Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   | Volume 7, Issue 06, Tuesday, February 07, 2012





Life in the fast lane


The people who are reading this, and the people who those people know, the people I know and the people who know the people I know altogether make up probably about one percent of the population of Bangladesh. So, according to us “one-percents”, everyone's standard of living has increased immensely. Everyone has an iPod, or an iPhone or some other overpriced Apple product that all other companies sell at cheaper prices and with better features.

Teenagers standing outside coaching centres all wear branded shoes. Mums take their little girls to beauty salons instead of parks. Gigantic DSLR cameras have replaced our Sony Cybershots.

You're not “hot” unless your Facebook profile photo has over 30 likes. You have to have those football boots that your favourite player's wearing this season, although that player probably played barefoot all his life. You know it's all true, so you can't help but agree with me when I ask: “What's going on?!”

Everything comes to us quickly and easily now -- there's this insatiable need for instant gratification. Never mind cash shortages, credit card debts or mortgages. Birthday's coming up? I want a PS3 now. Going abroad to study? I want a laptop now. You want to marry me? I want a house, car, diamond ring now. Iphone 5's out? No? I don't care, pre-order it for me, I want it now.

To be fair, this go-getter attitude isn't always a bad thing. Young people are now more ambitious, adventurous and open-minded about their life plans. People are branching out into many different careers and doing well. The sky isn't even the limit anymore, because hard work and talent can take you very far. Everyone wants to be independent, self-sustained, and financially secure.

But there are so many pricey things that seem to enter and exit our lives faster than we can keep track of. What about the hard hours of work that went into saving up that money? What happened to emotional attachments? My grandmother's dressing table has been around since she got married half a century ago, not because she couldn't afford a new one, but because it carried a lot of sentimental value. When I see people who come from rich families with all their new toys and trinkets, I can't help but think -- it's your dad's money or mom's money … it's not your money.

Why do they act so high and mighty when the only reason they can afford a 60,000 taka cellphone is because they were born lucky? It's one thing being snobby when you've worked hard for what you have, but the irony is that the biggest snobs are the ones with the hand-me-down cash.

The funny thing is that you have two choices on who you want to be. You can be the person who is happy with whatever they have, never takes anything for granted, enjoys life while they can but appreciates the simple things. Or you can be unsatisfied with life, always strive for more, work yourself senseless, visit the bank and roll in your dough.

There's nothing wrong with being rich -- if you've worked hard and have honest cash, congratulations, you should be proud of yourself. But it's really important to remember that you're the blessed one percent and that your hard work and values got you this far.

By Mehereen Aziz


Music, dance and grill

Venue: Russian Cultural Center
Date: Saturday, 11 February
Time: 4:00pm-9:00pm
Line-up: Cryptic Fate, Nemesis, Arbovirus, Revolutus

In the early days of the millennium, there was a phenomenon called the "the Underground" -- a concept that now seems lost. Livewire invites you to the performances of some of the big names of the Underground Scene. Each of the bands will play for almost an hour covering your choice of originals/covers/ instrumentals/ and all that you can wish for.

Tickets are priced at Tk.500. A very special compilation CD on "Live Square" and "Livewire" will be given to the ticket holders at the gates.

Tickets available at Cuppa Coffee Club (Gulshan) and The Stage (Dhamondi).

Masters of Flamenco
Venue: International Club (IC)
Date: Wednesday, 8 February
Time: 8:00pm-11:00pm
Organised by Spanish Embassy

Enjoy the romantic rhythms, the passion and pride of Spain; a live Flamenco guitar concert by the masters -- Rafael Rodríguez and Dani de Morón. Dance away with the rhythm of the guitar beats and enjoy an entertainment that you do not get regularly in town.

A continental dinner buffet will be served from 8pm-9:30pm. If you plan on coming in a group, it is recommended that you buy your tickets together so that you're seated at the same table. Each table seats 10 people.

IC Members: Tk. 1000 (including dinner).

Non-Members and Expat Club Members: Tk. 1500 (including dinner).

