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       Volume 9 Issue 50| December 31, 2010 |

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Cover Story

13 Brain Teasers of 2010

People say the past is past and one should not look back but forward. While that is good advice for any nation that wants to forge ahead hoping for a bright future, it may not hurt to just take a look at some of the strange and unexplained events/issues of 2010 and give them our own interpretation. So here are 13 curious things of the past year that The Star has decided to dissect. Readers please note many interpretations, institutions and characters of the following events are fictitious and products of the writers' active imagination and should be taken in a lighter spirit.

Where did the Air Conditioners Go?

Anika Hossain

If awards were being given out for the greatest mysteries of the year, the saga of our opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia's home would win hands down. After a rather dramatic and long drawn out episode which according to her, involved her being humiliated and forcibly removed from her residence in Cantonment, under the orders of the ruling party, it has been reported that Begum Khaleda Zia has been acting in an extremely secretive manner about her personal belongings.

Where did they go? . Photo: Star file

A loss of such enormity can leave deep scars on one's psyche. Afterall, she is claiming that she is currently homeless when the Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina has announced that not only does the opposition leader have a house on Minto Road and one in Gulshan, she has several other houses in her own name or "undisclosed names." Therein lies our first mystery. If this is true, and it undoubtedly is, (the leader of our nation would never make blatantly false statements) what goes on in these secretly owned houses?

The theories are endless. Some say they are secret hideaways to safe keep the valuables of the darling sons for whom the mother awaits patiently. These may include a few gold bars from Malaysia, colourful drinks (?) scores of deeds of a few thousand pieces of land and houses, a collection of Origami pieces made with American dollars (such creativity!) and so on. Another theory is that these houses are sanctuaries for professional troublemakers who can be seen vandalising the streets every time there is a problem in the garments sector. Some even say they are used as training centres for BNP supporters on how to conduct themselves during a hartal or when their leader is being forced out of her home (rule number one: Do NOT even consider leaving a demonstration simply because it is too hot). It is entirely possible of course, that she is using the houses for a purpose as innocuous as storage for her make-up, hair products and stock of pink saris and pearls.

Our second mystery lies in the fact that although the BNP Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain claims that Khaleda had no intention of leaving her home and was "forcefully evicted," several eye-witnesses have stated that Begum Zia has been removing boxes of what she claims were personal belongings for several days before the eviction took place.

The army, rab and police officers present at her home during the eviction claimed there were several cartons packed and ready to be moved to her brother's home in Gulshan. Now, if Begum Zia had no intention of moving, and had no idea she would be obliged to obey court orders, why had she been packing? It is possible she had a premonition or perhaps a dream that the PM would throw her out personally if she didn't get going. Smart move. Voters must keep in mind her psychic powers during the next elections.

The dining room after removal of diamond studded (?) chandeliers. Photos: Star file

Hossain also claimed that Begum Zia was taken to an undisclosed location from her home before she was escorted to her office in Gulshan. Mystery number 3: Where and Why? Was she interrogated about her other houses? Maybe the officers wanted to check her bags and boxes to see if she had taken anything that did not belong to her (fixtures and fittings). Or perhaps they wanted to know why a family of ten would need forty eight couches to sit on (seventy four according to our PM which means there are twenty six either stolen or hidden away) and sixty one domestic help to do their household chores. Which brings us to mystery number 4 and 5. The unusually high number of domestic help can be attributed to Khaleda's personal efforts to reduce unemployment in our nation. After all, division of labour increases efficiency and therefore each maid probably has a small, but important role to play in the house. One for manicuring each of her toe nails, one for hair--no it would take more than one person to achieve that signature look. It can be assumed that the couches were used for entertainment purposes. Lets just leave it at that.

The PM also announced that Begum Zia is the proud owner of sixty-four air conditioners. This is rather dumbfounding considering she only has twelve rooms to put them in. But the PM would never lie, and this would mean Begum Zia has at least 5 air conditioners or more in each room. Either these are very, very large rooms or Begum Zia, along with her followers have serious heat allergies. While this itself is a mystery, it does answer for the shocking condition of the electricity supply in the city.

Lets move on to mystery number 7. Begum Zia's premonition/dream had clearly told her that she needed to remove everything that was removable from the house just in case something out of the ordinary happened. Therefore, with absolutely no intention to move on the court ordered day, Begum Zia had systematically removed every chandelier (and there were many) light fixture and bulb from the house and packed them away in one of her hundred cartons. She also had the army officers sign an agreement stating nothing would be damaged in her absence. Which naturally raises the question: Why? What was so special about these fixtures?

Perhaps Begum Zia replaced the glass on the chandeliers with diamonds and the brass holders with gold. Or perhaps the opposition leader has hoarding tendencies. Lets blame it on the aftermath of severe shock.

