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Not lost but gone before

I can still remember the anticipation like it was yesterday. Right after I would wake up I could feel the different mood of the day. At the breakfast table I would notice that our 'chokidar' did not give me his total attention and stare like a hawk to see if I had finished my breakfast like on usual days. He, with the rest of the staff, would be very busy that day. My mother would take out her finest china and silverware and the 'chokidar' would polish the silverware to the point that it would resemble a mirror. Our 'malis' (gardeners) would be busy pruning the lawn and would pluck bunches of beautiful flowers of the season from the garden to be displayed inside the bungalow.

I remember one of our 'chokidars', named Bashu, who could arrange flowers beautifully like an Ikebana artist. And of course the most important staff of the day, our famous cook, I remember him an old man but extremely active. He was short, bald-headed with a white beard and noticeably strong hands for his tiny frame -- probably it was the result of years of preparing mouth-watering dishes. I remember him and my mother, who is a phenomenal cook herself, would go over the menu and I just loved to hear our cook say the names of those dishes he would prepare. In his youth he served the British planters and was taught pretty well.

With all the excitement of the day what I remember the most is how my restless little heart would be filled with dread. And the fear would rise every passing hour, as the hour drew near.

I was seven or eight when my father worked for British tea company James Finlays, the largest in Bangladesh at that time. The tea estates were situated mostly throughout different parts of Sylhet and some in Chittagong. At that time we were in a tea estate named 'Balisera' and our bungalow was called 'boro bungalow', rightfully so. It was majestic -- dramatic curved driveway, steps leading to a spacious veranda that stretched out like wings on both sides, a huge green lawn in front and it was surrounded by tall dark green bushes that were always well maintained. A beautiful flower garden that had all the colours of the rainbow and the air was always filled with the scent of exotic flowers, grass, and wet soil.

On that particular day Mr. Stoneweek would come for lunch at our bungalow. They came around twice a year to inspect the tea plantation, and it was customary that the visitor be invited for a formal lunch. My father would be bringing the guest back from the tea garden visit. And when the blue jeep would approach our driveway my fear would reach its peak. I would have to go out in the veranda to receive our guest and politely say “Hello, how do you do,” and then shake hands. I would practise saying this to myself hundreds of times and go over the perfect timing between saying “hello” and shaking hands, and of course almost every time my shake would be either too late or hopelessly premature.

And on top of that was the added pressure of what if he asks me more questions and I am unable to answer properly in English. I just didn't want to disappoint my father. When my father and I talk about those memories now, he feels a bit guilty thinking he was too hard on me, but I believe that a good father supports his child but a great father pushes her to excel to her limits.

Life of the tea planters -- the grand bungalows, staff for each different chore to maintain the lifestyle, planters' clubs, grand balls with live music, tennis tournaments, cricket matches, flower shows, picnics -- is a world that only the people who lived in could fully comprehend. I spent my childhood and adolescence in that lifestyle and I remember when I would take holiday trips to Dhaka to my 'nanabari', it seemed like a completely different world. And once you are in that tea planters' world it never leaves you. My father left James Finlays more than twenty years back, but still he is very much a part of that community. He still takes part in the numerous events the planters organise each year.

A couple of months ago my father took a trip for such an event. After returning he called me to talk about his trip. He talked about the ball he went to and of all the old friends he met after a long time. Then he started telling me about an old cemetery he visited where all the past British tea planters were buried. He told me that in all the many years he spent there he never visited the cemetery properly, but this time he did and he took the time to read many of the tombstones and their stories.

So many of them had died so young. He took pictures of those tombstones and sent them to me. As a child I remember passing that cemetery many times and always had this urge to go inside, but that never happened. I was curious, so I took a look at the tombstone pictures my father sent. And one by one I started to read their stories.

Without going into details about the history of tea plantation in Bangladesh, during the seventeenth century tea became popular in the European market, at that time the Dutch and the British used to import tea from the Chinese, who were the first ones to start using tea. Later the British East India Company became interested in producing tea in the Indian subcontinent since it was controlled by them. Assam was the birthplace of tea plantation in this region. But in Sylhet the first tea plantation was established in 1854, which was named Malnicherra. And so followed the arrival of the British tea planters, their families, grand bungalows, poor labour who were brought from Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and many of the poorer provinces. Their descendants still live today protecting the past with their distinct physical feature, names and language.

Browsing through the pictures I happened upon a name, James Peter Russell, born in Scotland on February 24, 1864. The tombstone says, “who met his death by an accident at Schindarkhan June 10 1888”. He was only 24 years old.

I do not know what kind of accident he suffered. Did he have a lover or fiancé back in Scotland? What made him journey for more than a month on a ship to reach this exotic land halfway around the world, was he looking for an adventure?

