Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 46, Tuesday July 04, 2006



Beauty Talk

Dear Sadia Moyeen
Can you tell me how to take care of straightened hair? I have long, normal but sensitive hair. I know that I should not tie my hair very tight and should use a specific kind of shampoo that will help to keep my hair straight; but I don't know which shampoo to use. Can you suggest an appropriate brand? What should I do with my hair when I go to sleep?

My skin is very sensitive and becomes sun burnt every time I go out into the sun. I use an oil-free cream that contains SPF-15. Since I am a student, I have to go outside everyday and cannot carry an umbrella all the time. I also have dark circles under my eyes, though I sleep properly and drink enough water. Could you give me some advice on eliminating my skin problems? Thanks for your reply earlier.

If you have straightened your hair remember to use conditioner after shampooing. Apply conditioner along the length of your hair and not only on your scalp. Once a month have a deep conditioning treatment at a salon of your choice. Use shampoo and conditioner which are specifically meant for chemically treated hair for instance - Loreal Vive, Boots, or any known brand that is available in Bangladesh. Don't use henna. Tie your hair loosely in a ponytail at bedtime.

For your skin problem, reapply the sun block in the afternoon again. One application in the morning will not see you through the day. Carry wet tissues with you. Wipe your face and put the sun block again. Apply grated cucumber and potatoes on the eyes after cooling it in the fridge everyday regularly, it will help with the dark circles.

Interpreter Of Maladies

Dr. Nighat Ara, Psychiatrist, Counsellor and Therapist

Dear Dr
I am a 19 year old girl and I need your help with a very peculiar problem. Here it goes. My grandparents have always been very mean to my mother. I grew up watching them always trying to insult her and make her life miserable, especially my grandmother. Now they are in their 80s and they live with us. Both of them are very ill. Because of my memory I cannot be nice to them. I try to be nice to them thinking that they are old people but I do it very artificially. Even when they are bed ridden they take advantage of every situation to insult my mother in front of my father. Even if they die I don't think I will feel bad for them. Does that make me a bad person? Sometimes I feel that way. Am I a mean person? I can't help it. Can you please help me?

Ans: Yes, it is a peculiar but not uncommon problem in our socio-cultural context. I guess mothers-in-law all over the world have issues with their daughters-in-law and vice versa (with few exceptions as usual). It is however a complicated social problem rooted in womens' sense of insecurity and inferiority in a male dominant society. Any patriarchal society polluted with ageism and sexism tends to put women in a victim role and many women accept this role as fate and further feed into this social attitude. Women who see themselves as an inferior gender tend to rely on male figures for security and power. In a patriarchal society, men represent power, strength, money, security, status etc. Women fight for their share by having men (e.g.: son, husband, son-in-law, brother etc.) on their side and abuse this power against a weaker person who is usually another woman. Women empowerment is supposed to bring some changes in this scenario by giving women the opportunity to gain their own power.

I understand your anger towards your grandparents for how they have been treating your Mom. You also seem to be feeling guilty for holding that anger inside and feeling manipulated by their age and illness. Your anger is a completely normal human response in this emotionally abusive environment which is making your Mom's life miserable (as you perceive it). It however, doesn't mean you are bad, rather it says you are only human.

According to you, it is mainly your grandparents (at times people get stuck in trying to figure out who is the “bad guy” here and that leads them to “he said, she said” kind of confusion or “hen and egg” dilemma) who are the source of all trouble. Even if your perception is partially wrong, dismissing it outright or ridiculing it doesn't help at all. Again, if you are suppressing this emotion and trying to put on a mask of “niceness”, then definitely you are being artificial and it is surely not a pleasant experience. The conflict seems to be that they are your grandparents so your moral standard tells you to be respectful towards them but they are abusive people so your conscience tells you that they don't deserve to be respected. (Probably the underlying thought is “isn't it true that people treat others the way they want be treated in return?”).

This kind of pull and push force working inside can create stress. Inability to express your true feelings (probably because you also want to please your father or are afraid of hurting him) is making you even angrier. How do you feel about your father being a silent (?) observer in this situation (“partners of crime” or “poor him! - what can he do”)? Children tend to idealise their parents and when parents fail to perform up to that idealistic level, the image eventually gets distorted and they fall from the pedestal. I must say none of your parents are good role models for you.

In an idealistic situation, abusive people need to be confronted and given a choice of changing their behaviour to be around non-abusive people. Here it is complicated as the abusers are senior family members; they are ill and dependent on your family. Our hierarchical society tends to protect abusers and thereby promote violence in the name of culture, tradition, religion, politics etc. and we see its reflection in our national life everyday. It will be passed on to the next generation, if nobody cares to break the cycle of abuse in different walks of life. If we cannot nip it at the bud it will take a heavier toll down the road. For old people with an old school of thoughts (e.g.: your grandparents) it may not be necessary though young women like you must come forward to build a better future so that women just don't live but they learn to thrive too. I appreciate that you are not choosing to be silent about this matter, as silence and darkness (lack of awareness, lack of knowledge) gives more power to the abusers.