Mystery number 8 involves the ominously empty swimming pool sitting in Begum Zia's backyard. This pool has not received the attention it deserves or perhaps it was deliberately left out of the news. For one, it is empty, which completely defeats the purpose of its existence. Secondly, has noone wondered where the water goes? What is all that water used for? Was the swimming pool used as storage? For what? More money? Weapons? Skeletons? Will the government launch an investigation into this? All remains to be seen.

Parking garage mysteriously missing several cars. Photo: Star file

The headlines of many newspapers and TV channels have claimed that Khaleda Zia is mortified at being dragged out in a "single outfit" from her home. How many outfits does she normally wear when she leaves that house? Perhaps she should consider dressing lightly in the future given her trouble with high temperatures. The opposition leader may have been so busy packing up the kitchen sink, she had either forgotten to pack her own clothes or had no space in her one hundred cartons to put them in. No wonder she was crying poor thing. After all every woman loves her wardrobe.

Which brings us to mystery number ten, the strangest of them all. In a country like Bangladesh, where a majority of the population is living below the poverty line, it is strange that our leaders should live like the Pharaohs of Egypt. Then again, those Egyptian fellows did believe they could take their treasures to the grave and afterlife. But instead of reproaching them for their extravagance, even beggars on the street are sympathising with Begum Zia's plight. Lets put our heads together and answer this. Do we really deserve to be governed by the likes of these people? Go figure.

Decoding the Traffic Riddle

Aasha Mehreen Amin

Choking, debilitating, frustrating and unrelenting traffic jams have signified the biggest hurdle to our peace of mind and physical well-being. Our honourable MPs and very honourable President and even more venerable Prime Minister have never had first hand experience of being stuck in a traffic jam, of biting their nails and tearing out their hair at the impasse that may mean the end of a possible job, the demise of a relationship or relation, the closing of the most sought after shoe store or the frustrating death of the possibility of arriving on time for an office meeting. Thanks to our traditional feudal culture and paranoia that they (the PM is an exception as the threat to her life is real) will be assassinated by enemies of the state or just random mischief makers bored with their miserable lives as nobodies. They can whisk by like racers at the Grand Prix while the rest of the populace fumes and sweats while waiting for the clearance to resume their journey. But this does not mean that they are unsympathetic. Many strategies have been formulated and others on the way to be formulated on trying to solve the traffic problem and easing the immense suffering of the masses. Here are two that seem a little confusing to us ordinary folk.

Photo:ZahedulI I Khan

During Ramadan the priority of the public is of course fasting and breaking the fast. Sounds simple enough. But in between this time of starting and breaking the fast, people engage in the most hectic activity of the year – shopping. Being aware of the traffic situation shoppers of all sizes and kinds decide to rush to the shops for bargains and discounts from almost the first day of Ramadan. The problem is that everyone thinks the same way and hence the brain-shattering gridlocks in the roads. Added to the frenzy of Eid shopping sprees is the desperate attempt to get home on time for iftar making traffic jams as hellish as Dante's Inferno. Recognising the fact that people will shop during Ramadan no matter what, the government declared that all schools should be closed during this holy month much to the delight of exhausted students and many fatigued parents who were finding it a cruel and unusual punishment to go to sleep at 5 am after sehri and then have to wake up again at 6:30. The message was that while education is very very important, let's be realistic, shopping is more important at this time and shoppers get right of way, schools, most of which reside in residential areas, are the biggest cause of traffic jams. How students will make up the lost classes is a minor problem; let the school administration figure it out.

Another interesting state remedy to ease traffic jams has been a directive that states that every private car on the streets must have at least five persons in it, otherwise it cannot go on the road. This no doubt comes from the idea of car-pooling, a common concept in many countries to make life convenient and to save energy. While it is a noble thought it may prove to be a little tricky in a city where few people have neighbours who are close enough to always be willing to share a ride. Plus it is unlikely that they share the same point of destination. But if this becomes an official rule we may just have to take along whoever we can in the house the home workers, security guards, even an ailing grandparent who would rather be at home under the blankets watching a favourite TV serial. In the case of single people who own a car or a couple, they may have to coax random people in the streets to just go with them please.

What are Rail Tracks for?

Tamanna Khan

XIZA has been exploring the planet earth for quite sometime. It is an abandoned planet with hardly any sign of life except for a few researchers, scientists and some really adventurous tourists. XIZA an under-water archeologist has come across strips of long metal plates running parallel to each other, at places rusted, bent and broken. Noting the shape of the structures and doing extensive research with the help of a microchip library, she has come to know the name – these are called RAIL TRACKS. In most cases the purpose of these structures appear to be a runway for wheels of trains, something that was used by her ancestors centuries ago for transportation. However the newspaper archive belonging to a certain nation calling themselves Bangladeshis leads XIZA consider some other possible use of the rail tracks. Here's the list that she has come up with:

* For those who wished to be ballerinas or gymnasts rail tracks definitely had been a starter.

