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Halima Khatun
Crafting stories for young and old

In a world where most children grow up on a staple of Noddy, Mallory Towers, Harry Potter, Aesop's Fables, Arabian Nights and Hans Christian Andersen, it is refreshing to come across works of indigenous authors. Among the Bangladeshi writers for children's books is Dr Halima Khatun, former director of the Institute of Education and Research, Dhaka University.

Catching up with Halima at her Indira Road home, she enthusiastically brings out an array of her works--poems and stories for children and adults, along with essays and translations.

First comes a children's book, titled Mastoboro Jinish (A Big Thing). This book is bilingual --Bangla and English. Likewise there is also Bagh ar Goru (The Tiger and the Peanut Cow) in Bangla and English. For very young children, there is a book of rhymes called Another Goose.

The prize of place in Halima's works for children is Pakhir Chhana, (the young one of the bird). This international story is well known and popular, says Halima. Depicting the adventures of a little chick before he was finally reunited with his mother, the work has an activity section. "Children can colour the pictures, sing and dance along, act out, read and recite the story," says Halima. The book even appeals to small babies, who respond keenly to their mother or grandmother's intonations. "My audience ranges from one month to five or six years," smiles Halima.

Besides being the prolific author of 35 children's books, Halima has written five books for adults.

"I get totally involved with my subject when I am writing," says Halima, adding that when she writes a new book it becomes her priority. Two of her recent children's books are Schooler nam Mohini (based on her school Monomohini) and a book of detective stories titled Hirey Bosano Projapoti (Diamond Set Butterfly).

Halima believes that there is a vacuum in the children books scene in the subcontinent. She maintains, "There are very few writers who are knowledgeable about a child's psychology, likes and dislikes. Quite often the subject matter and vocabulary used are inappropriate for children."

Where does Halima go from here? She has her finger in many pies. One is to complete unfinished articles and work on her life story, of which she has done some parts. Then there is a collection of 500 jokes for a book in Bangla and English.

"I am a great joker," concludes Halima. On that note, one ends the meeting. All and all a pleasant conversation with an accomplished author.

By Kavita Charanji

Though I am a small child

The sun the moon
And the stars I see,
The trees, the flowers
I want to be.
I want to be good to all,
though I am a small child after all.
--By Dr Halima Khatun

Campus news
Fete forraine @ Sunbeams

Sunbeams celebrated the start of this summer with another of its fabulous and much awaited fairs. Arranged on the school campus on Friday, the 3rd of June, students and parents were found milling about the gates, nearly an hour before the start, which eventually took place at 9:00 a.m. Despite having to wait in the excruciating heat, no one seemed to even think of leaving the premises till much later in the afternoon.

As is well known, Sunbeams Senior Section comprises of two buildings, standing proudly side by side. On walking in through the gates of the main building, one was greeted by the charming chairperson, Ms. Manzur, who made it a point to welcome every student and parent into the fair. On entering, one was dazzled by a sea of colours. On the left was the Nagordola or Ferris Wheel (manual) and straight in front was a mirage… Meaning the cool drinks and juice stalls were the first ones to meet the eye. Next to those were the slush machines and the ice-cream van. All these were located under the cooling shade of a "shamiana" in red and white hues.

Moving towards them, children were greeted by the sight of the coolest games ever! Keeping with the tradition of Sunbeams fairs, the games section was well equipped with entertainment for everybody. Penalty shoot out, shoot the cans, basketball, toy-trains, a jumping castle, among others, kept the children busy for the greater part of the day. Scattered around these stalls were stalls selling sweets, cotton candy, "jhalmuri", brownies etc.

Inside the building, on the ground floor were the book stall; the much visited Toys R Toys stall; the Sound of Music stall which fast became the "hangout" spot for most youngsters; children's accessories stall; the Lucky Dip stall etc. Wandering upwards, one came across a stall, aptly named, Picasso's Studio, which was the place to get your face painted and among the first places visited by the youngsters.

Also located on the second floor was the Accessories stall, which no only had beautiful hand painted t-shirts, but was also expertly and artistically designed.

Finally, situated on the topmost floor was the biggest attraction of the fair, none other than the Haunted House! Its popularity was soon evident form the enormous crowd of children waiting outside the doors, waiting for their turn to get a scare. The sound of shrieks and screams certainly made one wonder what the supernatural were up to but many were disappointed when it closed down earlier than expected. Two of the 'ghosts' had fallen sick from the heat inside the 'Haunted House'. It seems like even ghosts cannot escape the heat.

Next door to that was Vesta's Layer. This comprised of Sunbeam's one and only fortune teller, who, even while being very successful in palmistry, failed to predetermine that she too would shortly have to close down her stall due to the unbearable heat! Unfortunately, both the stalls were much missed.

The Annex building comprised mainly of all the food stalls, and some games such as Penalty Shootout and Balloon Shooting. Enjoyable as these games were, most people were drawn to the annex building mainly for the food stalls, where in the morning the teachers sold Lucchi and Alur Dom, which was later replaced in the afternoon by Tehari.

Other than that, there were also stalls selling home made cookies and various other mouthwatering treats!

Overall, the Funfair was a great success and enjoyed by teacher, students and parents alike.