Emily Graham, wife of D.W Elder, died of Malarial fever on November 2, 1885. Malarial fever claimed many lives around that time which was unique to that part of the country. I see the picture of a beautifully carved tomb stone, Christian Annie's. The dearly beloved child of William and Jessie Mackintosh died at Kajuricherra 12 May 1897, aged 2 years and 3 months.

William John Young was only 7 months old when he died on August 22, 1885 in Chatlapur. On the same stone there is mention of another infant named John, perhaps a younger brother who died 6 years later in 1891, and it said “who survived but few hours, they are not lost but gone before”.

Many infants and young children were laid to rest in that cemetery. How extraordinarily difficult it must have been for the parents to grieve the loss of a beloved child in an unknown country far away from close family members to console them, and then leaving behind those precious ones when they had to leave knowing that they will not be able to visit the grave and put flowers whenever they wanted. Their connections to the loved ones were only in their memories.

And exactly at that moment I realised that all of those pioneer British tea planters had made many sacrifices -- from my dreadful memories of those luncheons and history lessons on the unjustified takeover of the British from that fateful war of Palashi, I never thought about them from any other perspective. The British may have started the tea plantation on our land for the sole purposes of their own profit and benefit but in the process it did create a huge industry and a beautiful gem on the map of our country. And if it wasn't for their vision and sacrifices, many, including my father and I, would not have had the privilege to have lived in one of the most beautiful and special places on earth, in those grand bungalows, among nature and the breathtaking emerald green of those tea gardens.

But above all today my heart is filled with compassion for those past British and Scottish tea planters, their spouses, children who are laid to rest far away from their motherland. They rarely get visitors but still their tombstones stand tall, reminding us of the past, as if telling us 'come look at us, we have great tales to tell, we are not lost, just gone before'.

I do know this much, my next trip to the tea gardens will be with a bouquet of flowers in my hand.

By Tasmia Karim.
Photo by Sazzad Karim
Special thanks to my father Sazzad Karim for his amazing stories. Some historical facts were collected from the book 'Camellia Sinensis' by M.A. Zaman.


Christmas awareness

The Second Intercultural Lounge Music Festival 'Christmas Special' organised by Nusrat Jahan Pritom in association with Animatix Records and generously sponsored by Wedding Diary, Laser Treat and Nokon group was held at the Village Restaurant (Gulshan-1) on Saturday, 22 December, 2012. This was a not-for-profit event, and even with the majority of the expatriate musicians who usually participate in this music festival being on leave for holidays, NJ Events & Communication managed to create a magical night of music with performances by bands like 'Rhythm n' Blue' and 'Jack and Jill', along with a special guitar performance by Anik.

To celebrate this holiday season all sorts of Christmas decorations were immaculately done with a Christmas tree along with various types of lighting and trinkets beautifully put up, courtesy of all the sponsors. Santa Claus was also invited to entertain the guests and to hand out chocolates. Guests enjoyed a special buffet spread, available courtesy of Alifur Rahman, Director of Village Restaurant.

This annual event is basically a medium to bring together people of different cultural backgrounds on one platform under one banner through music. However, this year the fundraiser was put together for two specific purposes -- to help provide medical aid to Al-Amin Onik, a patient undergoing dialysis for approximately 2 years, and to support an orphanage at Charfasson, in Bhola.

The organisers were kind enough to provide guests the relevant details as to why they chose to support these two particular causes. Although unable to directly communicate with Al-Amin himself due to his medical condition those present at the occasion learned that his entire family is under a lot of financial and emotional stress as dialysis is not only an expensive procedure but also a very painful one. Al-Amin also lost his father a while ago while his mother was diagnosed with diabetes. Therefore, the main objective of the organisers is not only to help this particular patient but also to spread awareness for such patients all over Bangladesh who are suffering from such issues.

Although deeply invested in such causes, according to the organisers it is immensely difficult to initiate such campaigns to spread awareness and try to aid these people as society at large tends to question the reliability and authenticity of such programmes, because there have been instances when people have been conned out of their hard-earned money through similar facades. Therefore, all the attending guests of the event were provided with the contact number of the patient's mother and the patient's current address. The contributors can thus be assured of their donations going to a noble cause.

Now, moving on to the Charfasson Orphanage, this home has sheltered around 1436 children for over 25 years. Former UNDP Consultant A.H. Mainuddin (Jahangir) is the founder and operational head. Since this orphanage is located well out of Dhaka in the rural parts of Bhola, not many people from Bangladesh volunteer to work there or are even aware of its existence. Mostly expatriates and foreigners from certain universities work to help this home. Due to the critical financial position of the orphanage it might be put out of operation, thus depriving the disadvantaged children of a roof over their heads.