* A dating place for lovers who liked to hold hands while keeping a respectable distance probably because both were considering the thought of changing partners in future.

* For people living near rail tracks, the steel structures are definitely a place to let their clothes to dry, warm the quilt and covers and sometimes a substitute for toilets.

* The stones that would lie between the tracks acted as toys for the children.

* A business place where you could find anything from narcotics to vegetables and fish.

* Most importantly rail tracks were a means to end life, where people would place their body across the track and wait for the train to arrive and make their final journey to eternity.

Photo: Star file

Further research has presented some interesting information on the last point. XIZA finds that whereas some committed suicide because of failed love affairs or other personal matters, the Bangladeshis would also sacrifice their lives for the sake of their leader's upcoming speech. They preferred sitting or standing on the rail track and give up their lives rather than moving aside and make room for the train to pass. This particular behaviour has been found among the supporters of a certain political party as the news archive from October 11, 2010 shows. Xiza wonders what could have made these people give up their lives. Could it be

* The beauty of their leader?

* The eternal message of peace and serenity she would have bestowed upon them to make their heavenly life more meaningful?

* Their expectance that the train should have got down from the tracks and moved through the fields, considering the popularity of their leader?

* Their belief that the train should have stopped and let all the passengers join the rally of the popular leader?

* Or their convictions that like Harry Potter's (a literary character) train the inter-city-train will actually move past their bodies like a ghostly image?

XINA sitting in her spaceship in 4010 ponders at the questions and sighs – some mysteries never get solved.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

The Political Thriller at JFK

Tamanna Khan

On September 21, 2010 the people of Bangladesh woke up with surprising news – news they have always longed to hear – the news of the activists of the arch-rival political parties hugging each other on foreign soil. Most of the readers surely pinched themselves hard or went back to sleep to hoping to watch a sequel – Hugging Part-II, but of course, no sequel of the film was ever released. Perhaps the actors and extras playing in the film did not receive their deserved honorarium for the award-wining roles they played.

The incident that made the news started off almost like a Bollywood political thriller but the ending no doubt was Dhallywood all the way. It all started when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who should have been the main antagonist of the movie or at least that's what it looked at the beginning, paying a visit to her distant subjects who live in the US to attend the UN General Assembly. There, in the huge temperature-controlled, highly secure (but of-course with a little breach of privacy thanks to American Intelligence), the leaders, sipping expensive beverage and mineral water, discuss various topics that ranges from global warming, poverty to international terrorism killing hundreds of civilians.

Photo: Star file

Unfortunately, as everything that is Bangladeshi can be broadly classified as either Awami League (AL) or Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), or sometimes straying a little bit more to the left and right, the subjects, living in the US are also divided into these two universal factions. Thus some, who obviously belonged to BNP, were not too happy about the visit of the Premier.

Interestingly, Bangladesh being a very patriotic nation, nevertheless remains up-to-date about the happenings of the country and their unquestionable party loyalty, led a group of BNP activists to demonstrate in front of the John F Kennedy Airport. Not only were they concerned about the strain on the National Treasury due to the travel cost of the Prime Minister's huge entourage but also they could not accept the fact that Sheikh Hasina had received an award for one of the Millennium Development Goals – the reduction of child mortality, during her tenure.

While it is a matter of concern – the burden such extravagance may have on our national income – in the government's defence, we can argue that the larger the number of people accompanying the Prime Minister to foreign lands the more obvious the fact that we have huge supplies of human resources to export. Manpower being one of the major assets of Bangladesh, should be advertised this way in every official tour.

Regrettably, the BNP protestors failed to understand the logic of the government and instead of welcoming the Prime minister with flowers and garlands, took positions, which definitely did not appear artistic or serene to AL supporters, who were there to welcome the Premier. Consequently, they engaged what appeared like a bawl calling after the BNP protestors “Catch the Razakars”.

Now whether the term “Razakars” meant perpetrators of the Liberation War or simply volunteers is a mystery. The possibility that AL supporters considered the BNP activists to be Liberation War perpetrators could be ruled out as the newspaper photos of the incident showed people who looked too young to be Razakars during the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

On the other hand, if the second meaning is considered volunteers can refer to all the supporters whether they belonged to BNP or AL. In that case, the entire incident could have been a game of choa-chuyi, where people hit each other, run and shout especially where everyone consider themselves “chors” (the catcher). Obviously they did not have enough time to do a obu-in-pin-safety-pin-in-pin-out (selection process) at the busy Airport.

