Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 62, Tuesday September 13, 2005





Of halwas and tarabattis

Shab-e-barat is the night when your fate for the coming year is said to be decided by the Almighty. For those who believe in His grace and are true followers, it's a divine night to seek forgiveness and pray for a prosperous future, while for others who are not so devout it's another reason to celebrate the unknown, the mystified future. In all it's a special night for the Muslims.

Celebrating Shab-e-barat has been our culture since as long as one can remember. It has always been one of the happiest memories of my childhood. My father loved celebration, so Shab-e-barat began early in our household.

Planning the list of what desserts and halwas to make, going to the bazaar to get the grocery done on time, bagging the best meat in the early morning, our usually spick-and-span kitchen bustling with activity: chopping the onions, marinating the meat, grating the almonds and the pistachios. Mom scurrying with last minute orders for errands and chores that needed attention before she returned from work and actually began the cooking. The afternoons were busy with the making of halwas, decorating them with silver paper and almonds. The air heavy with aromas of cinnamon, cardamoms cooked in ghee actually made you giddy with hunger.

Then began the house calls. Neighbours were greeted with a nicely decorated goody bag full of mouth-watering delights for them. These visits were fun because you not only showed off your new dress and how deep the colour of your henna painted hands were but also whose mom was the best cook in the neighbourhood. The poor were also given a share from the halwas. The evenings were an extended family affair at grandma's place and all the cousins would gather in the porch to light the fireworks, in fact tarabattis were synonymous with Shab-e-barat. Then began another competition of who could stay awake the whole night and pray, in the morning the tally would be an issue to brag.

Those were childhood Shab-e-barat's, the long lost ones.
Now the charm is lost in the commercialisation. Halwas and rotis are bought from the departmental stores before returning home from work. You are rarely acquainted with your neighbour so there's no need to send them goody bags. The awful traffic stops you from sending the delights to friends and families. In other words the heart has gone out of the celebrations. In fact people rationalise this as not being part of our religion simply because this night is not celebrated in such a grandiose scale in Saudi Arabia.

What hurts me is that people these days are so into copying others that they forget what exactly their own culture or religion is all about.

In a time where life is full of wars, murders, distortion and terrorism, it is important to remember that Islam, the religion, is all about peace, loving, giving and equal treatment.

I want to celebrate life and thank the Almighty for giving me this life. And therefore even today, with or without the childhood fun and frolic, I will celebrate Shab-e-barat with full enthusiasm just to please the child in me and thank my God.

By Raffat Binte Rashid


Festive jitters

When we had sunshine it went on for days melting the fat out of our bodies. So we prayed for rain and when it came it wouldn't stop until we started thinking of CNG powered motorboats. But now there's another imminent change in the weather. The bengali season Sharath (Autumn) is here and that means the winter is slowly coming our way.

It's a beautiful time with low humidity and the occasional light drizzle to make everything momentarily shiny. The blue skies remain blue with puffs of clouds resembling all kinds of shapes. And in that line of thought, all kinds of festivals are coming our way. Whether Hindu or Muslim there's something for everyone such as Shab-e-barat, Ramadan, Kali puja, Diwali, Durga puja, Eid-ul-Fitr and so on. The titillating list does go on.

It's a cause for people to celebrate despite the innumerable worries such as the rampant crime, poverty and the latest in migraine inducing worries bombs. In fact, celebration is in spite of the fact that there is so much to worry. Human beings do need respite. A couple of days or so of immersing oneself into festivities is a good way to minimise the harrowing effects of everyday life.

Just about everyone is taken over by this mood whether by choice or by necessity. Those linked with the fashion industry are under a lot of pressure to perform. It's a desperate race to come up with the most desirable designs in time for the festive season. The media especially the print media has already begun its Eid fashion related issues. The design houses are busy putting the finishing touches on their creations whereas the weavers in Tangail, Norshingdi, Shirajganj and Rupganj are spending sleepless night in a similar quest. The days and nights of the latter group are filled with the clacketty noise of the looms beating tirelessly. Entire weaving families join in the profession. Throughout the year they may sit idle but during this season they are busy like no other time. It's just before the festivals that they make the biggest earnings. They may not have the time to sleep and dream but their waking hours are filled with a different dream of enjoying the festivities with a smile. And of course, few things bring a bigger smile than a pocket full of money.