By Crucified and The Hitch-Hiker

My grandmother
The best in the world

A grandmother -- everybody has at least one in their lives. Some people -- my mother for instance, are lucky enough to see their grandmothers for a significant amount of their life. Others like, my brother, are not so fortunate, as he received only a year of love and affection from our grandmother before her demise.

She had been suffering from a fatal disease called lymphoma, a sort of cancer. She was taken to Bangkok when she fell ill. There, they suspected cancer and completed the necessary tests. We waited in anticipation in Dhaka for the test results, praying and hoping against hope that it was not critical. We were all shocked and astounded at this. Not even in our wildest dreams had we imagined that this healthy lady could ever have such a deadly disease lurking inside her, waiting to attack. After three months in the Intensive Care Unit of Bumrungrad Hospital and four intense chemotherapy administered on her, she was brought back to Dhaka. I used to visit her in the ICU of the Central Hospital from time to time. Despite, not being able to speak due to the pipe, which was connected to her ventilator, she was always cheerful and would talk to us through sign language and sometimes write down her thoughts on pieces of paper. Yet slowly she was deteriorating. As I arrived home from school on the 15th of May, my father informed me that Nanumoni was in a very bad condition. He explained that her heart rate kept falling and asked me not to be surprised if there was a phone call from the hospital urging us to be there. The whole day I did my homework, tensed, waiting for that one phone call that just may be ‘the bad news’. At six o'clock, my father called & said that my two of my mother’s cousins were coming to take me to the hospital. Knowing what was coming, I arrived at the hospital to find more than a dozen people standing around the bed where my Nanu lay. I burst into tears and stroked my Nanu's head, which once had long and thick hair that used to fall to her waist. It is difficult to say goodbye to such a familiar face for the rest of your life. On that day, I lost one of my most dearly loved ones and a very important part of my family.

My Nanu was a proud and dignified lady who was a renowned educationist. She was the Professor and Head of the Department of Botany in Eden Girls' College for thirty-two years, the first woman principal of Dhaka College, the Director General of Education and finally a member of the Public Service Commission.

Apart from her professional life, she was very kind and forgiving. I have never seen her angry and she never held a grudge against anyone. She was always well dressed. She would always bring home things I loved to eat like cakes, chocolates, sweets, etc. Never did she let anyone scold me. Being her first grandchild and only granddaughter, she loved me and took great care of me.

She had planned to live in her apartment in Dhanmondi, which is still under construction and designed it to her own needs. The thought that she will never be able to live there still brings tears to my eyes. I still feel sad to think that I will never again be able to see her unimaginably beautiful, smiling face or hear her sweet, reassuring voice. She was always there when we needed her: She expressed her joy during times of happiness and spread her wisdom in times of confusion. But she never shared her agony during the six months she spent lying in a bed. When we asked her how she was, her answer was undoubtedly, "Bhalo achi" (I'm fine). She was a lovely daughter, a caring sister, a dutiful wife, a loving mother and, most importantly, she was the best grandmother a girl could dream to have.

Nanumoni, we may have bid farewell to your face and voice on the 15th of May 2005, but you will remain alive inside our hearts and in our memories forever.

By Lamisa Shirin Hossain

He who made it big

The generous Andrew Carnegie with 110 million dollars

The only thing we will say is that by the time he passed away in 1919, Carnegie had given away over $350 million. The rest, we will leave to him: "My heart is in the work. The duty of the man of wealth is to set an example of modest unostentatious living, shunning display; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and, after doing so, to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds which he is strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community."

American industrialist and philanthropist, born in Dunfermline, Scotland. His father, a weaver, found it increasingly difficult to get work in Scottish factories and in 1848 brought his family to Allegheny (now Pittsburgh), Pa. Andrew first worked in a cotton mill as a bobbin boy, then advanced himself as a telegrapher, and became (1859) a superintendent for the Pennsylvania RR. He resigned (1865) his railroad position to give personal attention to the investments he had made (1864) in iron manufactures.

By 1873, Carnegie had recognized America's need for steel and, concentrating on steel production, he began his acquisition of firms, which were later consolidated into the Carnegie Steel Company. His success was due in part to efficient business methods, to his able lieutenants, and to close alliances with railroads. Another factor was his partnership with Henry C. Frick. Carnegie, concentrating on production rather than stock-market manipulations, further expanded his plants and consolidated his hold in the depression of 1893-97. By 1900, the Carnegie Steel Company was producing one quarter of all the steel in the United States and controlled iron mines, coke ovens, ore ships, and railroads. It was in these circumstances that the U.S. Steel Corp. was formed to buy Carnegie out. He had long been willing to sell at his own price and in 1901 he transferred possession for $250 million in bonds and retired from business.

Carnegie's essay "The Gospel of Wealth" (1889) set forth his idea that rich men are "trustees" of their wealth and should administer it for the good of the public. His benefactions (totalling about $350 million) included Carnegie Hall (1892) in New York City, the Carnegie Institution of Washington (1902), the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission (1904), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1905), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1910), and over 2,800 libraries. After 1887, Carnegie lived a large part of each year in Scotland on his great estate on Dornoch Firth.

By Taskin Rahman


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