Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 29, Tuesday, July 20, 2010



Special Feature

New frontiers

Dragon fruit plant is a night flowering vine-like cactus. The beautiful yellowish flower is about 1 foot long and 9 inches wide, bell-shaped and very fragrant; they open during the early evening and wilt by daybreak. The fruit is oblong and has a unique appearance because of its bright pink to red, green-tipped overlapping scales rind. The edible portion is white or red, with hundreds of tiny black seeds. Its taste is sweet and juicy similar to that of pears, kiwis and watermelons. Dragon fruit is now grown commercially in Asia in places like Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Very recently, a company named L R Agro Farms Ltd. owned by Lutfar Rahman Badal, whose working partner is Rumpa Chakraborty, has started growing Dragon fruits in Savar, Bangladesh.

We have had the honour of speaking to Chakraborty about her idea and knowledge about the fruit.

What inspired you to suddenly plan on growing Dragon fruits in the country?

There was no massive inspiration, per se, I saw my friend growing it in his garden in Thailand and I thought this could really help the people in our country as it has a lot of health benefits.

Dragon fruits were sold in the country before, what made you feel the need to grow it on home soil?

The dragon fruits that used to be sold here were all imported from countries like Thailand and Malaysia. The imported ones are only available in supermarkets like Agora, Nandan and PQS and they cost Tk500/600 per Kilo! Evidently, they're only available to high-class people who can afford them. I decided to grow them on home soil so I can sell them at a reduced price and would be available to the middle class and lower class as well.

How is the growth of dragon fruit here and why is it any different?

Surprisingly, the growth is better than I have seen in Thailand. Usually, it take three years to start proper growth after plantation but here, in Bangladesh, it took around only a year. I think the growth is better because of our soil. I have discovered that our soil is much better than theirs and it affects the growth very positively.

How is growing dragon fruits any different from growing other fruits?

There's not much difference, just that even though Dragon Fruits are from the cactus family, they need a lot of water to be given to them for proper growth. Obviously, there are other differences but they're all very minor.

How is dragon fruit different than most fruits?

It's hard to imagine so many health benefits in one fruit! It's amazing what dragon fruits can do for you.

* Dragon fruit helps to lower blood glucose levels in diabetes.
* Dragon fruit prevents formation of cancer causing free radicals.
* Dragon fruit helps moisturize and smoothen skin and decrease bad cholesterol level.
* Dragon fruit helps improve appetite.
* Dragon fruit can enhance the body metabolism because of its protein content.
* Dragon fruit helps improve digestion and reduce fat.
* Dragon fruit helps maintain the health of the eyes.
* Dragon fruit helps strengthen the bones and teeth.
* Dragon fruit helps in tissue development.
* Dragon fruit promotes healing of cuts and bruises.
* Dragon fruit helps improve memory.

These were some of the main reasons I decided to grow them in our country. It'll be extremely helpful to our people.

What's the difference in prices after growing them here?

In stores like Agora and Nandan, the imported dragon fruits cost Tk.500/600 per kilo, I'm selling them in haat bazaar (for the time being) for Tk375. That too, Tk375 is just the starting price since we recently started selling them. Once the sales flourish, we will hopefully decrease the price and start selling them in local markets for everyone to have access to them.

Do you plan on growing more fruits in the country from abroad?

Yes, of course! Since we're growing the dragon fruits on a commercial basis, if this turns out to be a complete success, I plan on growing the dragon fruit with the red flesh. The ones I grow right now are with white flesh.

The dragon fruits have already started to become very popular at homes of Bangladesh. It's not just extremely healthy it tastes fantastic!

By Naziba Basher
Photo Courtesy: L.R. Agro Farms Ltd.

Special feature

Changing Chittagong

AS I stepped out of the train, I felt the same way Don Michael Corleone felt when he revisited Sicily- refreshing, passionate, and nostalgic. Like him, I had memories in my mind about a place I lived long ago. Only, in my case, I was not in Sicily. But Chittagong; it's Sicily for me!

I called up an old friend to explore the place all over again- to reconnect with the sights, sounds and smells I was so familiar with and missed so much.

However, I had no clue, absolutely whatsoever, of what was in
store for me. And I had the biggest shock of my life! Apparently, it seemed, I missed a lot of action in the past few years. Chittagong has changed dramatically.

As I drove, I stared wide-eyed, my mouth half-open. My friend laughed at me scornfully, enjoying my heart attack. I, however, had no sense of humor.

Chittagong went through a plethora of changes in the past few years. The city has lifted off into a whole new age. To start with, fast food centers, shopping malls, and pool clubs are now at every corner. During my time, how many fast food shops did we have? And now, you don't just have local restaurants, but franchises too, such as Pizza Hut and KFC.

