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BEAUTY TALK

The history of makeup

SADIA MOYEEN Beautician, La Belle
13/A /2 Kemal Ataturk Avenue,
(3rd/ 4th fl) Gulshan -2

Cosmetics used for ritual or beautification date back to ancient times and were common in every area and culture of the world. In the Middle East, archaeologists discovered palettes used for grinding and mixing face powder as early as 6000 BC.

In Egypt, eye makeup was widely used by 4000 BC. Egyptian women shaded their eyes with a green powder made from malachite, sometimes mixed with a glittering powder of crushed iridescent green beetle shells.

The insides of the eyes were lined and their eyelashes and brows darkened with kohl, a powder made from antimony, burnt almonds, black oxide from copper and ochre clay. Rouge was created by mixing clay with saffron, which Egyptian women applied to their cheeks.

Cosmetics were not the sole domain of Egyptian women, however as evidenced by the generous supply of skin cream, lip colour and rouge found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Even the Old Testament refers to face painting, indicating the Hebrews also adopted Egyptian makeup practices.

Unlike the Greeks , who favoured a more natural look, the Romans wholeheartedly adopted Egyptian makeup techniques, favouring the use of kohl for lining the eyes and darkening lashes. Although the use of cosmetics declined during the early Christian era, the Crusaders of the middle ages returned home with cosmetics they discovered in the East and later spread throughout Europe.

Face painting, often with poisonous pigments, gained popularity during the Renaissance. By the 17th century rouge, face powder and lip rouge were worn by both men and women of the upper classes.

While makeup use became excessive in the 18th century, fashion reversed during the Victorian age in England.

Anything more than a touch of powder or rouge was considered unacceptable for 'nice' women. Thanks to the French, the use of cosmetics was revived. That makeup essential was introduced by Empress Eugenie.

Unfortunately, until modern times the composition of makeup was often toxic and deadly. The white powder used for hundreds of years to lighten complexion contained large quantities of lead. Safe cosmetics were not developed and used until the late 19th century in France. As a result, over the counter cosmetics became more widely used.

Today, advances in science and technology offer cosmetics that are not only safe but also designed for beautiful results.


GASTRONOMIA

Oh! Calcutta?

I meant, Oh really? An 'Oh! Calcutta' in Dhaka? Hmmmm. Or to make a total Hing-Aloor-Dom of an explanation for my title: I meant, may I plead naïve ignorance for asking, what is an Indian chain restaurant doing in Dhaka? A restaurant, I hasten to add, that I really like. But, here in Dhaka?

Perhaps it is the paucity of my imagination, but why can't I visualise the reverse: perhaps a restaurant named 'Oh! Dhaka' in Delhi, or a 'Kosturi' in Kolkata? Maybe there are Bangladeshi enterprises, shops and restaurants flourishing in India. I just don't know about them, and would love to be enlightened on this.

But hey, let us start afresh. This article is meant to be an appreciation of a fairly recently opened restaurant in Dhaka offering a cuisine that is Bengali and familiar, yet different and exotic at the same time.

Two months ago, while passing through Dhaka, I had the pleasure of being taken by a friend to the 'Oh! Calcutta' restaurant, which, in a generic sense, was not unfamiliar to me. I had been to their Delhi branch a few years ago, though never to the original Kolkata eatery. So, I knew that an 'Oh! Calcutta' experience meant a taste of authentic 'Opaar Bangla' or Calcatian food, combined with the culinary legacy of other ethnic and cultural groups that had drifted into the gastronomic orbit of this colonial and cosmopolitan megacity of Poshchim Bongo.

I wanted to revisit some of the dishes that were part of the menu of the 'Oh! Calcutta' at Nehru Place in Delhi, especially the Railway Chicken curry. The whole idea of partaking of food flavoured with any kind of history, colonial in the case of the Railway curry, is something that appeals to me. I also recalled the evocative way each dish was described in the Delhi menu. I had salivating memories of their Aam Kashondi Kakra (Crabmeat cooked in a mango-flavoured mustard gravy with young ginger); the Mocha chop (Banana flower croquettes); the Daab-Chingri (prawns in green coconut cream curry) rounded off with an Attar Payesh (custard-apple milk pudding).

We took the lift up to the Dhaka branch in Banani, (Road 11, House number 49) and got off at the sixth floor. Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed that it was not as elegant as the Delhi one, but welcoming and cosy. The service, however, was amazing. Courteous and personalised attention by the staff, who gently and smilingly guided us through the ordering process, and the quality of the food, convinced me to make a second visit.

Both times I was impressed by the variety and uniqueness of the food. I was surprised that quite a few of our friends had been negative about the restaurant and discouraged me from the place, saying the food was too 'everyday' or 'too sweet' given the alleged propensity of West Bengalis for adding a pinch of sugar to every dish.

However, our experience was a delight. Perhaps we ordered the right food, but I found each dish subtle yet aromatic, or spicy yet balanced. Most dishes were mouth-watering and beautifully presented; but a few were absolutely outstanding.

