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What we deserve to read

If you ask an average teenager about what Bangla books he reads, he is likely to mention books by Humayun Ahmed or Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, because those two are probably the only ones he knows of. As a matter of fact, you should feel happy that he actually knows about them. We usually read English novels and books nowadays, if we read anything at all. It's a good habit to read any good book, whatever language it is in, but the fact that we're ignoring our own language in the process is not something to boast about. Whatever medium of education we follow, we must never stray away from what our own language has to offer. I feel myself lucky in that sense because my family always encouraged me to read books, especially those in Bangla (since that was not emphasised that much in school).

My reading habit mainly grew through an Indian magazine called "Anondomela". It contains news on sports, computers, science and many other subjects. Besides that there are novels printed part by part every week. The novels are by famous Bengali authors of West Bengal. The best part about "Anondomela" is its special issue that comes out during the Puja season. It contains several entire novels and short stories besides the usual comic strips of Phantom and other stuff translated to Bangla and articles on nature, science, sports and tourism. The issues used to be a lot greater a long time back when they used to print Satyajit Ray's work. "Prof. Shonku's Diary" was a huge attraction in every issue. After his death, some of his unpublished work had also been published in the magazine.

It was through Anondomela that I was introduced to the Bengali writers of India. Sunil Gangapaddhaya, Shomoresh Mojumdar and Shirshendu Mukhopaddhaya are the three whose works I enjoy the most. The first two are great writers of detective and adventure stories while the latter is an awesome writer of humorous fiction. The funny stories usually deal with rural people and their lives and mock their superstition in a very healthy and amusing way. These writers also write serious stuff for older readers apart from the usual ones for young readers. The serious ones usually deal with politics and romance. Anyway, for light reading, there is nothing better than any light-hearted book by any one of the above three.

The best Bengali author for young readers would probably be Satyajit Ray. The eccentric Prof. Shonku and the witty Feluda are two immortal characters created by him and one has not come across them has definitely missed something fantastic in life. Satyajit Ray was a very prolific writer and has written many novels on Prof. Shonku and Feluda. He has written other novels too, "Fatikchand" being a highly mentionable one. I was crazy about his characters a long time back and I can feel their magic even till this date. There are compilations of his work available in the market. They can be a good way to get acquainted to Satyajit Ray and add life to any reader's collection.

Satyajit Ray came from a very talented family. He was a writer, an artist and a filmmaker himself and he must have inherited his talent from his father and grandfather. His father, Shukumar Ray, is another wonderful writer of juvenile literature. He was an exceptionally good poet. His poems and stories were funny and enjoyable, and full of childish imagination. Even greater was the fact that his poems were accompanied by lively and vibrant illustrations. The illustrations made things even more vivid and added a magnificent touch to his style. He had a young heart that always knew what would be best for children. It is a pity that he died at a very young age and left his readers thirsty for more. Shukumar Ray's father Upendrokishor Ray Chowdhury was a well-known writer too. I have only had the chance to read a collection of Hindu mythological stories by him and nothing more.

It is a pity that nowadays, younger members of the society are more into TV and other forms of entertainment and less into reading books. Even if they do read story books, they rarely read Bangla books coming from West Bengal. It is a common language that brings Bangalees together and the best way to cherish our Bangalee spirit is through the vibrant expression of the language we speak. That's why Bangla is so special a language, a language that preserves our cultural identity.

By Hamdan Kabir

Book review

The Lord of the Rings

Many a times, great books gain popularity after a long time. A book which was not widely popular becomes a record-breaking bestseller, only when it has a good publicity. This can be applied to the best work of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. Though first published in 1954, this book, consisting three parts and over 1100-pages, was only admired in UK and USA. But when the big-budget, Oscar-winning movie-trios based on this book hit the screen, a sudden boost rose the sell of the book. Suddenly, its copy flourished everywhere and was readily available (even at some newspaper-stands in Dhaka).

Though may be it became a world-wide best-seller after the release of the movies, it was a classic piece throughout. Tolkien has set up imagination at its best it has become an epic in the world of fiction. This can be labeled both a heroic romance and a classic science fiction (though I wonder how much science it has). The imaginary story by the author is totally convincing, and with detailed description of this invented world the reader might think the story realistic. By turns comic, homely, epic, monstrous and diabolic, the narrative moves through countless changes and scenes. The incidents take place in the peaceful land of The Shire, the quiet valleys of Rivendell, the rocky paths of Cradhras, the darkness of Moria and all the amazing places created by Tolkien. Also, numerous poems in the book also refer Tolkien's poetic excellence.

