces. He even took one man's wrist-watch twice.

His name was Borra, "King if the Pickpockets" who was putting on his  customary brilliant performance. Fortunately, he was an honest man, not a professional pickpocket. But what happened to his circus audience happens to hundreds people every week-except that they rarely get their possessions back.

Most people have no concept of a pickpocket's skill and daring. The "dip" or "buzzer" as he is called by his fellow criminals is a craftsman who often works with a gang. One member may appear to be a university student, another a workman, a third a good-looking woman out shopping. The  "stalls" or "hustlers" are usually disagreeable toughs, who jostle the victim, barging into him,or knocking his hat so that he has to raise his hands to keep it from falling off . The finger the man who lifts the money, is usually well dressed and well mannered - he could pass for a successful businessman. The "carrier," who takes the goods from the finger in case he is caught, is the type that goes unnoticed in a crowd.

Movie houses, bus queues on pay-day, race meetings and football matches are good hunting grounds for the pickpocket troupe. Sometimes they will even attract a crowd by staging the three-card trick; and when the benevolent trickster warns his customers that pickpockets are about, the instinctive pocket-patting of the on-lookers tells the fingers all they need to know.  Christmas shopping brings crowds carrying plenty of money-and armloads of parcels mean good opportunities for shoving and hustling.

A good pickpocket is likely to have the long , sensitive fingers of the musician or the surgeon. The "fork" movement, in which first and middle fingers are used like a fair of scissors, is the surest way to lift a wallet; novice pickpockets practice it on a dummy figures whose clothes are  covered with tiny warning bells. Before his starting day's work, the dip massages and pulls at the two operating fingers to make them supple. In time, the shorter first finger extends almost to the length of its neighbour.

Sometimes the pickpocket carries special equipment: a sharp  knife blade, small enough to fit in a signet ring, and tiny pincers for cutting watch chains. One of the oldest dodges still in use is the false arm, perhaps strapped to a splint. The eighteenth-century woman pickpocket, Jenny Diver, is said to have invented  the technique; she worked seated in stage coaches and at inn tables,-with her "arms" apparently resting demurely on her lap. Until she was hanged at Tyburn, Jenny took £5,000 a year.

Stearns in his write-up says that the housewife with a purse on top of her shopping bag is an easy-and often doubly lucrative-target. A woman who missed her handbag while shopping in London, was telephoned at her  suburban home the next morning. A man "speaking for the manager" of one the stores she had visited told her that her bag had been found. Would she please make an appointment to come up and claim it?  She told him that  she would catch the 10.15 train. On arrival at the managers’ office, she learned that nobody had either telephoned her or found her bag. When she got home, the house had been ransacked by thieves. They had lured her away, then let themselves in with the key they found in her handbag-and thus made a double killing.

It was estimated that pickpockets took more than 100,000 sterling pounds in London alone in the sixties. The number of reported cases is increasing by about 20 percent a year. As well as money, the victims loose personal documents which are often hard to replace, and jewelry which may have a sentimental value far greater than cash.

"Many of these losses can be avoided by simple precautions. Scotland Yard gives this advice for self-protection from pickpockets: Hold your handbag with your hand through the strap, gripping, the bag itself over the clasp. Don't carry more money than you actually need. Don’t keep it in outside pocket-inside, and buttoned is safer. Keep alert in crowded places and move instantly if you are jostled. Suspect a man who sticks a newspaper under your chin. In a crowd, you can not be too suspicious of the conjurers among criminals- if you value your money," concludes the writer. He calls them "conjurers" in the crowd who are after your money."


