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Sumo: The Sport From Another World

By Kokoro-chan

"There things matter in life... sumo, business, and war. Understand one, you know them all.”- said Mr. Nobu in the Memoirs of a Geisha.

Well, easy for him to say. When this writer was younger, the sole notion that came to mind every time at the word 'sumo' was- 'fat men hugging'. Ah, the curses of not being a Japanese. Sort of.

See, these here are near-other-worldly concepts that are pretty difficult to comprehend when you are not part of this particular world. Not only is Japan the origin of Sumo, but also the only place on this planet where the sport is practiced professionally under the watchful eye of the Japan Sumo Association. It's a serious deal, the most revered sport of the country where wrestling is religion, pushing someone off his feet symbolises power and an unlimited storage of body lipid is considered a blessing. What other part of queer Earth does THAT happen in?

From ancient times, Sumo has had its ties with the Shinto religion. This explains the curious clapping and leg-stomping actions that most of us are familiar with when watching a Sumo match. These actions are actually traditional 'shiko' exercises that are, along with the fierce salt-throwing ritual, supposed to ward off evil spirits from the wrestling ring. Now you know why they put on such serious faces while doing things that, to the uninformed, would obviously seem somewhat, erm, funny.

But regardless of appearances, Sumo is a freakishly serious sport. Simply talking or reading about it isn't enough to realise what happens in real-life Sumo. Sumo wrestlers are carefully picked and prepared for battle in a manner and lifestyle befitting a soldier's, except for the eating-lots-of-food part. To a wrestler, Sumo becomes his life and he, a powerful yet mere pawn in the game. They are kept in 'stables' manned by stable-masters, where there is evident clash of ranks. The lower-ranked must serve the higher-ups and often things get ugly in the form of hazing. To add more fuel to the intensity of the game, Sumo is like a double-edged sword: ranks can be gained and lost every two months in official tournaments. This is what makes the participants so fierce and fixated on winning, knowing that even the highest ranked can fall and lose all his luxuries of life anytime in battle. This intensity of life-and-death situations, coupled with a maniacally disciplined lifestyle and recent controversies of match-fixing, suspension for behavioural upsets and Yakuza affiliation: we have our jackpot million-dollar story, people. No wonder Japanese sports manga are always so exciting and sensational!

Fun facts about Sumo:
1. They have specific terms for nearly everything: the ring is called 'dohyoo', the referee 'gyojii', the higher-ranked wrestlers 'sekitori' and the lower ones 'rikishi' (aha! 'Rikishi Phatu' makes so much more sense now, doesn't he?). The grand champion is called a 'yokozuna'. And the list goes on and on.

2. The game is a simple full body-contact 'pushing-your-opponent-out-of-the-ring' or 'throwing-him-off-his-feet' test. The ring is pretty small, mind you. Only 4.55 metres in diameter.

3. The tight loincloth thingies they wear are called 'mawashi'. A person can actually be disqualified should his 'mawashi' come off during a battle.

4. For what the elaborate and colourful 'dohyoo-iri' or ring entering rituals are worth, Sumo matches are usually very short. Highest time-limit is four minutes at best.

5. 'Chankonabe' is the traditional Sumo lunch, which is actually a huge meal of fish, meat and vegetables taken with rice and beers. Wrestlers aren't allowed any breakfast, only the huge lunch and an equally huge nap to boost up the body-weight. Results: recent 'yokozuna' Asashôryû Akinori happens to be a massive man of 148 kg. Whoa!

Despite how mythical it all sounds, Sumo wrestlers are, after all, human. The insane obesity takes its toll in old-age in the form of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and low life-expectancy. All in all, it's just a different way of looking at things: a game where obesity is not looked down upon, but held in a place of great power. Be warned people, this is one game where size DOES matter. Well, 9.9 out of 10 times, at least.

Source: http://www.sumo.or.jp/eng, Wikipedia


The previous topic was New Shoes and the entry below more or less worked well with the given topic. For next week we have Strangers. The entries sent in must be written within 500 words and submitted before noon Sunday to ds.risingstars@gmail.com.


New Shoes

By Lamisa Hossain

'…like, can you believe she said that?'

'OMG, like, I totally knew this would happen!'

You're prancing down the street with your girlfriends, laden with shopping bags, engaged in gossip about the latest scandal, when you stop dead. The shopping bags tumble from your numb fingers; your mouth falls open as you spot, proudly exhibited on the display window you're passing, the most perfect pair of hot pink suede pumps.

Your friends retrieve your discarded bags and follow as you squeal and dart into the shop and demand that they find your size.

When you walk to the mirror and look at the perfect way the hallowed shoes shape your legs… it's almost as though light shines down from paradise; heavenly chorus can be heard in the background, in harmony with the chubby, diaper-clad angels playing violins and harps.

It really is a holy, magical day.

It is a fact that buying shoes releases more of the endorphins that keeps us happy than any other purchase. This is because the adrenaline rush from wearing new shoes lasts longer than wearing new dresses, or carrying new bags.

