Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 32, Tuesday August 14 , 2007



Soul food

A little dose
of Vitamin 'F’

“We sat and drank it and felt the sun on our shoulders, and not even the expression of half-amusement, half-contempt on Hadley's face - as if he were watching apes drink beer and not men - could spoil it. It lasted twenty minutes, that beer-break, and for those twenty minutes, we felt like free men.”

~ "Red" in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (Stephen King)

If really pressed to remember, everyone's got a story about a moment, event, or even phase in their lives when they were having a blast. For Bryan Adams, it was the Summer of 69; for Shimul Mustafa, it was Coffeehouse er shei adda. Different strokes for different folks.

Think about the last time you really had fun. Was it at a friend's party, or that really awesome concert you attended? Or even a quiet walk in the park? Were you alone, or with friends? What was the ambience like? Even as you answer these questions, you'll realise that, whatever the replies are, you know how to have fun.

Over the past few weeks, we've been looking at ways to bring change into our lives, to think outside the box and learn more about what makes us tick. Fun is a big part of that equation. It's when a person gets into that 'play' mode in which s/he is most productive. Imagine being stuck in a job that you don't enjoy. Would you really want to put in your best there?

The motivational organisation, Playfair stresses on the importance of fun at work:

"Employers can better keep their most talented people by creating an exciting atmosphere where employees want to come to work. You can't expect your employees to give service with a smile unless they have something to smile about. And the intentional use of fun and play on the job is the best way to create an enthusiastic and committed workforce.

Happy and healthy employees are more creative, more productive, get along better with co-workers and have greater corporate loyalty and a healthier work/life balance.

An atmosphere of fun at work in any organisation facilitates flexibility, change and better communication. “

It's the same for relationships, or even just the way you look at life. That dose of the Fun vitamin is what makes everything worthwhile. Here's how you can bump up the fun factor in your life:

The sunshine squad
Self-esteem is closely linked to better performance. When you're feeling good about yourself, you're more likely to be willing to put yourself out there, and have fun. Who you associate with can have an impact on your self-esteem. There are friends who will encourage you and support you in everything you do, and be your cheerleaders. Those are the friends you want to hang out with more; their own high self-esteem will be a boost, or at the very least, an inspiration for you. Avoid people who are constantly criticising you or trying to bring your down.

Get moving
"Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands!" exclaimed the adorably perky Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. And as she proved, towards the end of the movie, underneath the ditziness lay a sharp mind to be reckoned with. To borrow a leaf from Ms Woods' book, staying physically active is a good way of having fun. So get off that couch and give those floppy muscles a good workout. Join your local gym, or take up dance classes. When you're feeling good deep in your bones, it's hard to stay down.

William Fry Jr. MD, the laughter researchist, calls laughter an 'internal massage' that involves the whole body system, from muscles to nerves to the digestive system. It relaxes the entire body. Laughter is supposed to be good aerobic exercise, aerating lungs, relaxing muscles, nerves and heart, expanding breathing and circulation and enhancing oxygen intake and expenditure. So when you can't make it to the gym, just tune in to F.R.I.E.N.D.S or flip open that joke book and start guffawing away to your heart's content.

Start feeling good about yourself by adding a generous dose of Vitamin F into your life!

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Book review

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

I fell in love- figuratively, head over heels- with Margaret Atwood after I read her “Robber Bride” and “Cat's Eye” a few years back. For quite sometime, I had been turning bookstalls upside down trying to get hold of her book, “The Blind Assassin”. So extensive, and consequently unnerving, have been my forages that by now most Nilkhet book vendors know the name of the book by heart- thanks to my constant badgering.

Then came the surprise. Amidst all the scurrying and fruitless hunting, I found it. It had been tucked away (I like to imagine, for the sake of drama- gathering dust) in my boss's house all along. Actually, I think she got it from somebody and was reading it- but that did not matter. I wanted the book.

I just finished reading it. And eyeing the rather bland cover, I am now sitting in front of my computer, thinking about how to review “The Blind Assassin”. So here is the scoop…

Critics herald this novel as Atwood's “greatest achievement”. By the time she wrote it, she had written over two dozen books, and through all that experience, this is- needless to say- the pinnacle of her artistry.

In this highly complex novel, there are four sets of narratives, four different stories told in parallel. All four have radically different themes and styles, interwoven into each other. The first encompasses the life of Iris Chase Griffen, the sole surviving descendant of a once-distinguished Toronto family, who is now 83 and recalls all the highs and lows of her life. The story revolves around the mysterious death of Laura Chase, an author and her sister. The second narrative is from Laura's controversial novel, “The Blind Assassin”- the tale of two secret lovers: a married woman and a man hiding from the police. The third and the fourth stories take place in other planets- Zycron and Xenor respectively. The latter talks about the atrocious and ruthless lizard men out on a quest to conquer the Universe, while the earlier is about a blind assassin and a mute sacrificial virgin.

Atwood uses different techniques in telling their tales, thus making each story stand as an individual. The genres are also very different. In the process of narrating, one story spills into the other till all of them climax as one. It is obvious to the reader that such fusion could be crafted only by talented writers like Atwood herself. Hence, in the end, the novel is set on a foundation of variegated themes- it combines gothic drama, romantic suspense and science fiction.

The cover flaunts the “Winner of the Booker Prize” title in large caps. Needless to say, the Prize is well deserved. Unlike many other Booker winners, the novel is not dreary and does not drone about the miseries of life. It is dark, full of deaths and revenge and spite. More interestingly, the tale of darkness is told with a generous dash of humour- a strange mix.

However, there is a note of caution. “The Blind Assassin” is a very demanding book. Atwood loves to tread slippery grounds and deals with elusive themes- and accordingly, expects her readers to watch their steps. She switches time frames, distorts voices, and experiments with unconventional literary devices. Simply put, she loves to throw her readers into turmoil and dizzying spirals. Then again, that is the very element that adds to the thrill of reading the book.

I would recommend this book, particularly to those who are into gothic prose and the dark side of human behaviour. But before you launch into “The Blind Assassin”, you may prefer to sample her less taxing works like “The Robber Bride” and “Alias Grace”.

By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky


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