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     Volume 8 Issue 78 | July 17, 2009 |

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Know Thy Youths

Elita Karim

I have been lucky enough to come face to face with many young intellectuals in this country, who are in fact doing a praiseworthy job, be it in the field of music, art, social welfare, film making, writing etc. But what is amusing is the streak of familiarity that each group shares. You recognise a poet when he or she walks by, understand the musician's heart when he or she simply looks at you with those sad eyes or even catch one of the struggling young artists observing you on the footpath, eyes smeared with kajol and wearing a long face.

Many of the gifted musicians I have met in this country are big-time procrastinators. Not only do they specialise in the art of procrastination, they are also known for being insomniacs, highly addicted to 'laal cha' and tend to suffer from bouts of mood swings. Musicians are not the only ones who travel in packs; groups of photographers, filmmakers, painters and even writers seem to flock with their kinds respectively. It is of course, quite natural for an individual to crave a feeling of belongingness and familiarity from their fellow beings. But for someone like myself, who suffers from ailments of the 'tubelight' syndrome, frequent attacks of word vomits and also regular deceleration of energy both inside the mind and soul, it is rather a great opportunity to observe, discover and be amused.

We need young minds and souls to build a stronger and a better nation.

For instance, a few years ago, when the 'underground' music scene was establishing itself in the country, I remember coming across youths who always preferred to wear black tees with black jeans. They carried their hatred for 'commercial' music and 'khaepists' on their sleeves and all of them would take guitar lessons to one day become a 'heavy metal guitarist.' Today, many of these youngsters have grown slightly older and I feel delighted to sometimes catch them playing 'khaep' with me on stage as well. The recent advent of contemporary fusion of soul and traditional has also created a huge impact in the musical tastes of the present generation youngsters. Today, most young listeners are duplicates of their musician idols-- depressed, droopy eyed and skinny.

I had once admitted to a room full of people that I loved Govinda, the Indian actor, and simply adored his song-dance sequences in the movies. The round of sudden shocked expressions and abandonment of my company made me think that I had probably offended their nationalistic feelings by announcing my love for the Indian actor. Little did I know that I was actually mingling with a bunch of young and upcoming filmmakers. After I looked around a bit, the features became apparent-- the crowd looked no different from the young men and women from the 70s, most of them were wearing black, thick, square shaped glasses, the women had the big bindis on their foreheads while the men wore their hair long, had wisps of beard on their faces and wore baseball caps. My declaration of love for Govinda had actually revealed to them my lack of skills regarding film comprehension and appreciation. I do not blame them. While viewers were crying their eyes out, I found myself yawning away in the middle of a much appreciated and admired film at the Cine Plex at Basundhara Shopping Complex, which had hit the cinemas all over the country a few months ago.

How do you identify young poets in Bangladesh? W. Somerset Maugham had once said, “The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.” If you ever come across individuals who prefer to wear garish Punjabis, fotuas with prints of the Bangla alphabets, leather sandals that make that annoying noise, are not clean shaved, happen to rhyme everything they say in between conversations, likes to repeat words like 'jochona' and 'dirghoshaash,' and gives long sighs in between sentences, it is better to run for your lives because you have just met the gang of young poets. Do not even stop to wonder why they carry only a small note pad and a ballpoint pen in one of those massive jute bags. The bag is just another attribute, which will help you to identify their kind. And for all you weak hearted beings, a word of caution. It is easy to fall in love with a poet's words and his poignant expressions. It is best to remind yourself that a poet of any age has the capability to create illusions and paint castles in the air. After all, as Oscar Wilde had put it, “Illusion is the first of all pleasures.”

The very recent form of young intellectuals that has emerged in the country is the 'corporates' or those who work in multinational companies. To the young women of Bangladesh, take heed, because for some inane reason, parents happen to like the men working in these multinationals. Their short cropped hair, ironed shirts tucked inside their dark ironed trousers, the tie and the smooth linguistic ability work wonders with the old folks who have daughters. You would know you have come across a young man from the corporate world, if you catch him smiling at you with the confidence to rule the world, to reach every target and to fulfil every objective. Plus, the male corporate employee would also have a certain way of speaking. While the poet might dazzle you with his blur of poetic hogwash in Bangla, the corporate employee will do the same, only in English (broken English sentences to be specific.)

It is important for us to identify our young pool of intellectuals in the country. In spite of the facts that most of these young intellectuals might just immigrate to a foreign country or that a section of Bangladesh might be under the sea level in the next few decades, we need all these young minds and souls to build a stronger and a better nation. As Aristotle said, “Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope.”


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