“Ramadan this year will be a hectic affair,” proclaimed the Papa during dinner the night before the first Ramadan. “Why dad?” asked the confused teenage daughter of the family. “Why? You are asking why, you idiot?” the elder brother of the family loved to ridicule his sister by calling her an idiot every time she uttered a word in front of him. “Well, you tell me, if you know so well,” the sister asked of his elder brother. “Huh, I don't answer idiots,” scoffed the Brother. “Stop it, Son,” the Mother said and then added kindly for her confused daughter, “It's because Ramadan this year is in the primetime of summer, dear. We will be having Iftaars at about 6.30 pm and the days will be hot and humid.” “That's right. Oh and kids, you are having vacations throughout this month, aren't you?” said the Papa.
“Then make a plan of how you are going to spend this particular Ramadan,” he declared, “and write them in a diary will you?” Let's take some peeks:
The plans are formed. What about reality?
Big cities tend to give off this vibe that there's something going on just beyond your line of sight; a feeling of depth and slow tectonic momentum that threatens to run you over should you make a slip. That uneasy sense of subsurface activity is more pronounced in older parts of the city. Most of the time, we just pass it by without notice. But the next time you are at Puran Dhaka, pause for a second to look and to listen.
Neverwhere is the story of London Below, a shadow city that lurks beneath the flashy exterior. This is where the people go, those that have fallen through the cracks of reality. By their own words, the people who live Above are the possessors and the ones Below are the dispossessed. There is magic here, fear and shadows and darkness. And as with every place that houses sentient creatures, there are power struggles.
Into this confusing world of multiple baronies and fiefdoms [one of them ruled by rats who have human servants] enters Richard Mayhew, your average Londoner who is, in fact, Scottish. His ordered and rather clumsy life that revolves around work and going to museums with his overbearing, control freak, gold-digger girlfriend is overturned when he tries to help this wounded girl on the street who appears from nowhere. She gives her name as Door and she is being hunted by two disturbing old school hitmen who happen to be the best in the world at what they do.
The morning after he gets her safely to her ally, the Marquis de Carabas [no cat present here, but I promise you, you will be satisfied], he discovers nobody can see him for longer than a few seconds and no one knows who he is. So he goes down to London Below, to find Door and see if she can help him set his life straight. In classic Neil Gaiman fashion, things roll from one thing to another and they end up on a quest set to them by an angel [a real one] who may be able to tell them who really ordered the deaths of Door's entire family. On the way, they hook up with the aptly named Hunter and Richard has dreams about the Great Beast of London. That's right. Every city has one, down there in the sewers. So make sure that you don't fall into a manhole.
Gaiman is a fluid writer who deals out complex concepts with ease and a great sense of humour. It is a dark and dreary world but he holds the candle aloft so you can see a few feet down the road. The big picture is elusive, just like complete knowledge about an entire city, but you can conceive the scale of it simply enough. The social commentary is subtle [tip: notice the locations of the Floating Markets] and an interesting fact is, he actually went down into the sewers to write this book. Apparently, it doesn't smell as bad down there as we have come to imagine.
All in all, this is Gaiman doing what he does best, other than his graphic novels. If you like Pratchett or Holt, you'll love this. I scrounged my copy out of the dust of a friend's bookshelf. Ebooks are available online, if Nilkhet proves unyielding.
By Kazim Ibn Sadique
When I first heard of 'Action: Piyaju-Beguni', I immediately visualised a superhero storming through the streets of Dhaka, battling hijackers and goons by shooting piyajus and begunis from each hand. When I finally came to know more about it, I realised it was no less heroic than my initial impression, although not quite in the same way.
'Action: Piyaju-Beguni' is an event where volunteers (i.e. people like you and me) share their Iftaar with the less privileged on the streets. From Aug 19 to Sep 5, in different areas of Dhaka, every day Actioneers will be out sharing their Iftaar. Chances are they'll be doing it in your area too check out their Facebook event for details. Last year, they managed to share their Iftaar with over a 1000 people in 14 days!
The event is organised by CommunityAction, a student run charity organisation (registered under the Societies Registration Act, Registration No. 10268), who have been involved with a lot of 'good stuff' in the past two years. For example, they have raised about 14 lakhs for cyclone Aila victims, and helped in distribution of aid and relief materials. On top of that they have helped set up 67 tubewells all over the country to battle the freshwater crisis, and distributed over 16,000 pieces of warm clothing during winter. CA has also promoted pioneering concepts in volunteerism, like the “Shebar maddhome bijoyer prokash” campaign where 42 national/international organisations participated in celebrating Victory Day through volunteering for the underprivileged.
But why do you need to know all of this? It's because CA is run by people like you, and you can very easily be part of such activities. Getting involved is rewarding in a number of different levels. First of all, there's that 'warm fuzzy feeling' thingy that you get every time you do something good and you make someone happy. If you are a bit steelier than that and believe in more, ahem, tangible 'stuff', know that CA's activities are focused on sustainable development where efforts are made to not just to create a difference for a day, but more focused on starting a pattern that will generate a continuing cycle of positive changes. If altruism is not on the top of your list, getting involved with CA can help buff up your resume and make a great impression everywhere (hint: American college applications are big on altruistic activities). There's nothing wrong with getting involved with community service even for purely selfish reasons because while doing so, you'll make a difference in people's lives that they will carry with them forever.
So stop wasting time reading RS, and get going! To get involved (with Piyaju-Beguni, or a range of other activities), contact Sohaila Ridwan (01552335618) or Nabila Idris (01713000707). You can also join our Facebook fan page titled CommunityAction, which always has up-to-date information.
By Tausif Salim
| Issues | The Daily Star Home|
© 2010 The Daily Star