Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 68, Tuesday, December 05, 2006



Interpreter Of Maladies

Dr. Nighat Ara, Psychiatrist, Counsellor and Therapist

Q: My mother has always been more liberal than most of my friends' moms. She was someone we could always talk to frankly about relationships and the opposite sex, and although she wouldn't approve of us dating, she had no problems with us having male friends or talking to boys on the phone. She even encouraged us to bring our friends home so she could get to know them better. Sounds like a heaven-sent mother, right? Well, recently, there has been a reversal in her attitudes. She's started muttering loudly whenever she watches television (you know how almost everything from news to music videos these days have provocative material), she gets suspicious when she sees us watching movies in our room (“You're watching dirty stuff!”) and gives us the raised eyebrow if we so much as giggle over the phone. Considering the fact that we've always been open and honest with her, and have never given her cause to suspect us, it's very annoying. How do we get our worldly mother back?

Dear reader,
I'm glad to know that your Mom is a friendly, open minded person though her attitude has changed recently; at least you know she (kinder one) is hiding behind the stricter one and can come out again if the situation favours. Neither can I blame your Mom for being slightly strict with you nor can I blame you for asking for more trust and liberty. Actually this is a dilemma. It sounds like your Mom used to trust you but she is growing suspicious and displaying mistrust pretty openly now. I understand that she has become less tolerant and easily irritated by watching provocative stuff on television or in music videos.
Trust can be broken by watching overwhelming growth of negative life forces (e.g. violence, killing, destructions) as opposed to getting sadistic pleasure from these inhuman activities around us. Trust also gets broken when you watch positive life force (e.g. love, affection etc.) presented in a distorted way to derive unhealthy pleasure. Trust is broken when we watch people with masked behaviour getting control over our lives and promoting negative life force.

Besides, a lot of women find sexuality (in a broader term) very difficult to handle particularly when their daughters approach adolescence. It reminds a Mom about the mistakes, embarrassments and “fears of unknown” linked to that stage of life that they have already travelled and they unconsciously tend to project it on others (a mental defence mechanism). Besides, the danger of sexuality is always around the corner and your Mom as a well- wisher is probably vigilant about it to ensure a safer future for you.

Unfortunately our society shows unusually high tolerance levels to violent, abusive behaviour or displays of negative emotions but ironically shows little tolerance to display of healthy positive emotions related to sexuality.

It seems like the lack of trust has reached epic proportions in BD (look at our politics, nobody trusts anybody!). Sometimes contents of modern movies and music videos contradict conservative values and social standards. Even though it is mainly for commercial and recreational purposes, its impact on children of growing age is also a concern for parents. That's why rankings such as PG, 14 plus, 18 plus or adult movies etc. is a world wide accepted way of securing children from premature exposure to too much information in an otherwise fairly free society.

It is always hard to adjust to the new social values and attitudes as it appears with time. Change is inevitable whether you like it or not, whether it takes place by evolution or revolution. Change is happening faster than ever in this era of globalization. Adjusting to change is a challenging job. People with rigid thinking patterns particularly tend to resist changes more often than others. They are more scared to try new things and reluctant to
break their familiar patterns.

Change is not always bad, so it is sometimes important to go through it to explore what else is there for you. Some guidance and simple precautions can make it even safer and smoother. However, change usually requires risk-taking behaviour and not everybody is equally comfortable with the level of risks involved.

How old are you? Are you suggesting that you would act quite responsibly even if your mother leaves you unsupervised? Then why don't you show it to your Mom by acting more responsibly in other areas of life (e.g. household chores, homework, report card, money management, selecting friends etc.)? Friendship between opposite sexes comes under special scrutiny particularly when you are young and single. The demarcation line between close friendship (emotional intimacy) and physical intimacy (most “no” “no” aspect of sexuality) may get easily blurred depending on surrounding environment and personal needs, values and attitudes. How much you allow in friendship between opposite sexes can widely vary from individual to individual, your comfort zone can be very different from your mother's one. I understand, you are feeling annoyed as you are being misunderstood. Why don't you talk to your Mom and ask her about her expectations, her fears, and source of her mistrust? Tell her about your beliefs and convince her about your ability to take care of yourself by acting more responsibly. If nothing works and if she is suspicious to an amount of paranoia, ask her to seek help! Then this suspicion is more likely to be around her inner issues that may have nothing to do with you.

Shop Talk

Break from Solitude
Although the strikes and blockades have made a havoc of the academic calendars, students are still looking forward to their winter vacations. No doubt that it will be severely constrained, but still, something is better than nothing. In my experience, students normally enjoy the first few days of solitude, but soon get bored because they are kind of used to their hectic lives. It's much better to plan out the activities during this break, instead of wondering what to do the next day in each break day. Below are some of the things that you might need to have a fun-filled, energy-charged winter break

Football boots
I know of a couple of soccer tournaments coming up during this winter break and for all the football players out there, this is a wonderful chance to just focus on the game and forget about the consequences if you get injured, like missing classes. But first, you need to buy the boots, which not only can aid you in your game, but can also protect you from all kinds of injuries inflicted on you by the ground, other players, and occasionally, by yourself. Soccer boots can be found at various places like Stadium, Gulshan 1 and 2 markets and any other sports outlet, with prices ranging from Tk350-10000 or more. One piece of advice though, if you are planning to play with your Predators or Total 90s on a field like Dhanmondi 8, then either you are very careless with money or you don't know which boots to wear at which fields. So if you care for your boot's health, please be wise on what kind of field you are playing on.