Saturday, July 6, 2019

(Not) a Love Story


(Not) a Love Story
                                                        
I am nervous as I dress: I am seeing him again after all these intervening years. I thought I had successfully blotted out that whole painful episode of my life. I still remember our final parting. He was charming as usual, wanting to say how much I had enriched his life, but that, all things had to come to a natural conclusion. I could only nod numbly and found just enough voice to tell him how, on the contrary, he had left me feeling…impoverished, depleted. In my heart I promised never to cross his path again.
And yet here I am, hurrying to meet him. The moment I see his suave figure, old sensations come rushing back, the same sense of panic, the palpitations. I want to turn back and flee. But he moves forward and, as always, takes my hand and brings it to his lips, as elegant European social courtesy demands. You haven’t changed a bit, he assured me as he leads me into the room. I allow him to push me gently into the comfortable chair.
Is that Vivaldi in the back ground that I hear as he begins to lean over me. Suddenly I relax. There is no point fighting the inevitable. I was fated; I sigh as I slowly open my mouth and allow my Dentist to commence his initial probing.
Well, I told you, didn’t I? Anyway, here I am, back in the clutches of one of the finest, most expensive , and most charming dentist in Rome. My husband disagrees in part to this description.  He agrees vigorously that my dentist is certainly one of the most expensive dental surgeons in town, and says that for the kind of money he charges he better be fine at his work too. I am content that he is one of the most charming dentists I have ever allowed to get fresh with my mouth, definitely the only one who kisses my hands at the beginning and end of each session. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! That robber does this to every lady patient, and each time the man kisses your hands you kiss your money goodbye, my husband says darkly. Oh! Please! What would he know about dentists, this husband of mine who has never had a cavity in his life! There should be a law against people like that.

I happen to be a woman who hides a history of failed relationships with dentists and dentistry behind her flashy smile, because I loathe going to dentists, (unlike others). Or, as someone once said wisely, ‘You see I am not like others, I hate pain.’ Then, I found this magician of a dentist who uses a drill as gently and subtly as an artist uses a brush, or as my hubby adds ‘as a pick-pocket removes your wallet.’
At any rate, only my dentist can make a woman, lying with her mouth gaping like a freshly caught carp, feel like a fragile Camille languishing in the sofa. Such a sensitive man! No matter that I have a tube bubbling away my saliva and that my eyes are squinted at all times trying to ccheck whatever the hell is going on inside my Novocain numbed mouth, he treats me like the most ravishing woman getting her eyebrows plucked in a Beauty Salon.
‘Am I hurting you?’ he asks ever so gently. Of course he is not. ‘Lo,’ I respond through the drool. ‘A bit to the right,’ he suggests tenderly and I obediently turn my head and catch sight of my madly grinning gummy profile in a mirror. I scream in horror! My chivalrous dentist is beside himself with grief at causing me agony. ‘Lo lo’, I struggle to protest that I look like a hideous skull. Later, as I sit up and try to locate my dead tongue and smile through my bloated lips, my dentist has already bowed over my sweaty hands murmuring Bellissima Signora. Till the next time.’ Sigh! You see, you see!
Ten years ago, after a protracted six-month treatment, I had come out of my dentist’s office with a new lease of life, a free woman. I was also a walking showcase for all his dental skills:  I had every third tooth root-canalled, bridged, treated, excavated, pulled out, restored, gold-mined or porcelain capped. I thought that was the last I would see of the inside of a dental studio, until that first nagging ache reminded me that we smile on borrowed time and that once you let a dentist near you  he gets his teeth into you. It’s for life.
Well, I have just returned from my visit and now that the minor matter of a loose filling has been sorted out, I think I’ll break it up with my Dentist. It was an unhealthy relationship. I mean, now that my teeth are healthy, who needs him? OUCH!
Oopth! Ith  thith a looth tooth?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Rip Van Winkle


Rip Van Winkle
 His grandfather had moved with the capital from the pre-partition days where, five decades later he was born. He grew up in a family that believed in traditional Bengali values from both parts of Bengal. His career later demanded a change of capitals. But the desire to visit his roots remained with him. In fact it grew stronger with the years.

 Now when his work had brought him to Bangladesh he was overjoyed.  This trip would be a culmination of all that he had heard and learned about it. For the next four days he would live his dreams. He would imbibe the very essence of Bangladesh first hand and carry it back for his eager parents.

What he hadn't bargained for was the looks-the peculiar, furtive glances that he received from all those around him the minute he opened his mouth. The liftman and the bellboy grinned at his obvious idiosyncrasy. The receptionist gave him a once over and did a quick mental assessment –must be one of "those" and continued with his job.  Not one word of that dialect would part from his lips. Their unspoken words questioned the level of his sanity-what could have gone wrong with him?

