Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 91, Tuesday, Novermber 10, 2009




“Let's go find her,” she said, “now that you have returned.”

In her dream she found her husband, who she lost during a nightmare 16 years ago. He had come back bare feet, strong shoulders and his chest held the smell of the afternoon sun. He was just like the way he was when they were in college, during the burning days of finding love post 71 under the Bengali liberated sky. She wished she took better care of herself in the past 16 missing years but he didn't seem to care about her aging body, a child-like glow was still untouched on her 53-year-old face.

Together, holding hands, they started their search from one end of Dhaka. Their first-born had gone missing. She hadn't seen him in months, only heard his drifting voice from miles and miles away.

Buriganga bridge. They stood on top; their daughter was here once without telling them. The school bus she took to and from school held many unruly girls and on their request the bus driver drove all the way to the just-built-Buriganga-bridge, it was 1989; 20 years ago. No, she wouldn't be here; they only found the ice cream stick their daughter had discarded after devouring her choc bar. They picked it up, it was still wet with the excitement and fear of a 10-year-old mouth.

So they went to the river, the one where they took her often as a child to run around in 1982. Back then there was still grass left and some blue of the sky and river would give them hope for a future for their first-born and their second. When they reached the spot a building stood there humming the noise of sewing machines, a bit of a grass and a bit of the river was still left, but their daughter wasn't there. They looked at each other and knew there were still many places left to look, so they continued without giving up hope.

At their old home, he opened up the pages of old Anondomela, the ones he had bounded for her and printed her name on the inside cover. The pages were still warm from her touch. Tintin was still waiting to be read so that she would know how stories end. But she had gone somewhere else with a glass of half drunk Tang and moist M&M's still waiting to be munched on.

They took a rickshaw next, went to Bailey road. Girls came out of the school's open doors. So many girls, in uniforms blue and white, tall and short, dark and fair. They waited patiently for theirs to come out. As the last girl left with her heavy bag, the two pairs of eyes were unable to locate their pony-tailed daughter with a dimple on the right cheek. They only found her water flask, still half full.

But they didn't give up… they walked hand in hand, old friends, old lovers. In between the millions of roads of old and new Dhaka and billions of homes standing upright and dark, which home held their first-born they wondered. In which window will she appear, in which veranda does she hang her just washed sari to soak sunlight? They wondered as they walked down bemusing Dhaka streets in her dream of lost and founds.

Dear Doctor,
Marriage counselling is a relatively new concept in our society. With an ever-increasing rate of family violence, some of which end up in divorces, the demand for family therapy is on the rise.

I have approached psychiatrists regarding a problem in the family, some have politely expressed that the subject is not their specialty while others have tried to help but once again as this is not their field of practice, the end result was unproductive.

I had contacted the Daily Star office and learnt that you reside abroad. Can you please at least recommend a therapist who specialises in family counselling? This will help me as well as many other people who are faced with similar problems.
- Aliya

Dear Aliya,
I'm sorry that I can't be of much help to you in this respect. I remember my old colleagues (mostly Psychiatrists and medical officers) but am not aware if anyone of them has special interest or training in this field. It is also true that marriage counselling without proper training is likely to be unproductive.

My understanding is that graduates from clinical psychology or social work departments of Dhaka University (or other equivalent Universities) are also eligible candidates for receiving further education (theoretical and practical) in different areas of counselling including marriage counselling. I've no clue if any private university in Bangladesh has started offering such courses or whether Mental Health Institute of Bangladesh has taken any such initiative yet.

Please call or visit National Mental Health Institute, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka for further information. I know there is a department of Psychotherapy; they might be able to give you more information about the available resources in the community. Good luck.

Dear Doctor,
I am going through a lot of stress lately. The problem is with my wife. She is very possessive. We had an arranged marriage. Initially she was okay with my friends (some of whom are females) but recently she doesn't approve of me spending time with my friends. I often play football with my colleagues after work and sometimes we just shuffle cards. I don't know if I am overdoing it but even if it's a once-a-week affair my wife complains that I am not paying attention to her.

How do I explain to her the need for personal space? My wife, herself has many friends but she does not maintain personal interactions with them. A homemaker, she spends long hours on the telephone. The problem is getting worse day by day. Can you please help me find a solution?
- Troubled

Dear Troubled,
I know this is not the full story and hence my response is likely to be biased and incomplete. Take whatever applies to your situation and discard the rest!