The main story of the book, which many of you know (who have seen the film), is about the One Ring of the Dark Lord Sauron. This powerful and evil ring is entrusted to Frodo Baggins, a hobbit of The Shire. As Sauron casts his dark shadow over Middle-earth, he seeks his ring to fulfill his plan of dominion. Frodo is assigned the task of destroying the Ring, and his adventure is the heart of this book. A company consisting nine members is set by Elrond, the elf-lord, to make Frodo successful. Among his companions are Gandalf the Grey a wizard, Aragorn the heir of Isildur and the king of Gondor, Boromir from Rohan, Legolas the elf, Gimly the dwarf, and three hobbits: Sam Gamgee, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took. Frodo travels through the Misty Mountains, the dwarf-city of Dwarrowdelf, the tree-city of Lórien and into Mordor, the territory of Sauron. At last he succeeds in completing his task. Along with his journey, the battles of the free-folk against the army of Isengard (lead by Saruman the White kindred of Gandalf) and Mordor are also described. In the end, Aragorn ascends the throne of Gondor, bringing back the Númenorean reign.

The story of The Lord of the Rings is not as simple as it appears to be. Various incidents and characters may confuse you, especially their origin and dwellings. But for clear explanation, the book accommodates six appendices consisting over hundred pages, which is one of a kind (especially in fictions). These appendices tell us some history of the Middle-earth and its inhabitants and the family-tree of the hobbits. There is also a chronology of the events, an appendix dealing with the writing of the elves (some of my friends practiced writing in elvish runes with the help of this appendix). The most interesting supplement is the maps. Six maps of the west of Middle-earth is included in the book (now that's some imagination), helping you to keep in track of the voyage of Frodo. All of these will surely make your reading enjoyable.

Though The Lord of the Rings is a masterpiece, it has some difficulties too. The book is quite big and has so many characters and events that it's hard to keep track with it. The names are quite unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce (the movie might help). There are many things that are not explained even in the appendices (I'm still confused what a Balrog is). Many a times, there are references from The Hobbit, another book of Tolkien. This book may explain some things but it is not readily available in Dhaka (I searched much).

Whatever is may be, The Lord of the Rings is a must have book for the readers who like fictions. Though it may be seen as a fairy-tell to some people, it has outpaced and has become a mythology. Many people refers Tolkien as the creator of modern fairy-tells. So those of you who want a more adventurous and fascinating story than the childish Harry Potter series (please -- no hard feelings for the Potter fans), can grab for a copy of it. I couldn't find the original copy (with a price tag of £14.99) so I had to be content with the Indian low-cost photo-print copy (costing Tk. 450) which is available in Boi Bichitra, Gyankosh and Book View of New Market. Read it and step into the invented world of Tolkien.

By Cracker Jack

Ironic…Sad but True!!!

A couple of weeks back (25.03.04) a fellow came up with a critic article about the "Brain Drain" and lack of "Patriotism”
Phenomenon in the Rising Stars front page. I paid special attention while going through his piece of writing and I believe there are a few things we can agree about! On the contrary I would like to be in opposition to a few of his adage.

First of all the teenagers were charged for "Adding to the Brain Drain Phenomena" because of their lack of commitment towards our country. Lets look at the lucid explanations that come in while we go through this. Question yourself how many of the Bangladeshi people reads the Daily Star? Umm… lets guess the elite and the upper elite class of what we term "Society". The better class of the society has a good demand for wealth… well everyone has… so why not go abroad where we are provided with well? How many of us can read and understand English completely? While one goes through "Barron's SAT and TOEFL" or IELTS prep exam, it's easily found out that the English language is a tough nut to crack!

Lets look into the lawlessness of the country the robberies, highjacking, murder, political unrest, drugs, crime, bribe, harassment of police, and all associated "negative" sides of the society. And after considering the latest report of Transparency International is it not abhorrent that we sit back and enjoy ourselves being dead man walking in our own country???

Its true that we will be looked at as "Immigrant" in other countries where there may be a certain level of discrimination, but at least there is law and order in the society, people don't get mobbed and murdered in front of their family and walk away without any punishment. People are at least safer… aren't they? Aren't they earning peacefully without having a tension of which mobster will ask for a share from their hard-earned money? Aren't they able to walk freely without the fear of being slaughtered like 148-piece mincemeat from the local butcher shop? I believe the answer is an easy one… YES!

