Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


BeyBlade: The new obsession

No, I'm not here to sing praises in the honour of the latest and greatest (?!) fad that has the kids of the nation gripped. In fact, this is a, shall we say, rant against the absurdity that is BeyBlade.

Okay, the whole fiasco began with Pokémon. They showed the anime on Cartoon Network, kids loved and soon they were after the merchandise, as it is with most things of the same nature. Stores went ballistic with selling thousands of Pokémon Trading Cards. In fact, people are still buying them! Gotta catch 'em all, right?

Then Toonami India bagged another pathetic anime license (I mean what gives? Where's FMA, Naruto, Cowboy Bebop… the good stuff?). This time they got yet another tournament-based one by the name of BeyBlade. Now, if you thought Pokémon was grating and annoying, then don't ruin your day with this one. I mean, seriously, what if the "Blade Breakers" are faced with a dire situation of horrific proportions: a puppy is in distress and must be rescued! *cue dramatic music* Now since they're all "beybladers" it would be utter sacrilege if they tried to save the mutt by conventional methods. So what would they do? They'd "let it riiiiipp!!!" with their beyblades. Ah yes, the many uses of a spinning top know no bounds. This should give you an idea on how even the most mundane problems on the show are impossible to overcome unless they bust out their "blades". The fights are the typical "But-haha!-I've-yet-to-reveal-my-true-power!" style slugfests. It doesn't get more "been there, done that" than this. The characters are also the epitome of stereotypical-ness. Coupled with the whole "Americanization" process (more on that another day), a rather lacklustre show was made even lamer. God, don't even mention the "new and improved" music…
BUT defying all logic, this show is a huge hit with younger public. Smelling the green once again our 'deshi' stores have been bringing in the goods on a near-constant basis. Unlike Pokémon, where the games and cards were the nearest you could get to the experience, with Beyblade, they've stepped it one notch further. That's right kids! You can now buy your very own beyblades and tournament rings right here! All your "favourite" beyblade avatars are available in toy-stores across the nation. Just go into any of them and ask for "Beb-let" and you'll be presented with a dusty collection of little spinning tops that can be launched into battle! Why not even form a little group and give yourself some silly name while you're at it! The thoughts are sickening…
While waiting for my car one day, I decided to check out Metro Plaza to pass the hours. It was scary to say the least. Large paper signs proclaiming "Beblet! Beblet! Beblet! Come to our store to buy! Yadda Yadda…" were almost everywhere to be seen on the first floor. What was even scarier were the hordes of little kids dragging their moms and dads into stores to buy them a beyblade so they too can be part of the "in" crowd! I went into one of these stores, looked around to make sure no other customer was there and mumbled "Beyblade ache?" The shopkeeper's eyes lit up, he gave me a large yellow-toothed smile and yelled to his assistant to bring out all the beyblades, sorry "beb-lets", they had. A very dusty pile of crushed and otherwise, severely abused, plastic toy cases were dumped in front of me. The packaging was faded and the toys themselves looked like they'd been brought here in a leaky old freighter which was on its last propeller. There was kanji all over the packaging proclaiming god knows what and a bunch of "blade" stats at the back. The tops were pitifully small and the paint-work was horrible. Some looked like one small bump would shatter them. Out of curiosity, I asked for the price. I was expecting maybe 100 to 250 at the most since they did come with launchers. I WAS NOT expecting a number like 600. And those were the cheap ones! He also brought out slightly bigger beyblades (in better condition, thankfully) with absurd features like metallic rims and specifications like "low grip rolling" and "semi-flat turning" and what-not. I didn't dare ask the prices of those ones. Then to finish it off he brought out the créme of his collection, a boxed beyblade set with two large beyblades and a tournament arena (which is just a nicer word for "large metallic bowl"). The price was astronomical. I know people's spending habits can be odd, but why the hell would you spend so much on that rather cheap, trashy looking stuff? Weren't wooden tops and string good enough?

A few weeks back my kid brother was invited to a birthday party. It wasn't a normal party either! On the invitation card was written in big bold letters (with pictures) "BeyBlade Tournament"! I almost fell over. The stories I heard after he got back only confirmed it all: the kids have simply gone mad thanks to "beb-let".

I only shudder to think what's next in this line of anime fads…Comments, suggestions, flames and hate mail can all be directed to: baka.ero.sennin@gmail.com

By Le Chupacabra

Book review

Jhumpa Lahiri

The Interpreter of the Maladies

This Interpreter of Maladies is a stunning debut collection of nine stories, by a young Indian writer. It is a fantastic trip through the worlds of cultural adaptation. Portraying a broad range of characters - from new immigrants, to an Indian tour guide looking for love, to a young woman suffering seizures from lack of sexual contact, to a bedraggled apartment cleaner, all the characters have one characteristic in common - a search for love.

