Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 12, Tuesday March 18, 2008



Under a different sky

The length, width and weight

My enemy lives at home with me. I hide her in different places, under my bed, in the hallway closet, under the sink. But no matter where I hide, she creeps back into my mind and starts nagging in her monotonous tone. Her square face dances around my mind, I feel like smashing her, breaking her, throwing her out of the window. But I still keep her around and not only that, I sometimes bring her out, more often than I should; and then I do what makes her happy and makes me sad. I stand on her, and she shows me with her little digital numbers my weight for that day. I can see her mocking smile through those numbers, though sometimes I win when the numbers read smaller but most of the time she wins and I hate her for it, but I still keep her around.

It's so easy for me to stand on the neck of my enemy, my weighing machine, and figure out how much I weigh; so easy for me to pull a measuring tape around my waist to see its growth and stand tall (yet still short) to mark a spot on the wall and measure my height, so easy…measuring an object, a place or a person is such an easily accomplishable thing these days.

Then why am I having trouble lately when I try to measure Dhaka. There are numbers out there, but I don't agree with them. There is a flaw somewhere, nothing matches, and it frustrates me. I know even while I write this, a part of Dhaka is shrinking as another part grows.

I was sitting at a beauty parlour in Dhaka the other day. In my reflection on the mirror I saw a woman staring at me, and then she came up to ask me a few questions, “What are you studying?” “Where do you live?” Finding out I live in USA she says, “I wanted to see if I can match make you with one of my two brothers, incidentally they also live in Washington DC.” Knowing there aren't many Bangladeshis living in DC and many of us know each other I ask her brother's names, and she tells me the names of two of my close friends, and I stare at her with awe and wonder, is Dhaka really that small? What are the chances that my two good friends' sister will approach me here in the middle of Dhaka for my hand in marriage…I laugh with my friends' sweet sister, we chat a while, and I walk out thinking Dhaka is so small!

Then why, that same day, does it take me two and half hours to get to Dhanmondi from Gulshan? How many miles away are those two places, maybe 20? Should it take more than forty minutes at the most? But it does, and Dhaka seems like the largest city in the world. During those two and a half hours my head falls into a coma, and I think how certain points of Dhaka are so much further from the other than they actually seem to be.

Then there was that other day when I got on a rickshaw and roamed around all of old town and then got dropped off at Aziz Super Market (where time doesn't change). It took me only one afternoon to cover Wari, Narinda, Shakari Bazar, Dhaka University and Art College…the rickshawala was even in a good mood, whistling away; Dhaka felt so convenient then, so easily accessible.

But then there was that other morning when I called one of my relatives requesting if she could come to one of my other relatives' house. As my time was short I couldn't go to too many houses all at once, but she said, “the weather is terrible, everything in Dhaka takes five hours, if you don't come to my house I will not see you! Am I no one to you? Why must I see you in someone else's place? You need to come here!” I never met her, though she lived in Dhaka, her place seemed secluded from all others, and the distance between her and me grew even more during my visit.

And then there were those nights, when sitting at a coffee shop I could literally bump into half the people I know in Dhaka and chat away the evening, Dhaka was in my palm.

So you see how hard it is for me to know the real width or length of Dhaka city? It changes constantly, from people to people, hour-to-hour, tiny as a nose ring to wide as the sky…and between all her stretches and folds I run around, Dhaka carries me while she shrinks, expands and unwinds.


Maintaining the workstation

Working eight hours or more at a stretch can be tiresome and boring, leaving little time to clear the clutter from your workstation. But remember that a tidy workstation will boost your productivity. Lets take a look at how you can make daily office work a less strenuous experience.

Many of us keep losing pens at work. We keep forgetting where we kept our pens the last time. To avoid looking for pens during urgent times, buy a couple of inexpensive ones and a cutlery tray. Keep the tray filled with pens in a drawer near the desk.

Instead of spending hours after hours at your desk, try to leave office during the lunchtime. Go out, inhale some fresh air or have a quick lunch with colleagues, you will see that your workday afternoons are more productive than before. Remember that brains need time to rest too.

Clear your desk top of all personal mementos. Hang them on the walls; place them on shelves to give yourself space to work at your desk, without distractions.

Keep post-it pads on your desk to write down small notes. Stick the urgent notes to your monitor, as this will continuously remind you of the tasks you need to finish. However, remember to take off the notes once you are done with them.

Pressure of work often makes us forget things quickly especially information that we receive over phone. Therefore, after completing a phone call write down your next action relating to the call. Do you need to make another call or mail something? If you can't do it now, write it down.

Reduce interruptions at work by moving your desk so you can't see the door. Passers-by will not be able to catch your eyes as they walk by, thus avoiding unnecessary conversation.

Don't start fretting when you have a big project at hand. Simplify a big project by writing down everything. Then, put the tasks in order. Next, set up a time line. Finally, delegate as much as possible.

Simple practices can make office work less strenuous. Apply the above tips at your workplace and experience the difference.

By Penelope



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