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Ray of sunshine

On 18th November this year, the yellow shirts were everywhere. You've probably saw them somewhere. Students from different schools and universities were selling popcorn, cotton candy and balloons on the streets. You must have wandered whether the Google generation was going through another post-adolescent stage when they take up strange hobbies. So, what were all these youngsters doing on the road instead of staying at home hooked to their machines?

20th November is International Child's Rights Day and this gala event "Jaago" was organised by Jaago Foundation to spread awareness on children's rights. Jaago Foundation is a free English medium school in Rayer Bazaar that believes that the cycle of poverty can be broken by education. This school was started in 2007 and currently has 120 students.

So you ask again, why were they on the streets? In order to celebrate that day, around five hundred street children were taken to Wonderland amusement park to enjoy an entire day of carefree fun! These children grow up in the harshest conditions and are forced to mature beyond their age, never tasting what we refer to as the golden childhood. Jaago Foundation took the initiative to let them enjoy themselves for this one day. However there was a simple problem. If they went to have fun for the whole day, their earnings for that day would be zero and their employers would fire them. They need the money for themselves, for their families. Jaago Foundation called on the more privileged youth of society to come and earn these children's money for the time that they would spend in Wonderland. Hence, the outburst of yellow everywhere. The volunteers came from Mastermind, Maple Leaf, Sunbeams, Scholastica, BUET, Darul Ihsan University, London Grace International and One Degree Initiative.

Inside Wonderland, the children got to try the different rides after they were served breakfast, then they had a talent show. Before lunch they enjoyed a magic show and afterwards, the top finalists of "Khude Gaan Raj" sang performed and a health camp was arranged especially for the children. This was probably one of the most memorable days of their lives.

Meanwhile, the volunteers also had a swell time. Although many are familiar with activities of a similar sort, this was an entirely new experience. While trying to convince the adults in the cars to pay attention to the cause, the volunteers had resorted to the most ridiculous tricks possible and surprisingly, they worked. Even the children left behind were amused, not only by the volunteers' antics which ranged from dancing the "Soulja Boy" on the footpath to chasing each other around but also from good salesmen skills and sheer enthusiasm. Friendships were formed with the most unlikely of street urchins, while many of the pro sellers and beggars advised on when to approach customers, what the rush hours were and so on!

On a personal note, the best part was when all those cranky middle aged folk who looked like their lives were a tedious mess would shoo the beggars away with the slight of their hand but when one of us approached and started talking to the glazed window a smile would creep up on their faces and would slowly lower their glass so that we could finish. Of course, then they'd make a contribution. Regardless of how small or how large, we know that that day while going home they would feel a lightness in their hearts thinking that this country may just change for the better because if it is possible to get so many yellow shirts together for this greater cause, apathy was but a step away from getting destroyed.

By Hiya Islam and Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Deshi, bideshi

The constellations scissor into place, heavenly bodies moving languidly across the ecliptic as somewhere on the celestial sphere a sliver of moon hovers over the gathering gloom. Feet pummel cement as excited children crowd rooftops, and televisions across the city tune in to the various news stations, to broadcast into living rooms the black cube and the masses of pilgrims whose shrouds of white serve as a reminder of the exercise in piety that we the believers ought to undertake, sooner rather than later. Except, such somber thoughts are usually somewhere at the back of our minds. No, our ears are too full of the sounds of cows mooing and goats bleating and the occasional swearing as some hapless person steps into a steaming mound of dung.

Sights and smells of a Dhaka Qurbanir Eid, as familiar to us as the thrill of a hartal (no school) and the first spell of monsoon rain (to satiate our Bengali souls). Men walk their sacrificial animals down the streets of Dhaka while the glimpse of a screaming man in a lungi chasing a bovine creature down the street provides the titters from the seething mass of vehicles held up in pre-Eid traffic. Mistresses of households towering menacingly over the kitchen stove as spices are ground and botis are sharpened. Routes are debated and cobbled down, mothers and fathers sitting down to include in their list of good will those members of their extended family they only get to see that one time of the year. 'And how many cuts of meat for your grandmother's sister's daughter's daughter', such conversations taking the place of regular dinner time talk.