By Noshin Nawal

Jamdani exhibition @ Anjan's

Do you know the literal meaning of Jamdani? This word is one with a Persian origin: 'Jam” means flower and “Dani” means a vase or container. Why this name is used to describe a fabric is not clear, but one can guess that perhaps it might have something to do with the flowery motifs and patterns in the dress. These motifs are one of the reasons which made Jamdani so popular.

With the unique minds of artisans and their hands skilled for perfection, the motifs never fail to mesmerise us. The designs and the patterns are several centuries old, passed on from one generation to the next. These motifs make Jamdani saris look so beautiful and elegant. Jamdani saris are (rightfully) very expensive, but you can now have Jamdani designs pretty easily.

On 25 December, 2012, Anjan's, a fashion brand that's needs no introduction, has commenced a Jamdani exhibition and sale. The exhibition will continue till 12 January, 2013 at Anjan's outlets in Banani 11, Wari and Baily Road.

The motifs on Jamdani have been used on different attires, such as panjabis, shirts, shalwar kameez sets, and of course, saris. The use of motifs does not end here. Anjan's also has a collection of jewellery, cushion covers et al with Jamdani motifs. The idea is to make jamdani more accessible and popular to all. The work has been done very cautiously, taking care not to harm the image or concept of jamdani. Hence, no stone has been left turned when it came to using the age-old motifs found in Jamdani saris and attires. You would find the same beautiful motifs you find on jamdani.

This is why this exhibition is worth going to - it will give you the opportunity to have the touch of Jamdani in more ways and on more items than you thought it was possible.

Apart from that, of course, there is a line of beautiful Jamdani saris too, with price tags varying from Tk.4000 to Tk.70000.

By M H Haider


Lifestyle 2012

2012 hasn't only been a hectic year for Bangladesh but also for your favourite magazine, Star Lifestyle. If you have been observant, and we hope you have been, then you must have noticed the numerous changes we have made throughout the year. Here we take the time to point out those changes that we have made just to make sure we deliver the content that our readers want to see!

Our very first change was to go twenty pages, so that we could accommodate all your favourite columns along with the numerous other features that we bring about, without fail, on a weekly basis. Even though 20 pages is not enough for us to express all we want, it's a start. The second thing you would notice is the glossy cover paper we have opted to go with, assuring that not only the content but our presentation is of quality as well. The reception to the glossy cover has obviously been more than positive but why rest on our laurels, right?

Being a lifestyle magazine, we have often been asked to appeal to all spheres of a person's life, as such a magazine is expected to. Given this demand, Lifestyle has also undertaken a more holistic approach in the year 2012. Our efforts to appeal to readers with more varied interests have led to the spawning of numerous new columns, catering to the many different tastes from our different reader demographics.

This year you will have encountered many new columns. “Creative Mum” has dealt with exciting new ideas for mums to try and make their own gifts, parties, themes, recipes and anything that makes life as a mum much easier. “Figuring fatherhood” took on a tangent not too far, with E R Ronny explaining how fatherhood really is. But parenthood isn't really where we decided to call it quits.

The other prominent thing you would have noticed is Lifestyle is turning more male-centric than before. This time around we made sure that our articles appealed as much to our male readers as it did to our female readers. Columns like “Engine Block”, “Man to Man” and even “Skip the Gym”. But apart from that we also had “Living and Loving with Plants”, “Ask Dr. Sagir” (a column on pet care) etc., all illustrating the diversity of the magazine.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes would have been Lifestyle giving the male readers of our magazine more attention than before. Columns such as “Man to Man”, “Engine Block”, “Figuring Fatherhood” and “Skip the Gym”, etc. have all been added keeping the male audience in mind. These columns, along with our numerous other cover stories have made Lifestyle much more male-centric, although that doesn't take away the attention given to the fairer sex.

2012 has indeed been an exciting year for each and everyone one of us, in different ways. However, regardless of how significant the changes have been for us, there is no denying the fact that this has indeed been a life-altering year, in some way or form. Here's wishing our readers a very, very Happy New Year!

2012's culture explosion

What a tumultuous year 2012 has been! In the past 12 months, Bangladesh has suddenly evolved from being just another developing country to becoming one of the most happening countries in the region. Be it cultural, academic, fashion-wise or in athletics, Bangladesh has made strides in all spheres. Here, we recount some of the most stand-out events of the year.

