Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 1, Tuesday, June 22, 2004





the magazine of melodrama

“THE paper goes to bed tomorrow, what do you mean we have no pictures!" our flustered editor yells into the phone. The rest of us can hear the crackle on the phone, as our well-loved but temperamental photographer reels off one of his tall tales. I shake my head and go back to proof-reading, inwardly debating as to whether or not this would be an appropriate moment to tell her that one of our feature writers had not turned in the week's cover story either. I turn around and catch the anxious look on my fellow editorial staff members' faces, and in another corner, our sweet graphics person quietly mops the sweat off his head.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear readers, what you have read could be any day taken from any week out life at Lifestyle. When you read what you read on Tuesdays, you're looking at the glamorous, uppity magazine that has the final say on what's hot and what's not. If you take a peep into the green room behind the show, you'll see last-minute desperation, the nail-biting suspense, the sweat and the tears that go into every issue. Ever wonder about the people who bring you the beat week after week? Meet the cast:

Our key players
Raffat Binte Rashid: We know her as the coconut (behind the rough and crusty exterior of the bully who browbeats us into putting our cent percent into every article, is a sweet and considerate person). Readers will remember her for thought-provoking Desher Bari (her article on a trip to the village) and for Heroines on the Home Front (her article on housewives).

Shahnaz Parveen: This is the writer we lovingly call our 'Buddhijibi' because she handles serious issues like the 'Essentials' column, as well as heavy covers like Single in the City (on bachelors/spinsters), Ravishing Rangamati and many more. Pragmatic, systematic, and zealous about anything she believes in, she is almost the sole semblance of sanity in our mad bunch.

Mishel Ali Khan: This wild child gave us gems like Arranged Marriage, Dhaka at Night, as well as several 'Hanging Out' columns. On print, he's the one with the keen insight on the issues he tackles, as well as his skilful blending of Bangla terms with a varied English vocabulary to create a flavourful fusion with his words. At the LS, he's the quicksilver-tempered, deadline-stretching mad maverick who keeps us on our toes and our poor editor sweating in frustration until the very nick of time.

Sabrina F Ahmad: A spillover from the Rising Stars, this grammar Nazi considers Irksome Odd Traits (her story on annoying personal habits), A tale of two siblings (on twins), and Marriage on the Run (on elopement) to be the highlights of the one year she has been with us. Whether you agree or not, you can recognise her style by her fascination for alliterations and pun-tastic wordplay.

Ehsanur Raza Ronny: Wheels and Deals (his article on cars), Happily ever after? (on elopement) and more recently, The Truth about Cats and Dogs (on pets), as well as numerous Shop Talk columns, and translations of Sultana Yasmin's cover stories…he's literally a one-man band. At LS, he's better known for his wacky cartoons, corny sense of humour, and complete absorption in anything that barks or has wheels.

Zahidul I Khan: The undisputed villain of the office, as far as the LS editor is concerned, he keeps our manicure bills low as we end up biting our nails off every week, wondering whether we'll get the pictures we need. Usually, at the end of the day, the photos are worth the wait. (Let's hope he's not reading this, or he'll get encouraged).

Towfiq Elahi: Our moody and mysterious graphics designer…how he manages to complete the layout without speaking a single word to anyone is beyond our comprehension. We've heard rumours that beneath that unapproachable front is a friendly, amiable person, but we at the LS are yet to see it.

Also starring
Sultana Yasmin: This energetic reporter has brought us gems like Sizzle in Summer, Adoption, and many, many more this year. With her frankness and droll, self-deprecating humour, she is someone with whom we enjoy a good adda.

Iffat Newaz: From across the ocean, literally sitting 'Under a different sky' is this talented writer who uses her pen to link the East and West. Her column is an anthem for any Bangali living abroad, and manna for us Deshis sitting in the Desh and wondering what colour the grass is on the other side of the fence.

Wara Karim: Whether she's telling you what to buy, or offering tips on how to handle a domestic mess, this immaculate young lady is the embodiment of the Lifestyle woman suave, stylish, independent and efficient.

Sadia Moyeen: When a pimple strikes, when your hair turns grey, when you must fight to keep wrinkles at bay, who do you turn to? That's right, the glam mam from La Belle, with her 'Beauty Talk' and miraculous makeovers is LS' answer to Cinderella's fairy godmother.

Nighat Ara: "It's all in your head" they tell you, and expect you to cope. Is a little understanding advice too much to ask for, you wonder? Our 'Interpreter of Maladies' certainly doesn't think so. No matter what the problem is stress, anger or paranoia, she's got an answer to all your queries.

Nasreen Sattar: Money, money, money…if you have no idea how to handle yours, this gracious lady is full of 'Banking Tips' to help you make up your mind.

Maheen Khan: We've seen her designs dazzle on Bridal Asia. Now the mastermind of Mayasir is here at LS with her 'Style files' to help you add an element of wow! to what you wear.

Dr. Mahfujul Khan: Teething troubles? Get 'Dental Wise'. In what's probably our most popular column, this dedicated dentist helps put a smile on everyone's faces…literally.

Tommy Miah: The star chef of award-winning meals is no stranger to royalty and glitterati around the globe. He's brought LS a 'True Taste of Asia' with his mouth-watering recipes.

