Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 7, Issue 01, Tuesday, January 03, 2012




“Light is not so much something that reveals, as it is itself the revelation.”

That's according to James Turrel, an artist specialising on light and space, who is turning a 400, 000 year old now dead volcanic cone into an overwhelming and massive naked-eye observatory, where visitors can experience sky-light and many solar and celestial events.

You may not have a 3-mile site with a volcano sitting on it, but you do have your home; a space perhaps most important to you. And, like Turrel, you need to work on its lights.

Appropriate lighting is a key to making a space attractive and splendid. And lamps are indeed a great way to facilitating that.

Buying a “perfect” lamp is not an easy matter though. The variety and scope are so broad that it's easy to get lured by the looks of one at a store and then buying it, only to realise afterwards that it doesn't go with your room or decor.

A wise first step in buying a lamp might be to look beyond lamps and find out what you actually need. Don't say, “I need a lamp.” That is not insightful and is of no help in buying a lamp. Do you need light to read in bed before dozing off? Do you need to lighten up the mood of your room? Or do you need to make it more energetic? Do you fancy an innovative “deshi” lamp made of indigenous materials or a foreign one?

Settling down on a particular need will narrow down your search to a huge extent, not to mention that it'll minimise your chances of buying a lamp you'll later regret. The first (and perhaps the most important) step in buying a lamp is therefore to identify your need. After you know what you want, it's time to go shopping.

As a rule of thumb, the entrance should be well-lit. This does not only guide your guests in, but also makes them feel welcome. Select a mood for the inside. For a relaxing effect, use soft, ambient lighting. Shades of warm or dark colours bring intimacy. Crisp, white light is energising. Intense lighting is joyous and also brings people to alertness whilst lowering the level of tranquillity.

Purana Paltan has the biggest hub of lamps in Dhaka. The area has about six markets (such as Solaiman Plaza, Modina Tower and Sabbir Tower), all close to each other, that are filled with stores offering lamps. Most are imported from China.

When buying lamps, take a moment to consider the bulb used. An energy-saving bulb has two advantages: obviously they consume less energy but significantly enough, they also give off less heat. The latter point may be important if the lamp is in close proximity to you (e.g. reading lamp).

By default, in most cases, you get this kind of bulb when you buy the lamp, and it also comes with a one-year warranty.

A striking thing about all these stores in Purana Paltan is the similarity between all the lamps; after visiting several shops, you might feel you are basically looking at the same things over and over again. This is partially true. However, there are a few shops better known than others but generally speaking, product designs, materials used and prices are quite similar in most shops.

Some of the stores have wall shades with cartoon characters emblazoned on them; or sometimes the shape itself is that of the character. These are an interesting series to select from for your child's room.

Still, it maybe argued that the lamps offered by most of the stores in the area lack uniqueness or creativity. The lamps are good, but most are not out-of-the-box. For a more exclusive collection of lamps, Gulshan-2 circle can be helpful. The stores there have many of the designs you find in Puran Paltan, plus some luxurious and exclusive designs too. And, it seems Puran Paltan currently has a relatively smaller collection of bedside and floor lamps (but other kinds of lamps are abundant).

Prices of lamps in the stores in Purana Paltan are not very different from those in Gulshan-2, except for a consortium of extravagant ones. For example, one of the stores in Gulshan-2 has a rather heavy floor lamp made of marble, with a price tag of Tk.60000. Typically, floor lamps cost between Tk.3000 to Tk.10,000.

The price of a hanging lamp should generally be between Tk.800 to Tk.2500. For a three-point lamp, it's between Tk.2000 to Tk.4500. A wall shade typically costs about Tk.3000 while you could buy a bedside lamp by spending not more than Tk.4500. However, these figures are simply a vague guideline; just to give you an idea. Prices may vary a lot depending on a lot of things.

Leaving Gulshan-2 and Purana Paltan behind, there are some “deshi” designers you must check out. Anjan's and Nogordola have a small but impressive collection of lamps made from unconventional materials.

The latter boasts floor lamps made of jute, wool, etc; Anjan's on the other hand will make you smile with the cute hanging lamps they have made of coconuts, with faces drawn on them.

Idea Crafts, located in Banani 11 as well as in Mirpur Road, is a brand worth trying when you buy showpieces. Their lamps are very creative, with a hard-hitting simplistic vibe. Otobi, too, has an assortment of interesting lamps, featuring designs from our country and some from abroad.

We, of course, also have Aarong, one of the flagship brands of our nation. It has some amazing floor lamps and table lamps made of brass. Aarong also offers an attractive selection of lampshades.

It might be helpful to keep in mind three things when choosing lamp shades: style, material and proportion.

First check your lamp and the overall personality of the room. Make sure the genre or style of the lampshade is in sync.

The material used should fulfil the purpose. For example, if you seek your lamp to light the whole room, relatively transparent lampshades made of, let's say paper, may work better.

Finally, proportion is vital. Make sure your lampshade is not either oversized or too short in terms of the base of the lamp.

Artifacts, a store in the shopping mall attached to Sobhanbagh Mosque, also has a wide variety of lampshades. A brand specialising in lamps for the last 22 years, they can provide custom-made lamps too! If you have a vase -- or anything at all that you want to see as a lamp -- they'll make it for you.

