Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


Food, or not

After the Ramadan: back to eating openly on the streets. Photo: Ronny

IT’s lunch time. Only nobody's eating or drinking anything, how strange. They're all huddled in small circles, making small talk or having full-blown heated conversations. A girl stealthily looks around and steals a small jilapi from her tiffin box. She is about to cover it with her hand and eat it, when.....
Everyone's staring at her. Twelve pairs of eyes. Twelve deadly stares.

It's Ramadan, people.

Come the holy month, a lot of people get a little more irritable than usual; and why not? It's difficult to juggle school/university, a career and all that shopping without eating anything for almost 12 hours. The roads are difficult because everyone's madly trying to rush somewhere so the cars are stuck for hours while the paasengers feel claustrophobic and secretly wish they had walked- at least they'd reach their destination in time.You'll see drivers exchanging their choicest swear words at each other at the smallest provocation. The weather is, of course, at its worst. It's a commonly known fact that Bangladeshi summers are deadly. So you obviously need to cool off and drink loads of water, fresh fruits and other cold stuff, the tragedy being that you can't- because, of course, you're fasting.

On top of that the sleeping pattern goes haywire, what with getting up at midnight to have sehri and then having difficulty going back to sleep. When sleep finally does come, it's actually time to get up and get to work. The result? Droopy eyes throughout the day and an inability to concentrate on anything. Half an hour before iftar, the table is being laid with food. There are the jilapis and the piyajus and the halim and the chola bhaji and.......well, the sight of food. Time suddenly seems to disobey all laws of physics and slows down, leaving you restless and half-dead in the process.

But in spite of all this, people still fast; not only because it's duty but also because Ramadan is about bonding with others, exercising self-restraint and sympathizing with the less privileged, and most of all because there are very few things that compare to the satisfaction of celebrating faith.

By Anika Tabassum

Spark of Ramadan

Photo: Zabir Hasan

WITH all the mad rush for eid shopping and a sudden frenzy of eating anything you can for iftar, yours truly set out on a journey to the labyrinth of Chandni Chawk market. Dusk was closing in fast. It seemed that tens of thousands of people were scurrying about here and there. Some sported a gleeful look, satisfied with their shopping and looking forward to iftar. Others had an irritable expression on their faces clearly beaten down by the humidity of the day. A few shoppers carried on some last-minute pre-iftar haggling. “Madam onek koshte sharadin roja raksi, 100 takar jonno emon koiren na,” pleaded a certain shop-keeper. “Amra ki roja na rekhe ghash katsi?” was the cutting reply he got.

Whether all the mad-caps were actually “shoppers” was indeed a matter of speculation. If it was already not enough with earnest buyers filling their hands with uncountable shopping bags, there were loads who did nothing other than staring and blocking the roads. Of course, these 'bekars' looked for the perfect opportunity to take a go at any passer-by, female or male!

As the sun got on the brink of disappearing, radios and televisions blazed on. Chants of the Holy Qu'raan and other religious songs were heard. By that time the crowd had dispersed. The roads were then lined with stacks of a variety of iftar items, starting from 'beguni' to 'mama halim'. Something that was really interesting to see was that some shoppers and shop-keepers sat together in front of their iftar sharing the same camaraderie as one would see in a family. Soon after the Maghrib Azaan was heard and everyone got busy with their meals truly a happy end to fourteen hours of abstinence!

By Faria Sanjana

Book review

Northern Lights

WITH the controversy following the launch of CERN's "Big Bang Machine" there's been a renewed interest in subjects like matter vs anti-matter, parallel universe theory, time travel, spirituality, and religion. At the same time, given the success of superhero movies and the like, fantasy and sci-fi themes are enjoying a new popularity. Think Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. Think Narnia. Think Tamora Pierce's Immortals series. Put them all together, and you just might end up with Philip Pullman's Dark Materials series.

