Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 41, Tuesday, October 19, 2010



LS editor’s note

Of highs and lows aplenty

It was a week full of drama; real ones with both happy endings and tragic conclusions. And from everything that happened in this eventful week, we learnt immensely. Let us rejoice the fact that the Bangladesh cricket team has finally tasted its first major ODI series win after a long and traumatic wait (even though we still cannot play a full 50 overs, but that's beside the point, a win is a win, and that too a clean sweep.) I think it's all about patience and team effort wrapped in good luck.

While we were basking in glory and bidding adieu to Ma Durga who graced the Earth with her auspicious blessings, Chile and the rest of the world rejoiced at the triumphant rescue operation as 33 miners entombed half a mile beneath the Chilean desert were freed, ending their 69 days of ordeal - a horror story beyond description. The unity as a country that they showed, their generosity for the spirit of solidarity that was so tangible at Camp Hope, the windblown tent city where family members took up residence to hold vigil and the sheer dedication that their President, Sebastian Pinera, demonstrated was indeed something to gain knowledge from. So we can happily say that it was a week where the saying 'all's well that ends well' revealed its true meaning.

But our week was also one full of tragedy, a speeding bus with a blasted front tyre and 50 innocent passengers ran over the bridge at Amin Bazaar and plunged into the river Turag, where almost 99.9 percent of the travellers went missing or drowned. Although speeding bus accidents are commonplace in Dhaka, we fail to learn from them. The driver is dead too and his family is left to fend for itself as well, but drivers in their hot pursuits simply forget the possible outcomes of their lethal habits and never learn from their fellow drivers' disastrous ends. In this case, no matter how many times the same lesson is repeated, we always fail to retain the information.

Another heart-wrenching incident was when an intercity train ploughed through an opposition rally that was staged just 15 yards away from the tracks and that left at least five killed and a train bogie burnt. A segment of the opposition claimed that the rally spilling onto the tracks was not the problem, it was the train that was at fault because it was running at a high speed and failed to control its pace or press brakes, as it works in cars, and ran over people who were 'naturally' sitting on the tracks. The rest, they also claimed, was only to be expected as the supporters set the bogie on fire in agitation.

'The train was burning with dead bodies lying next to the tracks. The fire brigade was blocked from reaching the burning train and 45 minutes later when the opposition leader's speech ended black smoke was still rising from the smouldering skeleton of the locomotive,' reported The Daily Star. Do we learn anything from this? We don't even know what the lesson here is about.

However the point to emphasise from the events that unfurled last week is that life and living is about unity, endurance, patience and above all team power; ultimately these are a few characteristics a good soul or an average human being should possess. But the problem is, do we? I mean are we actually noble persons inside? I doubt it seriously.

– Raffat Binte Rashid

Ls pick

Swinging sixties

With its hippie culture, to fire fights in Vietnam to drug overdoses at student apartments, to vintage attires and post-colonialism effects, the sixties are considered as a seminal decade and remembered with strong nostalgia. Marked as the most turbulent decade with cultural and social boundary-breaking events, the sixties certainly was the period that can be revived and cherished again and again.

At current times, when the retro look is back in and movies about the 60s with their colourful psychedelics, wait to be released, it is as good a time as any to look back at what was it that made the sixties so spectacular.

Counter-culture revolution
The '60s affected almost the entire globe. The milestones of the 1960s were set mostly due to the demographic changes brought about by the baby boomers' generation, the height of the Cold War and the dissolution of European colonial empires. In the Eastern Bloc, movements inspired by the Hungarian Revolution to reject Soviet domination were made and in the Middle East they attempted to resist Soviet and American domination. The rise in social revolutions, civil rights' movements, human rights' movements, anti-War movements and cultural movements made the decade synonymous with the counter-culture revolution.

Post-colonial literature
The term “Post-colonialism” refers to the dilemmas of developing a national identity in the wake of ended colonial rule. Writers from colonised countries attempted to articulate and to rejoice their cultural identities and reclaim them from the colonisers. Post-colonial theory is applied to political science, to history, and to other related fields. Taken literally, the term "post-colonial literature" labels literature written by people living in countries formerly colonised by other nations. The sixties were marked with mammoth post-colonial literature like “Keepers of the House” by Shirley Ann Grau, “House Made of Dawn” by N Scott, “Discourse of Colonialism” by Aime Cesaire and many more.

Hip-hop hippies!
To many it was frightening, mystifying and inexplicable when suddenly young men were wearing long hair and mutton chop sideburns and young women were dressing in psychedelic colours. They seemed dirty, intoxicated and nihilistic. Dropping out of college, starting up rock bands, living in communes, packing up and setting off for undefined destinations -yes that would be the Hippies. They were interested in "tuning in to their inner minds", with or without drugs and mystic meditation for improving mainstream society.

