A few moments with the
Interview by Durdana Ghias
There are a very few (unfortunate) people in Bangladesh who haven't heard of Unmad and don't know who the Unmadok is. Yes, I am talking about the most famous satire magazine in Bangladesh and the man at its helm, Ahsan Habib. A few days ago we went to the Unmad office to spend a nice afternoon with the people who are working to make people laugh with their ingenious ideas. They were busy with drawing cartoons for the upcoming Cartoon Exhibition. Here the Unmadok shared some of his perceptions with us.
Rising Stars (RS): How did you come to the idea of creating Unmad?
Ahsan Habib (Unmadok): Unmad is the protagonist of all our cartoons and ideas. The idea of creating Unmad came from the need for a character that will talk about the social, political and other discrepancies behind the curtain of satire without the fear of legal action.
RS: Do you think Unmad has changed from what it was at the beginning?
Unmadok: Actually, the change mainly depends on the teams working at Unmad at different times. We do not have the same team always. Sometimes we have a team most of which are cartoonists and sometimes most of them are ideanists (an Unmad term). Right now we have more cartoonists than ideanists. But more or less we have always had a good team working for Unmad.
RS: Are we going to see any changes in Unmad in near future?
Unmadok: Yes. From the 200th issue there will be a major change in Unmad as everything will be computerized. So far, we have been doing all our jobs manually.
RS: The Unmad fans are saying that the quality of drawing and satires of Unmad are losing appeal day by day. What do you think about it?
Unmadok: It is the same old story. Though most of our readers are young people, the new generation is more mature than the youth of our time. It is very hard to satisfy them. People always think that the past performance was better. Suppose people are saying that the quality of the writings of Humayun Ahmed is deteriorating in comparison to his past works but every year his novels hit the top rank at the Boimela. The same people who are criticising him are buying his novels. But if after this you insist that our quality is dropping then I will say that at present we have to face a fierce competition from other satire magazines most of which come out with the daily newspapers. Unmad first came up with the idea of a satire magazine but now our ideanists are getting busy with these newspaper magazines as they give better offers. So it is a critical situation for Unmad.
RS: In your book 'Ami Unmad Na' (I am not mad) you said that you use misspelled words so that people confused with the words look for the dictionary and build a habit of using a dictionary. Is that true?
Unmadok: (smiling) I said that to pacify a woman in a Boimela because she was furious over the misspelled words in Unmad. But the truth is that at Unmad we spend little or no time in proof reading. Our office is very informal (it is mainly a place for adda) and most of us are idle when it comes to proof reading. Besides as we distort the names of the actors/stars the composer thinks it is normal to have a few mistakes. So the obvious result is a barrage of typos flooding Unmad. To validate the misspelled words a statement at the beginning of the magazine says that the misspelling is intentional. But now we are trying to improve our proof reading. So in future we expect fewer mistakes in Unmad.
RS: What role Unmad is playing in the economic and political development in Bangladesh?
Unmadok: (smiling) Unmad is the only magazine which uses the deshi newsprint. In that way we are contributing to the local economy and from our satires we always try to hint the politicians about the political situation of this country. We are also helping people to be healthy as when one laughs 32 muscles of his face move and this is a kind of facial exercise.
RS: We are missing the rhymed interviews in Unmad. Why?
Unmadok: The rhymesters who used to write the interviews are very busy now. One is Romen Raihan and the other is Obaidul Gani Chandan. At present Romen is busy teaching biology at a medical college and Chandan is busy with the magazine Binodon.
RS: What are your future plans with Unmad?
Unmadok: Our future plan is to make Unmad a brand name like Archies and Hallmarks. We hope that will be a commercial success. We also have a plan for animation though this is in the training level right now. The Cartoon Exhibition that is going to take place between 2-9 May on the occasion of the silver jubilee of Unmad was one of our future plans which came true. At the Exhibition we will award a young cartoonist for the first time. In our 27 years of venture in the cartoon world no one came forward to award the cartoonists in this country. So now we ourselves are poised to take action to honour our talented peers.
RS: What do you think in retrospect when you look back at the beginning of Unmad?
Unmadok: The starting was good. At that time Unmad was the only satire magazine and the people working here had been preoccupied with Unmad only. Now many cartoonists are getting involved with the daily newspapers, which is a good trend. The cartoonists are getting regular payment like the editors. Though Unmad is losing its cartoonists I will say that it is a good for them.
RS: What is your impression about the people of Bangladesh?
