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|Volume 11 |Issue 40| October 12, 2012 ||
Cats and Coffee
Last week, I went out for a coffee and came back with a cat. As I was about to walk into my favourite coffee shop in Gulshan, I heard what sounded like a child crying. When I looked around to see where the cries were coming from, instead of seeing a child, I saw a little kitten cowering under a chair as a woman was trying to grab it. I asked the woman what she was doing and she said that she had already drowned all the other kittens and this was the last one left because she hadn't managed to catch it. Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed the kitten before she could and ran into the coffee shop. Fortunately the waiters were very nice about it and gave me some yoghurt for the kitten. The kitten, who still does not have a name, is a welcome addition to the other pets that I already have. I understand that there are many stray animals in Dhaka but the solution is not to indiscriminately and cruelly kill them but to have a spaying and neutering campaign to limit the animal population in a humane way.
As a woman living in Dhaka, I have been forced to make my peace with the constant stares, lewd comments and unapologetic touches in public spaces. Such occurrences have now become an inevitable and very disturbing part of my existence. As a working woman, however, being a part of an elite media house, I naturally do not expect such events to take place in the confines of the office. Yet, I experience inappropriate behaviour from my male colleagues on a daily basis. They blatantly stare at us as we pass them by, checking us out, or make vulgar comments about other women in our presence, making us uncomfortable. Recently, we have noticed that a particular middle-aged man, quite a senior person at the office, always follows us to the canteen whenever we enter and it's to find a way to engage with us. We don't know him that well, and find his intrusiveness quite disturbing. If that wasn't bad enough, one day he actually stopped one of us and made a comment to the effect: “You look so shapely in a saree; you should always wear it," after grilling her about her family and her background for half an hour. How can we tolerate such behaviour in such esteemed institutions? Many people don't even realise that this is not appropriate or respectable behaviour towards a colleague. Many women just put up with such actions because confronting their colleagues is difficult. We should really put pressure on the institutions to adopt a sexual harassment policy as well as provide trainings for both men and women so we can at least feel safe in our workplaces.
People's etiquette at public events never fails to surprise me. Last Friday I attended a Bharatnatyam and Kuchipudi Dance Recital at the Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka. It was a full house, with people having to stand in the aisles. Malabika Sen, from India, was choreographed beautifully by legendary Guru Dr Thankamani Kutty and the occasion was really a rare opportunity for all those present.
So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when people were getting up and leaving while Sen was quite spectacularly displaying her stamina and skill. Sure, maybe they had another engagement but surely one wouldn't leave a theatre performance one hour in, so why should it be so different for a dance? Then came people's immediate need to rise and make for the doors the very second the auditorium lights came on. We couldn't even wait for the talented international dancer who had entertained us with expressions, gestures and footwork to take her bow and bouquet of flowers. What must have she thought of the audience so hell bent on being the first out of the door?
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