Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 31, Tuesday, August 3, 2010



To market, to market, to buy a plum bun; Home again, home again, market is done.

RAMADAN is about spiritual healing, abstinence from evil -- also part of all that is good --in the name of a supreme power. Food, however, is integral to this sacred month.

Traditionally, women have been responsible for planning, preparing food and often buying ingredients for the feasting that goes throughout the month.

But women are now blessed with a wide range of options to choose from when it comes to doing the groceries ahead of the Holy Month.

Leaving aside the stores at the bazaar, they can now choose from a variety of superstores offering to help them in every respect.

Agora, Almas, Nandan, Shopper's World, Hat Bazaar and Meena Bazar are popular superstores in Dhaka. Besides these now famous names, there are the ubiquitous kancha bazaars -- New Market, Gulshan, Karwan Bazaar, Mohammadpur, Kaptan Bazaar and Thatari Bazaar. If you prefer to bargain for your purchase, feel free to shop there.

However, the traditional destinations are not free from perils. If you are skilled enough to separate fresh products from stale veggies and fish then dare to venture into these kitchen markets.

Superstores offer quality products, albeit at a price slightly higher than the bazaars. You will be able to park your car without any hassle and can take all the time in the world to judge the products before making a purchase.

Illustration: Sadat

Spot light

The extra buck

WITH Eid coming up, many of us are greedily eying the bonus check; but spending the additional inflow wisely is tricky business. Living in an expensive city with many financial concerns to worry about and having a million things to buy, deciding on how to spend the money is indeed very difficult.

Therefore, it's always better to sit with a pen and a paper and decide what you want to do with the bonus. Thus, rushing to shop right after you get the check is obviously not a good idea. Rather, keep your cool and evaluate the options, preferably with your spouse if you are married. But before you even start to think of spending your bonus in any other way, first consider paying off any debts you have, at least partially. That should get the top priority. After that - or excluding that - well, you have a lot of options.

Build a financial cushion
Things may be bright and sunny now, but you must save up for the bad times. Thus, separate an amount from your bonus and build an emergency fund, so that you can battle the rainy days with a little ease.

Home renovation and purchases
This Ramadan is perhaps a good time to spend some money on your home. Maybe you need to repaint the walls and change the curtains. Has the sofa set become old? Or, you could buy a washing machine, or a TV. What about that inexpensive piece of art you have been refraining from buying for so long?

You could juggle between many other options here. If you are young, or newly married, and still cannot afford a car, you may consider buying a motorbike. Or, if you don't have any dependents to take care of, you may think of getting the laptop you've always longed for.

Take a trip
So you've worked hard all year and deserve to have a little fun. Get out of the system and enjoy; take a vacation. If you are unmarried, one of the most attractive ways to spend the money is on a vacation with friends, be it a week in Cox's Bazaar, or going abroad. In the holiday season, there are many tourist package offers trying to seek your attention; sign in on one of them.

If you have a family of your own, vacation is still not a bad idea, of course. Spend time with the kids on an exotic location to strengthen the bond, or take a one-day sea-cruise outing with your spouse, away from all the daily chores and hassles.

Multiply the money
This goes for all ages of employees. Consider some investment options. You see a lot of people, including students and housewives, very excitedly getting into the stock market. Why don't you give it a shot? Do some preliminary research and see if it's for you. It's worth it if you understand the game: the return can be very satisfying. True, on the downside it's a bit risky. But that's a silly reason to shy away from the capital market: it's a well accepted rule of finance that risk and return are directly related.

But if you just don't want to take the risk, you have a few other alternatives. Put the money in a bank; these days they have many schemes, including the regular saving and deposit schemes. See if you can sign up for one of these. Although the return will be relatively lower, you can eliminate the uncertainty to a great extent.

Buy gifts for your loved ones
Show them how much you mean to them. If you are lucky enough to get a fat bonus, get a priceless necklace for your wife, or present your parents some extravagant gifts like an original designer watch - as a token of gratitude for their role in bringing you up.

But gifts don't need to be very costly, of course. If you are in your mid-twenties, and just began the struggles of career life, get less expensive items like a punjabi for your dad and a sari for your mom.

Give to charity
While you have fun with all the money, do remind yourself of the less fortunate and thank Almighty for your fortune. So, make sure you give a certain percentage, big or small, to the poor. Even if you are a student and work part-time and get a modest bonus, still consider giving charity. Give a chocolate bar to a street kid this month; the pitiful smile he'll give will melt your heart away.