Here's your chance to be creative!

By M H Haider
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


She walks in beauty

Razia Khan Amin was a tremendous personality. She was not only gorgeous to look at, but she encouraged one to be and think. Beauty and intelligence were combined in her in abundance.

I have known her from the end of 1976. She was taking a class in Chaucer and heaven knows how she had the patience of mastering the dolts in Bangla. The last I saw her was when she was wearing a beautiful rose-pink, pure chiffon sari with a thick frothing Swiss lace border. The lovely lady was speaking to me at her son's marriage. All of us remarked at the simplicity of the lady -- her unknowing, trusting banker husband, whom everyone in town was acquainted with.

The son too looked innocent and unworldly. She spoke in a manner which encouraged sharp repartee. It was no wonder her daughter loved books and films most in the world, next to her delightful Princess Daisy- like daughter Mehvish “a piece of moon”.

I had met her at dinners, at the Goethe Institute, later on. She was similarly kind, understanding, and ready to lend her ears. She was certainly not bossy or dictatorial. Razia Amin was like my old teachers at the Karachi University she taught me to reach high and not be daunted. She breathed confidence in me, making me feel like I was ten foot tall and bursting with joie de vivre. Razia was elegance itself. And she made one feel elegant too. She was magic and mystery combined in one.

When I had met her 15 years back, in another town nearby, she then too was trusting and wonderful to be with. Razia told me what was on her mind. She didn't mince her words. She was correct and to the point. How could she trust me so much, I wondered.

She was speaking about her children. It was as if her life had been etched out in the novels of Tolstoy or Chekhov. Or even the moving, unforgettable ones from the US. She once wore an emerald pure silk coat from Bangkok. I was sitting like some dolt in the back seat of the car, and I had laughed at her indulgently.

I had got stories about her family through other members of our societyat the Alliance Francaise, where her granddaughter once took piano lessons, or on the phone through Mashouq, our trusted friend and acquaintance from the old office who regarded the family of Razia with reverence and care.

Sometimes, as a little girl, the granddaughter had indulged me with many family secrets -- like some game or big laugh and hearty giggle. The relationship between me and the lovely, curly-haired “Mehvish” had been a moving one. Full of sunshine and camaraderie. Like cookies dipped in honey from the cookie jar.

As for her daughter, the “Cabbage Patch Doll", as we call her with affection, like her mother, who was always there to share our problems and moments of joy and success, she's a copy of her mother -- always patient and trusting. Ms. Razia thus comes into focus many times over.

People dropping one at a Convent college's wedding, talk of Ms Razia, as if about an old friend, whom the world knows, cares about and treats with “tendresse”, as if she were some treasured rose petal.

Courageous and kind, she was full of boundless energy; and guarded her family and friends, like the lioness she was in sprit and mind. Her spirit shall surely walk this world, always, and guide us till “all the sands of life are run”.

By Fayza Haq


Skin care in winter

Winter is a wonderful season, especially here in Bangladesh where the climate is temperate during the November-February months. However, come every winter, many people suffer from common maladies associated with this dry weather.

Dryness of the skin, chapped lips, dandruff and cracked soles of the feet are common; scabies, which is a little more serious, is also not unheard of. These are mostly caused by the dry weather, which absorbs the moisture from our skins and when uncared for, may cause irritation and develop cracks.

Doctors suggest using fragrance-free petroleum jelly, olive oil or Vaseline for chapped lips. These products simply prevent the evaporation of moisture from the skin. As aromatic products often cause irritation in some people, dermatologists advise against applying perfumed lip gels to avoid this problem.

Dr A T M Asaduzzaman, Assistant Professor of the Department of Skin and VD at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University suggests using lukewarm water during winter instead of using hot water to guard against skin problems. He also suggested against frequent use of soap as it makes the skin dry by taking away oils from the body.

Dandruff on the scalp, forehead, face and other parts of the body is also very common in this season. Dr Asaduzzaman suggests using medicated shampoo, if necessary, from once to thrice a week.

Many people complain of itching of the skin and experts opine that this is simply caused by the dryness of the skin. "It is necessary that we keep all parts of our skin well moisturised. You can use oil, vaseline, lotion, liquid paraffin according to the need of your body,” said Dr Asaduzzaman.

Cracks on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are also not uncommon. Dermatologists recommend at least 10 minutes water treatment in the morning and in the evening. It is important that the water used for this treatment is lukewarm. It should be followed by application of a moisturiser on the thick skin of the sole. Often, when the condition aggravates, the skin bleeds. This is where one should consult a doctor, who may prescribe a simple antibiotic or an anti-inflammatory ointment as need be.

“Eating plenty seasonal vegetables and fruits can help you have healthy skin. To get full nutrition from the vegetables, one should wash them before peeling and not after they are chopped,” Dr Asaduzzaman stressed.

Scabies, although prevalent throughout the year, shows a marked increase during winter as people tend to share the same blankets and warm clothes during this time. It is important to identify sufferers of scabies and refrain from sharing clothes and comforters with them.

By Mahtabi Zaman


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