LSD “flashbacks”
With the widespread use of illicit drugs, primarily the hallucinogens, marijuana and LSD major social changes were brought about in the sixties. LSD, which was virtually unknown to most Western societies in the early sixties and still legal until 1966, gained widespread recognition.

The effects became more intense among the young who saw popular music artists of the generation using drugs as motivation. Drugs became, perhaps, one of the most influential variables in the music of the 60s.

Music mania
The sixties are known as the “Psychedelic Era”. The baby boomers' generation lived during a time when war had a powerful impact on everyone's life. With legendary artists like The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, James Brown, Sam Cooke, The Four Seasons, Ray Orbison, Neil Diamond, Bee Gees, British Invasion, Sonny and Cher, Paul Revere, Dell Shannon and many more the decade thus became a milestone in the history of music.

Many people lost their lives during that "Psychedelic Era". These tragedies were captured in the music of the 60s, to serve forever as a reminder to generations to come.

By Zannatul Lamea
Make up and styling: Farzana Shakil
Photo: Tuhin Hossain
Model: Orsha


Innocence lost

With the generation gap between parents and teenagers seeming to widen with every new decade, this week Star Lifestyle takes a look at all that is good, bad and ugly with today's youth. Because teenage years are characteristically associated with more pent up energy than teenagers know how to deal with, there is an increasing tendency to search for vents for anger, peer pressure, confusion and even creativity. In weighing out the vices and virtues of these different venting channels, from substance abuse, to road racing, to promiscuity to underground music, it is only music that stands tall in terms of merit and can be safely called a positive outlet for the release of youthful energy.

“Rebel Without a Cause" -- the James Dean film -- was released in 1955. It shook the core of American society. The film, for the first time, portrayed teen age as a tumultuous time, an age of confusion rather than a carefree phase of life. Six decades later, the film still questions facets of American life and teen life across the globe.

At the junction of teen years and adulthood, I wanted to experiment in everything. Although I didn't start a band, there was this strong desire to change the world through music and my thoughts. From religious scriptures to Marxist philosophy, my reading habits were vast and exhaustive. I remember we friends used to change the world over a cup of tea.

Teenagers in general feel isolated, experience an identity crisis that separates them from the rest of society. Although they crave acceptance, they also feel the urge to stand out as an individual, make a mark. At puberty they experience a hormonal euphoria and teenagers are left insecure, in a biological limbo where their biochemical reactions have heightened to adulthood but their inner being still dwells in infancy.

They often shoulder responsibilities more than they can bear. It is not unheard of that they engage in casual physical relationships with people they are in love with, or at least fancy themselves to be in love with. While for many this is an age for soul searching, for others it is a sexual quest.

Recent days have seen a stark controversy involving improper Facebook uploads, or lewd pornographic tapes, some of which were made without the consent of both parties. Such open relationships have not only scorned the relationship concerned but also tarnished the image of teenage romance.

Another aspect that should be in focus is the mental age of the teenagers engaged in physical euphoria. Can they shoulder the responsibility that comes with such a relationship? A sweet harmless kiss, the butterflies in the stomach -- these soon fade away in the mountain of liability these individuals often shoulder.

Enthused and smitten by the love bug, couples often practice their sexual encounters without proper protection. The evils of AIDS and teenage pregnancy are now widespread to such heightened levels that boys merely past their childhood are holding hands of a girl at an abortion clinic. With the whole world against their unborn, they often seek help from caregivers who are not capable of giving either the clinical help or the psychological care.

In a society where love was frowned upon even a decade earlier, where social values still hold high esteem for arranged marriages, physical relations of teenagers are not just a taboo, but a stark reality. We can either hide behind our social veils or face the facts. The time is ripe when we should talk to teenagers rather than shun their youthful cheerfulness.

For many of our children, teen age has been an innocence lost. For others, this need not be the case.

By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Ashraful Awal Mishuk


Bad medicine

In Bangladesh, as in most developing nations, the role of traditions as well as social norms is a dominant one in shaping lives. Therefore, practices counter to these norms are buried deep underground, and are so barely visible to those of us that occupy the level above ground. This underbelly will probably be shocking to those of us who have never plumbed the depths.

The most treacherous of these activities is the spectre of drug abuse. Young people in their teens find an outlet for their angst and satisfy their need to belong by partaking in the drug culture. It is more prevalent among our youth than we might think.