In any case, beating the protagonist or the heroine, around whom the whole cinema had ensued, enter the real heroes – almost like the Armageddon – the Airport security forces. Had it been an English movie, there would definitely have been some heavenly music playing in the background, people suddenly freezing in their action in slow motion, eyes transfixed as if hypnotised, little white balls of light falling from the sky and ultimately the climax – And There Was Peace. In this case, the party supporters suddenly had to put an end to their choa-chuyi game and hug like long-lost brothers being reunited. Unfortunately, Bangladeshis, the dream is yet to come; so the movie had the rather happy ending of everyone hugging everyone else. Where in the world would you find a better place to hug your countrymen but at an international airport?

Where Angels Love to Tread
A True Story

Farhana Urmee

Once upon a time, there lived a king whose kingdom was too beautiful to describe in words. But the kingdom started to lose its beauty when many of its subjects were involved in menace and violence. The king was worried, 'What to do', 'where to go', 'how to recover from this curse', 'how to re-establish his kingdom from complete chaos'?

One day the Creator blessed the king with angels who came down on earth with pitch-black attire (including pitch-black Ray-bans) to save the kingdom from the grab of the bad citizens, criminals and other wrongdoers. The king gave the angels a name – “Rabid Action Battalion” and was certain that RAB, the group of angels would drive out all the ills from his territory and help his dominion to be free from any mischievous sprite. Things happened just like the king anticipated. RAB started to chase away all the crooks and the natives started to feel the existence of RAB right beside them as they knew RAB would destroy anything ill happening around them.

How these angels (RAB) were able to erase out crime and killings from the state 'overnight' is another story. The RAB had to have special olfactory senses to smell the ill-deeds occurring in the society. God blessed them by providing a high-training facility from one of the super powers on the earth. RAB chose only nights, when it is all dark, to conduct their responsibility.

Once a miscreant named Kopal-kata Kuddus was fleeing dodging the eyes of the State-knight. He was carrying 20 containers of lemonade with him (!). Acting on a tip off RAB was ready to combat the ill-famed outlaw. They went out at night, coincidentally, could manage to reach the cemetery in Mirpur (the area declared 'red-alert' zone for trading lemonade and other soft drinks) where Kopal-kata Kuddus went under cover.

After a number of warnings Kuddus did not stop sipping the chilled lemonade on a cold night of December. Having no other way out, the angels needed to show their guns off just to bully Kuddus. But things went out of hand when Kuddus showed off his paper-cutter and tried to stab a RAB member on the spot who got hurt badly. The wounded RAB member's index finger started to bleed badly (and we thought angels don't bleed) but he did not back off to face the challenge that Kopal-kata Kuddus threw at him. Kopal-kata Kuddus ran away. RAB didn't know that his accomplices were hiding around and suddenly fired rubber towards RAB from dark. The RAB member could not see them all and started shooting indiscriminately. A moment came during this hide and seek game when a real bullet somehow hit Kopal-kata Kuddus's forehead from point blank distance.

Besides the paper cutter, RAB found two pencil sharpeners with rusty blades, one leather bag to carry the drinks and two packets of light-tobacco cigarettes in the possession of Kuddus.

Kopal-kata Kuddus died that night, just because he ran away and did not pay heed to the warnings of the black-wearing angels who went there at the cemetery just to seize the lemonade not his life. Kopal-kata Kuddus's story was continued with other notorious criminals of the state and the state gradually turned into a peaceful one with no murders, violence, arms or ills. The subjects lived happily ever after with their rescuer RAB.

Man of the Year

Shudeepto Ariquzzaman

Laundry Dulal is too well known. Photo: Star File

It was the month of Ramadan, the time when all pious Muslims are expected to fast from dawn to evening and are expected to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. And so it was for this bunch of men sitting at the corner of the MP hostel.

“We are just going to scare him so that he will not even think of double crossing me ever again. Just think of it,” said a flabbergasted MP Shawn. “I picked this guy from the streets and now he wants to be the boss.” The other men nodded their approval. One of them said, “we invited him for Iftaar, do you think we should first have our meal before having a talk with him?”

At this Shawn grew angrier still. “Do you think Abraham fasts because he is pious? He just keeps his long beard to impress the public and the leaders. This is what we call 'signboard politics'.”

“He is very shrewd, this Abraham,” continued Shawn. “I introduced to him to the Sheikhs, and the state minister. Now he has gone so close to them, that he makes deals with them without consulting me.”

At this moment, Abrham could be seen coming through the gates. Shawon immediately pulled Abraham towards his car.