I'm not sure how the communication system is working in your family. Children growing up in dysfunctional families get easily emotionally troubled as they are always fighting with conflicting feelings. “Don't talk”, “Don't feel “, and “Don't trust” rules of certain families tend to create stress for the children. The “Everything must look good” rule of a family tends to underestimate the emotional cost of it and demands artificiality in behaviour. This has a long term consequence as in this process the child ultimately loses touch with his/her real self and starts leading a false life (depression, addiction etc. gets a fertile ground). Although living a life for others (e.g. mother, father, grandmother, friends etc.) can make one popular or can help to get approval from others, it fails to give you a life of your own.

Psychotherapy and counselling sessions can help people to understand this anger and help the person find a healthy and constructive way of dealing with it. It is important to know your priorities in life, past baggage of emotions if that is interfering in your present perception, strengths and weaknesses, resources and constraints and family dynamic issues like triangular relationships or co-dependency issues with your Mom, communication strategies etc. to come up with a plan of action that can uphold your need to be a truthful real person without invading other people's boundaries or risking your safety. This kind of self-exploration takes lot of courage but it enables a person to live like a “whole person” (good and bad, right and wrong, strong and vulnerable etc. as a human) and not like a fragmented person (only good, nice, obedient etc. someone like “more than a human” or just angry, hateful, spiteful etc. someone like “less than a human”).

If you are feeling obsessed by these thoughts and consumed by negative feelings, take a break e.g.; go to a friend's place and distract yourself by some creative activity like music, art, writing and so on.

By the way

To keep your flowers fresh for longer, add two Aspirin or Crocin tablets, or just use Sprite instead of water when watering them.

Under A Different Sky

By Iffat Nawaz

Past Baggage

When I first talked about that part of my past it was overly exaggerated. The drama and intensity I added to it gave everyone who listened a vivid picture of only a fraction of it's surface and little of what was within. They listened to me with their wide eyes, felt sorry for me for parts of it, felt awed about the rest. It was so removed from everything which I dwelled in at that moment that my past and my present seemed of two completely different individuals. Yet at that time I didn't know how much this part of my past would make me who I am.

It was in the American Public school that I spoke of my Bangladeshi Private one. In America where most children attend public schools, and most public schools (depending on the area) are very well maintained and a fine place to receive education, the idea of a private school only is limited to a certain minority. Either the rich few, or the religious few, or a city private school where the private school is the only option for a decent education since the public school in that region is below standards. So hearing I have gotten a private school education all my life, and that too in a non co-education environment was quite something for my new American school friends.

“How are you adjusting” most would ask. I would smile and say just fine. No uniforms here, no strict rules, no direct yelling, no class captains, no matched assignment books, no fifteen minute lunch periods, nothing is imposed here, and even the things that are imposed are practiced so loosely that it really does feel like there are no rules. And all the extra curricular activities are given almost the same importance as the academics, and the freedom of choice in all matters, the sense of democracy and independence blew me away.

It took me a few years to get over this high of the American high school. And by then I had already began my first years at the university. The American University, not the best place to go if you slacked off completely during your high school and forgot what discipline is all total. And most of us had by the time we reached college. What is self discipline and how important is it when we are living alone in dorms, experiencing a new kind of liberation that we only dreamt about till then. Self discipline or just plain discipline is the last thing that comes to mind until the first set of mid-terms come and go, and the grades show up and we realize you haven't really studied since we set foot on the campus ground. That's when I realized that I needed to somehow get back in the habit of sitting down in front of a book and really concentrating. I tried to recall when the last time I had done that. And a picture of an early-teen-tired-face-me came to mind, in her blue and white uniform, making sure she has read the books cover to cover, gone over all her notes and felt 100% confident if any question was asked at any exams that was to come in her life. I didn't know her anymore, I had left her back in Bangladesh somewhere, and now I had to figure a way out to migrate her here from Bangladesh, and I spent days thinking of strategies.

It was through many sacrifices and self searching did I finally get in touch with her. She was rusty in the beginning, uncooperative, but she had ten years of solid teaching, self discipline drilled into her, and that is not something you loose in a year, or two or ten. It was that gift from her private Bangladeshi school that saved her, and today she can look back and smile at all the faces of the teachers that scolded her, and praised her and taught her not with affection but rigid love. The over used cliché of time always does tell.

It's through all the bitter sweet days when memories get created, over-shadowed, exaggerated, but often those memories aren't just fragments of our mind but our soul and our being, and without some of them we would fail. So I move on with my precious past baggage…


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