Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 6, Issue 35, Tuesday, August 30, 2011



Fine jewellery

Maheen Khan
Fashion designer, Mayasir

Jewellery making is an exceptional trade in Bangladesh. The master craftsman today produces exquisite pieces of work that are praised the world over. This living tradition has continued to grow in ingenuity and enterprise.

The brilliance and mastery of our jewellers is unparalleled. We can be proud of our artistry and the unique designs that reflect indigenous styles true to Bangladesh.

Jewellery is produced in both the urban and rural areas and though the artisans may be equals in terms of skill the styles can be far and removed. City jewellers are exposed to fast changing trends and interventions and are under pressure to constantly make new applications whereas the rural masters are dedicated to age-old practices of timeless pieces.

I believe both forms are essential for the survival and further enhancement of this fine industry. Let us hope the art of jewellery continues to grow and prosper in Bangladesh. It seems that it will clearly need to be inspirational to flourish with the current price trends of precious metals. We need to consider history to truly appreciate the evolution of jewellery here and to ensure the art's survival of future predicaments.

We have a jewellery industry that dates back over 5000 years. The people of the Indus Valley civilization as early as 1500 BC were in the practice of making gold earrings, bracelets, bangles, necklaces and other kinds of beaded pieces as adornment. They also wore gold bands on their heads, brooches, chokers and rings.

Distinguished men wore beads on their hair and they were so highly regarded for their bead trade that they bartered with other cultures. The making of beads was an original technique and the artisans were devoted to their vocations that brought them fame and fortune.

According to our cultural belief gold and silver are considered sacred metals, as they do not corrode over time. Gold symbolises the warmth of the sun and silver the coolness of the moon. These are the quintessential metals for Bangladeshi jewellery and our tradition associates gold with immortality.

The Mughal reign is considered the most significant period of our time in relation to jewellery. A great deal of tradition prospered from the 16th to the 19th century. The face of jewellery took many shapes and forms. The patronage of the maharajas and princesses allowed the artisans to experiment with techniques and many styles and adornments were integrated.

Lacquer, filigree, engraving, etching, embossing and stone setting are a few embellishments to beautify jewellery by hand. All these techniques went through a renaissance during this period. Navaratna, the use of nine gems in jewellery reached its peak in popularity with its diamond, pearl, ruby, sapphire, emerald, topaz, cat's eye, coral, and red zircon. Each of these stones symbolises celestial creators that represent the totality of the universe with all the nine gemstones together.

The royal family members considered certain gems as sacred. For example, only the emperor and his close and select members were permitted to wear jewellery on their turbans.

The Indian subcontinent was probably the first region to mine diamonds, with some mines dating back to 296 BC. Historically, diamonds were used to retain or regain a ruler's favour as symbols of tribute or concessions and protection. Mughal emperors used diamonds as a means of assuring their immortality by having their names and worldly titles inscribed upon them. Diamonds have played and continue to play a pivotal role in our social and economic consternations.

In history, diamonds have been used to finance wars, facilitate revolutions, and tempt defections. They have also been used as a murder tool by lacing food with crushed diamonds. They are also used as security to finance large loans needed for regimes at various times of distress. Victorious military heroes have been honoured by rewards of diamonds and it has also been used as ransom for release from imprisonment. It goes to show that diamonds were very valuable then and continue to be even more precious now with dwindling mines and resources.

Today, in Bangladesh, jewellery continues to have significance although the gravity of its seriousness may have dissipated to some extent. It is worn for its value of ornamentation, style and fashion pizzazz. Gold and silver jewellery should be treasured for their legacy and esteem and we should try to invest in such precious metals for our future generations. However ultimately it is essential to regard jewellery as a key statement and an expression of our individual fancy and desire that can create secured consequential advantages.

Photo courtesy: Maheen Khan
Jewellery: Mayasir


The waist of your dreams

Some people get all hot and bothered listening to political debate. For others, its religious or philosophical commentary. My personal hot button is pushed by the TV infomercials that are selling some sort of six pack abs device. After watching an abdominal machine infomercial for just a minute, I feel like I need to throw an old shoe at the TV.

