Land of Opportunity
It's a good thing we don't live in America. For one, statistically speaking, all of us would have been really really fat. Health issues aside, the entertainment just wouldn't be the same. No, I am not talking about Ananta Jalil, although he is a true connoisseur of the noble art of making people explode with laughter. It's the political system of our beloved country that places us head and shoulders above any other pretenders like America claiming to be the best country in the world. It's not just about what we do, but how we do it. Here are but a few of the countless reasons why we are better:
1. We are rich. Yes, you heard it right. Right now, the U.S Presidential candidates are tearing their hair out thinking of ways to improve an economy that's in a worse free-fall than Shakib Khan's popularity. So, that must mean the world is in recession right? Noobs, please. Not here it’s not. Here, our leaders consider 4000 crore taka (That’s half a billion dollars) as chump change. So much so that they can just ignore it going missing without batting an eyelid. So, yeah. Wouldn’t you rather live in a place where money is no object?
2. We still think we are in the medieval era. Kingdoms, rulers, bloodlines. Maybe our politicians are into too much role-playing. What happens after a Senator, a governor or a mayor finishes their term in the U.S? Some other dude comes along to replace them. What happens here? They hang on for dear life until their son/daughter/nephew/pet dogs are mature enough to take over. That's the way it should be done. Do the Americans not know that power can only be passed down to the rightful heir? Them with their democracy. Pfft.
3. We do not deal in snide comments. Anyone who's been following the U.S Presidential race will know how both sides have taken numerous pot-shots at each other with snide comments, rumours etc. Well, not here. We don't tolerate such double standards in our country. If our politicians want to accuse, it's a full scale verbal assault (usually not censored, either), complete with a lawsuit. If the accused are not in power, we throw in some nifty interrogation methods in there for good measure (where do you think Guantanamo learned its tricks from?).
4. We are funny. Funny trumps everything else. It is known. Michelle Obama's speech a few days ago was a bore-fest where she tried to win sympathy votes from people by saying she was 'just like the rest of them'. Please, if we wanted clichéd drivel like that, we'd just watch one of the many recycled soaps on TV. No, once you run for office, you have a duty to keep your people entertained. The entertainment methods our politicians employ include making ridiculous promises that even they laugh at, giving interviews in new dialects of English and generally pretending that they are godsend miracle workers. Plus, the leaders are kept entertained by the gullible mass of people who keep falling for the same thing over and over again. So, it's a win-win.
Surely no one has the guts now to question the effort and ingenuity of our political leaders anymore. Remember, it's because of their brilliance that we haven't sunk to the depths of development that America has. While it's possible that the Americans will choose their President on merit, we can thank our leaders by voting blindly in yet another election. Till then, thank your lucky stars you are able to enjoy the circus.
Sticks and Stones
By Mastura Tasnim
Contemporary Bangla literature has plenty of contributions by Bangladeshi writers; it is a flourishing sector with new writers wowing us every year. Though many have broken the so-called language barrier and gained critical acclaim, English literature is a relatively unexplored arena for Bangladeshi writers. This is why Sticks and Stones has caused such a stir in literary quarters. It brings together the adept skills of experienced writers with the raw creativity of the new, and delivers it with style.
The anthology is divided into three parts with three distinct themes, punctuated here and there with photographs and poetry. The first segment is Connectivity . This is a compilation of seven entirely different short stories whose only similarity lies in the fact that the protagonist of each story is interlinked with the one before and the one after it. As it takes a 360 degree turn from Dhaka to New York to Dhaka again, the reader can appreciate the diversity and complexity of each individual tale.
For the second segment, titled Journeys, the reader takes a stroll through the winding roads of time. From perusing the influence of a four hundred year old playwright to catching a glimpse into the street samurai culture of future Dhaka, this is by far the more interesting segment. It also has Naveed Mahbub, the Engineer/CEO/Stand-up Comedian at his best and a great poem by Rushnaf Wadud, singer-songwriter of the band Blunderware.
The third and final segment is Kaleidoscope in which all 24 stories are under or only 100 words. If short stories are like kisses, these hundred-word-ers are pecks on the cheek- fleeting, precise but memorable. And definitely worth it.
All three of these segments have one thing in common though: little introductions by Jennifer Ashraf Kashmi, Founder, Editor and Publisher, who manages to convey the hard work and dedication put into the book while engaging the reader like an old friend. A writer herself, she recognised the widespread talent in Bangladesh and sought to bring a platform for it. Sticks and Stones is essentially that platform, with writers, poets, artists and photographers from all around the country, and even outside of it, having contributed. While mainstream media names like Anisul Hoq and Aly Zaker and Daily Star favourites such as Elita Karim, Shabanaz Rashid Diya and Iffat Nawaz were printed, they couldn't hog the lime-light. The depth and diversity of thought of the apparently new writers is bound to stun anyone; they make up for in creativity the little they lack in mastery of the language. Certainly, there are areas of improvement for the writers, but as Sticks and Stones promises to turn into an annual publication, one can only hope things will get even better.
What made yours truly exceptionally happy with this anthology is the non-existence of needless mystique that is so readily associated with South-Asian English literature. The matter-of-fact way in which the writers presented local culture through foreign medium left no doubt that they did not need to glorify the ordinary to stand out. Instead, they drew their stories from the more pressing concerns of life, giving meaning to the modern dilemmas around the world while standing steadfast upon Bangladeshi soil. That, in my point of view, was the hard part. And they nailed it.