Be careful on how you spend your bonus, but don't be stingy, or too calculative for that matter. Make some room for a little lavishness or eccentric shopping. Life is supposed to be fun; being rational all the time takes away the spice. Just make sure you don't add too much spice and spoil the dish! Have fun.

Happy Ramadan!

By M H Haider
Illustration: Sadat

For the love of food

Oodles of noodles

By Kaniska Chakraborty

EVERY day, we at work face a big conundrum. A conundrum, that calls for meetings and brainstorming sessions. In those meetings, fresh ideas and lateral thinking are encouraged.

The agenda of the meetings is always the same. “What's for lunch?”

And after carefully considering all options, we usually fall back onto the tried and tested egg chicken roll. The days when we feel really adventurous, we do the Dosa. And then there are the exotic options of sandwiches from the friendly neighbourhood cafe. Sandwiches that have exciting stuff like “paneer tikka” and “chicken garlic” as filling. Yes, I am being facetious.

So, on a particular day, when the famed meeting took place, we were at an imbroglio.

While the others settled on another tried and tested option, I was still dithering.

I went beyond the meeting. I went for an opinion poll. Basically I asked everyone in the office what they are going to order.

And the choice of one colleague made me stop and ponder.

He said he is going to order a “chow” the ubiquitous name for noodles in Calcutta.

Now dear reader, please appreciate the fact that “chow” in Calcutta, is a dangerous proposition.

Greasy, sticky noodles. Slick with faux soy sauce. Doused in a red sauce of god knows what. And topped with a muddy green sauce, which supposedly has chilli in it.

The noodles usually come laden with stringy shreds chicken or stale prawns. And more often than not, ribbons of fried eggs which are well past their sell by date.

Ergo, my pondering.

But I was feeling unusually brave and ordered one for myself.

When it was given to me, it looked benign enough.

A white tangle of noodles. With a few slivers of cucumbers and onions strewn about. Not the natural complement of noodles I must say.

It also was surprisingly sauce free. And the first bite yielded a nice toothsome texture. Nothing soggy or undercooked.

I could distinctly taste the black pepper.

I also espied a few strands of carrot. Obviously good for the old health.

There were fat yellow ribbons of fried eggs which actually tasted like, well, eggs.

And as I dug deeper into the plate, I could definitely taste something familiar.

Mustard paste!

The next forkful brought tears to my eyes thanks to the kick of mustard that was hidden beneath the pile of noodles.

A complete deviation from the noodle norm. No unnatural sauce. Cucumber and onions. And the mustard.

As if I was attending a wedding between the noodles and the condiments of Calcutta cafes of yore.

I could not have been happier.

Lunch, thanks to the suggestion of my colleague, was entirely satisfying.


Corporate soccer

ASCENT Corporate Five-5-A-Side Indoor Soccer Tournament is such a game that has the basic roots for development of football but it is also the perfect sporting medium for the young and middle-aged corporate professional to let off some steam without falling flat on their face.

It is a good alternative to golfing, which is usually reserved for the wealthier heads of the corporate world. What this tournament does is bring teams together on and off the field, a great social hangout with colleagues after work supporting their teams, and it gives the employees a chance to play and mingle with top management as many CEOs join their team and play in the tournament.

The real breakthrough came in 2008 when the ASCENT Group took over the title sponsorship. The fact that ASCENT had a readymade state of the art gymnasium at their school, Scholastica, gave Excalibur Entertainment the platform to organise the whole event more professionally and reach out to a wider section of the corporate sector. From 2008 till 2010 , the teams have grown in size from 32 to 40 to 48 respectively.

This year the tournament got off to a fantastic start as 40 teams were registered one month before the games even started. Recognising the tremendous growth of the event over the years, the Kolkata Merchants Cup Association has invited the winning team to play in the qualifiers in Kolkata, a prestigious gesture that the champions will take on next year.

The 5th Ascent Corporate 5-A-Side Indoor Soccer Tournament started from July 9, hosted by the Ascent Group for the third year in a row. Since its inception in 2006 this corporate soccer tournament has drawn a great amount of enthusiasm amongst the work professionals because they get a chance to take off their ties and wear football gear and show off their skills with a soccer ball, be it an entry level official or the CEO.

The actual Tournament Cup final was the semi finals between Beximco Pharma Vs Standard Chartered Bank. This had to be the game to see, with the galleries full to the brim, the sides bustling with fans, Beximco Pharma finally met their match. Some scorching goals scored by both teams had the crowd going berserk with enthusiasm. Pharma took a goal and equalised within seconds, and this continued until the last two seconds of the match where a missile of a shot went through Beximco's net to end in an equaliser.

