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FIGURING FATHERHOOD

To all the fathers in the world

Quote of the week: It's never been easier to be a dad. Or more difficult.

Unlike the chicken and the egg, there is no doubt where life really starts when it comes to humans: Facebook. People are always, always connected to it. And then there are mothers, another important source of life for humans. They carry a child for nine long months while making everyone around go nuts. They suffer through childbirth which apparently is like several bone fractures happening at once. Then they are the first ones called by the principal to pick up the child from detention, regularly. Sorry mom and thank you dear principal, but not really.

So motherhood isn't a piece of cake. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or … lying. But this is not about mothers. This is about the other important character in a child's life hidden in the shadows. Fathers. When I asked our generation's greatest wiseman (Google) about sites devoted to fathers, there popped up some link promising 25 top sites. Search mothers and the first thing is a list of top 50 sites. This is followed by another link showing top 100 sites without much repetition.

Modern fathers are a weird bunch. Where their predecessors were content with working, fighting or in case of royalty, doing nothing, modern dads meddle with the impossible. They try to see their kid grow up. And in the process they end up learning all the different colours that baby poop can be. Modern fathers think they are awesome. They think they can work, continue their hobbies involving cars or whathaveyou and teach the kid important things like life, cake and cars. They think they are Superman. Newsflash, Superman wears his underwear outside his pants. A man with his undies on wrong can't really tell you anything worthwhile about being a father.

But I can. Or rather I can share with you what it's like to be a father who thinks he can do everything. So far, I've managed to do everything wrong a father can do. And what I can share, maybe, just maybe it'll help some poor soul somewhere into becoming that awesome figure kids think their father's to be: the real Superman. Trust me, I have my underwear on the right side. See you in the next column.

By Ehsanur Reza Ronny


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LS EDITOR'S NOTE

Success in the dark

The informal economy plays a very thriving and dominant role in our socio-economic sector but sadly it doesn't get to leave any mark on the GDP. In a country where there are 30 lakh TIN holders out of which only 10 lakh are actually paying taxes, how do we account for the thousands of teeming vendors on the streets, the service people at our houses and the support staffs without whom our homes and careers would have nosedived long ago?

Recently, I came across a strong calling of women rights activists to evaluate and incorporate women's non-economic contributions towards her family, her society and lastly her State to the GDP. It got me thinking.

Fulmoti came to Dhaka in 1996, a single mother of a young girl; ever since, she has been employed as household help for a working couple. She came to the city as a destitute, who earned a few pennies and a sack of rice grain by breaking bricks at a highway construction site. Now she has two saving schemes at a reputed local bank, a piece of land in her village and school-going grandchildren.

If this isn't a success story to brag about then I fail to understand what is. But how do we account for her contribution? Why will we not evaluate her contribution to society? Why will we not try to appreciate the fact that if Fulmoti was not there to support the lady of that house, she would not have been able to go to work and share the finances of maintaining her home. Forget about having a career.

From bringing the child home from school to making her favourite sandwich or pasta, ensuring the child studies properly when tutors come home, stocking the fridge with its weekly needs to pampering the man of the house with his favourite curry Fulmoti does everything that her employer would have to do if she was not around. Why should her contribution towards this society not be calculated and why shouldn't it be evaluated? Thousands of Fulmotis are helping out thousands of us working women and unfortunately their labour is considered part of the informal economy. And many of us women treat them as lesser mortals giving the society at large reason to do the same.

If you are to consider the men in the informal economy the number would not be any less. All sorts of vendors, the one who sells cigarettes and tea at the tong to the vegetable and fruit vendors, the fishmongers, the grocers, the vendors selling clothes at the flea market. They are all income-generating people ensuring that their children are fed, clothed and secure, even if it is on their own poor economic terms.

However there is no mechanism to account for these financial activities because as a society we do not place sufficient importance on accountability. We don't have social security numbers, our unemployment data are not released; so bridging the gap between formal and informal economy is no ordinary task. If we cannot calculate, if there is no data, then there is no evaluation either. The maths of economics is that black or white.