Grill Night @ The Bench
Date: Thursday, 9 February
Time: 7:30pm-11:00pm

Make your Thursday night more interesting and start your weekend with a blast with your friends and family. The Bench is hosting a special "Grill Night" where you can pick your favourite seafood and have it barbequed in front of you, along with Live unplugged music by "The Party".
Come try out their kebab items, chicken tikkas, beef and chicken steaks, grilled and fried fishes and much more.
For more information call 0171 5020 060

"Russian Disco"
Venue: Goethe Institute, Library
Dare: Saturday, 12 February
Time: 6:00 PM

'Russian Disco' by young Russian immigrant writer Wladamir Kaminer tells the 'Tales of everyday lunacy in the streets of Berlin'.

Wladimir Kaminer, born 19 July 1967, is a Russian-born German short story writer, columnist, and disc jockey. Kaminer was born in Moscow, and after initially training as an audio engineer for theatre and radio, studied dramaturgy at the Moscow Institute of Theater.

His portraits particularly relate to the lives of the immigrant community of Berlin. In this semi- autobiographical book of anecdotes, Kaminer used his newly-learnt language in a very original and innovative way which made the book a huge success on both popular and commercial levels.

Prominent writer, translator and critic Alam Khorshed from Bishaud Bangla, Chittagong will introduce the book.

By Tanziral Dilshad Ditan


Intriguing reads

February, the month that gives us the Ekushey Boi Mela, encourages all Bangladeshis to indulge in the enriching habit of reading for pleasure. The book fair will be covered in the following week, but in the meantime, here are some interesting and intriguing reads that will indulge the bibliophile in you. We hope these bite-sized blurbs will set you googling to read these pieces in their entirety.

Branching out with Liberal Arts
In a globalising world, being able to talk and interact with different people is more important than having a solid foundation in one area, like electric engineering or economics. This is what Vedika Khemani argues in “Why a Liberal Arts Education Matters” (New York Times), recognising that “real-world problems rarely ever have textbook solutions.” A graduate of a liberal arts college herself from California and now working on a very non-liberal theoretical physics at Princeton University, Vedika brings in a unique prospective in which she has experienced both the high-stress exam-oriented, often one-dimensional school experience in her native India to being taught real-life skills such as critical thinking that actually come to use in the workplace. The article asks South Asian students to step back, and really think about the world in which we are competing that is so different from the previous generation.

Storms of change
Growing up in Bangladesh, we are all too familiar with natural disasters, so much so that a flood or a cyclone grabs our attention, but often not for long enough. But did you know that natural disasters also come with a price? The Economist in the article “Counting the Cost of Calamities” discusses how earthquakes in Japan, floods in Thailand and tornadoes in America made last year the costliest on record worldwide for natural disasters. People might think it's because of climate change, but that is not so -- it is becoming expensive because more people are living in vulnerable cities (think Dhaka's population). Plus, with the world being interconnected, one city's disaster affects another across the globe.

Social media monster
We know Facebook is big, but the extent of its size was never really known until recently, when the company's filed papers for an initial public offering on Wednesday shows their profits in the billions. According to Forbes (“Facebook's IPO A Watershed Moment”), Facebook's CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg earned a base salary of $500,000 last year, more than triple the salary of Google co-founders when Google filed for its IPO. He also has a private plane, of course. His earnings come from a site that has 845 million members, and users have shared more than 100 quadrillion bytes of photos and videos, and produced an average of 2.7 billion "likes" and comments per day.

Hair matters
It might be safe to say, looks matter. And having a “good hair day” is certainly part of it. Psychologist Vivian Diller explores what it really means historically and aesthetically to feel like your hair is perfect in her article “The Psychology Behind a 'Good Hair Day'” (Huffington Post). Diller discusses how having 'good hair' dates back to ancient times when women and men alike adorned their hair with decorative pieces and curls (think male judges in England). “It is among the top three features -- along with height and weight -- used when describing others and one of the features most often recalled after a social interaction occurs,” she writes. It is also the easiest thing to change about our looks, accounting for the thriving hair products and salon industry around the globe.

