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     Volume 11 |Issue 39| October 05, 2012 |


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Hail the Detectors!

Aasha Mehreen Amin

We have heard of smoke detectors, metal detectors, radioactivity detectors and lie detectors. Even paranormal detectors have been popularised thanks to reality television and the fairly inane film 'Ghost Busters'. But now we have been blessed with the 'formalin detector' which can detect the presence of the poison injected in or poured on our fish and vegetables. The bewildered first time visitor from a foreign land may ask why we even need such a device. For Bangladeshis this is as exciting as a cure for cancer, a miracle after the last few years of eating fish and vegetables and feeling bad about the horrible chemicals getting into the system - a slow poisoning that can never end well.

Indeed the Malibagh (translated as the gardener's garden) 'Formalin-free Kitchen Market' is a sure hit for all Dhaka's citizens. Apparently these amazing devices will be placed in all of the city's kitchen markets. The act of magnanimity has come from FBCCI (Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries), the members of which no doubt are as concerned about the fish dopiaza and Korolla bhaji they eat, as they are for their fellow citizens. Wait, what about the Department of Health and Nutrition under the Health Ministry? Oh sorry, they are still in sweet slumber in a place called La La Land.

What about those Rab-led mobile courts glamorously televising their sting operations when they bust food adulterators? Perhaps it is as the proverb goes “when the cat's away, the mice will play”.

Now that we have our very own formalin detectors we should start thinking of getting a few more devices to detect unpleasant things.

We need vehicle engine oil detectors to check out the iftari jilapi when they are suspiciously extra crunchy and kerosene detectors to see how much of the stuff has been mixed with the petrol before the spark plugs get clogged. Then there is the problem of industrial dyes in our snacks, juices and candies, urea in the puffed rice, powdered brick in the red chilli powder, melamine in milk and diesel in the mustard oil.

The list of inappropriate ingredients in practically every food item and non-food item is boringly long and a little too depressing but it gives an idea about the hundred different detectors we would need in our kitchen and other markets. The good news is that our abundant number of ministers and MPs will have the opportunity to cut ribbons and make garrulous political speeches at all those engine oil-free and industrial chemical-free kitchen markets in the future.

The detection business in fact is going to see an unprecedented boom in Bangladesh, predicts anyone with half a brain. As citizens grow increasingly suspicious of every single consumer product, the demand for such detectors will obviously rise. Even formalin may be tested with a detector to find any impurities. In fact this distrust may not only be confined to just material things.

With voting being the only democratic right for citizens that seems to exist these days, a whole series of detectors can be thought of. Candidates could have 'speech interpreting strainers' that will strain out all the big talk and retain true intentions in the sieves. Someone who keeps harping on the revolutionary changes he/she will bring if voted to power-cheaper rice, more electricity and gas, greater 'dizitalisation', better job opportunities, etc. may be a tad embarrassed to find that the 'translator' has interpreted the speech as 'a whole lot of garbage, all I'm interested in is that duty-free massively sized SUV, the clear roads during peak traffic, the free foreign official trips with family and extended family, the thousand salams every day from sychophants and of course the millions in commissions from a thousand unofficial sources.' In the unlikely event the translator comes up with the same boring speech as was first delivered, it is an indicator that this is a 'pure-adulteration-free candidate' who deserves your vote and perhaps some extra body guards.

Similarly, machines to detect fake voters, bribe-prone law enforcers and professional trouble makers who intimidate voters could be invented and introduced. It may cleanse all the impurities and poison out of the electoral process.

One fervently hopes though, that the ballot boxes do not end up being squeaky clean and empty.

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