Clothing may be the primary focus but following close on its heels are the needs of the home. People want material things to be happy and very few will disagree. Festivities simply shift that need into higher gear. Houses need painting, windows require new curtains, and furniture needs new varnish or upholstery. Others go for new television, refrigerator, mp3 player, electric toothbrush and other gizmos that may or may not have any use. Big purchases include cars. The sellers and manufacturers go all out to take advantage of this spending mood with discounts and free bonus offers. Sometimes even shopping complexes wait to open with such auspicious dates in mind.

Branded outlets sometimes let go of their old stock at low prices to make room for the new. Others are busy arranging and rearranging their current stock. Prospective buyers walk through wondering how to get someone else to pay for the goods. Heck, that's the best way to pay for things you want.

Then there's the families themselves each anticipating in his own way. There's the thought of vacations. Sure you risk your life by crashing the plane, going off road with the bus, derailing your train or sinking the launch. But heck, the risk seems worth it. While the grownups mull over the budget constraints the children are busy using a thick fat marker to cross out the dates till the desired occasion comes up. The household help stay busy with anticipation as they surmise the amount of bonus they will pile up. Everyone is hopeful.

Festivals are a heaven sent in terms of bringing people together. Friends and family who never meet throughout the year make some time to at least go to each others house and talk about food cause you can't eat food as it contains too many harmful additives. Maybe that's why the Gods (singular for some, plural and in different sexes for others) suggested there be festivals to compensate for the numbing horrors and petty meanness of everyday life..

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny


The term highway robbery is usually used to signify a state of events where one has been royally swindled. It is usually associated with the buying and selling of goods, where the customer felt that he has been hard done by the final payment for a particular good or service.

However us Bangladeshi's have given 'highway robbery' a whole new meaning simply by interpreting the term too literally! Most of you already know what I am talking about by this time. If you do not, then explanation follows.

Being robbed on the street has become an all too common phenomenon in recent years and being robbed from CNG's in the middle of busy roads even more so. It is almost an art where the perpetrator escapes courtesy of temporarily blinding his victims with pepper sprays. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't pepper spray meant for self-defence?

Anyways here are some tips to avoid "highway robbery."

CNG Pool
Whenever possible, it is best if you can travel in groups. If there are two of more people traveling together it is more likely that hijackers shall be wary of raiding your CNG. Avoid traveling alone. Where ever it is that you are going ask a friend to go with you. That way you not only save money but also do not present hijackers with an easy target.

Be wary
Everyone wants to be James Bond so here is your chance. Always be on a state of high alert when traveling by CNG especially after dark. Believe it or not most robberies take place in traffic intersections when all vehicles are held up by the red signal. Although it almost always happens in plain view for all to see, no one usually interferes with the hijackers plans. So be on the lookout and be ready to shout "bloody murder."

Establish a rapport
In almost every single case of hijacking in the CNG, the driver is responsible. It is therefore beneficial if you can establish a mutual understanding of sorts. Try and start a conversation. Drivers in cahoots with hijackers are less likely to indulge in conversation. It can be anything as simple as asking him the time or commenting openly about the weather or the state of traffic jams.

Be Street-Smart
When you have no choice but to travel alone, be street smart in the literal sense of the word. Map a route in your mind when traveling and stick by it. If your route involves streets with a reputation of robbery be on high alert during those times. If you are alone on a CNG always sit on one side rather than in the middle. That way even if someone gets in on one side, you can exit through the other side.

In the end however sometimes it always boils down to luck. But as they say, preparation makes its own luck.

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2003 The Daily Star