Then my question is, what is the problem of all the teenagers leaving the country?

Three answers, the so-called "open" lifestyles, good education or wealth or maybe all of them…

If we have a family of 5-8 people living in Dhaka city, we have to think rationally. An individual has to be able to afford a minimum of fifteen to twenty thousand a month to support a family without difficulty in Dhaka city. It is practical! Just a couple of days ago I went to downtown Dhaka where the rent for a 1 bed, 1 bath drawing cum kitchen has been solicited for seven thousand, which excludes the gas and electricity bill. This is the scenario for Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Rayer Bazar, Badda, Rampura, Moqbazar, Old Town, Bashabo and other locations in the city where there is a good concentration of low waged class. Now when we consider these factors along with food and transportation there is hardly any money left for a typical Bangladeshi family to live happily. There is almost no room for savings!

How many of the Government officers get a flat? How many people in Dhaka City work in Private Firms and haul more than seven thousand a month? With this money how does a family run? Does anyone have any idea?

English medium schools, colleges and private universities especially have become expensive nowadays in comparison to the ones which we attended 4-5 years back. I remember paying thirteen hundred when I was in the ninth grade, whereas now a similar grade pupil pays more than twice in the same school, who's going to earn this money? The Mom and Dad right? Naturally every parent wants his or her children to get the best education possible, but ensuring "Safety", where is the safety in the country? Moreover doing BBA or BS in NSU, IUB, AIUB or any other of their class costs more than a queen's ransom for a middle family, don't you agree?

Colleges and Universities abroad are equipped to their teeth in technology and education content in comparison to our government universities, and also offer generous scholarship packages for meritorious students. Even if our universities are equipped they are held back by student politics, session jots, lack of quality assurance and lack of qualified staff. Dr. Zafar Iqbal wrote a wonderful article once, which described that the level of wage a Government College Lecturer earns in comparison to his Private Lecturer mate is beyond imagination. Else than that a student, after completing his Ph.D. abroad, came back to the country and applied as a Lecturer in a private university. The Vice Chancellor of the university called Dr. Zafar Iqbal up making an ironic query "Should we take him", now how does that sound? A student

Completing his Ph.D. abroad returns in his country and doesn't get recognized easily…!!! So where is the respect here?

A handful amount of students of the country are entitled to enjoy the benefits of going abroad and studying in these universities. The level of knowledge they gather, they become a piece of jewel for us, but where can they invest their knowledge in our country safely? The day he returns in his country with a few thousand dollars in his pocket to do something good for the country, he's doomed… who will ensure the safety of this jewel the Police? RAT? RAB? Just changing ones attire doesn't uplift the character.

Now when the child has to get education there are almost no compromises by parents as well as teenagers because all of us want the best, and the foreign countries are open for meritorious students of our countries. A parent always anxiously looks forward to their child, who will one day bloom as the flower of the garden and take away all the sufferings and anxieties of their families. Who will want to go through the sufferings of misfortune of this country? Indeed what has this country given us?

We vote for politicians so that they ensure a better future for us instead are they ensuring a better future for them or us? Millions of dollars in foreign aid have come to our country since the post war era and looking back what has happened to this country??? So why should we stay here?

"It's quite easy for one to make an easy earning in Bangladesh and it's not that bad at all", I believe these were the sayings in the concluding paragraph of the article. If it's easy to make an earning then why are there more than 200,000 Highly Educated jobless people hanging around in the city as reported by the national dailies. Why don't they get lucky?

"Patriotism" and "Love for Motherland" doesn't have any meaning if you don't have food, lodging and peace. What's the use of reinforce your ego and walk in the streets with pride while the other stalk you with a fear of being humiliated by local "Mastaans", "Police" and "Gangsters"? Isn't it better to go abroad and make an earning and start a new life there? We may be termed as "Immigrants" but we will be safe, we will get 3 square meals and most of all have a peaceful life. Education plays a vital role in the development of a country's infrastructure but its better to leave Bangladesh in its state of "Brain Drainage" since the "Seniors" of the country can't do anything about it.

If one can't ensure the safety of tomorrows flag bearers then where will the nation go?

My sincere apologies to my emotional, yet PATRIOT friend who managed to write an article just two weeks ago in Rising Stars front page. No condolences but I believe you should feel the inevitable and find out the truth behind everything, as "The truth is out there".

By Sayeef Rahman




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