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Kid Collections…

In my time I collected quite a few stuffed animal and beanie babies. I'm sure other girls collected Barbies and the guys collected Hot Wheels and GI Joes. God knows my brothers did. Nowadays, although Hot Wheels are still popular, GI Joes aren't. I guess old fashioned soundless buff marshals just don't cut it for boys these days. And I haven't seen beanie babies since I got out of this side of the bed and realised that boys don't have cooties. Sure, humans are fickle, but I couldn't help wondering what Toys-R-Us manufactures these days to capture the collecting fancy of children. So, I did a bit of research, looked through my bro's boxes of toys (when he wasn't in the house), recorded my observations and analysed the patterns and evolution of the collecting craft.

Hot Wheels:
Yes, kids these days do collect Hot Wheels. Yes, they are true to life replicas of the real cars. Yes, they have the same Hot Wheels logo. BUT, they have evolved. The Hot Wheels cars have developed even more outlandish designs than before. They look a lot like the race cars from Spy Kids 3. Also, some of the cars (Color Shifters) supposedly change colour in hot and cold water (It's a RED fire truck in hot water and YELLOW van in cold water!). I skeptically tried. It's true, and it holds the colour at room temperature. I thought it was pretty cool, like little Superman/Clark Kent cars.

Yes, these are still in. I was never a fan of Barbies… even at that young age I thought they were plastic. However, the vast majority of the female population either disagrees or doesn't care, so these are still pretty popular *insert witty joke about plastics and 'popular's*. Yes, the Barbies have changed too. Bratz are the first real competition Barbie ever had, but here in Bangladesh, they never managed to attain the fame and hype of Barbie. Barbies these days are much more varied. They are themed on the Barbie movies, with flashing-winged Barbies, Barbies who sing, Barbies who pretend their names are Clara or Odette and Barbies with detachable tails. Also in stock are Disney Princess Barbies, Barbies that look like Angelina Jolie, role-playing Barbies etc.

Ben 10:
If you haven't seen this, you're blind. It's the only possible explanation. The stores are overflowing with Ben and his cars, watches, pencil boxes, pens, eraser, alien stickers and so on. He's the new collecting frenzy, every boy's goody bag will have his pens and pencils and erasers and sharpeners. Even Gems-eating multicolored Pandas are collecting little Ben 10 aliens. Ben 10 trading cards have been introduced too. Manufacturers got inventive and even created Ben 10 watches, or Omnitrixes, that light up and have sound effects and all.

PS2/Wii Games:
Yes, sadly enough, these are the second most popular collectibles for kids these days, after Ben 10. Every year, new games come out like FIFA or WWE, and kids beg their parents to buy the new ones. They keep the old games and build up large collections.

Bouncy Balls:
These are actually more popular than most people think. Little kids are obsessed with bouncy balls and you can find them in almost every store. Bouncy balls have developed themed designs too, like Ben 10 (again), Cars, Disney Princesses and so on. They are really fun to play with and can be cheap too, so parents are more likely to indulge this phase more.

Outside Bangladesh:
Apparently, silly bandz are very popular right now. They're rubber bands that kids wear on their wrists and you can bend them into different shapes, like animals or hearts. I'm guessing that these are for girls.

Also, these new toys are out called Sing-A-Ma-Jigs (O_o yeah, I know). They are little stuffed animals that can sing, chatter in a gibberish language and harmonise with their other Sing-A-Ma-Jig friends in a chorus. Apparently, they are a great hit at the moment; kids collect them because the more there are, the better the chorus.

That's all I can come up with. I guess kids in Bangladesh don't collect Legos or marbles anymore, 'cause when I asked my bro, he laughed. Well, how was I supposed to know? And then, there's the stuff that never goes out of style, like stuffed animals and bears, or the slightly traditional collectibles, like coins and stamps, which are for the slightly older kids. We might find a lot of it preposterous, but then again, like someone said, our parents probably HATED what we collected.

By Sifana Sohail


The Handmaid's Tale

Dystopian novels, at least the ones I've read, follow the same trend. There is an oppressive regime ruling the people. Society is stratified. The class system is deeply entrenched; loyalties are divided based on caste, or gender, or occupation. The traditional family unit is non-existent. Parents are not necessarily the ones who beget their children. Children are sometimes not products of a biological process at all. They are bred in test tubes, incubated inside machines, and then popped out on conveyor belts at the behest of the (Big Brother) government. All those ideals, like freedom of expression and religion and constitutional rights, cease to exist. And thus we have the less-than-cheerful premise of an unsurprisingly less-than-cheerful story.

Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' is one such dystopian novel. Set sometime in the twenty-second century, 'The Handmaid's Tale' is a first-person narrative of handmaid Offred's life after the revolution that effectively ended all freedom in the world. The 'Sons of Jacob' overthrow democracy to establish a fiercely oppressive, chauvinistic, theocratic regime. Women are promptly banished as second-class citizens. Society devolves into an age darker than medieval times. Men control every aspect of every individual's life, going so far as to sanction the reproductive functions of certain women. Handmaids, like protagonist Offred, serve the singular purpose of bearing the children of their Commanders. She is resented by her Commander's wife Serena Joy, watched over by fellow handmaids, and left in isolation and constant fear that once her childbearing years run their course she will be shipped off to the Wastelands.

We catch glimpses of Offred's life before the revolution - an independent woman, mother of her nine-year-old daughter, living a relatively normal life with her husband Luke before the revolution destroys all semblance of normalcy. Her assets frozen by the government, her rights stripped, she is shipped from what is essentially one concentration camp to the next, to stamp out every notion of resistance from her mind. She is indoctrinated into the system, made to believe in her lack of self-worth, made to serve mindlessly a system that could very well be a modern-day metaphor for capitalism, or organised religion. The one thing sustaining her through her shallow existence is the dim hope that her daughter and her husband survived the forces of the revolution; every morning Offred checks to see if Luke's head is displayed on the ramparts of the walls that fringe the place where she lives. The evil that Offred encounters every day, at once insidious and palpable, reminded me of Marlowe's descent in 'Heart of Darkness' the same madness, the same single-minded aim for destruction, the same devolution of human sensibilities.

If I enjoyed 'The Handmaid's Tale' more than I enjoyed other dystopian novels, it would be because this was the only dystopian novel I've read so far that was written from a purely female perspective (save the epilogue), regarding themes that would be considered more meaningful to women (childbirth, marriage, the nature of intimate relationships) and by a female author who dealt with a plethora of controversial topics with admirable sensitivity. Truly a novel that will make you sit up and wonder.

By Shehtaz Huq

Trends of the Decade Past

Time has indeed flown by, and you have lived through an entire decade. As you turn around to bid adios, you might be shocked by the atrocities that are waving back with hideous smiles on their faces.

We are talking about the trends that have been prevalent in the teens during the last decade; but of course, the atrocities have also been accompanied by some intriguing and ultra-chic trends. Let's have a flashback, shall we?

With the new millennium, we had welcomed some old elements of fashion into our lives, like the bell-bottoms. These were actually an interesting inclusion to our wardrobes, maybe because they were not half as 'flowy' as the ones our dads used to wear in their youth. For some odd reason, though, we also welcomed (in the case of females) footwear with heels that looked like boxes; yours truly refuses to call them platforms, but they were probably a subcategory of the same. Yes, the general female population embraced this trend at the time due to the height issues, but now, they get a mini-apoplexy each time they see a picture of themselves wearing those stilt-thingies.

Coloured/straightened hair was also very 'in' this decade. While many utilized these opportunities in the best possible manner, others got all hyped up and ended up with jharufied hair. Not cool.

The most 'un-cool' trend, though, was that of the pants falling off the posterior. Fortunately, this trend was mostly limited to the guys. Was it supposed to be cool? Was it the after effect of a crash-diet? Was it meant to be…enticing *shudders*? We may never know…

Another mystery is the names assigned to the kameezes that made their debut each Eid. Massakkali, Anarkali and all other forms of kali were basically the same outfits with slight differences in their designs. But the greatest mystery, however, was the return of the harem pants, which made a sudden entry a few years back. The harem pants trend might have been short- lived, but that short time-span was enough to find its way into our deshi outfits, i.e., its design got incorporated into the pajamas we wear with panjabis and kameezes. Generally speaking, the results were not pleasant.

Near the end of the decade, a considerable portion of the teen population became bling junkies. Shoes, tees, shirts, jeans, kameez you name it: all were dipped in glitters, pasted with stones or sewed with sequins. The anti-blings teens were the ones to suffer the most, for they had to wander around in Bongobazar and Dhaka College Market for hours to find a piece of decent apparel. However, skin tight trousers arrived shortly after the bling jeans, leather, and all suitable fabrics were fashioned into skinnies. While some of the guys were skeptic and considered this trend to be a threat to their masculinity (in more ways than one), others found it too cool to resist. The females are in complete agreement with the males of the latter category, and are in love with skinnies because they go with absolutely anything. Clearly, this trend is here to stay for good.

Yep. The first ten years of the millenium produced an eclectic mix of trends. Some will follow us into the New Year; others might make a sudden comeback. Let's just hope the atrocities don't follow us.

By Sarwat Yunus



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