Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 10, Tuesday August 31, 2004






Cover story

Fear- taking over our lives

Continued from centrefold Hold your tongue
An advice you will hear making the rounds is to watch what you say to others. It's pertinent advice because you never know who the other person is. The classical days of chivalry and honor are just that. You find it only in pages of history and literature where men used to be men and fought their own battles. Nowadays one man will bring twenty others to fight his battle. You never know what you might say that would irk somebody. They can take offence and simply kill you. Any scruffy looking kid could be in possession of a knife or even a gun. Simple arguments could lead to death.

Its a case in point where extortionists come by to claim their share in the money that you worked hard to earn. It seems preferable to give in rather than to talk back because there is no winning. They will relentlessly follow you to your home to realize the amount. Such incidents show that you are not safe even in your home. So where do you go?

The road to afterlife
At least ten people die in road accidents daily while countless others suffer from resulting disfigurations and disabilities. The number of vehicles plying the streets is literally mushrooming. In itself that is not such a bad thing but the matter takes a turn for the worse when you consider that the drivers of these vehicles are mostly inexperienced. It takes very little effort to get a driving license. The universal language of money does all the talking. A person does not really have to know how to drive to get a car moving. As a result overtaking is done from the wrong lane, traffic lights are jumped and distances from cars in front are not maintained. As if that is not bad enough, pedestrians also lack good sense as they are too impatient to use zebra crossings or over passes.

Tales of the faceless
It seems to be a crime for women to be attractive. Highly corrosive acids can easily be bought from stores without any need for permission or licenses. Jilted lovers find it the best solution to simply destroy a woman's face. It is their preferred form of revenge for hurting the male ego. This sort of torture is not only restricted to women. Children are also sometimes under attack. Stringent new laws have been created but the crimes have not abated because of a lack in the application of the law. For many living a life with a disfigured face is a fate worse than death.

The holdup
Mugging is something to contend with whenever you step outside your home. Anything from your wallet, watch and cell phone to your clothes, motorbike and even the grocery can be a mugger's target. It could happen while travelling by rickshaw, car, and train or while waiting in a scooter at a traffic jam.

Women have long since stopped wearing actual jewelry and have gone for imitation materials. Even then you may not be safe. One particular woman was mugged off her bracelets and necklace. The very next day at the same spot the same muggers stopped her. This time they returned her imitation pieces and rebuked her for wearing fakes. They probably felt insulted by the fake jewellery, and slapped her as a punishment. Humiliating as it was, the incident verged on the light side. In many cases the result could be fatal. People have been stabbed for refusing to hand over the cash or simply not having enough money.

Guarantee of death
There are many other things that bring out the fear in people apart from those mentioned. Altogether these create not only a mental unease but also unease for the entire society. From a psychological viewpoint fear takes its ultimate form in the guise of phobia and that is what the people of this country are heading toward. Living is becoming a difficulty. Fear is eating away at the heart of the common people. There are laws and anti crime committees but all this seems toothless in the face of rising crime.

At the time of submitting this article the incident of the grenade attack on the Awami League meeting took place. Everyone present had the same expression on his or her face. When will we be the next victims? The security for our life has been replaced by guarantee of death.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Reader's Chit
Once upon a time…

When I was a kid, I used to always impatiently wait for the electricity to suddenly go off, especially at night. I wasn't a night-loving person, and was never obsessed with the dark (although occasionally fearful of it), but I remember fervently praying to God for the electricity to go off, and not return for a long time. Eventually my prayers would be answered, my dad would grumble about not being able to save his work on the computer, my mum would moan about not being able to watch her soaps, and (with a bright smile on my face), we'd all walk towards the balcony to sit.

Some of my happiest childhood memories are of sitting in that balcony. You see, it was during those power cuts, that my mother became my best friend and took me to trips into a different world… a world of ghosts, goblins and fairies; a world of two-headed dragons and witches whose hearts were enclosed within unique objects. It was a world where brave princes and beautiful princess, cruel stepmothers and caring guardian angels existed. Using such varied characters, my mum used to weave intricate accounts of adventure and intrigue, of fiery fights and romantic rescues.

She used to tell me stories. Storytelling. An art. It is an art that has been around for many decades. It is an art that is on its way to extinction. Sad, but true. I became painfully aware of this fact one evening, when all my younger cousins crept up to me one night and demanded to hear a story. Instead of eagerly submitting to their request, I almost screamed at them to leave me alone, so that I could read my novel in peace.

They left, and sometimes later when I eavesdropped on their conversations, I heard the following words… 'Didn't auntie tell us Kashmi apu knows plenty of stories? Then how come she never told us even one?' 'No one ever tells us stories. You know, that day my bhaiya was telling me how grandmother used to tell him beautiful stories. Why are we so unlucky?'

I came back to my novel, feeling very guilty. It's true that the happiest memories of my childhood consist of the times when my mum took her time and told me stories. I kept on wondering what would have happened to those memories if my mum never took the time to tell me those stories? How would I have felt if my mum had asked to let her rest peacefully instead of pestering her for stories? I finally realised how wrong I was.

Today time is everything. Parents hardly ever have the time to relax and tell stories; elder siblings are too busy with friends or romances (not to mention studies) and no one takes any notice of the little child in the family who aches to 'hear' a tale. Today we also have technology on our side… books are printed faster than anyone can read them, television and games provide unending entertainment, and if you're feeling too guilty you can also get the kids storytelling tapes.

What we don't realise is that all of these are poor substitutes. No matter what, a child will always be keen on hearing a story from a loved one, instead of resorting to any other artificial gadgets. So next time a kid pleas for a story, don't look at it as a chore, think of it as a gift that has been passed down from generation, and finally it's your turn to pass it on.

By Jennifer Ashraf




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