I don't understand economics let alone its hard core issues but this much I can demand that Fulmoti's contribution towards the society and economy be addressed with fairness and respect.

-- Raffat Binte Rashid


HAVE YOUR SAY

It was not what I expected

Tuesdays are awesome because Star Lifestyle is there. Since Monday I was really excited about the 20 page issue. I was expecting something more, something different. Well according to me it was not worth what I had expected; instead it was pages filled with advertisements, which we easily get to see the minute we turn the TV on, or on billboards, the main newspaper and other likely places. Well, of course there should be advertisements but its better when they do not fill the whole page. It gets frustrating this way.

On another note, in many ways it was interesting as always. The cover surely caught my 15-year-old daughter's attention. Articles such as “Yesterday's Eyeliner”, “What is Aging You”, and on foods that can help soothe headaches and some others were good too.

And I look forward to such articles and great health tips.

Taking the freedom of giving suggestions, on behalf of my daughter I would request that there should be something or the other for young teenagers… fashion, health tips, skincare, proper diet etc.

The horoscope column is expected to provide more detailed information.

The shoptalk column was helpful and I hope to find places where it would be perfect to fish for clothes, accessories, shoes, etc.

I personally would also like to suggest that there should be some fashion tips for middle-aged women and for men regularly. I would love it if I can find tips on maintaining a slim and fit body for myself. Food and restaurants should also be given some attention in the lifestyle supplement. I would also prefer more recipes like in Naksha, the Prothom Alo Tuesday magazine. Most of the recipes I find here requires using the microwave oven; I prefer something out of the oven and more innovative. Bitter gourd recipes a while back were a real help.

My husband did not appreciate missing out on Karim Waheed's regular “Skip the Gym…Get Fit”, but he liked that Lifestyle is writing on holiday sites and ways of spending weekends, i.e. the “Thank God its Friday ” column.

So you see the whole family is really into this magazine. And so we have taken the freedom to suggest what we want.

Fiona Zaer
Dhaka

I greatly appreciate your letter -- it pleases me no end to know that our publication has a loyal following, and even more to see that Star Lifestyle is a favourite with all the members of your family. Much as your appreciation encourages us, your criticism is valuable because it provides an insight into what our readers are looking for, which in turn helps us improve.

Going twenty pages has been a significant step, undertaken so that we can broaden our scope and offer more variety and depth for our readers. With regards to your slight disappointment with our first 20-page issue (Published Tuesday May 15 2012), I can only request that you keep reading and that I am confident that you will like what is in the offing.

Even with our expansion to 20 pages, it is not possible to include every column every week, so it is inevitable that there may be a week that your favourite bit of Lifestyle is missing. Many columns like Karim Waheed's 'Skip The Gym… Get Fit', that seems to be a favourite of your husband's (and a large proportion of our male readers'), run on alternate weeks.

Thank you for your encouraging words, and I am happy to take all of your suggestions on board. I fervently hope that this issue and future issues will satisfy your Tuesday desire for a splash of style and substance.

-- LS Editor


SKIP THE GYM...GET FIT

Get pain off your back

By Karim Waheed

I've heard countless people complaining about back problems. Usually, the treatment for lower back pain is working on your core strength to increase flexibility of muscles that are tight, which will provide better stabilisation of the spine and exercises to correct the imbalances of the muscles. The muscles that surround the spine will provide stability and support to the spinal column.

Every muscle between the hips and shoulders are included as well, as these muscles are referred to as the core muscles. Back pain can be a result of muscle imbalances caused by any of these core muscles.

Our society has shifted much over the past decades to more and more sedentary jobs, causing everyone to slouch over in the seat at his/her desk, resulting in loose back muscles. We have been training, unknowingly, to provide our bodies with imbalances. It's just ludicrous if you really think about it.

There are some effective ways that you can integrate core strength training exercises into your workout, rather than doing just the traditional crunches and sit-ups.