Pool clubs were obscure- you knew only one or two names. There were very few places you could enjoy shopping. Granted, the number has still not increased that spectacularly, but the few new ones- with Sanmar Ocean City being the flagship- are gleaming and glitzy addition to the list. The older ones have renovated and followed the trend to stay in competition.

Gone are the days…
'Change' seems to be the buzz word across the world these days. Chittagong is an advocate of change, I think. And I love the development that has taken place. Still, my heart aches when I see the ugly side of it.

Suffering from heavy traffic in Chittagong has been beyond my imagination so far. Well, not anymore! I learned my lesson. I had my share of bearing the unstoppable honking of numerous cars, my dose of fumes from all the local buses and my portion of time sacrificed waiting annoyingly.

On the other hand, apartments are on the rise. Back when I was a kid, I had the luxury of staying in the traditional houses. These days, developers have taken over. Soon, there will only be monotonous, boring buildings, with no place to play.

It seems that the whole city is under construction! Chittagong is going through a renovation process; but it somehow, unfortunately, has made the city uglier. Back in my day, Chittagong boasted numerous hills and mountains. Now, many of them are cut to make 'room' for development. The home where I used to stay had a hill right in front of it. I could wake up from sleep, draw my curtain and enjoy a soothing mountain-view from bed. But you don't get the good stuff anymore. I visited the house where I lived in. You only get to see a newly built six-storied apartment that is blocking the view!

The same old ctg
But (very rarely) I can still see a glimmer of the past. Indeed, some things never change. I had the delight of attending a Mezban. Still not recovered from the shocks the city threw at me, I gulped a 'lokma' of the traditional Mezbani rice and beef- and immediately I reached an eternal bliss. I forgot about the traffic, the ugly apartments and the noisy streets. The unique, heavenly and familiar flavor of the 'Mezbani' beef that has been the monopoly of Chittagonian cuisine calmed me down, almost completely.

My second break from the 'new' Chittagong was on the beach. I could connect with the mood, the peddlers, the smell, speeding cars. Nothing has changed much, I thought while I ate the same piaju I had ten years ago, with the same splendid sea before me. And from time to time, as voices from nearby floated into my ears, I realized how warm it felt to hear the regional dialect.

My view of Chittagong as one big club has remained unharmed as well. A funny and interesting aspect of this city is that everybody knows everybody, and when you are outdoors, Chittagong is small enough to let you bump into your friends within minutes!

Is Chittagong gradually turning into Dhaka? Wasn't Dhaka used to be a quieter, nicer and simpler place to live in a time a long time ago? One day, the Chittagong I grew up in will cease to exist. I thank that Chittagong, for giving me the best sixteen years of my life.

By M H Haider

Knowledge speaks

Ishrat Ameen

Teaching inspiration

MY six-week vacation in the summer of 2005 was hassle free. I did not have to hunt for special deals on holiday packages or book numerous flights to numerous destinations. My destination was Dhaka, Bangladesh.

As much as I was looking forward to spending time with family, I set aside two days specially to meet my extended family - my ex-colleagues from the school I was associated with for eighteen years. We were like a very happy family, truly blessed indeed because we were always there to aid each other physically, emotionally or spiritually. What could I get for these special people, I wondered! Then an idea popped up suddenly. I decided to compile a booklet of motivational quotes by famous people, and present it to them.

Within two weeks of my arrival in Dhaka, my booklet was ready to be distributed among the sixty plus teachers and administrative staffs. We had a grand lunch one day before the school closed down for their summer vacation and later exchanged gifts. I received gifts too, wrapped professionally with beautiful contents inside. It was a memorable day.

I named my booklet….Universal Teachers' Inspirations and dedicated it to those who make dreams possibilities by sharing the lessons of life. It was printed with lots of love by my dear cousin Shams Ameen.

Today, dear readers, I would like to share some of those inspirational quotes with all of you.

- We cannot direct the wind….but we can adjust the sails.

- The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.

- By learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn.

- Education is helping the child realize his potentialities.

- It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

- The aim of education is the knowledge not of facts but of values.

- As the heart makes the home, the teacher makes the child.

- Teaching is the royal road to learning.

- Children have more need of models than of critics.

- The harder you work the luckier you get.

- People forget how fast you did a job but they remember how well you did it.

- Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.

- Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination.

- Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.


Potted plants

AN old school garden would have been adorned with a rose bush, as no lawn was complete without it. There would also be seasonal blooms in separate beds, each adding to the charm of the garden.

The lack of space in today's world, however, prevents us from experiencing the magic that lies in creating, maintaining and growing beds of flowers, let alone an elaborate rose bush.

Plants are just as important now as they were two decades ago but from outdoors, plants have now made a way inside our houses.

The living chi plants radiate can have a positive influence on life and make it easier for you to gain, or maintain good health. You can simply fill your home with a variety of plants and actually try and spend more time close to plants that move your soul.