Of these, I would mention the Gondhoraj Bhetki, tender white fish scented with a flowery lime. I could have eaten just that. Unfortunately, we had gone a little crazy and headily ordered too many things. Still, among the food and drink I recall most vividly on both my visits, I would highly recommend the following: starting the meal with either the Daabka (a sort of virgin Mojito drink of green coconut juice and mint) or the Aam Pora shorbot (Green mango drink); then moving to a starter of the Chana Koraishutir chop (cottage cheese and peas croquettes) and the Gondhoraj Bhetki; then on to the main course, which could be any or all of the following: Luchi with Jhinge Aloo Posto (ridge gourd and potatoes with poppy seeds); plain rice with Anarosh Ilish (Hilsa fish and pineapple); or Bhapa Dhonepata Ilish (Hilsa steamed in banana leaf with coriander leaves) or Kakra-Chingri Bhapa (Crabmeat and shrimps steamed with mustard and green chillies). The Kosha Mangsho was delicious too, though not unique (and shouldn't it be Koshano Mangsho?).

The desserts we tried were excellent: both the Bhapa Shondesh and the Daaber Shondesh were dabs of pure sin on a bed of green banana leaf; and the Malpoa, a delicate crepe in syrup with a piquant pinch of black pepper and fennel in the batter. The Lichur Payesh or milk pudding of lychees is also a delectable ending to a meal to remember.

At least both my meals were memorable, and the courtesy of the staff in patiently helping us choose the perfect combination from a poetic menu, made our dining experience truly an exclamatory one: Oh! Yes! Calcutta.

By Neeman Sobhan


TRAVELOGUE

A trip to San Antonio

San Antonio is a southern Texan city which has its own vibrant identity, and it was the destination of our last winter trip. We planned to escape from the biting cold weather for a few days, so we picked this southern Texas location. Apart from its weather, it was also an attractive destination for its rich history, culture and architecture. Taking a short trip needs a lot of planning. We always do web searches for hotels, possible tours and must-see places. Crowne Plaza Hotel suited our purposes -- close to the Paseo Del Rio, popularly known as the River Walk. Our plan was to spend some quiet time at the magnificent River Walk and its surrounding places.

The River Walk
The San Antonio River carves its way through downtown, creating the world-famous River Walk. The River Walk is below street level and bordered by lush gardens and trees. Pebbled stone paths, arches and antique bridges on both side of the river enhance the beauty of the River Walk.

Located alongside the River Walk and historic Alamo district, the Rivercenter offers restaurants, shops, entertainment places like IMAX Theater, comedy club etc. This beautiful spectacle of the holiday spirit can be enjoyed via the tour barges or by a nice night-time walk.

Cruises offer sightseeing tours and it is a fun thing to do. We took a Riverboat ride in the crispy winter evening. This place has sidewalk cafes, lush tropical foliage and charming boutiques. We found the River Walk's giant cypress trees draped with 100,000 shimmering lights. It's like Venice in Texas. After half an hour's cruise around the River Walk, we had dinner at Acenar, which offers the best Mexican food while providing indoor and outdoor patio dining with the scenic ambience of the San Antonio River Walk.

Trolley Tours are very popular among tourists and there are several tour services available. “Grand Trolley Tours” is a hop on, hop off tour which stops at several attractions -- The Alamo, The River Walk, Hemisfair Park, Tower of the Americas, Mission San Jose, Mission Concepcion, King William District, El Mercado or Market Square, San Fernando Cathedral and La Villita Plaza.

The “Grand Trolley Tours” starts from “The Alamo”, and before hopping onto the trolley we visited the historic site located downtown. The Alamo is the representative of all the Spanish missions which continues to be San Antonio's biggest tourist attraction. The story of General Santa Anna's 13-day siege and the battle of the Alamo in the year 1836 attracts a great many people.

Our first stop was at Mission San Jose -- one of the historic missions and also known as “the Queen of the Missions”, which was established in 1720. With its Spanish architecture, elegant carvings and the massive fort which had undergone several restorations. It is quite impressive. Tourists were gathering in the room where the model was constructed to have a glimpse of the whole Mission. The compound has a chapel, place for weavers, carpenters, and includes a granary and convent. “The Rose Window” is the star attraction, whose motif is popular throughout San Antonio. The gift shop has a good collection of souvenirs.

Market Square is also known as El Mercada; the Mexican shopping centre was our lunchtime stop. The shopping arcade has a large number of shops, and they look like authentic Mexican stores selling varieties of items including pottery, home decoration, ethnic dresses, etc.

We browsed from store to store for a while, and then had lunch at “Mi Tierra”, an authentic Mexican restaurant which apparently was in true fiesta spirit, it also has a café and bakery, never closes and serves its Tex-Mex dishes 24 hours a day. It was a day before Christmas and the place was very festively decorated. Mi Tierra's twinkling lights, Christmas trees, piñatas and ornaments stay up all year long.