This perplexed him more. All his life he has heard his parents speak it. In fact they had two different sets of dialects at home- one that everybody spoke and the other reserved for their parents. Nobody even attempted to infringe on their domain. It was a language that belonged to ”the previous generation". But their frequent reminiscence and strong urge to hold on to that tradition had left its mark on this young impressionable mind. Unknown to him he had picked up the nuances till one day he could speak it fluently. Unknown to him too he had quietly but surely slipped into a time warp.

But things were not working out as planned. The wide roads, the swanky cars and the bright neon lights were contrary to what he had in mind. And the rows of concrete and certainly the language had forced him to think otherwise. The first food joints and innumerable Thai and Chinese restaurants also contributed to it. He had thought and brushed aside at the airport came back carefully to him. Bangladesh had changed, evolving with the times to become another metropolis of the world. He needed to grow up and fast.

Next day over lunch the rest of his dreams were shattered. An incongruous plastic box bearing the name of a Thai restaurant was offered to him. "It will be a working lunch"-he remembered having said that but why Thai food that he could also have back home. But the exigencies of work pushed aside all thoughts of mouthwatering Bengali delicacies  that he desired so much-streaming rice hilsa in mustard sauce the succulent prawns, that he had heard were better this side of Bengal.

Things were going wrong horribly.  Attitudes change; habits also die a death but monuments? They stand as sentinels guarding the progress of time. Sadarghat seemed a safe bet. It couldn’t have changed much- a few launches perhaps. And the "river"-no, it couldn’t have changed course! But the events of the past few days made him cautious- he no longer ruled out the slimmest of possibilities.

The few phaetons that piled on the road pleased him. At least there was something that he could relate to. But he had not bargained for the chaotic traffic of old Dhaka. And the crowd was maddening. After a hurried look he went back to the safety of the car. The countless launches waiting to set sail brought home the truth-he couldn’t place a finger anything in Dhaka. Everything was just beyond his reasoning. But he had only wanted to take back memories with him?

The faint fish smell that emanated from the hilsa in his suitcase reassured him. He had salvaged some of his dreams after all. And what better way to celebrate this. Sweet memories.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The unlikely Master-Mashai