Northern Lights, the first book in the series, is set in a world similar to a pre-World War version of ours, with a few technological differences. The main difference, however is in how all humans have a daemon, which could probably best be described as a physical manifestation of one's soul. Each daemon takes the shape of an animal, and is of the opposite gender to the human it belongs to, and the daemon of children can change shapes. The link between humans and daemon is very strong, resulting in physical and emotional pain if one goes too far away from one another. The story opens in Oxford, where Lyra Belaqua, a young orphan girl raised by the academics of Jordan College, manages to eavesdrop on a conference that would change her life forever, although she isn't to know this till much later.

While the wheels are set in motion for events on a larger scale, readers first get to explore Lyra's world and learn more about her personality and that of her daemon Pantalaimon (yes, children's daemon have their own distinct personalities). We see her as a sort of foundling, the ward of her powerful uncle, the scientist and explorer Asriel Belacqua, raised by the staff and faculty of Jordan College; stuffy old people who know very little about how to bring up a girl. As a result, she is a wild child, scampering over rooftops, fighting in the streets, generally raising hell, although for all her mischief, she's got a good heart and everyone knows it.

Things start heating up when children start disappearing. It is rumoured that they are kidnapped by horrible people called 'Gobblers' who take them far up north near the North Pole, and do horrible things to them. Around this time, word comes down that Lord Asriel has been arrested on charges of heresy, and is imprisoned somewhere in the North, where he is guarded by great armed bears. When Robbie, the kitchen boy, and Lyra's best friend, goes missing, she decides to go and save him, and try and help her uncle as well. Before, she can do that, however, she is foisted upon the mysterious and enchanting Mrs Coultier to learn how to be a lady. Before she sets forth into the world, however, she is entrusted with a truth-telling device called an alethiometer, and told not to tell anyone she has it.

At first, Lyra is utterly fascinated by Mrs Coultier, her pretty dresses, and her graceful airs. Mrs Coultier is an influential explorer, and is planning to go to the North, and Lyra obviously has Robbie's rescue in mind. However, she soon discovers to her horror that Mrs Coultier is one of the Gobblers, and is directly involved in the disappearance of the children. She manages to escape, and runs into a company of gypsies who are also trying to recover their lost children. Aided by the alethiometer, which looks like a golden compass, Lyra and the gypsies set off on a mission to the North to save Robbie, the other children, and Lord Asriel. The race is on, between Lyra's party, and the Gobblers. Who will win? What is awaiting them up in the land of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)? Read the book to find out. Superb narration, great characterization, and a story that just won't quit...this is one story that'll keep you flipping pages till the very end. The book has been adapted into a film called 'The Golden Compass", starring Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, and Daniel Craig, which, if the reviews are to be believed, turned out to be a great watch. Stay tuned next week for the second book in the series.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

A butterfly or a paint brush

She is a butterfly,
Colours ply by ply
She is a brush, a paint brush
To colour your heart, your wishes
In a rush
She is gentle; she is quiet
She is aloof; she is bright
She is more than herself
May be she is an angel; an elf
She rises from the ancient ruin
With all her magic like a elf queen
Removing all the dirt
From dream, From the valley of heart

By Khalid Nazmus Sakib

Economic analysis of friendship

Friendship is where there is no scarcity
You can never measure its price,
And the factors of production in friendship
Do not include enterprise.
There is wealth in abundance I agree
And the presence of interdependence,
But the income that you get daily
Is the love and care of trusted friends.
In this bond of people's hearts
There is no alienation,
Of love, care and kindness
There is a great sensation.
In friendship each is an ancillary
Providing help to other's needs,
And two words called thank you and sorry
A friend neither says, nor reads.

By Tannaz Tasnuva Ali

Foto Feature

LIES have been a part of faith and culture from ancient times. In some old cultures, butterflies symbolize rebirth. Some people believe that when a butterfly sits on you, it brings good luck. According to Japanese tradition, if a butterfly enters your guestroom and sits behind the screen, the person whom you most love is coming to see you.

I might not be very superstitious, but I am an avid dreamer. Nature enchants me and her petite wonders elevate me to a different world. This shot was taken in Lauachara Rain Forest, Sreemangal after trying for half an hour until it finally sit on the ground. When I finally did manage to capture its vivid beauty, I knew I have preserved its magic in digital frame for life.

Shudipto Das



home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2008 The Daily Star