If you are more of the movie sort and not the sporty kind, then DVDs are the sure way of spending away the entire vacations. You can get movies everywhere and anywhere, and if you are a movie buff, then you surely know more about where to get what than me. In my experience, its better to get the movies from places like Rifles Square, Fahim and Bashundhara Shopping Complex, simply because they offer a lot of options. If you can't get a certain movie, then you can always choose something else and you won't be disappointed. The thumb rule is, if these places do not have the movies that you want, you can be pretty sure that you won't find those movies anywhere else. Each DVD will cost you somewhere around Tk70-100, depending on the quality and the production company, like Capital DVDs will always cost more than its other counterparts.

And if movies don't appeal to you and you just want to listen away your vacation, then once again, you have to visit Rifles Square and Bashundhara Shopping Complex for the best collection of music. You can get the best of classical music, something that can sooth your nerves to the point that you will fall asleep or you can get the heaviest of heavy metal, which can ensure that you are eternally awake. The music CDs will cost you between Tk60-80. And of course, if you listen to Backstreet boys or Boyzone, you can always get those at any place that sells what no one listens to anymore (Just a joke).

By Asifur Rahman Khan

By The Way

Although the chill waves have not swept in full force yet, start bringing out your blankets. After being stored for a year, they would not be ready to use immediately. Take them out to the sun, and then go for a good washing.

Under A Different Sky


By Iffat Nawaz

I had tears, warm salty tears rolling down my face, but they couldn't make it all the way down to the bottom of my cheeks. A mask was trapping them in an almost air- tight space. I was about to jump into an ocean full of salty water, saltier than my tears and more immense than my boundless imagination and my even more boundless dreams.

I could barely stand. The boat was swaying like a hammock on a windy day as the swells of the waves were 5 feet high. I was geared up to become a scuba diver, a certified scuba diver who can jump into the ocean knowing how to sink down to 40, 50, 60, 100 feet under water still breathing normally, floating in water and keeping the body straight, hands together, eyes wide open to see what I never thought I would see in my life! I was going to swim over reefs under the ocean, reefs with sea creatures, amazing fishes, corals, turtles, sting rays, sharks and so much more that my lack of knowledge in marine biology keeps me from identifying.

This wasn't the first time I ever scuba dived, but it was the first time I had to prove myself. I had to go down 40 feet under the ocean surface with a dive instructor and while he and the fishes, turtles, sharks and sting rays watched, I was supposed to perform a series of skill tests- take my mask off completely and leave it off for a whole minute, take off my regulator which is the source of my life under water giving me oxygen, and put it back on, to prove I was stable under water! I had to perform different buoyancy tests, being in the exact positions my instructor commanded me to be in at each moment, not lower or higher. I was nervous. Could I really do it all, standing in the sandy bed of this vast ocean, almost insignificant and small, creating one of the most significant accomplishments of my life?

And of course being me, and a fan of clichéd emotions, I couldn't help but think back to my childhood while I let all the air out of the Buoyancy Control Device and slowly made my way down to 40 feet below surface. While I equalised my ears to match the pressure of my surroundings I thought, because I couldn't help but think, of the days when even the ground was a limited space for me to play in, being a girl, a Bengali girl, in a very Bangladeshi environment. Going to the roof was a big deal in certain hours of the day, or the balcony, or jumping from high places, like my Grandma's bed, or running too fast (what if I fell and broke my front teeth, who would marry me then?) or being in the sun for too long, playing with boys after a certain age. Stepping outside the house without an orna was also forbidden, or without a driver, or a rickshaw that would pick me up from the front of my house with another older person there to supervise me, because you know being a Bengali woman you are not really a responsible person yet (maybe never in some cases?), and I wasn't quite sure which skill tests I had to perform to prove my worth as a human being. So I just followed in the confined space that was designated for me to be safe. I did well…and water, water was a far away thing, not to be touched. The lake in front of our parliament or the polluted Buriganga were portraits that I saw from far away, even the Bay of Bengal in Cox's Bazar, where I did stand with water up to my knees and my family surrounding me from all sides so like other girls I would not be harassed by some pathetic loser hanging out at the beach. So that was water, salty and fresh that I knew…and I didn't dream of more.

But now all I dreamt of was water, after I dove, after I became a scuba diver and played in an ocean that I now call mine. I passed my tests under water while the salty water tickled my face, while my ears heard the noises of the deep blue ocean, while my heart beats went from fast to calm like the ocean and I drifted with full control, responsible. I didn't prove anything, because I didn't have to. I always was capable, and now I know…Bengali women above and under, living in vastness…and I am waiting for you…


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