Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5 Issue 27, Tuesday, July 6, 2010



Chronicles of Sam Q

Dearest diary,
I think story telling is an art. There are people who write and tell stories and there are people who can verbally tell stories. Whichever way you see it, story telling plays a very important part in many lives.

While my son was young, I used to read out stories to him from his favourite storybooks while feeding him or to entertain him and his joined-at-the-hip-of-each-other-cousin, Nahyan, or even while putting him to sleep.

Actually, a little correction is needed here. As far as his nighttime rituals of story telling went, it was always about a boy called 'Babul', which only his father could tell. Many moons later I got to know that this fictional 'Babul', was a stretch of my husband's very colourful and imaginative imagination.

And if I delve further into my fast losing memory, I actually have very pleasant pictures of stories told to me, when I was (once upon a time) young and impressionable. In my mind's eye, the person responsible for the happy time in my life then was my uncle, whom I still very fondly call, my Salam khalu.

I really need to describe him to you diary. Everything about him was average. Physically I mean. But this average height, average complexion and average looks, paled in comparison to his exceptional, larger than life, loving personality. His affectionate pat on my head, his wonderful distinctive laugh and his beguiling smile always made me feel so special.

And his stories...oh my God...would transport us wherever he wanted to take us. I was so envious of his sons, Javed and Shumon, in having an in-house storyteller at their beck and call. And as he was also at that time in government service he was also posted in locations, like Rangamati, Chittagong or Comilla.

So in addition to the lure of his story telling prowess, we also looked forward in staying in all those big houses, with everybody saluting him, scurrying after him, and basically making us feel important just by being related to him.

And diary, that was one of my life's first lessons learnt. In spite of being so young, I realised what humility and down-to-earth meant. Here I was, basking in my borrowed glory, but the man, who deserved all that was offered to him, took it with so much grace, dexterity and balance, that he inspired me to want to behave like him.

He truly is an exceptional human being. I am so glad that my aunt had the good sense to marry him and bring him into the family. You know diary, there are people around us everywhere. But when we come across special people, we must treasure and honour them. But sometimes life distracts us. Things happen. Situations arise. We drift away. I mourn for such endings. But you know what diary, I should celebrate the time I spent with him and now rejoice that his grand-daughter Raiza is enjoying her time with him. I guess, such is life.

But today, I have a story of mine, which I want to tell you.

Long, long ago a Queen came into power of a small kingdom, which she named, 'My Very Own'. Obviously, the country was thus named because the queen truly believed that the country actually belonged to her personally and her subjects were just something that came with the territory. She of course had a band of ministers in her court who helped her rule the country and made her believe that the country she ruled was indeed hers and theirs to do as they please.

So, when the people got to understand this, they felt very sad that their Monarch did not care about them. They felt lost and directionless. Only the will to live was what kept them going. But sometimes even if the will is there, situations arose due to lack of care and concern, so eventually the price the people paid was very costly.

One day a blazing fire ravaged a whole neighbourhood to ashes along with human lives. It could have been avoided if the queen had strict rules of not having flammable things in housing estates. If only her ministers followed up whether rules were implemented or not. Whatever is done after the tragedy has no meaning. Why couldn't the situation be avoided? Think! Queen, think!

Daily struggles of basic food and water were beginning to feel as if that is what life is all about. There were homeless people in her kingdom where no rehabilitation was thought of. why are people begging? It is the Queen's responsibility to look after all her subjects.

Then there was this court's barber who had a shop where all the court ladies came to him to put their curls in place. While alighting from their glass carriages in their finery, not once would they spare a glance for the rampant poverty around them. Why would they? They are all right inside their glass bubble, castle, moats and turrets. People were indiscriminately killed or trampled by horse drawn chariots and carriages. Scrolls after scrolls were written to the Queen, but, alas! No justice was there for the forgotten and have-nots.

Tears and helpless acceptance of their fate was the only known game to them.

My story does not have a happy ending yet diary. Maybe I should keep on telling my story till I see one in the horizon. A happy ending, I mean.

Till then diary, have a somewhat good day the Sam Q. way.


Seafood dip
8 ounces of white fish fillet
1 red apple, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 ounce soft cheese
5 ounce natural yoghurt
1 tbsp chopped spring onion leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Few drops of Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil fish fillets. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile sprinkle apple with lemon juice and mix together with cheese, yoghurt, herbs and Tabasco.

Flake the fish and stir carefully into the prepared mixture, season with salt and pepper.
Serve with savoury biscuits or slices of fresh baguettes slices.

Splendid yoghurt dip
1½ cups of natural yoghurt
1 tbsp hot dog relish from Heinz
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
Salt to taste

Mix all the above ingredients one by one and serve with freshly cut carrot strips.
I get my hot dog relish from the Lavender Super Store in Gulshan.

