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one fine day

Dearest Diary.
Have, you ever seen the movie, 'One Fine Day' with George Clooney looking like a gooey chocolate cake, good enough to...well...look at, and not eat? Couple of weeks ago, another version of the movie happened to me, and it surely was not fine at all. Let me elaborate. I have decided to join the work force again. A little shift from my previous career. So, to accommodate my shift I have to take couple of courses to reload myself.

So armed with high spirits and a spring to my wobbly steps I answered an advert in the paper and went to the said prestigious institution. As I walked into the premises, I was awed by its grandeur, and felt so happy that such a magnificent building was a part of Dhaka's skyline.

I felt like I was in a movie where I was walking into the FBI building with George Clooney beside me. Anyway before I digress, the lady at the counter gave me two forms, asked me to fill it up and bring it back the next day. The first shock was, the form she had given me to fill, was the wrong form. Because, whatever the details the form was asking me had nothing to do with the course.

When I went back the next day to point out that the wrong form had been given, it was taken back even without a flicker of apology. After that I was sent to the relevant department and was made to sit in some office for an hour because the person I was supposed to see had gone for "launch".

Then after waiting patiently for more than an hour and a little name dropping, I still did not get to meet the person I had come to see and was sent off to another level, to meet yet another person.

There I met a stern looking man who made me fill another form and sent me off again to another office to get a seal on that particular form. So, once again as I trudged my already tired and scowly self to get that precious seal... and, what do I see? The person concerned is not there. Where? The person was offering Zohr prayers.

Finally after some time I was ushered into an office where I was faced with this non-smiling person to fill another form and clipped instructions to go to the bank for payment of the course.

As I kept on meeting these people. I kept wondering, what was with this stern, non-approachable attitude? The only thing they had was just... attitude. Anyway, braving the traffic, I got my banking done only to go back to 'grumpy', and to be told that classes have been postponed by a week.

I could have cried by then or bitten his head off to have my "Launch" but better sense prevailed and I walked out of that office everything and everybody intact. Diary, it was four in the evening by the time I was done. I don't operate well when I am hunger riddled and parched.

While on my way home, all I could think was of the day I just had. Why are we like the way we are?

Why are we inefficient?

What is this total act of nonchalance? I had thought the new generation would be different. They will change, if not the world at least our very own socio, economic and political structure. I am so disappointed and disillusioned. I don't know how we are doing, whatever we are doing. If getting such basic, ordinary tasks done, is so difficult, I wonder how huge tenders, payment of bills and taxes get done?

Diary, I keep on reading about how women have to be empowered all I want to know is who is going to empower them?

Diary please forgive me, because what I am going to say now is going to make me sound so spoilt and Paris Hilton, but I have got to say it.

I, a forty plus woman sheltered and protected from the big bad world, from a comfortable background and with social connections, got this type of hassle and treatment. I wonder how these women I see standing in line for a seat on the bus, or the women who I read about their daily struggles just to survive each day to go through life, makes me not want to look straight into their eyes.

Know why diary? Because I just might get a glimpse of their tortured souls, and will not have the strength to look into mine anymore.

And one last parting statement diary, and I do say it with utmost sincerity, sometimes even the privileged life is such a heavy burden to bear. We do so little for society that I wonder how we sleep at night. Anyway diary, let's try to have a somewhat good day, the Sam Q way.

Spiced Sausage and potato skewers
(Serves 4-6)
Preparation time 10 minutes, plus marinating cooking time 30 minutes; freezing not suitable
450g chicken sausages
45ml olive oil
Grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
900g small new potatoes
Twist the sausages to make short lengths. Place in a bowl with the oil, grated lemon rind and 60ml (4 tbsp) juice, garlic and seasoning. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.
Scrub the potatoes; halve any large ones. Cook in boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain well and cool. Thread the potatoes and sausages alternately on to wooden satay sticks.
Brush with the remaining marinade and sprinkle with a little rosemary. Grill for about 15 minutes, turning and basting occasionally, until the sausages are cooked through. Serve with a crisp green salad and crusty bread.

Macaroni and cheese
(Serves 4)
Preparation time 10 minutes; cooking time 15-40 minutes; freezing not suitable
225g short-cut macaroni or small pasta shapes
Salt and pepper to taste
65g butter or margarine
65g plain flour
900 ml milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg or 2.5ml mustard
225g Cheddar cheese, grated
45ml (3 tbsp) fresh whole meal breadcrumbs
Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain well. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook gently for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Bring to the boil and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and add the nutmeg or mustard, most of the cheese and the macaroni. Pour into an ovenproof dish.

Grilled chicken with spiced butter
(Serves 4)
Preparation time 10 minutes; cooking time 20 minutes.
1 small green chilli
60g chopped coriander
75g butter, softened
Salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breast fillets with skin, about 150g each
30ml lemon juice
Coriander sprigs, garnish
Halve, deseed and finely chop the chilli. In a small bowl, beat the chilli and coriander into the softened butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Make three or four slashes on each side of the chicken to a depth of about 5 mm. Now mix the special butter with the chicken. Bake in a medium hot oven till chicken is cooked through. Chicken should be golden in colour.

Editor's Note

Redemption song

Rokeya was a part-time help at my place many years ago. I always had a soft spot for her, she was burdened with life and everyday had to go through gruelling hardships just to survive and make ends meet.

On top of everything her husband was a vagabond, who abused her like a psychopath. I was very intent on giving her a good life; I offered her many opportunities and was willing to go all the way with her to see her through. I personally took her to doctors and was willing to help her with a major surgery; I enrolled her son to driving school and took care of her daughter's school fees.

However, things didn't work out the way I had chalked them.

She escaped from the hospital without availing the surgery because her husband was not willing to spend a week at the hospital with her for the pre and post-operative period. I left it at that.

I could do just that much and had no right to interfere further. My meddling was breaking up her marriage, which why she wanted to continue, I failed to understand. She felt guilty and never came back. There was a total lull.

I met her yesterday again after almost three years. As usual she came back weeping and seeking forgiveness and I found my heart melting all over again. But this time it was for her daughter, Feroza, who was hardly fifteen, a year older than my own child.

She was forced to marry her cousin whose mother died, leaving behind a horde of young children. With the youngest being eight months, they needed someone to look after them, so Feroza was sacrificed. She told me sobbing, “Aunty I came from school and saw the moulobi waiting for me with my groom, I couldn't even run away.”

She stayed at my place for a while that day and both Feroza and my daughter were elated to find each other again and very casually sank back to their old camaraderie, playing ludu and badminton and laughing at cartoons. However the reality was that her husband came at dusk and took her away; she is now looking for part-time jobs, while he wants a van to make a living. I dread to think what would happen if his demands are not met. Yet I dared to add a clause that I will give him a van only if he allows Feroza to go back to school. His attitude told me a different story. Again I found my hands tied, I can only help Feroza if she wants it.

I realised that in all strata of the society women who want to be doormats, stay that way. You have to know to improve your situation. Emancipation cannot be injected into someone, you have to feel the need for it, and you have to fight for it.

Totally defeated, I became a witness to yet another girl following her mother's footsteps unwillingly.

By Raffat Binte Rashid

If you are above 20, and believe you have the knack for writing, this is your opportunity to join the team that works behind Star Lifestyle as Feature Writer/Sub-editor.

Interested applicants are requested to send a copy of the CV, along with a write-up within 300 words, on “Changes you would like to see in Star Lifestyle” by 15 March, 2010. Only short-listed candidates will be contacted and asked to come for an interview. Email your information to: raffat@thedailystar.net




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