Abraham looked surpised, “What happended Shawn bhai?” he asked. Shawn smiled, “You don't know what happened?”

“You invited me for Iftaar,” said Abraham.

“I invited you to have your last meal,” said Shawn.

Abraham knew very well that there was no murder going to be committed in the premises of the MP hostel. So he was not too tensed. “I am not scared of your threats, the state minister himself awarded me the contract and I am not going to share it with you.”

Hearing this Shawn grew furious. The contract was not worth a lot, but the recent by elections have left him in desperate need for money. He also suspected, that Abraham who was in charge of the lucrative extortion racket at Gulistan hawker's market was cheating him from his fair share.

Shawn pulled out his CZ pistol from his hips. The general secretary of a Moghbazaar market had paid him for the licensed gun to him many years ago. Shawn always kept the bullet in the line. He pulled the hammer to scare Abraham.

Bang! With horror and surprise, Shawn saw a bullet had come out and hit Abraham in the head and he lay there dying.

“What happened?” asked one of his frightened companions. “But I did not pull the trigger, I was just trying to scare him,” said Shawn, “I promise. What do I do now?”

Then suddenly Shawn grew illuminated again. “I know, it is all your fault,” he said pointing to his chauffeur Kamal.

“But, but…. I had nothing to do with this. Can't you blame it on Laundry Dulal?”

“You fool, Laundry Dulal is too well known. You got to take the responsibility,” said Shawn. “Silver or lead, you decide.”

“Fine, but you have to protect me,” said a resigned Kamal.

Unexpected Matinee Show

Anika Hossain
Monday, December 20, 2010.

Screen switched off since the “accident.”

Hundreds of travellers, waiting friends and relatives at the main terminal of the Shahjalal International Airport were flabbergasted when an adult film (pornographic) was aired on the largest display screen at the terminal, for five minutes at 12pm on Friday.

“It was quite unexpected. I was travelling with my wife and and my three year old son. In fact it was my son who noticed the screen first and drew our attention to it. He wanted to know what was happening! You can imagine our shock and embarrassment,” says Dr. Ibrahim, who was taking a family vacation to Bangkok.

Mohammad Abdullah Islam, along with his wife and daughters, en-route their yearly Mecca trip to perform Umrah were also duly traumatised. “I have never been so horrified in my entire life! I have worked very hard to protect my daughters from all kinds of atrocities in this society! But to be forced to endure this! In a public place! In an airport!” he trails off, too overwhelmed to continue and mutters prayers under his breath. His wife was unavailable for comment, as she had lost consciousness when reminded of the incident.

“It was awesome. Free porn! You should have seen the look on my mum's face. I've seen the video before but don't tell her that,” laughs an excited teenager who wishes to remain anonymous.

“I was kind of zoning out. You know, just staring at the screen blankly when I suddenly realised what was going on. The first thought that came to mind was wow they really watch porn in this country? And I thought, aren't like the women stoned or something if they don't wear those long things I forget what you call them,” says Joanne Miller, visiting Bangladesh for the first time.

“To be honest with you, I thought it was a condom ad, although that woman did look familiar…” shares Idris Mia, a day labourer visiting home from Dubai.

Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority has launched an investigation into the matter. “The person responsible for this scandal was already taken to task. The operator will be held in prison for a period of two months. Whether this was a deliberate prank, a political or religious statement or a very idiotic mistake is yet to be determined,” a disgruntled Civil Aviation Officer told the press.”

Salima Alam, the on-duty magistrate who handed down the two-month jail term was unable to shed light on the incident, “Maybe the fellow was bored. There isn't much for him to do anyway. Of course that is no excuse to watch blue films at work. Two months should be enough to shape him up,” she opines.

A die-hard Awami League supporter has an entirely different view of the matter. “It was those BNP ******* s!! I'm telling you! They're trying to make us look bad. Probably got the video from ******* ****'s private collection. We all saw those magazines in that house! Those ****** ******s should be flogged in public!”

Meanwhile, the airport authorities, have resumed screening the usual documentaries about the culture and geography of Bangladesh. One may assume, that the higher ups were involved and tried this as an experiment to find new ways to entertain the travellers. If this was the case, it has obviously backfired and they will be well advised to stick to their old routine in the future. Their official statement however, is that despite a thorough investigation, the reason behind this strange incident, like many others remains a mystery.

Study Hard!

Shudeepto Ariquzzaman

Time for exams!

Students are supposed to study, sit for their exams, expected to do good results and establish their future careers. And so it is for the brilliant students who form the biggest student organisation of this country – the Bangladesh Chattra League (BCL).

