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BYLC: Building Bridges

BYLC students planting a mahogany tree at Narsingdi

WHEN was the last time you had a nice long chat with someone from a schooling system different to yours? Having studied in English medium schools my whole life and before participating in the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center's (BYLC) Building Bridges Through Leadership Training (BBLT) program last year, I'd never met someone from a Madrassa, let alone had a proper conversation with someone from a Bangla medium school. It's a sad reality that our segregated schooling systems allow us little interaction with those from different backgrounds until we at least start university. By then, some of our misunderstandings about people from different backgrounds turn into stubborn, hackneyed prejudices that keep us from mixing with one another. That Madrassa boy must be a terrorist. That Bangla medium girl probably can't think for herself because she's been cooped up in her room memorising books her entire life. And us English medium students? We're so busy reading about the British economy and hoping for that one-way ticket out of Bangladesh that we don't even know the names of our Finance Minister and our national poet. Right?

Definitely not. These prejudices are often baseless and can definitely be changed. The Bangla medium students I met at BYLC are among the wittiest, funniest and most intelligent people I know. My Madrassa and English medium friends hold the same love, concern and burning need to do something for their country. Together, we sang songs (the Madrassa students joined in, even with some of the English nursery rhymes!), repaired slum houses, ran healthcare workshops and shared our plans for the future alongside bittersweet stories of success and failure. But if people aren't given the chance to see just how much they have in common, prejudices will keep tearing our society apart. Many of Bangladesh's problems the violent bipartisan politics, communal tensions and discrimination against minorities arise from divisiveness. Those marginalized turn to extremism, corruption and crime as a way out of the hopelessness of poverty. For Bangladesh to face its challenges, it needs leaders who are compassionate, competent and courageous. Leaders who respect people of different values, views and needs and can unite them to work together for the betterment of the country.

Founded in 2008, BYLC is the first organisation in Bangladesh to try this by bringing together a diverse group of bright and passionate young people from the three schooling systems and taking them through the intensive BBLT course to bring out their leadership qualities, help them build the bridges of understanding, inspire them to be active citizens and empower them to work for the needy by helping them design and implement exciting, sustainable and scalable community projects. BYLC hopes to create the next generation of home grown leaders who will help create a peaceful and poverty-free Bangladesh and after three very popular BBLT programs, is already showing signs of success. In 2009, Roxana Akhter Munni (a BBLT graduate from Chittagong) started a social endeavor called Karushilpo which employs acid-survivor women to produce handicrafts, and this year, BBLT graduates are working with their BYLC mentors to launch an exciting after-school BBLT Junior program which will run from June 20 to July 15, 2010 at St. Joseph's Higher Secondary School.

While the BBLT program is aimed at students in their last two years of high school or their first year of university, BBLT Junior is for students from Class 7-9. BBLT Junior has the same vision as its sister program, but will meet the special needs of a younger audience by focusing more on helping them build an eclectic group of friends, teaching them about Bangladesh (history, culture, society, environment and jurisdiction) to bring out their patriotism and civic responsibility, helping them empathise with the needy through community service and by sowing in them the seeds of leadership through fun and interactive public speaking, teamwork and leadership lessons and activities. The BBLT Junior program promises to be engaging and challenging; it will use a variety of methods ranging from large-class lectures and small-group activities alongside art and poetry sessions to help students to dream big, think critically, apply their creativity and feel empowered to make a difference. The program will end with a Closing Ceremony on July 31, and graduates will be awarded certificates.

Applications run from May 12 to June 05, so if you're looking forward to learning more about your country, helping the needy, making an amazing new group of friends and bringing out the best in yourself, you can apply online through the official website (www.bylc.org). The BYLC promotional team will also be visiting schools across Dhaka throughout May to talk about the program and distribute application forms, so you can also drop off the completed paper-based form at the BYLC office as well. Those who are shortlisted for the interview will be called up in early June. If you have any questions, you can write to info@bylc.org.

BBLT Junior will be an exciting program that promises to challenge, excite and broaden the horizons of our budding young leaders to set them onto the path of making Bangladesh the peaceful, prosperous and beautiful country that we dreamt of in 1971. We look forward to having you join us on this summer's wonderful journey!

By Alaka Dhara Halder

Khoj The Search for Improv Comedy

THIS writer will go on a tangent here and plain talk about things that are random, on occasion entirely inappropriate, unconnected and ultimately pointless. Why will he do this? Because after numerous tries and not a little frustration, he has found that certain topics require a certain insanity to sound even remotely logical. He will henceforth refer to the “movie” he is about review as an extended hallucination or something similar.