When William Radice, in 1972, went to learn Bangla at SOAS, Tarapada Mukherjee, teacher of Bangla at the department of the languages and cultures of South Asia, on his arrival at the school after holidays spent in India, jokingly asked Radice why he was interested in learning Bangla when there were plenty of people in the world who could speak Bangla well.
Radice said he wanted to translate the Bangla literature into English. And he translated a number of pieces of the Bangla literature – Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudan Dutt and Sakuntala – into English. Being a poet himself, he wrote the libretto for a chamber opera, snatched by the Gods, based on Tagore’s ‘Debatar Gras’.
But the most notable of his achievements is his effort in continuing the study of Bangla and its literature at London University, especially after the death of Tarapada Mukherjee in 1990. After the death of Tarapada, who held a chair for Bangla, SOAS planned to get rid of Bangla teaching and the professorship was discontinued. Bangla now continues to be taught with a lectureship. Given to William Radice.
Both Oxford and Cambridge got rid of chairs for Bangla long ago. The only Oxford PhD in the Bangla literature in about decades is William Radice, who did his doctor of philosophy on Michael Madhusudan Dutt in 1987 under historian Tapan Raichaudhuri in the South Asisan studies department. Now the School of Oriental and African Studies in the only institution in England with a chair for Bangla.
‘I struggled for 14 years for Bangla at London University and now I have an assistant. I am hopeful of its studies in Europe. I have now six research students taking  courses in Bangla at SOAS,’ he said, sitting in the lounge of a hotel at Baridhara towards the end of the first week of March, in his fluent Bangla with less aspiration that what is required for the initial sound of the word, cbbatra, for ‘students,’ with a tinge of English intonation. The students are from countries such as Portugal, Slovenia or even India.
Chittagong University Bangla professor Moniruzzaman, a friend  of Radice’s who failed to attend the lecture Radice gave at the Bangla Academy the day before, sitting by, shook his head and explained Radice’s struggle for the study of Bangla at SOAS.
Radice has now Hanne-Ruth Thompson, known as Hanna Thompson, as his assistant teaching at SOAS. She had a book, Essential Everyday Bengali, published by the Bangla Academy in Dhaka in 1999.
On a hopeful note, he said SOAS evening classes for Bangla have 40 students. Who are not required to pass any examinations. But they attend the classes only to learn how to speak, read and write Bangla. Unlike the research students, the evening class people have different reasons to learn the language. Abu Musa Mohammad Arif Billah, a teacher of Persian at Dhaka University, now doing his PhD at SOAS on the influence of the Persian literature on Shah Muhammad Sagir and Alaol, two mediaeval Bangla poets and teaching Bangla in the evening classes, said many of the English speakers came to learn Bangla as they are in love with or have planned to get married to Bangla speakers. Arif, sitting at the table, said some of the students learn Bangla as they wanted to work with borough councils working with Bangla-speakers; some of them work with aid groups and some of them are general practitioners.
SOAS will be offering course in Bangla, along with other languages, in its new School of Languages, ‘of the wider world, not just French or German, but also the African languages or Bangla from the next year,’ Radice said, expecting the number of students for Bangla to keep growing. Arif Billah said it would just be like the Institute of Modern Languages at Dhaka University.  Radice said he would try to take classes in the evening so that a large number of working people could take the courses.
Radice thinks a growing number of participants in the Bengal studies programme of the European Conference on Modern South Asisan Studies from 14 in the past session to 27 this time is a pointer to an increased interest in the Bangla Language and literature outside South Asia. But even then, he said, he could count on one hand the chairs for Bangla in the educational institutions in Europe. But Bangla is taught at many universities having no chair. ‘There is a chair for Bangla in the whole of France, at the Institute National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (the national institute of oriental languages and cultures),’ Radice counted on the fingers. There are two women in Czech Republic teaching Bangla. He said Prague is a linguistic stronghold for Bangla, ‘probably because of folk songs,’ as explained Moniruzzaman.
‘In the whole of America, there is only one chair, at Chicago University, given to Clinton B Seely. There were two chairs, but one was closed after the death of Edward Dimok. Farida Majid teaches at Columbia University; but there is no chair for Bangla as such.’
In Germany, there is Hans Harder who teaches at Halle; there was Alokranjan Das Gupta at the oriental studies department at the University of Heidelberg; now the wife of Deutsche Welle’s Bangla section chief teaches Bangla, but there is no chair for the language.
The universities across the world, Radice said, expanded their areas of interest and many universities opened departments and chairs for Hindi and Urdu, two dominant languages of South Asia of the time. Bangla was no state language at the time and when now Bangla has attained the status of a state language and people around the world are interested in learning it, the universities worldwide have been facing resource constraints.
Radice talked with the Bangla Academy, the cultural affairs ministry and few other organizations during the tenure of the first caretaker government in 1991 to fund or subsidise chair in London; but the matter could not get rolling because of the unwillingness of the agencies he talked with. He said he did not expect the government to subsidise chair for Bangla in London or in other places as the Bangladesh government had other priorities. But he said the government would need to do this if it wanted the keep the studies of the language and literature going among the speakers of other languages.
Students in England can take courses in Bangla in GCSE, O-Levels and A-Levels. There are people in the educational institutions who can set the questions; but there is no moderator who can evaluate the standards. Radice thought there should be someone at the top for such jobs. And for this there should be chairs for Bangla in the countries where educational institutions offer courses in Bangla.
The teaching of Bangla at SOAS has not faltered for lack of study materials. Radice has his book, Teach Yourself Bengali, published by Hodder Headline in London in 1994, which the teachers follow in Bangla classes. Arif Billah said all the people like him supplement the method of Radice in teaching.
Hanna Thompson, who ‘speaks Bangla more in the style of Bangladeshis’ unlike Radice who thinks his speech resembles more the West Bengal style, has been working towards a definitive grammar of the Bangla language based on a practical study. The SOAS web page says she has moved away from the high form of Bangla, sadhu bhasha, and included examples from the modern spoken form. And more importantly, her work will include the area of compound verbs which Radice said have not been adequately dealt with in any existing grammars or dictionaries. In an article in the February 2 issue of Desh, published from Kolkata, Thompson said no knowledge of Sanskrit might be her strength in writing a grammar of the language as she might look at it from a neutral standpoint.
But there is dearth of dictionaries, especially English-Bangla, for learners who speak other languages. Any foreigner willing to write Bangla needs a good English-Bangla dictionary. But most dictionaries, published from Bangladesh and West Bengal, give only definitions of entries, rather than giving specific synonyms of the word. Radice said English-Bangla dictionaries define, for an example, the word ‘horse’ as ‘a quadruped animal,’ which might be enough for one to understand the word, but all such people need is the Bangla word for ‘horse,’ ‘ghora,’ or ‘ashwa’ or something else.
Much earlier, the Oxford University Press in Britain wanted to bring out a concise dictionary in its much routed format, in two sections – Bangla-English and English-Bangla. There had been some communications between the Oxford University Press and the Bangla Academy. But initiatives fell through as the Oxford University Press in India said it would bring out such a dictionary and it was not willing to work with the Bangla Academy. Many years passed by and, unfortunately, the Indian dictionary did not come out. Radice said back in London, he would ask if the press was still willing and he would ask the academy if it was ready for such a job.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Creator of Peter Rabbit

