Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home   |   Volume 7, Issue 23, Tuesday, June 05, 2012




Decorate your walls with plants

By Laila Karim

Today I will focus on decorating the outer walls of our homes with plants. Usually we give life to our empty walls with paintings, photos or decoration pieces. This is very traditional and so the question is whether we can think outside the box and transform our walls into gardens. It's never too late to be innovative.

When Innovation mixes with tradition:
Look at the two pictures of innovative wall gardening. The first one is a simple yet fun type. Anyone can do it using old tea pots and jugs or in a very “deshi” way by using any type of pot or mug or different shapes of jugs to give a different style and look. The outer walls that face both rain and sunshine are the most suitable place for this type of gardening or daily water sprays during the dry seasons. We also need regular soil mixed with fertilisers for the plant base. Consider leafy and creeper type plants. Some winter vegetation/flower plants are also doable for wall gardening.

When you plan to do so, please visit a nearby nursery first; see the range of seasonal plants, ask the nursery workers about suitability, maintenance and caring tips. Their recommendations are always practical and useful. Also, try to target a couple of nurseries of your choice to buy plants and supplies from. That way you can develop a loyal buyer/seller relationship and the perks that come with it. This relationship is important to get quality service and also widen your network.

Have a mind map of your wall where you want to start. For a large-wide wall, unused water jugs, bigger tea pots or any other shape of clay or ceramic wares are suitable for the base and then smaller pots can be placed in between the larger ones. For smaller narrow walls, used drinking mugs of different colours and shapes will look nice. A wrought iron or wooden frame, matching with the shapes and space of the wall will be useful to put/hang the containers. You can design the frame to match your home decor. You can design the frame in many ways with hooks and loops with linings and supportive borders. To give it a more natural look, you can place small water fall/fountain inside your garden. All of these are available in Gulshan -1 market. Use easy to grow, less maintenance, popular varieties of money plant type of plants which are suitable to grow in water or any type of soil. Do the total job in a synchronised manner. When completed with all the components, your wall now has an elegant poetic mood and your house has a picturesque live garden!

Where to find these jars? First, we can revisit our kitchen cabinets or storerooms - what is available there? Any unused clay/ceramic/tin pots that we haven't used in months and years? Take those out and try to visualise them on your wall to know how many are needed for that space and what would be required to make the plants grow in the future. Consider the shapes and sizes of the leaves and nature of the plants while selecting the pots. You can collect the jars from relatives and friends too. Don't forget to check with your mother - my mother loves to keep those inside the Almirah!

You can also visit several road side pottery outlets to look for uncommon and interesting shaped pots. Almost every corner of Dhaka, particularly the High Court and Shishu Academy area among others, there are vendors selling a wide range of beautiful potteries as well as plants. If you know any clay artist, they can help you in making one-of-a-kind plant pots of your choice. Fret not over budget because I can assure you the total cost will not be more than what we spend eating a couple of meals out perhaps! This is the time to celebrate your creativity!

Please feel free to email me to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, to tell your story or ask a question on the garden issue.

Email: lifestyleds@yahoo.com


Maharaja in San Francisco

Finally went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco to see the 4-month long exhibition called “Maharaja”. When the show was first announced I was quite excited, as were others around me. As time went by, the novelty wore off and I could not find anyone to accompany me, at home or at work.

It appears that the art of the Indian sub-continent was not important or relevant enough for the local population (which is surprising considering that the Bay Area is quite a melting pot with lots of people from the sub-continent). This is something that bothers me so much that I sometimes wonder what I am doing here. But, let me first tell you about the exhibit -- I will circle back to the “culture monopoly” -- for lack of a better word.

The Maharaja exhibit was a historical peek into the lives of the Indian royalty from the 18th century to the mid-20th century. The exhibition was also held in Canada and London -- where it did not cause much of a stir, probably due not to a lack of interest but familiarity of the subject. I am familiar with that period of Indian royalty, it was in decline and western culture was working its way into the sub-continent culture.

