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    Volume 9 Issue 23| June 4, 2010|

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The Element of Surprise

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Musa Ibrahim

It's a strange world we live in where nothing is what it seems. A holy man turns out to be a fake swindler meting out bizarre and painful treatments to 'cure' a broken leg. A banker turns out to be a social revolutionary. And as American rock band Aerosmith once sang a 'Dude (Looks like a Lady).

Recent news reports certainly support the saying 'don't judge a book by its cover' or more specifically, don't believe it when someone says he's a headmaster of a school. The story goes something like this: Fifty-six fake headmasters with fake certificates and probably fake names participated in a real training programme organised by an authentic Secondary Teacher's Training Institute in Rajshahi. Some of them were not even from Rajshahi which was a basic requirement for the programme. One may wonder why anyone would want to pretend to be a headmaster in order to get some free training in teaching. The report explained that the incentive seemed to be cash grants of TK 3400 to each participant as well as free meals and accommodation. An office peon in collusion with the bigger fish involved in the scam charged the fake headmasters TK1500 each to get them enrolled. Which means they made a profit of TK 1900 plus free food and bedding. It was like a little holiday for a pittance. Not surprisingly, when the police came to arrest the 56 fake headmasters, they had vanished into thin air. Some of the institute's authorities said that they had shown them mercy after they had apologised and let them go. Amazing, how forgiving people can be sometimes, especially when they might have to deal with 56 confessions of how certain high officials knowingly allowed them to participate in the first place!

Then there is the tale of a businessman who was accused by RAB members of keeping illegal firearms in his house but a few eyewitnesses, including the man's little son, revealed that the arms had been sneaked in by RAB members themselves as a favour to some people who had a personal vendetta against the accused. So the alleged arms dealer turns out to be a gentle, rather kindly fellow as vouched by neighbours and the law enforcers turn out to be the con artists sneaking into windows like robbers.

Life is therefore full of surprises. Presidents turn out to be closet poets and students turn out to be gunmen. Scraggly beggars with one blind eye might be DB (Detective Branch) members and the chotpoti wala might be an anthropology professor researching the behaviour of Dhaka's young and the restless.

You just can't trust first impressions anymore. The MPs you thought were living at the MP hostels were not MPs after all, but drivers and household help. Perhaps they are better looking than their employers, hence the legitimate mistake. Speaking of government officials, a recent BBC report says a UK minister was claiming MP's expenses to rent rooms in homes owned by his partner which is a total no-no according to parliamentary rules. The minister in question 'revealed' that he wanted to keep his relationship with a man secret. One fervently hopes there is no wife in the story who may have a jaw-dropping moment at this revelation.

The element of surprise therefore, is always lurking around in some hidden corner of our lives. And it doesn't always have to be a negative occurrence that makes us draw in our breath with shock. Take a particular baby-faced, sweet smiling sub editor of The Daily Star. Who would have thought that this quiet young man called Musa Ibrahim would be the first Bangladeshi to reach the highest peak of Mount Everest? That's one undercover act worth witnessing in lifetime.


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