Creator of Peter Rabbit

Perhaps you have read some of the stories Beatrix Potter wrote for children. She lived in a time when most little girls her age did not go to school. Those lucky girls who could go to school, learnt things and made friends not possible outside school. Beatrix Potter’s father and mother thought differently. So Beatrix Potter stayed at home and had no school friends. Her childhood was a very lonesome one and she grew to be a thoughtful child. Her only close friend was her brother. Without attending school she managed to learn a great deal.
When Beatrix’s brother went away to school, she was left alone with a lot of time to be by herself. She found a way to amuse herself by writing stories. And sometimes she would make sketches, paintings and drawings to go with her stories.
Beatrix’s favourite season was summer. This was because her brother would come back from school during summer. And Beatrix Potter and her family would visit the countryside for a holiday. All summer long, Beatrix had someone to play with – her brother.
Beatrix and her brother loved the outdoors. They were deeply interested in Nature. They would spend hours and hours outside, happily watching animals play, deeply engrossed over plants and animals. They would watch frogs in a lake. They would stop to see a wood louse making a house. They loved observing the ways of animals.
On one particular summer, Beatrix and her brother began a collection of plants and animals which they had to hide from their mother because they knew that she would be horrified, disgusted and petrified at the sight of crawling bugs and beetles, and wriggling snakes in her house. She would turn out the whole collection of animals and plants at once and also prevent them from spending their time outdoors.
Throughout the summer, brother and sister painted pictures of rabbits and crows, farms and fields, flowers and furrows. Most of the time, Beatrix would try to paint the animals and plants exactly the way they actually looked in real life. But at times, she would paint a mouse wearing a hat or a rabbit with a basket, just as in her stories. But soon the summer was over, Beatrix’s family returned to their house and Beatrix’s brother was back at school. But this time, Beatrix was no longer as lonely as she had once been. She had a new friend – a rabbit called Peter whom she had found in the countryside. Beatrix’s mother did not approve of Peter Rabbit, and informed Beatrix that she did not like Peter Rabbit, and wanted him out of the house. But Beatrix managed to find ways to take her pet rabbit to her room.
Beatrix grew up into a quiet young lady, knowing a good deal about plants and animals. And she became a good artist. Her father and mother did not like Beatrix to work. She began to think of an idea. She wanted the drawings to be compiled into a book then, scientists would be able to look at them. But her father and mother did not think that it was a good idea. Fortunately for Beatrix, she had an uncle who did think that it would be a good idea. He sensed talent in Beatrix, and took her to visit some scientists with whom he was acquainted.
Unluckily, these scientists were not good people. They made dreadful comments like, “She’s too young”, “She hasn’t been to school” and “She’s only a girl!” Beatrix’s uncle was very annoyed with the scientists for disheartening Beatrix.
“They are silly,” he remarked angrily to Beatrix. “You know as much as they do. Your drawings are better than theirs.” Her uncle asked Beatrix to write about a particular type of plant which he read out before a meeting of scientists. Beatrix had a real flair for science.
Many of Beatrix’s friends had children with whom she often played. One of them was a little boy, Noel. When Noel became ill, Beatrix started to write letters to him. Most of the time, Beatrix would write to him about the things that she and Peter Rabbit did. But when Noel was sick for long time, Beatrix would make up stories and send those to him. Noel loved the stories. He showed the story-letters to all his little friends. Everybody loved the story of Peter Rabbit. And so Beatrix decided that she would have the stories made into a book.
Peter Rabbit soon became one of the best-loved children’s story-books of all time. If you read the book, you can tell the original drawings were done by a person who knew all about animals. May be you also can tell they were done by someone who learned to love little animals because they were her only friends.



