Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 35 | February 25, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Straight Talk
   Food for Thought
   Photo Feature
   Time Out
   Slice of Life
   In Retrospect
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home




It all began nearly 250 years ago when the British first wrested control of this land by con.

In the 1757 skirmish at Plassey, often referred to as a battle, Robert Clive and his 800 men defeated the 50,000 army of Nawab Sirajuddowla, despite Bengal's artillery and technical superiority, all because of the betrayal of monafek Mir Zafar, who was bought off by the British clerk.

We have not stopped being bought off, but most importantly the British eradicated many of our century-old traditions and left behind many of their legacies, some of which had been out of context from the very beginning.

William Digby, apparently British, wrote in 'Prosperous British India' published from London 1901, 'Before Plassey was fought and won, and before the streams of treasure began to flow to England, the industries of our country were at very low ebb'.

Karl Marx noted in 1863 in 'The British Rule in India', published from Moscow: 'It was the British intruder who broke up the Indian handloom and destroyed the spinning wheel. England began with driving the Indian cottons from the European market. It then introduced twist into Hindustan and in the end initiated the very mother country of cotton with cottons. From 1818 to 1836 the export of twist from Great Britain to India rose in the proportion of 1 to 5200. In 1824 the export of British muslins to India hardly amount to one million yards while in 1837 it surpassed 64 million yards. But at the same time the population of Dhaka decreased from 150000 to 20000. … British steam and science uprooted, over the whole surface of Hindustan, the union between agriculture and manufacturing industry.'

The uprooting of our customs continues.

We have now managed to transform within about three years of record time a zilch into a national celebration. This one looks like having come via India through its card marketing strategists and the culture transfer tactic catalysed by channel invasion. We should hardly be surprised if some Bangladeshi political party promises Saint Valentine's Day a national holiday in their upcoming election manifesto.

This day is supposed to be a holiday in the Western world honouring lovers. But then are we not West of Myanmar? The custom is to send greeting cards or gifts to express affection on February 14. Valentines, as the cards are called, sport hearts to indicate love. A car or a hefty bank account does better these days. Historians trace the holiday to the ancient Roman feast of Lupercalis celebrated on February 15. But because the feast day of two 3rd century Roman martyrs, both named St. Valentine, fell on February 14, and because St. Valentine was traditionally regarded as the patron saint of lovers, the day was chosen by card manufacturers as yet another number to add to their Mother's Day, Father's Day, Teachers Day, Grandmother's Day...

Now Pyar Ali, who got off at Sadarghat at dawn on Saint Valentine's Day after a long night's journey from Hularhat, knew none of this. He was confronted by a chirpy interviewer from a local TV channel at the Terminal Building with the microphone and the set question up his throat, 'What do you understand by bhaalo basha?'

Not taken aback Mr Ali was taking his time. He had seen such scenes on TV back home. The bubbly thing kept egging him on.

Bhaalo bashabhaalo basha should have current, water, good place to keep the cows, rain should not come in through the roof…'

Mrs Pyar Ali, who had fallen behind, had by then caught up with her husband. She tugged at him on seeing this shahurey lady rather aggressive. Biting at her aanchol she muttered, 'What does she want with you?'

'She wants to know what I understand by bhaalo basha', said he.

'You have no shame-sharam. After two marriages and still you are at it'.

Mr Ali took out his tongue long enough to be able to bite it. 'Whenever I don't have something to eat in the morning I hear and say funny things. But why should this town girl want to know such a stupid thing. Everyone knows what love is.'

'You don't understand kissu', said the wife. 'She is rich. Cannot you see how many guys are working for her? She even has her own video. She goes on asking the same thing to everyone and everybody. She then uses the answers she likes to impress her would-be'.
'Would be?'
'He is another champion, who pretends he does not know what love is'.
'How does that help him?'
'Don't you understand? Town girls like stupid boys, so that she can put a string around his nose and drag him to wherever she likes'.
'But town guys are not stupid!'
'That's what I am telling you! The town girls are not clever enough to know that.'
'What if he is caught being not stupid?'
'He will just say sorry. Whatever they do, if they say sorry everything is forgiven.'
'But that is love?'
'Neither the town boy or the town girl are clever enough to understand <>heiya.'
'What about the girl making a mistake?'
'Have I ever made a mistake?' asked Mrs Pyar Ali shyly.
'Dhooro! Did I say that?'
'Aida-o love!' said she.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2005