Next came a superb show of sportsmanship and grace, the celebrity match consisting of Organization Heads, CEOs and Directors was a fun filled event. Two sets of teams the Dhaka Yellow Shirts and the Incredible Reds played a great game with half-time of five minutes, with Fahima Chowdhury Keya of Ogilvy & Mathers, Sarah Ali from Bitopi, Iresh Zaker of Asiatic, Ahad Mohammad Bhai of Olympic Industries, Rubayat Jamil of Ice Technologies, Mitun Zaman of Documenta , Khalilur Rahman of IIDFC playing for the Redshirts and Madiha Murshed of Ascent, Amina Rahman of Securex, Ajay Naimbar of Cairn Energy, Prem Chand of Nokia , Dr, Kazi Anis Ahmed of Gemcon Group, Tabith Awal of Multimode , Almer Khan of the Daily New Age, Tareque Haque of Bangla Trac Communications playing for the Yellowshirts.

This special match was refereed by Adit Bhagat of Sighnage and the commentary was wickedly done by Naveed Mahbub of Nokia Siemens Networks.

The Finals played by IIDFC against Bexi Pharma was a game of extremely agile football, however it lacked the thrills of the semis, two strong teams pitted against each other with Bexi Pharma's 3-time championship advantage becoming evident by the end of the half time, with a 3-0 lead, Beximco Pharmaceuticals pretty much dominated the second half.

Beximco Pharma became 4-time champions of this tournament on the whistle and the fans went wild while the IIDFC fans took the defeat hard. Kazi Nabil Ahmed gave away the trophies, plates and crests to the deserving teams.

Ascent Corporate 5-A-Side Indoor Soccer Tournament probably has to be the biggest corporate gathering besides forums and Chamber of Commerce related events; nothing so big has been done in the sports arena with 100 percent corporate involvement in the country.

By Tanziral Dilshad Ditan
Photo courtesy Excalidur Entertainment


Mud, Sweat and Tears

PEOPLE first started making pottery out of clay around 6000 BC, near the beginning of the Neolithic period. Before that, they led nomadic lifestyles and clay pottery wasn't really back-pack friendly, and there weren't enough shelves to display them on.

Early pottery was made by just pushing a hole into a ball of clay, or by making a long snake of clay and coiling it up into a pot shape. Many of the early pots were meant to be used once and thrown away, and so were not fired. But the coiled kind were often fired, probably just by being put in an open campfire or bonfire.

Pottery consists of making dishes, plates, cups, and cooking utensils out of clay. It is a good idea to make dishes and pots out of clay for several reasons- it is cheap and easy to get, pretty much anybody can make a useful pot out of it, and you can make it waterproof pretty easily too. Plus it can be ornamented, if you know what you are doing with it. What's more, it is easy to make your pottery look unique.

Last month I had the opportunity to visit the United States of America. We had been to New York, which is full of various attractions. Manhattan is the most entrancing place of this city, with diverse attractions for both tourists and locals.

It's fun simply to walk around the streets of Manhattan. One day I stumbled on a lovely craft store named Mud, Sweat and Tears, located on the corner of West 46th Street and 10th Avenue, Manhattan. This is a wonderful clay studio and a famous old school. They have taught generations of craftspeople clay skills and have celebrated weddings, births and long friendships along the way. The studio is very famous for their rigorous teaching skills and they also give close attention to their students' developments.

The studio has a healthy atmosphere. They use non-toxic clay and all the products have been tested and declared food-safe. Even inside, the studio is very clean and healthy. The most interesting part of this studio is the working table and the wheel machine.

By 2000 BC, the slow wheel had been almost entirely replaced in Europe and Asia by the fast wheel that is also a platform, but one, which spins on an axle, like a top. You can start spinning it with a push or a kick, and then draw the pot gradually out of the lump of clay. Using the fast wheel, a good potter can make a pot every minute or so, and all of them almost exactly the same.

This shop is particularly ideal for their handy space-saving equipments. Each and every student possesses an individual wheel unit. The round table, wheel and seating tool are all together in a great combination. The small machine is highly professional for making household clay accessories. Their clay products are so unique, that they have been featured in advertisements, films and Broadway productions.

In our busy, urban lives, we use synthetic products that although may be easy to maintain, look stiff and dry. Sometimes we need to bring back artistic pieces in our homes. Plants and pottery make the most refreshing combination for this purpose.

Nazneen Haque Mimi
Interior Consultant
E-mail: journeyman. interiors@gmail.com
Photo credit: Tamim Sujat
Special thanks: Bob Gereke



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