Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 25, Tuesday December 21, 2004







Christmas once more

The Christmas spirit is on us once more. For young and old alike, it's a hectic time--shopping for gifts, drawing up guest lists for feasts, singing carols and visiting the church. True, Christmas is not a dominant festival of the country and expats, in particular, miss celebra|ing this festive day with their families, there is a touch of the Yuletide in the air even without a white Christmas in Dhaka.

For the youthful Lucille Nikita Sircar, a research officer in the Society for Environment and Human Development, this is a busy time. She is gearing up to buy gifts for relatives and the choice could range from apparel to toys and household goods. Lucille misses her schooldays when door to door singing of Christmas carols, such as Silent Night and Come all ye faithful, was the norm. 'Growing distances, busy schedules and lack of interest have been blocks in the way of door to door carol singing. Now carolling is more symbolic--if a group of singers come, we sing to the accompaniment of the dhol and cymbals,' says L}cille.

Excitement was in the air when Australian fashion designer Marion Samuel celebrated a farewell-cum-Christmas party on December 16. On the invite list were 150-200 people and it was an open house for guests and their friends. On the table were delectable dishes such as roast lamb, roast chicken and Christmas pudding. A DJ called Jimmy flew down from Kolkata to regale the dancers with his choice of music.

Usually this is a time when expats go off for the Christmas to other countries such as Thailand. This year Marion's family, which will be leaving Dhaka to return to Australia by the end of the year, will miss the annual visit |o the Methodist church in Bangkok. They do go sometimes to the Anglican Church in Green Road, Dhaka, but not regularly.

Marion, who has been in Dhaka 10 years, misses getting together with her relatives, though there are many friends to compensate. In some respects, she says, there have been changes for the better. In her words,'Five-six years ago, we could not even get ingredients for Christmas pudding. Today that is not a major hurdle.'

For the very young, there's the thrill of Christmas Eve dinner, followed by a visit from Santa Claus. In the morning, they open their eyes and greet the bonanza of playthings in their stocking--heaps of toys, gimmicky gadgets and sweets. Then follows a visit to the church, followed by a Christmas lunch in which traditional delicacies such as Christmas pudding are served.

Post-Christmas are other festive occasions--New Year's Eve and New Year Day. Let's get on with--another--party.

By Kavita Charanji

Reader's Chit

Sorry: Is it the most difficult word to say?

How often have you seen a Bangalee say "sorry"?
Does it help that there is no translation for the word "sorry" in Bangla? The closest we come to it is "dukhkhito" (I am sad), or maybe "bhul korsi" (I made a mistake). But apart from that English word, there is no other way to express succinctly our apologies for having made a mistake.

Is that why we, as a nation, tend not to apologise?

I believe not: if we can incorporate words such as "chair" and "pencil", why not use the word "sorry" whenever necessary?

A friend of mine once explained that he does not ever apologise. "If you kill a man, and then you say sorry, what good does that do?" he asks.

I commend the sentiment, if he believes that it is better to try to never commit an offence, than to be a repeat offender and repenter. But it is innate nature for all of us to try to stay on the whiter side of grey areas. Despite our efforts, it is impossible for us to escape from making a few mistakes in our lifetimes, and then becoming aware, soon afterwards, that those were mistakes.

Why is it then that the majority of Bangladeshis, after becoming aware of their irreversible mistakes, refuse to apologise for them?

Having refused to apologise, most people also refuse to appear as obstinate and insensitive as they actually are, and simply deny acknowledging thit they made any mistake whatsoever. This situation of a person's refusing to admit that he/she is merely mortal and prone to err, has led to the innumerable times that offenders try to justify their behaviour, try to blame the consequences on someone else, or simply deny that they were the perpetuator of the offence.

I think this situation on refusing to apologise is unique to us Bangalees: in any other part of the world, the word "sorry" is quite a common one to hear.

From minor offences, from accidentally scratching a person's car (which leads to the quite common Dhaka scenario of equally-indignant drivers, rickshawallahs and by-standers engaging in a scuffle in the middle of the road) to more grievous ones, such as arresting innocent juveniles, we seem incapable, as a nation, of admitting to our faults.

It is hard to explain why this should be so. Perhaps we feel some sense of insecurity, and fear |hat admitting to any flaw in our own self would be the equivalent of dealing, simultaneously, a great blow to our egos, our sense of self-worth, and the supposed high opinion that others hold of us.

It is often hard for us to see beyond the present moment. Like little children stealing cookies, we persist in believing that everyone else will continue to think that we are angels if we refuse to admit to our wrongs: even when we are caught with our hand in the jar, we engage in elaborate denences and denials.

However, what we fail to see is that there is life beyond the present moment. Admitting our blunders will not automatically paint us with tar and soot. While some may be shocked and disappointed to hear of our offences, people are more likely to respect us in the long run, for having the courage to admit to our imperfections. Whether it is a business, casual or personal relationship, apologies, when necessary, can help to improve or mend the relationship. And, by apologising, we are able to face our faults unswervingly and boldly, and learn from them for our future.

Perhaps there are many who would think that I am engaging in much ado about nothing. After all, hy should apologies be so necessary? When one has committed a mistake, it is over and done with: there is no point in crying over spilt milk.

I do not, however, believe that apologies, like any other part of civilized manners, can be so easily forgotten. Rather than destroying it, they are essential to preserving our own sense of worth, and placating an injured one.

As humans, we are shocked when oppressors do not apologise for their oppressions, when world leaders refuse to apologise for genocide. As a nation, we are still waiting for a proper apology for the war crimes perpetuated during our Liberation War.

Why, then, should we try to diminish the importance of apologies in our personal lives?

By Shimmer Charade


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