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Respecting our culture

I know what you must be thinking right now, haven't we had enough of Pahela Baishakh for one year? Isn't it about time we get back to jeans, t-shirts and burgers rather than Punjabis, sarees and panta? And I agree completely and wholeheartedly. Apparently being Bengali for one day is more than enough nowadays to prove your patriotism. But even then, some contentious celebrations of the New Year have left me dumbfounded.

The funny thing is that, this whole notion of celebrating Pahela Baishakh with so much enthusiasm and preparation is something that is relatively new. Even some fifty years ago the celebration of this day was rather limited to landlords, farmers and shopkeepers, and that too for financial purposes. Definitely, in no way was the festivity as pervasive and widespread as it is now. However even in this short period of time, thanks to some cultural organizations and their cultural movements, the celebration of Pahela Baishakh in such flamboyant and colorful process has become an integral part of Bengali culture. In fact, the welcoming of the Bengali New Year is now probably the most pivotal part of Bengali tradition and acts as a symbol of our national identity. Even the Bengali speaking population of India doesn't put too much emphasis on this celebration. So it can be said that the celebration of this day does not only flaunt our culture and heritage but it also represents out nationality.

Hence, seeing people celebrate this day with “disco-hip-hop nights” and “war of DJs” just doesn't feel right. However, the truth be told, personally I am not very fond of this idea of pretending to be Bengali for one day and then going back to becoming the spoiled brats that we are for the rest of the year. Neither am I saying that everyone needs to wear saree/Punjabi, go to a certain place with the fear of bomb blasts in the back of their mind, walk through a sea of people only to reach another sea of people, climb on top of historical monuments of our liberation war to take pictures, devour over priced panta with Hilsha and then buy those absolutely annoying toys that make weird noises. But is a little amount of respect just too much to ask? Dancing to the tunes of DJs who have the words “yo” and “doug” in their names and witnessing them wage some type of war against each other, sure doesn't sound very respectful of our culture. It is hard to believe that someone would actually think about celebrating Pahela Baishakh with unrecognizable English, distorted Bengali and cheap, tacky Hindi songs, mixed together to create some type of dance revolution music.

Don't get me wrong here, I love doing pelvic thrusts and jhatkas to the tune of obscene music performed by a bunch of wannabe DJs…or maybe I don't. But my point is that I can understand how some people like that so much…well, actually, I don't . But anyway, what I am trying to say is that you are entitled to do whatever you want but couldn't this wait for one day? Is it right to celebrate the most important event in our culture like that and consequently make a mockery of it?

Before writing this article we unanimously decided that mentioning the name of the organization would only provide them free publicity. However, later we found out that this very organization, Jockey, was bent on organizing “The biggest hip-hop Indian night” on the night of 26th march, last year. But the valiant protest of a bunch of teenage girls spoiled that blasphemous event. Many of you might remember the article that came out in RS, written by one of those girls. So we asked the authority of Jockey, why they were always so eager to ridicule our traditions and national identity? Some of the replies we got were just downright funny, for example- “Pahela Baishakh ends in the morning, right? So what's wrong with having our event during evening?” However, they completely denied that they wanted to organize “Indian hip-hop night” on our independence day. Though, all the posters that were put up during that time, and the comments of many involved with the event say otherwise.

I would never even waste a second of my time thinking about these “disco-war-nights” on Pahela Baishakh, if it wasn't for the surprisingly huge turnout they managed to get. Seriously, those of us who actually willingly took part in this charade should think about how we are insulting our culture and heritage.

By Sadman Alvi


Claws on the hand that feeds

The media is a surprising entity that thrives equally on the good and the bad. More surprisingly, we thrive on the media's spellbinding charm while hardly distinguishing between the two sides of every tale. Often the 'ugly' side creates a deep-rooted impression on the minds of us teenagers and young (even old!) adults.

The bad, the really bad, and the (really) ugly

It's not difficult for the kids of our generation to become prejudiced by watching television, reading books and magazines, or even studying school textbooks that present stereotyped views of various groups of people. Even when a stereotype is positive, such as when people in one racial group are thought to be superior athletes, the consequences of stereotyping are negative.

With the media labeling us left, right, and center, children can tend to feel vulnerable about their self-image. They may brand themselves as 'nerds' or 'rejects' and derive pleasure from being socially superior to their peers. They may resort to teasing and bullying, not really because they have any ill will towards any particular people, but because they may 'feel good' about putting others down. And that's never good, especially NOT in children.

God, I FEEL ugly

Well, a lot of women do, actually. Women are so bombarded by graphically-enhanced pictures of stick-thin models that they can't help but feel bad about their appearance. Women are now encouraged to appear thinner and more youthful, not because it's healthy, but for purely aesthetic reasons. Now, women have been whittled down to a face, a body, a figure, and a brainless existence.

For example, societal values changed drastically in Fiji when satellites and television was introduced. After 38 months of exposure to these media images, women of an average age of 17 drastically changed their view towards body image and beauty. They began to worry about their weight and appearance more. The same thing happened in Iran. After Western channels were banned, and the only women showed on television appeared in full body cover, it was found that women had a higher body appreciation than before.

It all comes down to this. Fashion magazines, fashion shows, television, and commercialsthey're all in the same boat. They all promote the 'thin ideal' media image. And because most women can't become Teri Hatcher, they hate themselves and their bodies. And it's not just me saying that, either. Studies have shown that 'thin ideal' media image did negatively affect women's body satisfaction, confidence, and anxiety for those without a boyfriend. How's that for women's emancipation?