Saturday, June 8, 2019

How to Control Emotions at Work


How to Control Emotions at Work
                                                          
Emotion is a kind of feeling. It includes love, hatred, happiness, sorrow, anxiety, anger, faith, fear etc. If you cannot control emotions, you will lose a lot of things. So it's important to know the strategies to tackle emotions.

Find a quiet environment. Avoid emotional feelings of anger, sorrow, hatred etc. Sit still in that place. Normally breathe a bit for the first time. Then breathe in the lungs with a nose very slowly. Countdown to keep the breath inside. Then slowly leave the breath in the mouth. This method is the first step in controlling emotions.

Find positive gestures.Keep slow, confident and positive thoughts and gestures in mobility and activities. When sitting on the chair, lift the shoulders, sit straight on the spine. A positive attitude will protect your emotions from being affected. So we should know how to control emotions at work place.

Build exercise habits.Exercise light. Light exercises are very useful in tackling emotions. If you do not want to do traditional exercises, walk to the open space. In this way your body will be exposed to endocrines chemicals which will make your mood very well.

Identify the reasons behind your emotions.Find out all the reasons that affect your emotions very well. If you think that it is difficult to find out, write your personal words every day in the diary and factors that can be identified by focusing on fifteen days or a month's writing. Try to avoid the identified causes.

Carefully enjoy good things in life.Praise what is good, whatever is beautiful, open your mind, and practice them in your own life. Enjoy the small pleasures of each day. You will be able to come out of unnecessary emotions effortlessly.
                                               
Be visionary.When emotions swallow you, think of yourself from where will you get this emotion? You are not falling into emotional trap! Your visionary thinking will help you to control your emotions and go ahead with enthusiasm.

There should not be any immediate reaction of anything. Please consider logical reasoning without considering emotion in any situation.

The things that make you emotional will have to be removed from the heart. Be attentive to something else if it is necessary. If you get stunned by someone, resolve the matter directly with that person.

Awareness is vitally needed to control emotions. Note that in some situations, you can not control yourself. It can be easy to control emotions if you can identify the causes of negative issues such as anger, frustration, unrest etc.

If you think about the things that you feel emotionally, then change the mind if you remember those things. Think of a good memory at that time. If the thoughts flow in different fields, it will be less emotional.

Be positive. Think about the positive aspects of life. Do yoga, give yourself time, and help others. If you act like this, there will be control of emotions in your hand.

Most of the emotional people can not be confident. So be confident in the first of all. Believe in yourself. Give priority to your wishes. It will reduce emotional level. Being said to be selfish, not only is the slightest importance given to one's own desires. You can get back your faith in this. Learn to control emotions.

Understand yourself. Think about situations where you become the most emotional in one place. The reason for your emotional attachment or any activity makes you more emotional. Find out the reason for your emotions before. If possible try to bring the cause under control. This will reduce your excessive emotions. You will get less frustrated.