The students who make up this organisation are the best Bangladesh can boast, if you consider their field of expertise. BCL activists have gained national fame by establishing again and again that no other student organisation can compete with their activities. So let us ask one of their leaders who have led this groups of very talented students to glory and fame.

“Actually it is not as easy as some people think,” says Liakot Sikadar (not his real name), one of the leading members of the League. “To begin with, you have to be a great artist.” Liakot explains that for an anti government agitation to be successful, the leader must send in the workers to clash with police. “They are stupid, and courage and stupidity go hand in hand,” he explains. The leaders must stay in the background because, those idiots need guidance and if the leader is injured, there is no wise one left to guide this 'herd of sheep' to action.

“But if the workers think the leaders are not contributing enough, then there is also a problem,” the student leader explains. “So we have embarked on a brilliant solution, we pretend to be injured and when the going gets tough we get ourselves admitted to the hospital. That way, the workers think we are sacrificing. Even better we are on TV. Even the great leader and the daughter of the father of the nation, Sheikh Hasina also knows we are sacrificing with our blood,” he says. “There lies the essence of being a great student leader.”

“Once in government, we make sure the leaders know of our sacrifice, know we have the manpower and firepower, and there will be money, lots and lots of it,” he says with satisfaction.

“The BCL student needs to study. He should also study the art of wielding machetes, and using guns, and more importantly, he needs to look scary and utter foul language. That often works better than the actual violence.”

“But occasionally he needs to throw his compatriots off the roof. On the whole the examination system works brilliantly, whoever stays wins go higher.”

As an example he cites that those BCL activists who were thrown from the roof fail the examination whereas those who have managed to throw them off the roof shall climb higher up the ladder.

Asked on why BCL always fight each other, the aged leader comments, “We do not want to disturb other student organisations or their political bosses. It would be an infringement of human rights.”

Refuting the oft-repeated complaints of some 'illiterate people' who think that middle-aged people like him should not lead a student organisation, he quotes George Iles- “Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student.”

It's Gettin' Hot in Here


“Happy to leave the procession away from the burning sun.”

Do you remember the First Hartal of the year? No, not the one mourning Begum Zia's eviction from the cantonment house-that was the last one. Okay, the First Hartal of the year was called on June 27 after three and a half year hiatus. Well, as always, the reason of the hartal was divided between A and B blocks – according to the opposition the hartal was a protest against government's failures so far and the government opined that the strike was just the opposition's way of demonstrating the government's success. This dichotomy is not a mystery worth solving and in any case the “boli ka bokra” (sacrificial lamb) was the public. The perplexing factor about the strike was a simple question: Was it successful? Again, the A block demanded that the public had boycotted the Hartal and the B block congratulated the masses for complying with it.

Shivering in cold in the present winter, many of us might have forgotten that June 27 was a very humid day. The whole country was going through another epic load-shedding epoch; in fact, power crisis was one of the hartal agendas. But defying all the temperature fuss, BNP activists- old and young- went to the streets protesting against the anarchy of government, through their own vandalism. During the first half of the Hartal, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police was on a roll to ensure law and order by arresting and beating up the active, enthusiastic activists of the opposition. But as the mercury went up to a sweltering level, the enthusiasm of the BNP activists toned down. While the police was getting ready to attack a whole bunch of high-pitched protesters in front of the Parliament house, the opposition leaders and activists arrived in petty numbers, few of them were even using rickshaws and motorbikes! Even the police was so taken aback that they instead of blocking, made way for those meagre protesters, removing the barricades. BNP's standing committee member MK Anwar was seen riding a rickshaw ride with a companion in Dhanmondi during the dawn-to-dusk hartal enforced by his own party. Prominent leaders were seen leaving processions not just by walking but also on rickshaws and motorcycles. But why, why did these brave and courageous, devoted warriors betray their own clan and leave the processions? When asked, an ice-cream seller, who was present near a procession in Bangla Motor, said that the activists were tired and exhausted due to the extreme, hot weather. He said that instead of destroying his ice-cream van, the activists were actually buying ice-lollies from him and his business was as booming as on Pohela Baishakh or Ekushey Boimela. A rickshaw puller in Shahabag, in an exclusive interview, informed that on that hartal day three BNP activists took a ride on his rickshaw and he overheard swearing at their leaders for calling a hartal on such a torturous, hot day! They were even laughing at how shrewdly they had escaped a weary procession when it was passing through the university area. A group of young street hawkers who sell napkins and towels were overwhelmed at their income during the hartal where they sold their goods to celebrated politicians; they said that they were thankful to their godfather who ordered them to go on streets for business during the hartal, no matter what. A bus driver expressed his surprise as more BNP activists and less general people were his passengers that day; he said that it worked as kind of a safeguard for him and his vehicle.