Oooh, that's just disturbing

You look around and you see children completely immune to violence. You can blame it on a lot of thingspoverty, racism, unemployment, illegal drugs, and so on and so forth. If that wasn't all, there's been a hike in the amount and aggression of violence directed at children, and the promotion of violence through mediums such as television, movies, computer games, and videotapes, and an increase in the manufacture and distribution of weapon-like toys and other products directly linked to violent programming. Next to family, the television and other media may be the most important sources of information for children and we need to know what exactly we're making appropriate for our coming generations.

Heavy television violence desensitizes children towards suffering, they grow more fearful of the world around them, and they are more likely to behave aggressively and violently with others. (National Institute of Mental Health, 1982; Singer & Singer, 1984, 1986; Singer, Singer, & Rapaczynski, 1984; Rule & Ferguson, 1986; Simon, 1989).

Television also sets limits on children's imagination. They take to imitation of on-screen (often violent characters) and begin to mimic their aggressive behavior. In short, children who are frequent viewers of media violence learn that aggression is a successful and acceptable way to achieve goals and solve problems; they are less likely to benefit from creative, imaginative play as the natural means to express feelings, overcome anger, and gain self-control.

Although the media is a good thing promoting greater communication and information dissipation, it can blur certain boundaries. What do we do about our youth, about the girls and women out there slaving away to attain unattainable goals? What do we say to children who pretend to play dead after seeing a particularly gruesome episode of 'COPS'? What do we do? How can we differentiate between the healthy and the unreal?

By Shehtaz Huq


Out of the world tete-a-tete

Only a few days back, I was reading about Stephen Hawking, who is to take a zero gravity flight and was affirmed by the fact that 'nothing is impossible'. If a potentially paralyzed person could literally do this, then nowadays, to me, nothing seems to be beyond the reach of human kind. I always had a teensy-weensy bit of interest in astronomy. Who doesn't? Everyone is more or less intrigued by the sky and outer space! So I thought why not know something about it? I had already joined an astronomy workshop conducted by the Bangladesh Astronomical Association (BAA) in January. From there I had the pleasure to talk to Mr. Mashurul Amin, Founder of BAA and Editor of the science magazine 'Mohakash Barta'.

RS: When did BAA start its journey?

Mr. Amin: It was founded in 1988.

RS: At that time was astronomy a rare subject in Bangladesh? If yes, then what difficulties did you face in setting up this association?

Mr. Amin: Yes, I must say that astronomy was a rare subject back then. I was merely in college when I thought of forming a club along with some friends. After attending a series of astronomy workshops at the National Science and Technology Museum, we decided that we would buy a telescope. Buying a telescope at that time wasn't an easy task since it was very expensive. Soon that idea was dropped as we decided that we should let people know more about astronomy. So we published the magazine 'Mohakash Barta'.

We had to finance this magazine by ourselves at first but as soon as it got published, it captured the attention of renowned professors like Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, Dr. Abu Abdullah Ziauddin Ahmed and other respected personalities who came forward and voluntarily helped us with funding of the magazine. In 1993, as we decided to publish our first advisor, Prof. Abdur Jabbar's book called 'Tara Porichiti', sadly Jabbar sir passed away as he was suffering from Parkinson's disease. But finally we managed to publish his book with a lot of support from his family and released it in the 'Ekushey Book Fair' in 1994. From then onwards, there was no turning back and the BAA started growing.

RS: What does BAA do to increase popularity of astronomy?

Mr. Amin: Its first attempt came through an astronomy workshop held in 1992. This workshop still takes place and we just concluded the 13th National Astronomical Workshop Training on 24th March 2007 and are planning to start a new one on 21st April*. We also hold other programmes like Space Fest (held in 1996, 1999 & 2003) where there are seminars, documentaries, quiz competitions etc., basically a programme dedicated for those who want to know more about astronomy. Then there is the Sun Fest (held in 2001) where we go on a trekking adventure and observe the sunrise in different regions of Bangladesh. In 2006, we held an Astro-Olympiad where almost 1200 students aged between 14-17 years took part from six divisional regions of the country.

RS: There are a lot of information & formulas included in astronomy. Can you tell us how these apply to the lives of people living on Earth?

Mr. Amin: See, when we listen to songs or look at paintings, we do it for our mental satisfaction and development. Astronomy is just that. BAA tries to do that in an amateur level but we are planning to go on a more professional level in which it will increase the dimension of the people's imagination and move our civilization forward.

RS: Lastly, what would you say to our readers who want to study astronomy?

Mr. Amin: There is no opportunity to study astronomy in Bangladesh but one can go to India where it is highly acknowledged as a profession. If you study astronomy you can work in NASA and other observatories around the world. You don't necessarily have to take a professional degree in astronomy. You should be surprised but it is actually true that 90% of known comets were discovered by amateur astronomers who studied either business or other similar subjects. So, my advice to those aspiring astronomers out there would be to buy a telescope however you can. Look through it and who knows you might end up discovering a comet which you can name after yourself and bring pride to the nation! If you want to know more about the sky, come to our office, where we'll make you familiar with the sky, absolutely free of cost.

After finishing my conversation with such an interesting personality, I realized that the day is not far when we'll hear astronomers from Bangladesh earning name and fame from all over the world.

*Further details:

14th National Astronomical Workshop Training

Commences on 21st April 2007 and will continue till 23rd June 2007. There will be a total of ten classes held on every Saturday of the week at Alliance Francaise de Dacca, 26 Mirpur Road, Dhaka-1205.

Entry Fee: Tk.1500.

Requirements: 1 Passport size & 1 stamp size photo
Bangladesh Astronomical Association
75, Science Laboratory Road, Dhaka-1205

Entry fee for members: Tk.500
All members are eligible to attend sky observatory lessons on first Sundays of every month, a study cycle on astronomy held on first and third Thursdays of every month and hold access to its library.

By Faria Sanjana


 

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