Control freaks tend to become very possessive of their partners because of their personal feelings of insecurity in the relationship. They want everything to go the way they would like it to go (e.g. control your friendship, control your enjoyments). Everything becomes a “power game” where one wins and the other loses. Eventually home becomes a war zone. There is an erroneous belief that love is possession, actually love is freedom. Healthy love will never imprison you, rather, it will empower you.

It sounds like both of you are giving each other a cold shoulder. People who shrink and recoil from confrontation but can't let go of their anger and resentment, tend to become passive aggressive. Living like roommates instead of a married couple can be seen as passive aggressive behaviour.

You have mentioned that your wife was initially okay with your friends but didn't clarify what went wrong or what caused the change in her attitude. Since this is an arranged marriage of unknown duration, it is possible that you don't know your wife very well. I doubt whether you share common vision and purpose in marriage. It also seems you have different interests or hobbies.

If your wife doesn't like your lifestyle it is only natural that you don't like hers either. You haven't mentioned anything about the strengths in this relationship though (if there is any!). I'm afraid you are already feeling overwhelmed and on the verge of giving up. This could be a sign that your marriage is already over at an emotional level. Emotional absence (not to mention romance!), communication gap, passive aggressive behaviour, probable unresolved issues from past etc. are leading it to a dead end.

Some people believe that good relationships happen naturally without any planning or effort. In fact good relationships don't just happen; they have to be created. A motivated person puts effort to find out if any competency or chemistry is there in a relationship to make it a success. Actually it takes two willing partners to do their share of work, to maintain the vitality of a marriage. Try to ignite a spark to get through this bump in the road of you relationship!

Rip your heart wide open and search for some true answers- Are you ready yet to be in a committed relationship? Do you find your wife falling much short of your idealised image of a life-partner? Are you willing to give it a fair try before you throw your hands in the air? Is there any reason for your wife to be jealous of your female friends?

In my opinion, an honest and free communication would be the first most important step of a thousand miles journey in this case. A difficult time in marriage could be an opportunity for personal growth as well. The partners can be each other's teacher in this path of self-growth.

Instead of being vague, ask her to be more specific in her expectations (e.g. “I want you to pay me more attention”- this is vague, “I want you to come home first from work and have a cup of tea with me before you go anywhere else”- this is more clear and specific) and tell her honestly whether it is doable from your part or not.

If you have had spent quality time with your wife during the week and still she is not approving of you spending time with your friends or playing sports during the week end then I would say you are not overdoing it, she is the one who is clingy or excessively needy in a relationship. Therapy will help her to understand the reasons for this clinginess and find the healthier substitutes.

I imagine you are very independent-minded and would love to maintain your personal circle and hobby besides maintaining a family life. A healthy marriage gives both partners enough space and liberty to pursue personal life choices while maintaining inter-dependency in other areas of life. Life becomes easier when partners share common interests and friends, have complementary personal goals and can facilitate mutual transformation in a non-confrontational, collaborative manner.

Dear Doctor,
I am a female of 26 years. The complexion of my skin is dark. Are there any ways to lighten it? I have heard of a beauty parlour where lightening of skin can be done, do you know what they do? How safe is it?
-- Confused

Dear Confused,
Thank you for the question. This is a problem that is faced by a lot of people. People in our country are obsessed with the colour of their skin, I, personally don't think that complexion of the skin is very important. I think the quality of the skin as well as presentation is more important for a person to look good.

The skin should be healthy, with a nice glow to it. For this everyone should take good care of the skin, especially facial skin.

Everybody who regularly goes out of the house and is also exposed to heat should use a sunscreen, which suits the skin, at least once or twice a day. Therefore, people with oily skin should use oil-free products and the SPF should be above 30. Wash face with a foaming cleanser at night after removal of all make-up, followed by a toner every alternate day and moisturiser at night. These are rules for basic skin care applicable to both sexes. If you have acne prone skin use a toner every night.

As for lightening the skin colour I don't encourage this. However, to answer your question, there are centres that use chemical peels on skin but this can be very dangerous as an improper dose will burn the skin and make the situation worse by thinning the skin.

As a cosmetic surgeon I do advice microdermabrasion, which makes rough skin look smoother and lighter. Also as I said previously, the way you present and dress yourself, if you are overweight or not it all makes a difference in the way you look, so complexion really is not that important.



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