Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 21, Tuesday December 27, 2005




a day at the fair

It's four in the afternoon on a balmy wintry Friday. There are about 400 people milling about nearby. Then there are another 400 on the left and another 400 on the right. If you would let them another 400 would be on top of you. Where did all these people come from and more importantly why? It's that time of the year again when the Dhaka International Trade Fair opens up.

In this explosive season you would think people would be wary of going to public places. Well, you would be right but that doesn't really stop anyone. People are very attached to themselves and hate to think they might be detached thanks to annoying bombs. But it seems they are even more worried about staying at home and being bored. Quite a few people are of the opinion that it is worth taking the risk than sitting at home and counting the black stones in the mosaic floor.

As for security, it is pretty beefed up this time. Around 400 security officials are reportedly patrolling the area. That includes everyone from the regular police to watery blue-attired BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) and even RAB (Rapid Action Battalion). Rigorous searches are being carried out. Car bottoms are checked using mirrors and visitor's bottoms are patted down in an effort to get to the bottom of this incendiary business. Only thing left is to frisk bushy beards.

Rome wasn't built in a day
Rome wasn't built in a day mainly because the Romans did not use prefabricated items like we see at the trade fair. Entire kitchens are simply lying there for someone to throw money at. You have to be able to throw money because that's how expensive these things are. Stalls by Partex, Navana etc offer a diverse range of ultra cool looking kitchen setups. The colour combinations are so good you wouldn't really want to spoil the thing by actually cooking. You would make it your bedroom. Setups include all kinds of gadgets such as smoke hoods, burners, ovens, dishwashers, sanitizer etc.

Then there are the usual staples of furniture to accommodate just about any room you have in mind. Jute items for décor are as usual very inexpensive. You can find decent mats and rugs at under 500 taka. Synthetic items on the other hand can cost double.

Other than décor, there were much-needed items such as the mortar, cement and brick itself needed to build your palace. Different manufacturers have set up shop offering these. Some developers have also joined in to offer entire houses or rather apartments.

Pick of the category: Security is a big issue when you consider building a home. For that there is a high security door with one brand very appropriately named Ali Baba. It is a double door with a very heavy, ornate stainless steel door on the outside and a traditional wooden door on the inside. The metal portion has a glass window protected by aforementioned ornate metalwork. The whole thing has multiple bolted locks. No one is getting in and if the keys are lost no one is getting out either. Of course with prices hovering around half a lakh these will require you to break into somebody else's home to get the money.

Push the right button
Gadgets are always a big hit in the trade fair. All the major brands showed off their usual ware of audio equipment, televisions, telephones, cameras, printers etc. What with korbani eid coming up, a hot seller is the refrigerator or rather the freezer to store all that extra meat that you eventually store around your waist.

There is good news for movie lovers who can get DVD players for as low as 3500 taka. Telephones are hot sellers with official distributor for Motorola and Samsung making brisk sales. Speaking of phones, Aktel and Banglalink have set up very prominent stalls at the fair while all other operators have kept prominently quiet.

Pick of the category: Security gadgets are hot items. Office managers are making big deals with the sellers of close circuit television (CCTV) setups as well as handheld metal detectors. These would help search for tiny earrings in a deep pile carpet. But more realistically, these would definitely help beef up the security proceedings at all kinds of offices. Quite a few CCTV setups have been sold to private buyers who just want to see whether the person at the door is a guest or an unwanted beggar/in-law/debtor.

Clothes maketh a man (and a woman too)
The Iranian and Pakistani stalls always do booming business as do the Bangladeshi branded textiles.

Pick of the category: Standard Lungi has their very own nicely decorated stall along with displays of Standard Saris. I was half expecting the salesmen to be prancing around in lungis. Disappointing though.

Eat and be merry
What's a trade fair without food? The staples of confectionaries are there. As usual you find your wild assortment of cookies, chips, dry fruits, jams etc. What you should watch out for are the food stalls. Always ask the price before you tear the wrapper and bite into. They can ask quite ridiculous amounts such as more than double the price for a typical Igloo ice cream.

By the way, if you really want Igloo they have their own sensibly priced stall.

Pick of the category: PEZ is a worldwide phenomenon in creating funky theme based candy dispensers. You can buy small dispensers with all kinds of figureheads form Looney Tunes to Marvel/DC comic characters as well as the demented Pokemons.

It's not really about the candy but more about the style with which it comes out of the container. One young boy was quite incensed to find that the stall only carried Pikachu and not the entire Pokemon character lineup. His father must have been relieved though.

As always the trade fair has something for everyone. There are things that will meet every one of your needs as well as create a few new needs. For example, after visiting the trade fair you might suddenly need a new drink called Zone. Why? Because it promises to take care of all your drowsiness that was previously taken care of by coffee and more effectively, sleep. Of course, whether Zone works or not is left up to the individual.

By Ehsanul Raza Ronny
Photo: Munem Wasif


Essential Readings
Nobel Prize represents the apex of literary achievement. If you are thinking of turning away (temporarily!) from Sheldon and Brown, and getting some 'heavy' reading done, these novels maybe helpful to kick-start your intellect. Moreover, these books are worth keeping in your collection.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden
A saga of two families whose histories are deeply intertwined in rural California. A true tour de force, East of Eden unforgettably encases adultery, murder, bloodshed and passion. Steinbeck's genius stretches to portray both the good and the evil aspects of man, and how the difference can easily be blurred. A masterpiece.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying
Faulkner is not an easy read. Throughout his life, this man was harshly criticized for his difficult style that was said to isolate readers. The novel, As I Lay Dying is what I call the peak of postmodernism- with fragmented plots, multiple narratives that flow into one another without any distinct boundary, and metaphysical symbolism. A "Faulknerian" sentence even runs upto eight pages without any evident punctuation! As I Lay Dying is a story of a family travelling far to bury the mother. If you can crack the shell, it is an astounding read.

Toni Morrison, Beloved
The harrowing story of an ex-slave whose dead daughter comes back to haunt her. Undeniably one of my most favourite authors. Her writing is commanding yet fluid, flowing through complex emotions with considerable ease. Morrison makes use of imagery and illusions that is unprecedented.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
If you like Salman Rushdie, you will like Marquez even more. This is the novel that brought the literary device of 'magic realism' into the mainstream literature. Even the most intense of concepts are written in a flighty tone, radiating a feeling of surrealism.

William Golding, the Lord of the Flies
Again, this is a novel that pivots around the conflict of good and evil. However, the conflict is delineated differently from Steinbeck. When a plane crash leaves children stranded on a remote island with no adult, life takes a new dimension- no rules, no homework and all play. It is then the inner beast in these children awake and take over. Stunning application of symbolism and imagery. This used to be my grade eight literature text- and the only "textbook" I liked.

The work of ALL the Nobel laureates are worth mentioning. Yes, I have missed dazzling authors like Nadine Gordimer, Rabindranath Tagore, Octavio Paz, Saul Bellow and Gao Xinjian. If I did start, the list would run on. Nevertheless, you can start off with the novels above to capture the masala of Nobel Prize.

By Saadi


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