After lunch we planned to visit another mission, San Concepcion, but due to inclement weather, had to abandon the plan. In the evening, we decided to see the surrounding area of the River Walk and found some structures rich in architecture, like the Spanish Governor's palace, San Fernando Cathedral where the pre-Christmas mass was in progress. Under the clear sky, the cathedral looked magnificent with a huge Christmas tree glittering with adornments.

On Christmas day, as most of the places were closed, we walked in and around the River Walk including HemisFair Park, Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center and Lila Cockrell Theatre. In the evening, we went out for a dinner at the River Walk and found the place bustling with people. This time we opted for Italian food, and found “Paesano's” quite highly rated and the food delicious. It was rather cold and windy, which we did not expect this time of the year in San Antonio.

The day after Christmas, we went for another day of hop-on, hop-off Trolley Tour. Mission Concepcion was our first stop. With its faded artistry, weathered facades, an austere beauty and the scars of battles, an unwavering spirit lives on in the missions of San Antonio. The National Park ranger explained its history and significance. The mission has an active church. As the people started gathering for the Sunday Service, we headed to our next destination.

From there we went to La Vilita plaza, which used to be a barrack for Spanish soldiers, and now has been converted into boutiques, restaurants and galleries. After lunch we took a taxi and were off to San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) which was built within a converted brewery. SAMA has a good collection of South American art and some interesting collections of American, European and Asian art. For a comparatively new museum, it was a good one.

Our plans of venturing into the city were more or less done. So we decided to take a daylong trip outside the city to Texas Hill Country, which included Texas “White House” and LBJ ranch (Lyndon Baines Johnson), and Fredericksburg (German town). The drive through the rugged countryside was very different. LBJ ranch tour was fascinating - a guided tour of the Presidential residence was really worthwhile.

Fredericksburg is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country and was built by German immigrants in the 1850s. The tour of a 200-acre stretch of land in Fredericksburg's top tourists' attraction “Wildseed Farms” was one of a kind. Wildflower seeds, cactuses, plants and pottery were arranged in racks for sale. Downtown Fredericksburg is the replica of the 19th century town. You will find here German heritage and Texan hospitality.

There are many boutique shops, galleries and restaurants located in downtown Fredericksburg. The day was a clear one and we enjoyed our walking tour. Near the downtown park, an authentic German Christmas Pyramid stood proudly. It was built in Germany and transported from there. It was nice to see a glimpse of old culture in Texas Hill Country.

By Aeman T Rasul


UNDER A DIFFERENT SKY

Punctuated Equilibrium and Phyletic Gradualism

By Iffat Nawaz

In 1991, the day President George H. W. Bush declared the gulf war we were watching television in our living room somewhere near Washington DC. Our family of four -- my parents, my brother and I. Compared to the rest of us, my little brother was very disturbed by the news that America was now at war. It was around 7 pm at night and after a full day of work Baba and Ma decided we should eat out.

My brother, who usually loved eating out, was deeply opposed to that option. He snuck out his head from the veranda and peaked into the streets to see if the soldiers were outside. In his young mind, the declaration of war meant an instant action of firing arms, bombs dropping and a state of curfew. Though that was the case in Iraq already, USA never got the drift of such things until of course 9/11. We couldn't convince my brother to go out that night and ordered in pizza. For him a verbal declaration meant instant change, actions that would follow right away to affect us all directly.

Recently, this 90s memory came back to me. I was in midair somewhere and the world was turning another year, 2012. People around the continents were making resolutions and celebrating hope. They were reflecting on the past, pondering about the future, the usual emotional stuff that happens every year.

There is a theory in evolutionary biology, Punctuated Equilibrium, proposing species mostly remain the same until rare and geologically rapid events occur to change the species in a significant manner all of a sudden. After drastic geological events the species change in drastic ways, splitting into two species. Punctuated Equilibrium proposes sudden transformations of one.

There is another theory in contrast to Punctuated Equilibrium called Phyletic gradualism, which theorises that evolution of most species are slow, uniform and gradual. When evolution occurs in this mode, it is usually by the steady transformation of a whole species into a new one. In this view there is no clear line of demarcation between an ancestral species and a descendant species, and transformation is smooth and continuous.

Of course evolution can occur following both theories, but if I put our minds against these theories of evolution, it seems we are seeking Punctuated Equilibrium, that big change, that chance, that a certain event will cause us, or something around us to change drastically. Gradual changes are boring, the hope is less in them, the waiting is too long but believing in Punctuated Equilibrium makes new years, birthdays, so much more special, so much more worth celebrating.

My brother has grown up now, he knows that wars can be deadly, they can be gradual and slow poisoning, that they do not always happen with a blast. He knows that sometimes Punctuated Equilibrium is what we want, for everything to end or start all at once, but what we get is not always so clear, not so defined.

People say changes are happening all the time but we want to see and hold those changes in our arms and then we remember it's the age of digitalisation, everything is attainable yet so untouchable all at the same time. For me 2012 is the year of no resolutions, no punctuation or gradualism, just life as it has been happening, and for it to continue, as it is...

 
 
 

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