For one, this writer will now entertain the possibility that a country as mired in… things, such as Bangladesh has need of a Secret Service. Yes, a Bangladeshi Secret Service (B.S.S.). There will obviously be among you those who are already wondering at the sanity of such a deluded fantasy. You might ask, but what would a Secret Service do? What unspeakable secrets would they protect? The last uncorrupted MP? But that is sheer blasphemy!

Once the ground for that certain hallucination has been strengthened, this writer will pretend that Bangladesh has a super secret agent who goes around the world gathering info. This man goes by the name of Major Mahmood. It takes a while to sink in, such alien notions, but bear with him.

Once that has been established, let us now consider the illegal weapons cartels of this world. Cold, calculating, violent people run such organisations and imagine that the biggest and baddest of them all was a guy called Nino. Inspires morbid terror and gibbering fear that name doesn't it? No?

Now, imagine that the Bangladeshi Secret Service (gag, puke, barf), the only Secret Service in the entire world that actually gave away secrets, found out that they actually have intel on such a bad, bad man. A little hard to swallow, but run with me here. Now imagine them needing the services of their best agent, Major Mahmood, who is said to be currently in New York but somehow always shows up in Vegas and San Francisco… which is weird.

One could say that this type of psychosis happens only rarely and to the most unfortunate of people, but one would be wrong. Because there's more.

Now, since this writer has decided that he will throw the conventions of the written word out of the window and plain mess around, he will tell you, without any details, or any logic, that Major Mahmood came back to Dhaka, went to the B.S.S. (Badly Structured Story) where they told him that Nino was somehow in Bangladesh. If you are wondering about the logic behind this twist in the delusional story, please don't. The writer has made it clear he won't provide any such details.

After valiantly singing in a golf course off the coast of Savar with his female super secret badly accented agent counterpart Captain Bobby (imagine that name with on of the “b's” replaced with an “o”… that's how this name is sometimes pronounced), our protagonist with the penchant for wearing obnoxious belt buckles decided it was time to be getting on with work.

He then thought to single-handedly storm a heavily guarded facility defended by Chinese looking Oriental people, where he killed approximately the whole population of Zambia with a single gun in a forest. In this certain deranged hallucination, you never get to see the blood. Because he was so focused on committing genocide he never noticed Nino sneak up on from behind a tree… in a forest. At which point he got shot.

Keeping up with a movie, I mean hallucination as random as this is hard work. For example the next part of the movie deals with our super secret agent Major Mahmood behind kidnapped from the forests of Western Ashulia and being taken to a secret criminal facility. This is where a weird dude starts to hypnotise him with hammers and a steel bar. Major Mahmood becomes Anonto. Makes no sense? Yes. Also, interspersed with this delusion are scenes of the Major's mother suffering from needle pricks. This writer implores the reader to try and figure this part out.

What follows is a serialised story of a man who forgets himself to become an elite assassin but he never seems to kill anyone. Mixed in with this are Bangladeshi bodybuilders who try to kill him because he pretended to have biceps. He also slips into a coma after falling into the murky waters of the Buriganga (this part, the writer will admit, makes absolute sense). Then he wakes up in a village home and falls in love with this other woman whose name cannot be written about (because the writer had stopped paying attention by then and can't actually remember her name). This other woman happens to be the sister of Nino's Bangladeshi business partner. We will wrap this up here and say that at the end, everyone dies and a whole train is vaporised with a single grenade and Major Mahmood lives happily ever after.

Now that the summary of the schizophrenic daydream, the movie, is over, we can start with the reviewing.

The lead actor is better than Keanu Reeves, because he has one whole facial expression more. He can cry.

The best actor in the movie is a cow, because we had no trouble believing the cow, was in fact a cow.

The second best actor was a chicken, because the chicken clucked and sounded like a real chicken.

The third best actor was Winnie the Pooh. He appeared on the back of a mug and his painted smile, was the only real smile in the whole movie.

One Good Thing About The Movie: The actions scenes aren't all dishum dishum, they seem somewhat real.

Worst Things About The Movie: When things blow up, there is no debris. And random songs in …”alternative male” bars.

The movie is actually an improv comedy skit.
Thus ends this review. Thus ends the labours of this writer. He will strive to forget this chapter of his life.

By Tareq Adnan



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