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Beyond borders -- strength in diversity

After the 9/11 incident intolerance and instability seem have spread and harmony seems to become term in today's world. It is apparent that only through appreciating individual and regional identities global peace can be ensured once again to our beloved world whose beauty lies in her diverse cultures and their inherent similarities. So to create awareness among the youth who are the decision makers of tomorrow and to eliminate the tide of hatred existing among different regions the British Council came forward to implement a project called Connecting Futures in the year 2002. The Connecting Futures works all around the globe with a view to making a positive change for the invisible, the unheard and the unseen section of the society with the extensive cooperation of the youth. In the South Asian Countries Connecting futures is known as Beyond Borders Regional project which implies not only beyond the geographical boundaries but beyond mental constraints, beyond physical barriers, beyond stereotypes, beyond ones comfort zones, thus beyond borders of all types. Diversity and tolerance, Active citizenship, HIV aids, Gender equality are some of the key concerns of what Beyond Borders is associated with. In Bangladesh Beyond Borders has been implemented through Democracy Watch a well reputed NGO working since 1995 for governance, human rights and various other social issues.

Beyond Borders held its first festival in India on 4th and 5th of February 2005 to celebrate and explore different cultures and identities on an international level. I had the privilege of joining this youth summit in New Delhi as a Bangladeshi Beyond Borders participant which was in itself a huge exposure. As I was born in New Delhi, going back to my birthplace after 21 years with a different vision was simply one of the most cherished events of my life.

The warm welcome and hospitality of the Indians made me feel so much at home that though being in a foreign land, the touch of belongingness was always very much there. Working in Bangladesh under Beyond Borders taught me to shift my I point of view into we. As a result, I smelt its true reflection with my first stepping into India festival. Every culture seemed to paint the festival with its own beauty and uniqueness. Youngsters from different corners like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and UK mingled with one another with the spirit of joy, unity and enthusiasm. The spontaneous performance of the Indian youth along with the physically disabled children gave an additional glow to the festival.

A dance drama performed on wheelchairs by a group of physically challenged children and a stage drama by a rehabilitation centre for the homeless and the orphans called Manzil marvelled the audience. It taught us how this ill-fated section can also excel in every walk of life if only proper love and support are shown towards them. We, the Bangladeshi participants along with the Indians made a musical fusion with khomok, Mandira and tabla which was a roaring success reflecting our rich cultural tradition to the international audience. In fact India festival was simply the first platform of diverse cultures which brought us all under one roof with closer ties irrespective of culture, religion and gender.

Leaving Delhi was undoubtedly one of the touching moments. Bidding good bye to all those wonderful people whom I had met only a week ago seemed to be the hardest task to fulfil. But fortunately the detachment was not for long. As Bangladesh hosted the 2nd Beyond Borders festival from 20th to 22nd of February 2005. There was again a reunion of the old friends -- four diverse nations Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and UK. I still remember how eagerly I awaited the day of my friends arrival from New Delhi. Their inquisitive eyes searching for me at the airport and the glowing faces at my sight spoke it all. How delighted I was to have them back again -- this time me as the host.

Our programme which started from 20th February 2005 was inaugurated by State Minister of Youth and Sports Fazlur Rahman. June Rollinson Director of The British Council, Taleya Rehman Executive Director of DemocracyWatch and eminent journalist Shafique Rehman were also present at the grand the occasion. Different innovative and inspiring events like jatra, forum theatre, parliamentary debates, fashion shows were held through out the day. Apart from cultural performances, paintings, public speaking, essay writing were also arranged to display the inner creativity of the participants. In the early dawn of 21st of February, I along with the international participants paid tributes to the martyrs of 1952 Language Movement at Shaheed Minar. It was indeed an honour to introduce our rich language history to the overseas youth who were quite oblivious of our past, tainted with blood and sacrifice. I asked a Pakistani participant how 1971 has been depicted in their history. To my utter dismay he replied East Pakistan being unproductive and poverty stricken, Pakistan gave freedom to its eastern wing and this is all they knew about 1971. It was indeed shocking to know how history has been manipulated.

The greatest achievement of Bangladesh festival was by replacing enmity with love between the two hostile nations India and Pakistan and this is where the success lies. The very sight of their singing, dancing and laughing together brought a ray of hope of uniting the two nations once again as if they were two roses blooming on one stem. In fact it was a common ground where different cultures and identities merged to bring out the best in everyone. After the three day sheer hard work and anxiety the programme successfully ended on 22nd February.