Sports galore
This year, Bangladesh played host to not only the Asia Cup but also launched our very own version of the insanely popular IPL, titled the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). Apart from providing the perfect platform for numerous future stars, Bangladesh also played host to the who's who of the cricketing world. Household names from Chris Gayle to Shahid Afridi drew some of the largest crowds seen. And all this before the Asia Cup, one of Bangladesh cricket's crowning moments.

Make way for Hay
Literature aficionados were left starstruck when the Hay Festival finally returned to Dhaka. This year drew record crowds to one of the most famous events of the literature world. Up close and personal with the likes of Vikram Seth, Nandita Das and Mohammad Haneef among many others, visitors could be forgiven for forgetting that they were still in Dhaka. With the behemoths of the literature world, it was indeed an unforgettable event.

Music for the soul
Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Alarmel Valli, Kumar Bose and Birju Maharaj all descended on the elaborately-designed stage right here at the Army Stadium, for the first International Classical Musical Festival in Bangladesh. The biggest classical music festival attracted waves of crowds, all of whom were enthralled and mesmerised by the haunting tunes of Hari Prasad's flute, Alarmel Valli's fluid movements and Kumar Bose's magical beats from his Tabla. This was the first time such big names came to Dhaka.

The net step
Internet has brought the world closer. This can be best exemplified by looking into the wardrobe of any fashionista of Bangladesh. With global brands dominating the selection in most closets, Bangladesh's fashion scene has changed drastically. With online shops sprouting up on Facebook and with the youth more fashion conscious than ever, it is no surprise to see what's hot in London and Milan being replicated in the streets of Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet, among others. But the trend doesn't stop there. Through Facebook, many entrepreneurs have started opening up pages of famous brands dedicated to Bangladeshi customers, including doorstep delivery.

Food for thought
Kenny Rogers Roasters is the newest addition to Bangladesh's growing franchise scene. Following on the heels of Gloria Jean's coffee, these two famous chains add to the list of names including Nando's, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc. Of course international franchises aren't the only things happening. The palates of the Bangladeshi urbanites have also changed rapidly, with a shift towards the sweeter things in life. This has resulted in numerous cupcakes, cakes and other such delicacies suddenly becoming hot commodities.

Comic Con
What SRK Hollywood Showtime, Jamil's Comics and Saadi's Collectables started off as a novel venture, has now turned into a full-fledged movement. Although comic books and collectible figurines have always been around, just how big the scene is was a recent revelation. Capitalising on this, Dhaka welcomed its first ever Comic Con, which had musical shows, action figurine exhibitions and comic book displays.

By Osama Rahman


Don't get mugged
As politics turns more confrontational and winter keeps most people inside their homes when the darkness settles, travelling during the night has become just that much riskier. With Dhaka city not known for safety and muggings becoming an almost everyday incident, here are a few things you can do to remain on the safe side.

Don't dress to impress
Although this goes against the very principle of fashion, it's a matter of safety. If you dress too rich and too flashy, then you draw attention to yourself. Muggers won't know all about your background but will rely on their perception of you. If you look rich, chances are your wallet will be too. Drab down during the winter nights if you must go out. No fancy clothes, jewellery or watches; keep it simple.

Use the buddy system
If you must travel at night, try and get a few buddies to go along with you. There is strength in numbers and you're more likely to be a victim of street-crime when you are alone than when you are with a group of people. Having friends around or even by just travelling on frequently used routes will keep you among people and the muggers far away.

The old switch-a-roo
Always keep your money as far away from the obvious place as possible. Keep two wallets if necessary and slip the one with more cash somewhere underneath your sock or some other hiding spot. You can also sew a hidden pocket but expect to be patted down. Muggers will not waste hours on you, they'll be quick about their business. So just handing them the wallet is a good idea but handing them the wallet with less money is the better idea.

If you got it, don't flaunt it
There really is no need to loudly talk on your expensive phone or listen to your Ipod at full blast. If you flaunt it and rub it in people's faces, you are more likely to get mugged. It's all in the attitude. Plus when you are so engrossed in your music or conversations, you lose sense of your surroundings. This brings us to the most crucial point.

Be watchful not watched
Usually a mugger will spend time watching you and seeing his escape routes and the surrounding area. You ought to do the same. Avoid blind spots as much as possible and stray as close to places which offer the most escape routes. Be aware of your surroundings because that is your key to being safe. Watch out for people eyeing you too much or following you. Finally, act like a predator and not a prey. If you seem like you will fight back, chances are that you will be left alone. This doesn't mean you stare down everyone. In fact avoid eye contact as much as possible. Just don't let them know when you are fearful. That's like blood for sharks.

Take these steps and hopefully you will be safe for yet another winter. If not, remember the first rule of survival; when you are getting mugged, don't fight back because no phone is worth losing your life over.

By Osama Rahman


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