It's not that the claims are over-hyped (which they are) or that the sales pitches are so sleazy. I get pissed off because their “Abs Miracle Worker” is completely unnecessary and is often less effective than conventional bodyweight core training. While one option has you shelling out hard earned cash for a sub-par machine, the other is top shelf and costs you almost nothing.

The muscles and joints in the core offer a wide range of movements and functions. Using a device that uses just 2-3 movements is severely limiting to your potential. It always seems like the sales pitch for the device is all about how it lets your body move in a natural way. Usually though, nothing could be further from the truth. Our bodies didn't evolve to be used with an abdominal machine.

So while the infomercial host with the Pepsodent smile tries to convince me I can't be lean and trim without their device, I just head out and do good old abdominal exercises -- no bizarre, unnecessary apparatus, no bull excrement.

In this instalment, let's go over one of the most effective exercises that target the abdominal muscles. More to follow, you have my word.

Bicycle Crunch
This is perhaps the best move for targeting the rectus abdominis (aka the 'six pack') and the obliques (the waist), according to the studies.

How to:
Lie face up on your mat and place your hands behind your head, lightly supporting it with your fingers.

Bring your knees in to the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the floor without pulling on the neck.

Rotate to the left, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee as you straighten the other leg.

Switch sides, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee.

Once you're done with both sides, that's one rep.

Continue alternating sides in a pedalling motion for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.

DO NOT, however, convince yourself that hundreds of crunches/sit-ups a day for a month will get you that elusive six pack. It doesn't work that way.

Exercises may build part of your abdominal muscle and tone that area, but they won't burn off the fat or reduce the size of your belly much, if any at all. Always remember: there is no spot reduction when it comes to fat loss (unless you decide to go under the knife).

Abdominal muscles under layers of fat would be like a hot Aston Martin DBS hidden under a hideous car cover. If you want to lose belly fat, you have to lose fat from all over your body.

To achieve that waistline of your dreams you'll need a holy trinity: abdominal exercises, proper diet and aerobics/cardio workout.


Incredible Iftar

By Kaniska Chakraborty

I experienced the joys of iftar for seven years of my life at a stretch.

From the very Indian DahiVada to the very Bangladeshi jilapi to the very Middle Eastern haleem.

And there is the ubiquitous date, power packed in a piece.

Ever since I moved back, I have missed this lovely practice.

Ramadan came and Ramadan went without us even thinking of iftar.

And it has been harder on my wife.

Some days, time permitting, she made iftar at home -- the chickpeas, the puffed rice, the fried fritters, the tea.

And we would have this at the prescribed time.

But it never has been the same. It never had the very comfortable feeling of community eating. Sharing with your friends and near ones.

Iftar turned out to be lonely affairs with us.

I have heard of iftars in Calcutta. But never had the opportunity to experience it.

As luck would have it, one of my clients, a major one, works out of an office which is smack in the middle of iftar district.

And as luck would have it, one meeting with the client ended at around 5.30 in the evening, just the time for buying iftar goodies.

I took a small stroll down the narrow alley to a T intersection, following a crowd.

And there it was in front of my wide eyes.

A stall selling deep fried comfort consisting of egg, chicken, fish prawns and beef.

The comfort came in various shapes and sizes.

From the oval of egg chops, to the flat of beef cutlets to the casual dumpling of prawn origin to the cylindrical fish fingers.

As if to draw a contrast, the next stall had a couple of rows of watermelon slices, vivid in the crimson, bright in the green.

Adjacent to that, a man was frying vegetable fritters. Paper-thin slices of eggplant were getting a batter bath to be dunked in dark, hot oil of questionable origin. Spicy mash of potatoes was shaped into lithe patties and applied the same treatment. A mix of diced onions and chilies were mixed with a thicker batter to create fried dumplings. All to go with a packet of puffed rice.

One guy was quietly sitting in a corner, swatting flies off his mound of glistening, divine dates.

Mounds of airy vermicelli, both raw and cooked were on sale.

Luscious chunks of fresh-cut fruits -- guavas, pomegranates, papayas, apples, pears -- were loaded on paper plates, each plate a potential carrier of dangerous stomach disorder.

Speaking of which, I had a severe case of diarrhoea, which kept me from tasting anything.

I was stupid. As my doctor friend so succinctly pointed out later, it was the classic case of first in, first out.

At least, I got to see the Mecca of iftar in Calcutta.


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