The next day was the day of joy and merriment. No work, no schedule, no anxiety. The fun of introducing rickshaw rides, the very first taste of "phuchka", endless bargainings at the shopping malls, the countless debates, my friends relentless effort to learn Bangla can never be forgotten. When the time came for the final adieu, the saddest part was saying GOOD BYE. We parted with the promise of remaining friends for life and meeting again with all those beautiful memories we treasured in our hearts. Beyond Borders succeeded in its term and spirit as it enlightened my soul like many others by finding strength in diversity.

I am deeply indebted to Beyond Borders for illuminating my life with the touch of all those wonderful people I cam across and making me a part of it. Today being a proud member of Beyond Borders, together we preach-

"We are apart, yet a part
We breathe the same air
The flesh and blood are the same
I extend my hand to you
With my heart in it."...

By Antara Ahmed Chowdhury


Whenever I talk about destiny either with my friends or with anyone else there are two questions that I come across most of the times. One of them is what is destiny? And the other one is do I believe in destiny? So, before entering into the discussion of destiny I think my logic on destiny would be more clear if I at first answer these two questions.

Destiny can be termed as the ultimate agency that predetermines the course of events or an event that will inevitably happen in the future. To be more elaborate, in life there are certain things that are bound to happen regardless of what you do. For instance, if it's written in your destiny that you will die by having an accident then you will do so even if you stay in your bed for the rest of your life. Who knows maybe the bedside lamp could have a short circuit and you might get electrocuted to death. But that's just an ugly way of looking at it. Another instance would be marriage. Most people say that marriages are made in heaven. Our religion, Islam, says that our lord has already chosen a partner for us and when the time is right we will meet our other half, get married and then get along with life as we know it. But the important question is do we believe in destiny? The answer is not surprising because I came across a poll on the internet where 100 people were asked whether or not they believed in destiny.

The results were a draw. Half of the people believe in it and the other half didn't. Now the polls could be a hoax but from my experience I have seen similar results. There are people who believe in destiny and they believe it with their mind and soul. So dedicated are they too destiny, that they go to people who are experts at palmistry. For most of you who does not what palmistry it is simple a method of telling fortunes by looking at the lines on the palm of the hand. I tried a few people who do these and most of them were correct with my past experiences and certain predictions such as I am going to be a millionaire and I am not going to have an affair-marriage are quite common to hear. But there are people who believe in these a lot and I even know some who have altered their lives according to the lines of their palms. There are people who look for signs all around them that might signal them to do a certain task.

An example of this would be a hilarious scene from the popular TV show 'FRIENDS' in this scene one of the lead casts of friends 'Phoebe' (Lisa Kudrow) is obsessed that she is getting signs to meet her father and the one sign that convinced her completely was when Joey (Matt Le Blanc) ordered a burger. Her derivation went like this the most popular burger is McDonald's burger and McDonald's implies Old McDonald which implies Old McDonald had a farm where farm implies pharmacist (coz they sound similar) which in the end implies that she had to meet her dad because her dad was a pharmacist. It's funny but believe me I have heard stories of real people doing derivations weirder than this.

And there are people who do not believe in destiny at all. Some people have remarked destiny has a concept for selling story books and making thrilling movies. Destiny, according to them, is like standing in front of a number of roads. You choose one road and you will be responsible for the consequence. More or less they go with the saying from the movie Mortal Kombat, which was remarked by Rayden (Christopher Lambert), "Every mortal is responsible for his/her own destiny". And this concept makes a whole lot of sense.

Think about it, if you get one fine morning and while hanging out with your buddies and one of them offers you to take drug and you take them. After that you get addicted to it and sooner or later you will be either stealing money to get more drugs or suffer the after effects of the drug in which there is a possibility that you might end up dead. Now this was not written in your destiny at the first place. It was only when you decided upon taking the drug that such a fate awaited you.

Destiny is hard to explain as to what it really means. And also it is not a matter to think about seriously either. Just remember that there are certain things in life that are meant to happen and instead of avoiding them it would be advisable to just prepare for it. Watch the movie 'Final Destination' and you will have a clear understanding to what I just said.

By Ziad Bin Hyder


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