Selecting the ideal indoor plant is not an easy task. All need sufficient sunlight, water and fresh air, although some plants require less sunlight and these are perfect for indoor spaces.

Our hallways are relatively darker, narrower and not the ideal place for growing plants but it is this very place where first impressions are made; so do keep a touch of greenery here. Choose types that will thrive in less than perfect conditions.

For a contemporary look to your space make use of agaves and cacti. The advantage of these plants is that they do not require constant watering or attention. In fact, a little neglect will do no harm while you are busy with your life.

Today's homes are less cluttered. Interiors now flaunt white walls, wood or stone floors, and a careful selection of furniture. Each piece kept within the room should complement the other pieces around it to create a harmonious environment.

A living room is a public place, so there is the need to be subtle in your expressions. A single plant can look dramatic; alternately keeping one or two varieties of sapling might lend the space an “abundant” look.

Indoor plants are often rendered insignificant to the setting, as they are small and overwhelmed by large furniture and high ceilings. Yet their presence is essential.

For the rest of the house, the more intimate space -- small charming arrangements work well.

For instance, bathrooms are relaxing and unwinding. Imagine candles, a full tub of cool water, scented bath oil, and luxuriously soft, fluffy towels for the long relaxing bathing experience after a busy day in a grey city.

A small, green plant would be an ideal choice to add the touch of vitality inside the bathroom. Fern and aquatic plants enjoy the dampness of a bath place and can serve as first choice. Ferns survive in fairly low light, their delicate fronds making a perfect foil to a tiled interior.

At the end, as a designer I want to highlight on a common, beloved green plant.

The Money Plant is a common creeper that can be kept in many ways -- place them in a clay pot with soil, in a small plastic or ceramic container.

It is said, the east of your house helps you come up with new ways to earn money; the south-east looks at ways to increase your prosperity in the future; and the north-east enables you to seize the opportunity to make a profitable investment.

If you want to activate chi in each of these areas, make use of a money plant. Its rounded leaves are associated with metal chi, which in turns is linked to coin and money.

Nazneen Haque Mimi
Interior Consultant
E-mail: journeyman. Interiors@gmail.com
Photo: Tamim Sujat

Under a different sky

By Iffat Nawaz

In and out of context

HER legs barely reached the pedals. The surface of the bike was too wide for her seemingly tiny middle. All those hours in the gym ending in the showers, with women as stark as the day they were born, left her analyzing her body into minuscule details. And she iwas certain that her middle never felt this slim then. In fact, she never felt so dainty until she put her legs around this rented motorbike, “it's all about context”, she told herself… it always is.

When she had committed herself to taking this spring road trip around the South Western landscape of the United States last year she didn't think it was actually going to happen. It was one of those things she just wanted to talk about doing but not actually do. It wasn't like the time when she camped inside a giant ancient tree in British Columbia and took pictures pretending to be just a few generations further from cavewomen. Though the pictures looked unrealistically amazing, the experience itself wasn't as authentic as it might have looked. She told herself, “if you have time to put eyeliner on it's not fully an adventure.” The problem with adventures is that you set expectations for not just yourself but the rest of your world. What's next and when, are all you can think about.

So when she met this group of ex-bohemians and aspiring-drifters and heard about their yearly spring motorbike trips through the desert roads and blooming cacti she thought, “now those would make killer pictures”. She started spending more time with the bikers and their machines. She had an image of bikers being the tattooed rough bunch kind, in biker cults, with orgies and all. But this group broke that impression; two of them were engineers, one graphic designer and even an accountant.

Bike lessons followed in the weekends, purchase of all the gears, luxury accessories. ipods were filled with music, maps were drawn and camp sites were booked to crash along the way. Her inside boiled with excitement as she thought to herself that if she actually makes it out there with her legs wrapped around a bike, she might be one of the firsts out of all the people she knew, to do something like this. “Is that why I am doing this?” she asked herself. There was no clear answer, so she settled for another version of a conclusion -“I am doing this for myself.” That phrase, doing something for oneself, justifies so many things she thought, so many self-serving deeds with hidden and open agendas. No one wants to dig deeper once you say, “I did it for myself,” not in this age of physical and mental liberation at least.

So here she was, following the taillights of her friends, listening to old Bengali classics in her ipod (which definitely diminished her biker chic image, but hey, who is gonna know?) and smiling under her helmet. One might have thought she was smiling because of the air that made love to her hair or the setting sun that made her look stronger than she is, but she was smiling because she realized, she had forgotten to pack her camera and there will be no images to mark this trip except for the ones she will dream about years from now. A sense of anonymous liberation sunk in as she sped up to chase the setting sun, her tiny middle grounded her, and she loved every sense of finally being out of context.



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