American Dervish
In “American Dervish,” Ayad Akhtar brings to life the story of Hayat Shah, a young Pakistani-American growing up in the Midwest where he goes through a spiritual crisis as he falls in love for the first time with Mina, who comes to America to escape her abusive marriage in Pakistan. Raised in a troubled home by an atheist father who delves later into alcoholism and an emotional mother, combined with his jealousy of Mina's new boyfriend, Hayat involves himself in his studies and religion in this troubling coming-of-age novel. The book takes an interesting narrative, as it is told through the perspective of a child. The story of a dysfunctional immigrant family in an otherwise quiet suburb in America touches on love, family, societal expectations and childhood, making the book a must-read for audiences of all ages.

Leave the phone at home
“21 Reasons to Take a Break From Your Cell Phone” by etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts (Huffington Post) takes a funny, but quite realistic look at what would happen (positively) if we simply left our cell phones behind for some time. From the logical perspective such as being able to save money to health benefits such as giving your fingers a rest and decreasing chances of car accidents, Grotts certainly could go one with her list. She also gives reasons that are simply funny at first but, well, why not? For example, reason #5 is: it's more fun to hold someone's hand than a phone. Or reason # 19 is relatable for all of us: you'll no longer be a prime target for thieves.

By Olinda Hassan


Farewell to a culinary enchantress

With the television on, across the drawing room, Naila is fully geared with her pen and notepad to jot down word by word the techniques and the ingredients of the new recipes to be aired today by the cooking goddess.

As the advertisements flash by Naila remembers how during the first days of her marriage she could not cook well but thanks to this lady on the TV all that changed, and her in-laws and acquaintances were great admirers of her cooking now. As the show starts Naila returns her attention to the lady whose words seem to be nothing less than the words from a culinary bible, if ever there was one.

This scenario is not unique to Naila. Countless women around the country, be it Bangladeshi women or women from other nationalities, had great respect and adoration for this gastronomic magician. She was Siddika Kabir.

The adulation that people had for her is evident from the numerous condolences streaming in from all over the country from people of all walks of life. Her reach was not only limited to Bangladeshi women as was obvious from a post on a popular social networking site where an Anglo-American lady, Jenn Thompson, married into a Bangladeshi family writes that Siddika Kabir's cookbook was what helped her understand and learn Bengali dishes and that she was eternally grateful to her for this.

But to the younger generation she is the Siddika Kabir on 'Siddika Kabir's Recipe' on NTV.

A nutritionist and a culinary expert, Siddika Kabir was not only engaged in concocting scrumptious meals, but was also aware of their nutritional quality. She not only cooked Bengali cuisine, but also experimented with international cuisines.

Siddika Kabir started her career as a Maths teacher at Eden College in 1957 and later went to Oklahoma State University in the United States to obtain a Master's degree in Food, Nutrition and Institutional Administration in 1963.

Upon returning home, she had been involved with numerous television cooking shows since 1965 with her first show “Ghore-Baire” on the then Pakistan Television.

There are very few Bengali households whose bookshelves do not carry a copy of her most famous book “Ranna, Khadyo, Pushti”. On the first page of this book one will find the words 'Bangladesher Pushtihin Shishuder Jonno'; she dedicated the book to the malnourished children of our country.

Siddika Kabir's skills in cooking may be said to be somewhat inherited as her maternal grandmother was known to be a wonderful cook in Kolkata.

The Women Entrepreneur's Association of Bangladesh (WEAB) named her "Woman of the Year 2003" for her contributions towards raising awareness on nutritional cooking. In the year 2004, she received a trophy for her services in the field of Food and Nutrition from WEAB and SAARC Women Entrepreneurs. She also received a plaque from Rotary Club Dhaka Buriganga in appreciation of her services to humanity.

It was indeed a sad day for Bangladesh when it lost Siddika Kabir, the epitome of a modern lady who dreamt that one day every Bangladeshi woman would do something productive in life. Yet, she will survive through the generations through her television shows, books and in the cooking of her fans.