Nazneen Haque Mimi: This creative lady, with her penchant for false ceilings and green plants, is interior décor's equivalent of Beauty Talk, as she effects a magical transformation on dull, drab settings week after week.

Sam Q: Move over, Bridget Jones. Here we have a recipe writer who draws us into the pages of her life and takes us on a roller coaster ride as she relives the ups and downs of her battle against the weight scales through healthy recipes.

Farzana Shakil: Look sharp…this elegant lady has her 'Eyes on Etiquette' as she tells you all about the perfect presentation and helps you bring out the best in yourself.

Guest Appearance
Dr. Lutful Aziz: This 'Agony Medic' puts in a once-in-a-blue-moon appearance to dish out ways of escape from pain…but we haven't seen him for so long, he's put the 'dead' in the word 'deadline'.

Md. Zahid Choudhury (Shalil): Our man in the scanning section, he's the only one who gets to hear the LS editor's more honeyed tones, as his work of making the pictures presentable is probably why he should be booking a room at a sanatorium.

Md. Minhaj Uddin: He does our black-and-white layout, and has to be the most patient person on Earth, considering what we put him through each week.

Md. Selim/Asiuzzaman Joy: Once a week, we meet them with apprehension in our hearts as we hand the wrapped up version of the LS for them to convert it to the final form.

Directed by
Mahfuz Anam (Editor, The Daily Star)
Fahim Munaim (Managing Editor, The Daily Star)

You've met the cast and crew, now it's time to take a peek at a typical Lifestyle week.

The story begins on Tuesday, when one issue comes out, and it's time to get ready for another. The temperature shoots up as the brainstorming begins, and disagreements are invariably part of the scene. Raffat Rashid proposes an idea and Sabrina Ahmad will instantly agree, even before she realises what the story's about. Shahnaz Parveen presents a socio-political perspective that never fails to earn her a good dose of ribbing for being so serious. Then Mishel Ali pops into the scene and either shoots down all the proposals or comes up with a weird spin on it that causes the editor's jaw to drop in exasperated wonder and the others to start seeing stars. Chances are, Sabrina will once again agree on it, and the arguments begin. At one point or the other, if Sultana Yasmin is present at the scene, she offers to take up the assignment, which causes Ehsanur Raza Ronny to groan, because that means translation work for the lazy-by-nature creature.

Finally, if things go really smoothly, a consensus is reached sometime at the end of Wednesday, and someone gets saddled with an assignment. Sultana and Raffat, if they are the ones working on the cover story, they get cracking right away. Shahnaz prefers to begin by thoroughly researching the subject, while Sabrina will prepare ten thousand drafts of her story before rejecting every single one. As for Ronny and Mishel, if you see them on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you would probably never guess they have a deadline over their heads.

A lot of effort goes into writing a report, and some of it is fun. The article Desher Bari transpired when the writer got an invitation to visit a village and check out the estate owned by a friend. A whole afternoon of fresh air, green grass, and a forget-your-clock languor formed the backdrop of the story, which was then richly suffused with nostalgia to create the final piece. We received a call soon after the story came out, and this elderly gentleman who made the call had a lot of praises for the author, pointing out that young people today are gradually losing touch with their roots. Another article Ravishing Rangamati took the author to a week of travel and sight-seeing, where she soaked in sights and sounds (and information) to her heart's content, and came back with lots of magic memories that translated themselves into the poetic article that came out not long after.

Whoever gets slung with Eid shopping articles certainly loses a lot of weight as the market research involves a lot of footwork. Usually the author ends up being so psyched up after all that haggling and sniffing through the stores, s/he cries off from shopping, and avoids markets like the plague for at least an entire month after the story goes into print.

Then there was this story Dhaka by Night, which of course, exposed the writer to sights and sounds many of us might actually never get to see. I think at one point, there was even a suspicious police officer involved. The lengths to which we go for your entertainment!

Not all the assignments are tough. One of us got to have a free makeover - a whole week of facials, polishing haircuts, brushes and powders, all on the house and a photo shoot and 300 words of fame (The Labelle Makeover My story) afterwards. Finally, there are occasions when one is seriously entangled with studies (half the staff writers are still students) and STILL has to come up with the story, which leads to a major writer's block, which is what happened during the penning of Happily Ever After? (the story on elopement). Ultimately, the writer stayed up till the wee hours of the morning, coaxing and needling his overworked brain to help him write the article.

Saturday is the day we do the layout, and most of the editing, and 'nightmare' is really too mild a term to describe the experience. We occasionally get pieces that Sabrina has to translate from Alienese to readable English. There are some really scary instances when we aren't able to get our regular columns because of some network glitch or communication problem. Most often, our kooky and carefree photographer performs one of his vanishing acts, and the rest of us are left to resort to desperate measures, like last week, when our editor had to invite a sandwich-eating sheep and a fancy poodle to her home for a special photo shoot. The pictures are sent to Shalil bhai who sometimes had to make some really kooky colour corrections.

Let's not forget Sher Ali bhai from the Advertising Section who makes a surprise appearance at the last minute and lands an ad on our heads, something huge, that clashes with our layout, and we have to scramble like ants in the rain to accommodate it.

Finally, by Sunday, the main ordeal is over, and the raw material goes off the graphics section to be polished into the eight-page labour of love that you know as Lifestyle magazine. If we've been able to add spice to your Tuesdays, it is then that we consider all our troubles to be worth it.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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