It's too hot to walk: MK Anwar taking a rickshaw ride during the hartal.

After an unbiased, general investigation, it can be said that the hartal was 100 percent successful for the Government, but a complete flop for the Opposition. Well, reason of the failure was not the police, not the half-hearted, sweaty activists, not the apathetic public but Mother Nature herself with her hot-humid persona.

Jama-te Leaks

Jama-te Islami (Islamic only in clothes) has its own version of Bangladesh's history, according to some recently declassified documents. Here is the birth of Bangladesh according to Jama-te Leaks:


The people of Banglastan have never been happy. Take the partition. After India and Pakistan got independence in 1971, Banglastan, then East India, was brutally exploited by the Delhi government. Even though Delhi is thousands of miles away and the people of the two parts of the new country (east and west) spoke two different languages, the policymakers of the country tried to keep the country united on the basis of Bollywood films.

The first disillusionment, for the part of the Banglastanis, however, took place within a few years of the establishment of India. In 1951, MK Gandhi, father of the nation of India, on a visit to East India, declared at the Dhaka University campus that Hindi and only Hindi would be the mother language of India. The members of Chatra Shibir who were present in the meeting vehemently protested the proposal and they took out a procession on February 21, 1952 demanding to make Bengali the state language. After it was achieved, the Banglastanis made several attempts to free themselves from the shackles of the Marwaris who dominated East India's economy.

Meanwhile, sensing that the Indians would never agree to accept the legitimate demands of the Banglastanis, Ghulam Azam, later fondly called Dost-e-Bangla by the masses he freed, crossed the border and went to Akyab in Burma where peace-loving democratic military rulers were in power. He tried to contact the Pakistani government through the democratic military dictators of Burma.

The Indian government led by infamous General Gulzarilal Nanda arrested Dost-e-Banglastan on Akyab Conspiracy case. The ordinary Banglastanis were outraged; the Banglastanis, led by Jama-te Islami, joined a mass upsurge to topple the then dictator General Gulzarilal Nanda. Asaduzzaman, a high school student of the old part of Dhaka and a Shibir activist died in police fire. Nanda was deposed and his Chief of Staff of the army, General Indira Gandhi seized power in a bloodless coup. She promised to hold elections and handover power to the elected representatives.

Conspiracy, however, was hatched to deprive East India of the autonomy that its people were so fervently demanding. After the elections, Sheikh Mujib and his Awami League, which was popular only in the western side of the country, refused to join the parliament and urged General Gandhi not to handover power. In this backdrop, on March 7, 1971, at a meeting in the then Racecourse ground in Dhaka, Dost-e-Banglastan informally declared Banglastan's independence when he said, “This struggle is the struggle for freedom, now is the fight for independence.” It is however saddening to notice that some agents of India distort the video footage of the famous meeting and superimpose their leader Sheikh Mujib's photo in it.

Be that as it may, Mujib said he would break the bones of anyone who dared to attend the inaugural session of the parliament. There was an impasse. General Gandhi, Dost-e-Bangla Ghulam Azam and Sheikh Mujib sat in Dhaka and discussed the issue of power sharing for 17 days, and Dost-e-Banglastan knew it all along that the Indians were dillydallying to launch an attack on the ordinary Banglastanis. On the dark night of March 25, 1971, when the Indian army started their killing spree on the streets of Dhaka, Dost-e-Banglastan formally declared Banglastan's independence from his house in Moghbazaar. After that he was arrested.

Jama-te's version of Bangladesh's Liberation War.

Meanwhile, Matiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahed and Delwar Hossain Saidee, three Jama-te leaders, went to Burma and sought the help of the Pakistani government at the latter's High Commission in Rangoon. Help came quick and on April 17, Banglastan government was formed making Dost-e-Banglastan the President.

Banglastan was divided into three sectors: Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams. The three top Jama-te leaders were given the responsibility of leading the three parts of the country. Sheikh Mujib, meanwhile, formed the so-called Mukti Bahini, which carried out barbaric attacks on innocent civilians of Banglastan.

At the end of our great Independence War, Indians bombed several Pakistani air bases in Karachi and Pakistan's democratically elected President General Yahya Khan declared war on India. Operation Chenzig Khan was launched and it quickly saw success. Within a day after Pakistan recognised Banglastan on December 8, the Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams started to attack the Indian army with a renewed vigour. Pakistani army, from its base set up in Akyab, Burma, moved into Banglastan and victory was only a few miles away on December 14 when the Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams, along with the Pakistani army, laid a seize to Dhaka.