In many cases, time helps to heal wounds. Similarly, to bring emotions under control take time and be patient. By doing this, your own mind will find out the cause of your hardships and your emotions will be controlled.

The main problem of emotional people is that they can not afford to suffer from someone else because of their life. In many cases forgiving their mistakes they make mistakes again. Never do this thing. You can never cross your own emotions. If you want to forgive these people for their mistakes, then you can forgive them, but later they will not care as usual. You can stay in peace. Emotions can be controlled.

It's better not to take extra pressure for without any reason. When people fail to change their thoughts or habits, they think that the job is very difficult. The protesters would say they did not have good will. But the real reason is that these things are tied up and imposed on themselves. This type of imposition is bad for both our mental and physical well being.

We constantly ask ourselves many questions but the questions create  negative thoughts in our mind. We may sometimes ask ourselves why do I have to do this? Ask yourself by changing the question, how will it help me? Take the question to the solution.

Try to smile for 30 seconds right now. Understand the difference itself. As you do not feel, the smile will keep you physically vigorous and mentally fresh and calm.

If you feel very tired and frustrated, then you have to eat the right amount of food to bring back the energy. Eating too much will make the body tired and lazy but it will be weaker and tired even if you do not exercise regularly. So eat balanced diet. It is also vital for emotional balance.

Suppose you are going to face a job interview or meet a favorite person when you feel very nervous in yourself. What should you do at this moment? Think of the inspirational good memories that happened in the past that would remind you of your worth and capability. And undoubtedly you feel better than ever.

Try to do any work slowly and with great patience. Many of us do not know what is going on inside our minds unconsciously. So sit somewhere quietly. Or keep your music player or cell phone far away from you and indulge in nature. Take a deep breath. Try to find out the reason for your physical discomfort. Try to find out what your mind wants you to do. Listen to yourself and be honest about your feelings. You will be surprised by your thoughts.

It is also true that many emotional people can not be confident. So be confident in the first of all. Believe in yourself. Give priority to your wishes. It will reduce emotional level. Being said to be selfish, not only is the slightest importance given to one's own desires. You can get back your faith in this. Learn to control emotions.

Understand yourself when the conscious thoughts of the mind are going on in you and try to accept them. Think about situations where you have become the most emotional .The reason for your emotional attachment or any activity makes you more emotional. Find out the reason for your emotions before. If possible try to bring the cause under control. This will reduce your excessive emotions. You will get less disheartened. In many cases, time helps to heal wounds.
                                                                     
There is no alternative to meditation to control the mind. Meditation is a very useful thing to keep your mind under control. When negative thoughts come to mind, mental stability decreases. Such thinking weakens the mental strength. And we know that there is no motivation to lose confidence once lost. But regular practice of meditation helps to calm the mind and keep it strong. And if the mind is okay there is no lack of inspiration. So meditate to keep your mind calm and under control.

Sufficient sleep is one of the ways to solve all physical and mental problems as well as controlling emotions .All of us need enough sleep. Not only for the mind control but in all cases. If we do not sleep enough then all our work is interrupted.  Laziness grasps us throughout all day, irritability in the body and mind is scattered. Nobody can concentrate in their work and their productivity reduces to a great extent. One of the strains we have left behind is seen in us. This can cause problems in our workplace.

Humanity is not only needed in this case but it will help you at every step of life. Those who were inhumane, they were never able to reach on the top of success before he died. On the other hand, those who go on their own path on the path of peace, generosity, humanity do not easily get upset. They reached the summit of success. So keep yourself humble in mind, be forgiving. You will be able to control yourself before as well as you feeling and mind.

The best answer to all questions is the smile. There is no substitute for laughing at heart. Laughter is a product that greatly helps to make your mind grow.  It is very important to try to smile if you are under greatest pressure and emotional imbalance. But when the pressure of the state remains on the head, it does not smile like this, is it? In this case, you can watch the comedy programs.  It will help to smile on your face.

Every day, these tasks will help you to feel better. Start from today, try at least But in the first place should not be expected to the highest point.

Travel in Dhaka City: Where Life Moves on a Roller Coaster

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