There is now a definite subculture involving the taking of drugs, and 'tripping out', as dwellers in that subculture would like to say. From the easy availability of drugs such as the common marijuana, yabba, phensedyl, etc. to 'booze fests' that run through the night, sometimes offering exotic foreign drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine, the players in the drug scene have a lot of options to indulge their sense of rebellion.

“Recent Hollywood films like the American Pie series make parties like these seem a very good place to meet people of the opposite sex. But the reality is that people often end up making a fool of themselves and the following morning don't remember who they talked to or where they were,” a friend of regular attendees at these parties said.

How do they manage to stay out so late without arousing their parents' suspicion? “A lot of them say that they will stay over at so-and-so's house. Others sneak out at night and are picked up by friends on their way to the party.”

The drug that can claim to have destroyed the most lives is heroin. Everyone of a certain age, has heard of or known a heroin addict. Once in its throes, redemption does not come easy. For most abusers, the only way out is to be admitted to rehab clinics.

So where is the solution? A person in his thirties, who had dabbled in the odd rebellion in his youth, had this to say: “Perhaps prevention is better than cure. When we were young, the hard and fast rule was to go back home by 10 pm. Even if we were studying, the orders from home were to go back home at a respectable hour, or there would be hell to pay. I guess growing up in that sort of atmosphere of discipline curtailed the amount of mischief we could get up to. I am not saying that we were saints, but we knew that there was a line that could not be crossed. That line is probably a bit more blurry now.”

We can blame it on western culture increasingly becoming a dominant influence. We can blame Dhaka's lack of recreation for the young. We can even blame the education system. But at one point, we should probably realise that the blame game isn't going to help us or our youth. Maybe paying them a bit more attention as individuals, instilling more discipline, and not getting tied up in knots over every little indiscretion is the answer. It falls upon the family to create an environment where 'NO' is the best answer to the lure of drugs.

Photo: Ashraful Awal Mishuk
Names of interviewees have been changed to protect their identities.


Wake-up call for parents scary thoughts

Being a parent of a teen or a young adult can at times be very traumatic. These are the years when your children undergo many changes - mental and physical - and they will want to try out different things before they find out what's good for them. These are also the years when parents suddenly feel their children have a world of their own that they are not a part of. And many of these young people take on a wrong direction that may prove to be fatal. This article is not to scare you, but to warn you of the dangers that are out there. How would you react if your son starts wearing make-up, or your daughter starts dating someone you don't have a 'good feeling' about? The burning question is: What should you do in these circumstances?

What does an average adult think of gothic culture, the darker side of teenage life, the changing of ideologies and values the older generation have not seen? Obviously, most parents frown upon them. But many people tend to blame it simply on parents themselves. “If proper grooming had occurred in the early ages, then these things would not have happened”.

Another factor largely attributed for this kind of behaviour is the desire to be unique. “When a teenager fails to find an identity for himself, he may create one. And why follow the mass? Standing out in a crowd, making people curious is always enjoyable”, observes a mother and a school teacher.

Regarding issues of substance abuse and sex, the pleasure of eating a forbidden fruit seems to be an underlying factor. “Teenagers want to experiment. They also want to have fun. They fully realise these things are bad for them, but they're simply not matured enough to control themselves. It's their hormones”, says Shafique, a father of two.

Things are more difficult as it's hard for parents to talk about sex and drugs with children. Most schools in Bangladesh don't teach sex education either. Thus, teenagers are on their own and therefore more likely to get themselves in trouble.

It is important for parents to be able to strike a balance between how strict or how lenient they choose to be and being able to distinguish between when they need to take on a 'no-nonsense' attitude and when they can be indulgent. Just as permitting everything can be detrimental, never allowing anything can have the same adverse effects as well.

Wake up
Make sure you know his/her friends very well. That doesn't mean reading his/her SMSes, of course. Be cool. Ask your son/daughter to arrange a party at your house. Talk to his/her friends. And don't be a very strict parent not allowing your child to go to parties or canceling his sleepovers, etc.

Rather, be open. Don't scold him harshly if he simply spikes his hair or wears his pants low. You are basically pushing your child away from you. Teenagers are a rebellious lot. Thus, allow him/her to be close to you so that he/she can feel free to talk to you and become friends. This will create the platform from where you can advise him/her about the things he/she should refrain from. Or, ask a relative, who is very close to your child, to talk about such issues.

Most importantly, avoid all biasness. Many parents are naïve enough to perceive their children as 'angels' who can never get their hands dirty. Therefore, be careful. People say parenthood is not easy. They don't say it without any reason.

By M H Haider




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