Hummus and pita bread
1 can of Garbanzo beans
2-3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp of sesame seed paste
Salt to taste

Method: Drain the tin of Garbanzo beans. Now make a paste of the sesame seeds. Put all of the above ingredients in a blender and blend to a mash. Taste to check if more lemon juice or salt is needed. Serve with silvers of lightly toasted pita bread.

Potato wedges with quick thousand island dip
2 large potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
For the dip:
4 tbsp mayonnaise
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp of Tabasco sauce
2 tbsp (finely) chopped onions
2 tbsp chopped tomatoes
Salt to taste

Pre-heat oven to 200°C, 400°F, or gas mark 6.
Slice each potato into wedges. Place in roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, toss to coat evenly with oil.
Meanwhile, mix all the above dip ingredients together. Season to taste. Spoon into a pot. Serve with hot potato wedges.

Special Feature

Choosing schools decoded

You may remember it, if you are endowed with a strong memory. Your mother taking you to a building that seemed too big to be right, too crowded to be friendly, and too noisy for you to be unafraid.

Whether you remember it or not, you can be sure that your mother does. It's one of the most frightening, daunting moments of parenthood; trusting others to be guardians over your child, even temporarily.

Choosing which school to enrol your little tyke in is one of the most important decisions you will take, as it will influence your child's early development.

In Dhaka, there is no dearth of schools, but one does have to be careful in sifting through the rest to get to the best.

What type of school should one look for? Should parents be drawn to schools that are reputed to be academically robust, or should they place more importance on the start these schools will be giving to their tiny tots?

A principal of one of Dhaka's reputed schools -- who prefers to remain anonymous -- sheds some light on the matter.

"In early years being happy and confident is vital. If the school has a great start but not such good results later, go for the great start. But also look at why the results are not so great. A school that works with a wide range of academic ability may be more successful than a school that only takes the most academic children, even if it has a smaller percentage of 'A' grades."

In this situation, parents, knowing the likes and dislikes of their kids, should look for a place that is going to suit the child's temperament. This way, although the child will hate being taken away from the mother, at least he or she will have the prospect of having fun with others their own age. However, once you have found a place that your young one may like, the headache of whether you will be able to get a seat for your child in that institution begins.

When asked what qualities the management of a school might look for when selecting students of that age, the principal said: “A school which selects students is looking for youngsters at two/three who are alert and interested. Parents can foster this by ensuring that the babies are talked with, sung to, played with, given chances to wriggle and crawl and generally find out what magical brains and bodies they have been blessed with.”

Another bone of contention is the age at which it is appropriate to start school. In previous generations, children were often sent to school at roughly four years of age. Things have changed now, with children as young as two and a half being sent to school. A doting grandmother, who hates the idea of her precious grandchild being sent to school so early says, "What will a child of two do in school, estranged from his parents and home environment? There is no need to do this; he can easily be educated at home during this early stage."

That, according to the principal, depends on the home environment. "In some countries kids go to school at seven years. But in fact in those countries they go to pre school because the important thing is that young children have the chance to socialise and space to be active.

"In a large extended family in rural Bangladesh, children may not need to go to school until five years because they have plenty of stimulation at home. But in a small flat in Dhaka, where the only company is an "ayah", children may need play school from two/three years.

"The emphasis in that sentence is play - formal schools where children just sit still and recite numbers or copy letters is not what is best for a three year old!"

A major stumbling block in getting a child settled in school is the fear of separation from the mother, and from the home life in which the child became comfortable.

“Rafi is so attached to me, that I have nightmares when I think of leaving him at a school alone, even if only for two-three hours,” said Shaila, a mother of a three-year-old boy, looking to place her son in a school in the near future.

The school, the principal of which talked to Star Lifestyle, has ways of combating these problems that all parents face. It involves a system where the parents are slowly phased out.

The principal explains: "We have a system of induction for our little kids which lasts for two/three weeks. For the first week the class comes for half the time, with half the number, i.e. 10 kids and their mums turn up for half the scheduled three hours, then the other half come in.

"The next week, mums are gradually phased out. They wait outside the class until we are sure they no longer need to stay. By week three we will be easing out the last remaining mums as the students become independent. It is amazing to see the same toddlers coming confidently from the gate all by themselves after four/five weeks.”

There are many aspects to look at when making the all-important decision of choosing a school for your child.

You have to do a bit of research and not blindly follow trends, because ultimately you are responsible for the welfare of your child. And it is worth remembering that education always begins at home; it is up to you to ensure that your child is stimulated, so that the transition to school from home is smoother.





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