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A Creative Medley

If you're hunting for things to embellish your drawing room with for the upcoming Eid, then take a break from all those unimaginative, mushrooming shopping complexes for a change, and indulge in a creative medley of your own; make beautiful things with your own two hands! A home that is fragrant and aesthetically pleasing to the eye would, no doubt, attract guests like moths to a flame. And who would have guessed that the artistic genius responsible for those exquisite 'designer' candles, the elegance of those beautiful dry flower arrangements, and that lovely one-of-a-kind family photo collage is you?

How to make Potpourri:
You can use almost anything in your garden to make aromatic potpourri. Traditionally, potpourri is a mixture of dried flowers and other ingredients kept in open containers like small bowls or cups, and placed to spread a delicate fragrance all over. Potpourri ingredients should not be finely ground; petals of flowers should be 'lightly' crushed. Ingredients such as cinnamon sticks or orange peels should be broken into small pieces or finely chopped. Some flowers that are especially good to use in potpourri are roses, carnations, hibiscus, violets, and sunflowers. You shouldn't limit yourself to this list however; experiment with whatever you have at hand.

For all the following recipes, start with bone-dry flowers, leaves, herbs and spices.

Gently combine petals and leaves in a large bowl. Scatter about 20 drops of essence (essence oils can be found in Old Dhaka) over the mixture using an eyedropper. Stir gently. Place mixture in a brown paper bag lined with wax paper. Fold and seal the bag with a paper clip and leave in a dry, dark, cool place for 2 weeks. Every other day, stir the contents gently to blend and disperse ingredients and scents. Place in glass bowls or candy dishes. Top with small white or pink rose buds. To get rid of insects, bag up your potpourri in zip-locks and place in the freezer for a minimum of two weeks.

Home-Prepared Designer Candles:
The following is a simple way of transforming plain pillar candles into expensive designer ones. Get a couple of thick, cylindrical or square candles from Aarong or elsewhere. Cut a strip of zari, lace, or wallpaper border sample and use glue to adhere in place. Melt clear candle wax / plain paraffin in a narrow can deep enough to nearly submerge candle. Hold wick and slowly dip the candle into the melted wax, lowering all the way to the top edge of the candle. Remove and set the candle on a piece of scrap paper to drain and harden for a few minutes. If a softer, more muted look is desired, repeat to build up wax layers. When fully cooled, polish with a pad of wadded up nylon, and voila, you have your designer candle.

Family Photo Collage:
Building a photo collage of special events is a nice way of preserving memories. You might want to group together photos of a certain person, or use one large photo as your centrepiece, and arrange the others around the centre. For instance, for the birth of a new child, place a photograph of the infant and parents in the centre. Then around the edges, place pictures of the rest of the family around the new-born. Next, select your collage size, backing and frame. Lay a piece of cardboard backing (sized to fit in your frame) on a flat surface; if your pictures won't overlap enough to completely cover the backing, you'll want to use a white or coloured backing. Gently tear the edges of the photographs so that the main subjects are centred, and leave the frayed edges, which will overlap with the other photos. Place all the pictures so you can see the total effect before you start securing them to the backing. Attach to the backing with a small amount of glue stick. You don't need to cover the edges with glue. Frame your collage with a glass cover so the edges won't peel up. Once all the pictures are secured, allow your collage to dry overnight, and place in a frame with a sheet of glass.

Creating something entirely your own will be so much more beautiful, original, and with a personal and emotional value that could not be bought with money. So arm yourself with scissors and glue, wax and petals, beads and baubles, strips of pretty lace or what have you, and start creating your masterpieces!

By Rubaiyat Khan

The devout and the devious

The month of Ramadan brings out the devout and the devious in people (excluding all alien life forms). It is a time when you can only be pious and devoted or the exact opposite. The former consist of people who believe that fasting includes not only abstaining from food and drinks but a host of other stuff as well. The devious people consist of everyone else.

Collaborating evidence states that we Bangladeshis are one of the most corrupt nations three years running. Further evidence supports the stated evidence because we have managed to sully even the one single month when we get the chance to set the records straight.

Hunger pangs
Check for instance staying away from food and drinks. It is the basic necessity for human survival (once again excluding alien life forms). This makes it the basic choice of abstinence for fasting Muslims. When you have to work all day, it makes great sense. Story has it though that there are easier ways to fast. It is a method that you can call hunger strike. A newspaper letter column narrated a person's method of sleeping till afternoon, performing a couple of hours of desk work and then whiling away the remaining couple of hours playing computer games. Unfortunately, I learned in school that fasting requires staying away from a lot more than mere nutrition. Just staying away from food just makes it a glorified hunger strike. It would count only for those who love food to death but sadly we all love money.

Side effects of fasting
Fiery display of temper makes for great movie sequences but on the reality side of the screen, it can get us into a lot of trouble. At the least, we find ourselves into embarrassing situations. A kindergarten teacher I know of went into her class and warned of dire consequences if any student talked, shouted, whispered, threw things or planned out loud how to blow up the chemistry lab.

In another incident an elderly man became a twenty year old agitated university student when he became angry at a parking attendant who had the nerve to suggest that there is no parking near the gate. Fasting makes the head go hot and you cannot expect elderly people to walk more than five feet from their air-conditioned cars.

Eid bonus
The days before Eid the police go on a crime busting overdrive stopping vehicles to check for unscrupulous activities. Suspicious vehicles are those whose drivers are suspiciously timid. They can be stopped and asked to pay almost anything for nothing. This time we even had the traffic week during Ramadan giving the cops the legal right to stop cars on a whim. This way they can exact money to pay for their Eid shopping and apartment instalments from the pockets of the car owners.

The spitting warfare
Walking around is a hazardous and often nauseating experience. People are seen spitting left, right and centre with great panache in creating non-geometric splatters of multiple colours. As a result walking past double-decker buses in Farmgate during Ramadan present double trouble. It is a risk similar to a bald guy standing under a crow-laden tree.

Then there are the shopping centres where out of courtesy there are spittoons located all over the place. It is a decent gesture but the sight is a bit hard on the eyes after several litters of thick gooey mess is left lying all day. Don't forget the assorted cigarette butts that serve as garish.

The theory behind this practice of spitting (unique to our country) is that fasting prohibits drinking liquids so you cannot swallow liquids. Since when did saliva become a drink? It is a natural bodily function that keeps the mouth from smelling like a cat's litter basket. There is a saying that cleanliness is next to godliness and spitting definitely isn't. Now if only there was a genius who would devise a spit-sucking device like the one at the dentists. Only this one has to be portable.

Halal smoke
My mechanic told me that the worst thing for him was to stay away for his best friend the cigarette. Unlike him, there are others who believe that smoke does not count because it is far too ethereal. Besides, we are taking in smoke all day as Bangladesh also has one of the highest air pollution levels. Cigarette smoke is just all of that combined and concentrated so it really does not count as anything different. Heck, cigarettes even have tar so when you fall face down on the asphalt (containing tar) from coughing it just becomes a case of ashes to ashes.

Customised fasting
Individuality is in great demand. Just look at the huge number of customised cars we see. Boutiques offer custom "exclusive" tags on their same old salwars. Similarly, we are also customising fasting according to our needs. We use the month to our advantage and select which religious belief to follow. The spirit of the month of Ramadan remains just that. Like a spirit, it is brief and eventually non-existent.

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny


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