Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 16, Tuesday November 22, 2005




Designs of green tranquility

WHEN anyone mentions nature, the first image that pops up in the mind is a vague expanse of green. The abstract quickly takes shape in the form of rows of trees big and small. The details fall into place such as the multi hued wild colours and the wide-open blue sky above. As for the grass, the imagination brings out green tufts thicker than ever seen in reality. Or maybe all this was true once upon a time.

Nowadays the only greenery we see are small clumps here and there. There's the Ramna Park, Suhrawardy Uddyan, University campus, Parliamentary Building compound, Dhanmondi Lake and a few other woebegone places. The rest of the horizon is filled to the brim with mans concrete creations many of which turn out to be eyesores.

Nature lovers try their best to keep their surroundings enriched with God's gift in whatever way possible. Those with an artistic streak do better than most in this regard. A few years ago, there was designer Shahrukh Shahids boutique 'Henrys Heritage' on Dhanmondi Road 27. Visitors must have been relieved to take a momentary break as they neared the entrance lined with rows of betel nut trees. The entire place was decorated with plants creating a calm and tranquil environment.

Bibiana is another boutique that stands in similar tranquil surroundings. Situated in Dhanmondi Road 5 designer Lipi Khondoker has used all kinds of flower and fruit plants to decorate her place of business. Trained in Charukola this designer has expressed her ideas not only through her fashion creations but also with the décor. The entrance begins with a small iron gate that leads down a dirt path surrounded by vegetation. All the flowering plants are complemented by luscious ferns. Lipis intention is to create a homely environment where the customers can feel at ease. For this reason, she has not thought of opening up an outlet in commercial centres whose harsh concrete décor is a jarring contrast. Nature is her muse and she prefers being in green surroundings.

There's another place that has a four feet high wall. The building pretty much starts right from the footpath. The moment you enter the steel gate though everything changes. There's a small passage that is adorned with plants in a most creative way. This is Hosna Banu Chotnas shop Piran in the corner of Dhanmondi 11A and 12A. There's ferns making a nice contoured surrounding as well as some bamboo shoots springing up to create an other worldly design. Vines cover the walls as if dressed in green.

Banglar Mela is situated in Banani. A small passage leads to the small red painted house with a green tin roof. The surrounding area is covered with all kinds of green plants. Such designs are not just mere exterior decoration for the sake of decorating. These also provide a tranquil setting where the designers such as Lipi and Chotna themselves often spend the time to chat with customers, visitors and journalists. Tea and adda goes beautifully in this environment.

It goes to show that just because a place serves commercial purpose it does not have to be festooned with bright glaring decoration and lights. Adding a touch of nature is a subtle enhancement that outdoes anything man created.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Reader's chit

The foreign tablet

THERE'S really no denying the fact that literally everybody wants to go abroad these days. Whether it is for higher education or seeking a better career or life, people are just dying to go abroad, and preferably settle there permanently. This cuts across all social classes as well. People will pay arms and legs just to get past the airports of some foreign country so that they can be relieved by having left the baggage that is Bangladesh behind. Is it because Bangladesh has become such an intolerably difficult place to live in? Or are there other factors at play here? What is it that makes people grab and claw with all their might to change the color of their passports? What drives them to leave behind friends, relatives, and loved ones of many years to willingly step into diaspora?

After being away from Bangladesh for almost a decade since the last time I visited, I was shocked at the way I was received by most people upon my return. There was no escaping the dreaded “Why did you come back to Bangladesh?” You'd think that wasn't so strange a question but to me it did sound rather unwarranted. Although I had my share of doubts and insecurities about coming back bag-and-baggage to Bangladesh, I'd never imagined the seriousness with which this would be treated here. My own parents don't understand why I chose to come back. I was asked why I didn't get a job there or apply for immigration there. After explaining the numerous complications of visas and work permits and simply missing my family, they shook their heads and said I should have just stayed there. The likened my act to throwing away the passport to happiness (No pun intended). They told me that I wouldn't be able to obtain a job worthy of my education and caliber. They iterated how the states of things in Dhaka were getting worse by the day. I think I'd been hearing that ever since I could understand words.

Apart from this sort of unwelcoming and almost suspicious attitude towards returnees like me, there are many loud indications of a nation that's suddenly come up with this realization that en masse migration to the greener lands of Canada, Australia, and Europe is the only solution to this country's problems. In every direction one turns to, there are posters, billboards, and digital screens advertising study abroad and immigration processing and facilitating companies. And they come in all shapes and sizes as well. There are consultants with offices no bigger than 6 feet by 6 feet cubicles and then there are lawyers who're so busy that they don't handle any processing or cases themselves but pay the obligatory visit to Bangladesh every so often to keep an eye on the business and maintain public relations with the high and mighty. One has to question where all the money comes from to fuel all these businesses. Regardless of what people can afford, they pay upwards of 10,000 USD just to get started to get out of Bangladesh. I personally know the tuition rates paid by international students abroad and I know that huge discrepancy between what people pay for and what they actually earn in Bangladesh. What can be so difficult for them to use that money towards starting a business or career here in Bangladesh?

I think part of this zeitgeist can be attributed to not wanting to be left behind. Every day I hear from a colleague, friend, or relative that so-and-so has migrated to Australia or Canada and has settled in beautifully there. After a point, you stop to think it's anything out of the ordinary or that it merits any attention. Everybody tells these stories with this sense of longing and hope in their voice that someday maybe they too can enjoy the sweet taste of freedom, which it seems, only comes about by leaving this country.

That's not to say though that people here are lazy or not resourceful. It is amazing to see the amount of hard work, dedication, and sheer street smarts used to put together the correct package for ensuring a successful ticket out of Bangladesh. Immigration consultants help gather the “right papers” so as to strengthen applications of their clients. These papers are often fake or embellished work experience certificates and bank solvencies. Some go out of their way to take courses or jobs that give them skills in shortage in the countries they choose to move to. I've seen accountants and bank executives taking certificates in culinary studies and hotel management because those skills give them an edge. There are people taking accelerated language courses so as to improve their chances of being accepted for a visa for some remote non-English country. There's no limit to what can be done and will be done to attain these coveted tickets. It's ironic that this same zeal and dedication isn't applied at all to work and activities that occur locally. That's a story for another day though.

I think it'd be fair to say that Brain Drain isn't an issue anymore seeing as it's not only the talented people that seek to go abroad to make “better” use of their skills and knowledge. It doesn't hurt to aspire but is there no alternative way of thinking that could result in a better life?

By Sarwar Bhuiyan


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