Sensing their inevitable defeat, the Indians and the Muktis launched the most barbaric genocide in human history. They killed all the intellectuals who were pro-Indians so that later on they could blame the Jama-te leaders for mass murder. Later on…

(Endnote: Rest of the document has been eaten away by cockroaches.)


Aasha Mehreen Amin

People are always criticising politicians for always being secretive, for not saying what they mean, for bluffing the public as if it is part of their job description. This is standard procedure, especially for the media to lambast politicians and the government at the drop of a hat. That too seems to be part of their job description.

Unfortunately while journalists have a monopoly on saying the truth whenever they want to (at the risk of arrest, contempt of court and bodily harm) politicians have to know when and where they can be 'free and frank'. They have to be diplomatic at all times.

Some of our politicians, however, are a bit too candid and their brazenly truthful remarks lead to embarrassment to the party or government they belong to and provide a field day for journalists to reap the harvest with heavy blasting. Our Health Advisor is a good example of how candour does not always pay when you are inadvertently exposing the weakness of the government you are working for. This year perhaps the biggest embarrassment for the government was when Syed Modasser Ali happily declared at Gopalganj Sadar Clinic that he intended to place supporters of his party (now ruling) in 13,350 positions at the community health levels. The reason he has given is that during the previous rule of archrival BNP, the AL men and women were constantly deprived, among other things, of positions at government post. So we must interpret that this is a kind of 'tit for tat' strategy. Not that we are unfamiliar with this brand of Tom and Jerry politics with one trying to clobber the other with a hammer, both figuratively and literally speaking. Or the fact that nepotism is a way of life in our brand of politics, reflecting our culture of always supporting members of the tribe, clan or desher manush (fellow village person) regardless of whether they deserve it or not. Remember the university in Pirganj where practically everyone, from the VC to the accountant were close relatives and the reason was because the VC being from that area, it was 'natural' that he would recruit friends and family?

From Ali's point of view, he was just calling a spade a spade. This is how things are done in politics. When one party wins and takes over it is customary to flood every institution, agency and department owned by the government with ruling party aficionados or supporters. This extends to the police, army, secretariat, educational institutes and of course their residential halls. It is a code of conduct accepted by all parties and the losers seldom make a fuss as they know- these are the rules of the game.

But you don't actually tell people in the face that of course we will have our people at health complexes because that's the most natural thing to do. It just doesn't sound nice to a public that really believes in democratic practices. To make matters worse the health advisor tried to cover up his faux pas by blasting the media for being so harsh on him. Needless to say, for the poor health advisor, this was like squirming around in a pit of quicksand.

Why they Need to Destroy…

Shudeepto Ariquzzaman

Vandalism and violence destroys properties and is a nuisance to public safety right? Well not always. There are some benefits from vandalism.

Day by day, the numbers of playing fields are decreasing. As a result there are no places where youngsters can play football or cricket. So their athletics abilities are decreasing and they are getting involved in sinister activities like drug addiction. Breaking cars and burning property allows youngsters to grow their physical activities that are very important for the development of a better human being.

Bangladesh has never won a medal in Olympics and are performing dismally in SAAF or commonwealth games. Vandalism and street fights with the cops can help our youth develop physical abilities that may one day help us win medals in these tournaments.

In case a war breaks out, our army may find itself hopelessly outnumbered and will have to call to call in reinforcements from the civilian population. Youths who practice vandalism may be of big help if such an emergency arises. Since the youths are already trained to a certain degree by their experiences on the streets, the army will find it much easier to make them soldiers.

Not only the youth, but the cops are also sprouting pot bellies. Vandalism can help these obese cops lose weight, as they have to run around wielding big sticks.

Vandalism helps businesses. Broken glass need to be fixed, cars needs to be fixed, cops need new sticks, and so on. As a result, entrepreneurs who are associated with these lines of business might have been forced out of the market had such incidents not occurred.

Violence and vandalism helps the environment. Fewer cars come out and the traffic in the city is much thinner when cars are being broken.

Vandalism creates unity among the masses. When lots of people are breaking and destroying, they are united in a common goal – destroy property at random and often without reason. This makes them soldiers of a common cause. Since the time of our independence, Bangladeshi society has been fractured. These vandals, by their unity can set an example for Bangladesh by which we may unite and strive to build a better society.

Vandalism gives the excuse to overworked employees to take a well-deserved break. This way, they can get more rest and can work later with a fresh mind.

Men and women should have equal rights in a just society. But this is not the case in Bangladesh. As more women become involved in breaking cars and beating up passerbys, they have started to gain equality with their male counterparts. Not only are women equal, but also in many cases they are more efficient in carrying out these acts.

There are often rumours that the government is going to sell our beloved country to India. If the vandals destroy more property, the government will have a hard time accomplishing this.


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