And as for heels… well, they just makes us feel powerful and on top of the world, don't they?

So, ladies (and gentlemen- I don't discriminate), let's go through some of the world's leading shoe designers, shall we? Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Loboutin, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen and of course, Prada. Don't know any of them? Probably because they can't be found in Bangladesh.

But then, neither can a decent pair of shoes. Will that stop us from sinking to the ground in feverish worship of the Almighty for creating such perfection? Of course not.

Boots. The very word should be revered. Black, brown, beige, grey; leather, suede, fur-lined, buckled, tie-ups, stilettos- any of these are perfectly acceptable as the chill winds of winter blow across the city. Did I say acceptable? I meant incredible. When knee-lengths seem too dressy or inconvenient, ankle-high booties do the job just as well.

Want something a little more insane? How about a sexy pair of animal-print, or tastefully bejewelled pumps? Or go “Gaga” with the singer's eccentric heel less platforms. Discerningly used, they can jazz up the dullest, most ordinary outfits.

A pair of strappy heels in any of your basic colours will serve loyally with tons of classy outfits for any occasion, whether a formal family affair or just chilling with your buddies. Wedges are a safe and reliable component of your collection (yes, scoff all you want, but shoes are collectibles) that will keep you comfortable and stylish even when the going gets tough.

A pair of new shoes, if they are the right shoes, can cheer you up on the dreariest, most depressing of days. When you put them on, the world seems to realign itself, and nothing can get you down. As Lady Gaga shrewdly said, “A girl's just as hot as the shoes she chooses.” So, ladies, pick carefully.


Ah! Pitha!

By Jawad

Syed Mujtaba Ali once said that he was weighing his motivation to go to Heaven just because he couldn't find any description of shorshe-ilish as a privilege there. He might have been exaggerating a bit. But there is no doubt that we Bangladeshis love our food and hold the satisfaction of our taste buds over many other things. What shorshe-ilish was to Syed Mujtaba, pitha (or cakes, but that doesn't sound as delicious) is to yours truly. I can practically live through winter on only pithas: I might die of cold, but that's a separate matter.

An important part of the Bangladeshi tradition is wholly dedicated to pithas. Our winter celebrations particularly have pithas taking the central position. However the point of this article is not discussing the origins of pithas but the tricky process of making some of them based on first-hand experiences of yours truly. Yes. I have been in the kitchen; all for the sake of learning about our culture and upholding the greatness of Bangladeshi cuisine by saving pithas from extinction *patriotic music playing*. Scratch that: I just wanted to eat some pitha.

Common Ingredients:

Rice powder, coconut, molasses, flour, sugar, love (the best ingredient) and skill (oops).

Bhapa Pitha:
The practitioners at the roadside temporary pitha-stalls make preparing bhapa pitha look quite easy to the normal eye. Maybe it really is, but only in the hands of experts. The hardest part is readying the ingredients, particularly powdering the rice seeds. Though Blenders have made this task quite easier compared to before, the powder won't be as fine. Manual labour, buddy *tears up*. Your palms may blister, your shoulders may hurt; but that would make the pitha taste better....

...even if you produced something soggy and/or a lump of rice powder, coconut and molasses that keeps breaking apart. Apparently timing is a great factor while baking bhapa. As many of you know, you let the mould take in moisture from water vapour (standard procedure, easily observable in the road-side pitha-stalls). But if you are too late in taking it out, it might give similar results as mine. Still sweet and edible though. Fruits of labour are sweet.

Lobongo Pitha:
You know the rubbery mould made of flour and water to bake chapatti? That makes the structure of lobongo pitha. What you have to do is making the fillings. If you prefer sweet stuff, make the filling with coconut and sugar. If you don't, vegetables do just fine. But who wants vegetables? Your mother and the doctor. (Yes, if any mother is reading this, this pitha is very useful to make your child eat vegetables. I am a good boy.)

Then you cook it in oil until it turns slightly brown. And you eat it.

Pati-sapta pitha:
Pati-sapta was the easiest of the lot I tried. Just made some chapatti and stuffed it with some sweet stuff. But experts make some sort of paste with suji and other things but that was too troublesome. I was already full.

The timing is very important while cooking. First-timers will fail or mess up. If they don't, then they are doing something wrong. Just filling up our stomachs isn't enough. The brain needs correct electrical signals that spell 'delicious'.

***

Once there lived a Tona and a Tuni. One day Tona wanted to eat some pitha. Tuni said, “I can't. I have to go to the office. Besides, I don't know how to bake one. My mother never gave the recipe.”

Tona didn't know how to either. So he gave up and bought some instant food from the super-market. Thus the story of Tona and Tuni ended with them not tasting any pitha.

Okay, I was just kidding. But maybe the future isn't too far away when we hardly eat our home-made cooking, rather relying on instant products. What will happen to the delicacies called pithas?

I don't want a future without pithas.


 

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