Cut the scene to somewhere halfway, or even a quarter-way across the globe, to a few lines of longitude east of Greenwich. Here snowfall is not rare, monsoon rains practically unheard of, and gorur haats bordering on the unimaginable. Only in the minds of those souls still hankering for the taste of Dhaka soil, only in those minds are memories of azaans and cows still vibrant. The neither-here-nor-there children of these lonesome, expatriate parents, who in all probability will never smell the dung that laces the Dhaka air or hear the grind of blade on whetstone. To them, perhaps Eid is a distant concept, the story of Abraham and his son and the magnitude of his devotion to the Lord something heard only in passing from a grandparent or an aunt. Their only tangible memory of Eid is whittled down to money wired yearly to an ancestral village back in Bangladesh, to slaughter in their name some cow or some goat or some sheep or some camel that a well-meaning relative picked out. 'And how exactly do you want the meat to be distributed?' the conversation, carried out over long-distance telephone, as names are jotted down and familial ties weighed against one another.

It is hard to miss, breathing the Dhaka soil, when Eid steps into the lives of its people. The fairy lights that go up on the shopping complexes, every square inch of playground morphed into a farmer's market. Petty competition between Mr. Kuddus of road no. 11 and Mr. Ali of road no. 13, whose cows glare at each other from across the street. But where hamburgers take the place of beef curry, it is not entirely impossible to grow up oblivious to Eid. How many times a year does Eid come around? And what's with the new moon? And what's with all the talk about qurbani this and bokshish that? Alien concepts, perhaps, years of tradition truncated down to a trip to the local mosque and a day spent in the living rooms of faintly resented fellow expatriates. After all, Eid is a time for brotherhood.

By Shehtaz Huq

Clash of the titans

It was the Finals of the Inter-University Championship 2009 which took place on Thursday last; a match between the old rivals- Independent University, Bangladesh and North South University on Thursday. A clash that for those spectators who were present, would deem themselves as the privileged to have witnessed such an exhilarating event in Inter-University football history.

Looking back to the days before the title fight, both teams previously having proven their mettle, earning their places in the finals. Although NSU and IUB both faced off each other at the very beginning of the tournament, a 2-0 defeat for IUB did not dampen their spirits for the tournament. Quite on the contrary, it seems that the past matches had only bolstered their bloodlust for the title. By correcting themselves as they stumbled, learning from their follies, and striving for perfection, they showed the mark of true champions. NSU on the other hand had a pretty smooth sailing through out the tournament, maintaining a clean sheet. This however should not be mistaken for luck or any other sorts of divine intervention, for their results were but the shadow for their persistent pursuit for flawlessness. And so as Montgomery met Rommel on the sands of the Sahara, so too, do these proficient rivals meet again on the pitch.

The match started with uncertainty as both teams looked nervous and cautious. As they paced each other's ability, the heat of the match rose with adamant and remarkable attempts by both teams. The tension of the crowd was clear enough for officials to be present and with the constant presence of officials and the gates barred so that the supporters of the two sides do not follow through with a brawl. As Hamid and his comrades in the IUB team organized for an attack, the tide of the match suddenly changed with a goal by the NSU Blues. As Izaz homed in for the score with an attempt, a remarkable save by the IUB keeper leaves spectators awed. However, it does not stop Birol from stealing the glory of a goal with a lob over the keeper as the ball deflects to his preferred alignment. The Reds demanding that they equal themselves, batter on at the NSU keeper Tanzir, clearly keeping him on his wits. A mixture of experience and skill was what helped Tanzir with his clean sheet record. However, in the second half the physical pressure was showing its toll on the teams. But by this time, those who concluded that the match was coming to a halt, were mistaken. The game dare not slow down for even a second as Birol, Riffat, Izaz and the boys relentlessly carried on the assault, magnifying NSU's onslaught, only to be hindered by incomparable counterattacks by the IUB Reds. With all the clashing of sweat and skin, the fate of the match in the end become decided as Izaz scored on the second half closing the fate of the match.

The day came to an end with the trophy giving ceremony. As amazing as it was, seeing two teams compete, it was also equally sad to see one of the two defeated. As IUB collected their trophies, Hamid was rightfully awarded the “Player of the Tournament”. Like all good competitors, they retired for the day, promising another encounter in the years to come, a good notion for the victor and spectators to relish on. That left the NSU team to collect their much deserved trophy and medals with Birol taking his 'highest scorer' trophy of the tournament. As the managers were drenched by the buckets, one of the managers, Faraz claimed it to be “an achievement we strove for the last four years with a two time defeat in the previous semi-finals.” Thus the Inter-University Championship Football 2009 ended with both the winner and the runner-up celebrating their achievements.

By Faayadh Islam



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