Unmadok: Once a British man wondered what made the street children of Bangladesh laugh when he cannot make his own child smile with the most expensive toys. In spite of living with poverty the people of our country are very cheerful and happy. They can smile even if they do not know whether they will have anything to eat at lunch time. The ordinary people of Bangladesh are very hardworking and determined to face the challenge of poverty stricken life which makes me admire them from the bottom of my heart.
The Preachers Of The Modern Beauty
Get on my Nerves
Some people suffer from an inferiority complex, which makes them try to be superior and this drives them to be mean to other people all the time. I'm specifically talking about a certain group of females (age-group: 14 to infinity) who believe it is their job to preach make-up or weight loss techniques to other people from the female gender who do not have a complex about themselves. I am sick and tired of this new breed of high maintenance-'I spend 3000 takas on my face and body all the time' show-offs. To be politically correct, not all girls that go to parlours are so 'irritating'. But the ones that brag about the fact that they are regular parlour chicks and offer advice to people they feel superior to (when it comes to artificial beauty) just get on my nerves.
Don't you hate it when someone comes up to you in public and announces that you have some 'lipular forestation' issues. It doesn't stop there, they give you a full analysis of waxing is better than hair removal cream, or bleaching, or plucking, there are so many ways, the list just goes on. And then there is the whole, 'Oh you should do your eye-brows' saga. They claim that you would look much better, but they fail to let you know it's like being married, once you start doing it, you are stuck doing it every month.
Of course people have endless opinions on hairstyles. There are so many people who are literally begging me to cut my hair. 'Man, it's high time you realize that long hair is out!' What they do not understand is that I spent years growing my hair and I love it. I don't care if it looks good or not, its who I am and it is a part of me now. Maybe I don't spend hours with an amla pack on, or mehendi with eggs, on my hair (which everyone suggests) but I just like my hair. Is that so hard to understand? Aren't we supposed to do what makes us feel happy and confident rather than trying to impress others? Some people just don't get that.
We all dislike those people who tell you to walk, jog, buy Ab-king pro, or do sit-ups. Yes, when someone is severely overweight, it may make sense to give them unwarranted opinions about methods of weight loss. But to give it to some girl, who is about 55 KGs to loose weight just because she doesn't have a perfect 36:24:36 figure is just useless don't you think?
Critical analysis of these beauty freaks can be extremely confusing. It is commonly believed that these people have nothing constructive to talk about settle for such 'worthless' topics. We commonly stereotype the typical housewife as being the mean one. (Hey most housewives I know are really nice and not 'backbiters' or 'insulters') But then why would a seventeen year old with so much going on in her life talk like this? Is it that a large proportion of people belonging to the female gender derive some form of sadistic pleasure by making someone feel bad? Don't they realize that by pointing out 'imperfections' (imperfections only in their eyes), what they are actually doing is stabbing that particular person's self esteem? It's like making someone who is totally confident about who they are doubt themselves. That's just wrong! Once that whole negative "my nose is too flat, I have too many pimples, why am I so fat,?" notion sets in, it is extremely hard to get rid of. Hey, if you are insecure about yourself, fine, no problem! But don't make other people feel insecure themselves just because you think that some part of their body doesn't look right!
As it is, with overexposure to profit hungry beauty magazines and cable TV, young women are frantically bleaching their skin (did you know one of the highest selling products in South East Asia are 'fair and lovely' creams?). Trying every possible pimple cream (even though they have very few of those pesky bumps on their face). Becoming obsessed with weight-loss: trying the Atkins diet, protein diet, carbo diet etc. With all this, what we are left with is a bunch of unhealthy, sick and exhausted women.
In Dhaka the number of women with horrific eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are increasing everyday. Its human nature to take the easy way out, but these girls diet unto death, instead of opting for the more healthy way of loosing weight with exercise. Recently, advertisements of cosmetic surgery hospitals can be seen on local TV.
So before we know it, may be some people will go to the other extreme of changing their every single 'unattractive' part of their bodies, going through liposuction etc. Where will it stop? What we don't understand is that in our search of the 'beautiful me' we lose the 'real me' and eventually some people go through this soul searching saga, after feeling hollow for some time.
It's easy for someone to say that they don't care about the way they look. The truth is that everyone likes looking good. I guess there are some people whose ultimate goal isn't trying to look the best in a room, may be because they know that they will never look better than what they already are, and have no problem with that. Lets end with this, some girls like playing tennis, getting sun-burnt comes with it but they don't care. Many people do care, and whatever makes them happy is fine. We tennis playing 'kaalis' don't preach about being a 'semi-tomboy' and would appreciate it if other 'anti tomboy' squads didn't preach about being picture perfect all the time. Remember, beauty is in fact, in the eye of the beholder!