All the stories but one were previously published and almost all of them are marked by elegant prose and a deep, moving humanity that crashes through the pages. When you read the book it will help to know something of Indian culture and social structure in order to appreciate the subtle nuances of Lahri's stories, but even without such a background, one can appreciate them for their "humanness". The reason, I believe, behind her award of the Pulitzer.

If you're looking for fantastical plots, and wordy contextualism, you'll be disappointed. If however, you revel in intelligent, expressive prose, gently woven into rich tales of the hopes, fears, desires, and ambivalences that connect us all, regardless of cultural origins, you'll be quite pleased.

The stories concern snapshots of lives, defining moments of characters. By "defining moments" I do not mean anything grand. These are moments that occur in everyday life, events so banal that they seem negligible at first sight. Yet those moments impact the protagonists in the way that life becomes no longer the same for them. By confessing that their miscarried baby was a boy over a forced (the electricity went out) candle-light dinner, a deteriorating marriage is salvaged (in "a temporary matter"); a seven year old boy's compliment "you are sexy" induces her relationship with a married man to end (upon hearing it she suddenly realizes she is not unique -- in "sexy").

Jhumpa Lahiri breathes unpredictable life into the page, and the reader finishes each story wishing he could spend a whole novel with its characters.

There is nothing accidental about her success; the prose is beautifully simplistic and it is for this reason the reader can absorb it at leisure and still gain something academically valuable without trying to decipher.

The Interpreter of the Maladies is one of those rare finds that cause a reader to set the book down in a state of awe and singularly appreciate the author.

By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam

The motivation question- does money matter?

My dad is a businessman as like many other dads of the typical Bengali English medium (EM) guy. Being a son of a businessman has its advantages though. I never need to worry much about money, thank God, and I never need to worry about the fact that what I am going to do after college or how am I going to get through college. I know that even if I end up as a complete reject, hey my dad's business is there. I may sound extremely pathetic but undeniably many of you think like that. Many might say "Hey my dad's business is just an insurance; I want to rise in the world and do some stuff on my own", but in the back of our minds the comforting fact of the insurance remains. So that means are we less motivated.

I sometimes think about this, and think really hard on this fact. What would life be like if I was poorer? Of course I am not talking about starving, but I am talking about what if I was say, lower middle class, living in a small two-bedroom flat in one of those big yellow government buildings and the whole family sharing one bathroom? What if there were no cars waiting to take me to school in the morning, so I'd have to get up way before 7:00 and try to catch the bus? You may say, "Hey, what's so tough about that? Think about it. You are in a bus, sleepy, going to school and you drift off to sleep, and you have no driver-bhai calling you "bhaiya uthen…schoole poichaye gesi" Life is easy for you now. There's no stress.

After we pass our A-Levels many of us know that we are going abroad to study in those big universities. Or may end up in a high-profile local private universityt universities giving us a pretty well rounded education. The life of one from a poorer background is of course much harder. I am talking about those people who can't afford to go to a posh private university, and doesn't have the academic mettle to make it to the state university. They end up in those low-budget institutions, which are, least to say, pretty pathetic. Not because they are bad, but because of our ever increasing political 'shomossha', which leads to events like "Oh so and so was beaten by the police; let's call a five week strike".

I have a cousin who studies in such a college and has a GPA of 8.75, (out of 10, presumably) not a bad result (not a great one either), and the entire view of his friend circle is pretty pathetic. I asked them, why don't you attend your classes, why don't you study or try harder in class?

They simply tell me this: "What's the point…a degree from these colleges is worthless. These days only an IBA degree counts" I don't agree with them fully, but this gives a pretty good picture of how many of our less-lucky peers have to deal with.

This brings us back to the motivation question I had posed a few minutes back. I asked whether we become more motivated if we are rich, or being poor is a motivation enough. Motivation of course for students like us means, studies. Everyone wants to do well in studies but you have to understand that there are 'special' people among us- those who take 9 subjects when 8 or 7 would do. (I like to call them the 11 A PUBLIC!) Or those who take five A-Levels when simply 3 would do. You get what I mean? Now why do they do it? Do they want to be the best, does simple competition drive them to do all these stuff? Or do they really want to 'succeed' in life at all cost?

I know people who simply want to 'chill out'. Like, this friend of mine. He is a great student- 8 A's and 4 A's in his O and A levels respectively. He is one of those people who takes life real easy. He could easily end up in a big American University but he wants to go to places like New Zealand, where life is much more fun.

His view is, "It's time to enjoy". Of course, being his ambitious opposite, I often get into arguments with him but I guess I never could understand him. Life comes only once, why not take the opportunity to do something big? These people say, life comes only once, why not have fun? Any body can tell me, why this happens? And don't give me the answer 'oh…it's because people are different…."

By Reggie


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2005 The Daily Star