One way of improving core strength is by breathing effectively. Deep breathing will utilise the diaphragm muscles that will help support the spinal column and lengthen the spine, which is great for the lower back.

The respiratory system is probably the most overlooked system when we train. I mean, we walk and run all the time, which involves breathing, but studies are starting to show that the majority of people actually have inconsistent breathing patterns.

The plank exercise can also help reduce back pain and strengthen the core muscles as well. The exercise is performed by having three points of contact on the floor, both forearms and toes, facing the floor, and contracting our core for a set amount of time.

Another type of plank is the side plank, which is great for strengthening obliques. This exercise involves 2 points of contact, the side of one foot and one elbow. You'll be perpendicular to the floor, having to contract one side of your core to keep yourself with a neutral spine.

There are also a number of stretches for lower back pain that include the lumbar side stretch, hip flexor stretch, and calf stretches.

When doing a hip flexor stretch, bring one foot forward in a bent knee, 90-degree angle, while your other leg is on the floor behind you with your foot pointed upwards toward the ceiling.

The hip flexor stretch will help to open up the muscles of your back on the side of the spine near your hips. You can also squeeze your glutes as well, to deepen the stretch with each breath. You should begin to feel a stretch in your back leg, in the front thigh and the hamstrings of your front leg. Some people also refer to this stretch as a runner's stretch.

I can tell you from experience that inactivity is worse for your back than anything. It may sound strange but when you start experiencing a pain in your back, it's probably time to actually start doing something, rather than “resting it” even more.

Another important point to consider when doing any activity is the proper form for each exercise. Keeping a neutral spine, instead of finding yourself bending forward or rounding forward at the shoulders, is a huge key to staying injury free.

The last thing you should really consider, especially if you lift weights, is to build in a few more sets of posterior chain exercises than anterior chain. This just means doing a few more sets for the muscles of the back of your body than the front.

Back pain can be a huge cause of stress. As working urban individuals, we constantly sit for hours upon hours, which doesn't do anything to help solve the problem. If you really want to find a solution for your back pain, consult a physician and see if you're healthy enough to start doing some physical activity. It might be the only prescription you need.

If you have any questions regarding fitness issues or the column, please email lifestyleds@yahoo.com.


ENGINE BLOCK

Your car is trying to kill you

By Ehsanur Reza Ronny

No really, it is but not yet in a way we can send cars to jail for. Let's face it, no matter how much we love cars, they are bad. Carbon emissions, killing small animals on the road, causing people to waste hours of their lives looking at car pictures that could otherwise be spent on Facebook -- it's a bad thing. But sometimes, just sitting inside can be a risk.

Old cars smell like whatever is in it the most; could be socks, food or even the people who aren't always known for smelling like fresh daisies. Only daisies can do that. New cars on the other hand have what is known as 'The New Car Smell'. It's a heady mix of fresh paint, upholstery, deodorisers, and plastic in the car's interior. Deodorant manufacturers spend tons to create The New Car Smell for old cars with 'people smell'. Even car manufacturers spend a lot to ensure there's an agreeable New Car Smell in their new cars.

But studies have shown these contain potentially harmful gaseous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The VOCs persist long after the smell is gone and the car is old, and levels increase when your car heats up. So if you're in Canada, it's all good. In Bangladesh, it is hot all the time.

So are you dying? Possibly not. You're more likely to die from a falling Biman engine. But that doesn't mean it should be ignored. Studies have shown some cars contain more of these compounds than others. These can in some cases cause fatigue as well as irritation of the respiratory pathway and eyes.

How to be safe? A car parked in the sun causes most vapours to release. It's an oven in there. So leave the windows cracked open a fraction to let the hot air out. Also you can use a windshield sunshade that's available in reflective material or those annoying pictures of a woman trying to peek through Venetian blinds.

As for getting in the car, lower the windows, turn the fan full blast and let the hot air out for a few minutes. It will not only help remove the pent up VOCs but also help cool the car faster when you turn on the AC a little later.

Next time you look at your car with love and affection like I always do with mine, tell it that you know. They say knowing is winning half the battle.



 

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