By Karishma Ameen

The culinary expert will be fondly remembered

I grew up seeing a copy of Ranna, Khadyo, Pushti by Siddika Kabir on our bookshelf. Like our house, countless other houses in Bangladesh have a copy of this valuable book that instantly helps ease a mother, wife or daughter's culinary vexation. As a child, I often saw my mother flipping through its pages, looking for the recipe of a Chinese dish or anything that she was cooking for the first time. Ranna, Khadyo, Pushti also graces the bookshelves of Bengali households outside Bangladesh.

"I cannot help but consult Professor Kabir's book every time I cook a deshi curry," Nazia Hussein, a doctoral student at University of Warwick, U.K., said. Like Nazia, thousands of other men and women regularly consult her book before embarking on a culinary project -- be it shrimp malaikari, murighonto, biriyani or Chinese fried rice.

"There was a time when Siddika Kabir's book was given as a gift to anyone going abroad," said Naznin Sultana, a homemaker from Dhaka.

In this age of technology, finding Professor Kabir's recipes is even easier. Hundreds of her recipes are readily available online for Bengalis living home and abroad.

"I search for the episodes of her NTV show 'Siddika Kabir's Recipe' on YouTube whenever I want to cook something new. She always made cooking sound so easy," Reema Akhter, a resident of Sydney, Australia, said. "I am one of those who cannot read and cook at the same time."

The news of her death came as a shock to most Bangladeshis. Words of appreciation and loss flooded the social media. We all know who she was, how successful she was as an academic and very importantly, how she made cooking an easier task by writing Ranna, Khadyo, Pushti, a book that was published in 1978 but remains popular to this day.

"I took a copy of Siddika Kabir's book with me when I went to earn my graduate degree at University of British Columbia," said Mohammad Muaz Jalil, Manager, Monitoring and Result Measurement Group, Katalyst. "In distant Canada, it was comforting to know that if all else failed, there was still hope for a good meal as there was Siddika Kabir's book whose instructions, if diligently followed, would lead to a nice meal.”

Siddika Kabir's name will continue to echo in every household that loves and cooks Bangladeshi cuisine.

By Wara Karim
Photo courtesy: The Daily Star


Happy birthday, Ma

By Kaniska Chakraborty

Her 74th. Every year she pleads with me not to make a big fuss. Every year I do not listen to her. Not that we make a big fuss. Friends and well-wishers come over, relatives call and she gets embarrassed. For the last few years, her birthday fell on weekdays, which meant all we could do was pick up a cake and wish her.

This year, it was a Sunday of a three-day weekend.

I wanted to bake a cake for her. She does not like ornate cakes with cream filling. Nor is she fond of the butter icing variety. Basically, all these years, we have been getting her cakes that she has not liked too much. It was time to fix that.

Off I went to New Market to buy the key ingredients -- the syrup-soaked little red fruits that masquerade as cherries, the candied ginger pieces, the sweet pickled citrus peels, the little black raisins that are called currants (they are not), the cashew nuts, the brown sugar (not the organic kind, the caramelised version) and the eggs.

Buying eggs in New Market is an experience in itself. Each egg is inspected against a lit bulb which has a kind of shade created by foil. Unlike in other markets where dud eggs are thrown away, here they make their way into the kitchens of unscrupulous eateries and bakeries.

My Aunt from Pondicherry was in town and she pitched in by slicing and dicing the cherries and the peels et al. Once that was done, they got a soak for about 6 hours in a couple of shots of rum. Sifted flour with baking powder, cocoa powder and spice mix (mostly cinnamon with a hint of coriander, clove and allspice). Creamed butter with browned sugar and eggs. Mixed everything together and dumped in the soaked goodies. In six hours, they had swollen and became extremely aromatic. Already, the apartment smelled festive.

An hour of slow baking and the cake was ready to be had. All this happened the night before. We let the cake settle in overnight. Next day, with her brothers and immediate family in tow, she, very bashfully, cut her cake. There were no candles, a feeble rendition of happy birthday to you and a lot of warm smiles. The brightest of those belonged to her. Happy birthday, Ma!

Ashche bochor abar hobe (we will do it again next year).


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