The exhibition had Mughal miniature paintings -- always fascinating -- but very much in contrast with the photographs which clearly depicted a group immersed in the new way of life. The photographs showed the royalty in traditional and British attire, some of the images were very informal -- a peek into the private lives of royalty. One particular image stood out -- Maharaja Yeshwani Rao Holkar II and Maharani Sanyogita Devi of Indore. The maharani was smiling brightly with her back to Yeshwani but revealing her face by bending back over his shoulders. It reminded me of historical fiction written by Bharati Mukherjee called “Holder of World”. The story is about “Bibi”, born as Hannah Easton in Salem Massachusetts in the 1700s, who found herself in India and eventually became one of the wives of a Maharaja.

The item that caught my attention the most is the silver horse-carriage, one could write a book about it -- quite spectacular with its mostly silver-coloured decoration. Maharaja Bhavsinhji II of Bhavnagar had one such made for him in 1915 by the Fort Coach Factory of India, the finest carriage-maker of its time in the Indian sub-continent.

The structure is made of iron, but every metal surface -- including even the bolts, the springs... everything -- is clad entirely in silver. There were lots of jewels -- very beautiful and elaborate; I am not too fascinated by jewellery. The artwork and story of the posters that were used to publicise and announce the exhibition were equally interesting.

One room in the museum was dedicated to artwork. They were designed by Indian/American artist Sanjay Patel whose first job was as the manager of his family motel in San Bernardino, California -- where he was also born to Indian parents. He started to draw because he was bored and found himself fantasising about Indian deities and royalty. He now makes animations for Pixar and said he was absolutely thrilled to be chosen for poster graphics for Maharaja. Quite a story -- if you have the time check it out on the internet, it may be worthwhile. Two of his books were on display: the Indian Deities poster book and an abbreviated graphic depiction of Ramayana. I found the artwork very refreshing; it was also nice to see mythologies depicted other than Greek, which brings me back to the “culture” issue.

The word classical seems to have been “bought and owned” by the Western culture -- everything else is regional or ethnic. When museums use the word mythology -- it is assumed to be Greek. When the word “classical music” is used it always means Western Classical music and then there is Indian or Chinese Classical music. The Museum of Modern Art is really the museum of “Western” modern art. I try not to dwell on it too much; people are nice to me here, they love Indian food, but all Indian classical sitar music is Ravi Shankar. Recently I played some sitar music (on the stereo system) for a friend. He realised that this is the first time he had heard the sitar other than the Beatles or from some movie soundtrack. Okay, enough ranting but it is discomforting to be marginalised and “Patelled”!

As I left the Museum, the doorway framed the San Francisco City Hall -- quite a spectacular building inside and out. The setting of the building is quite impressive too, it faces a large plaza with several rows of trees symmetrically trimmed (tortured in my opinion) whose branches look like raised arms with open palms facing up. The museum itself is also a beautiful building, austere outside and formal inside. I do like living here in the Bay Area; I love my freedom and anonymity, but just wish there was more depth to the “acceptance and understanding”.

By Reaz Haque


PBS - A bookshop and more

"The otion of bookshop has still not developed fully in our country. When we think of a bookshop, we tend to think of a small and often disorganized place where people go and just buy books. But an authentic bookshop serves more than that," Md. Ali Afzal, the Chief Operating Officer of PBS says.

Welcome to PBS, an exclusive and fascinating bookshop. Situated in Shantinagar, the two-storied bookshop is a haven for book lovers. It took its baby step in 12 March, 2010.

As you enter the bookshop, you will see a kiosk at your assistance if you need to search for any particular book. The people at PBS are very friendly too; they are always willing to guide you to a book you want to read.

The shelves are organized and labelled very intelligently. You will find them labelled according to genres, publishers, categories, etc. There are shelves dedicated to books on liberation war.

An innovative and good hearted initiative had been to name the bookshelf of cooking books after the master of our country's culinary community, Late Siddika Kabir.

The first floor of the bookshop houses textbooks for school, college and university students.

Indeed, the variety of books to be found here is very diverse.

"We have many rare books here. For example, everyone knows about Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. But there are many other books written by him, and we try to highlight them as well," Afzal said.

However, if you can beat PBS and come up with a title that they do not have in stock, you can just order it and they will have it for you, by seven days.

It's not all about books, though. PBS goes far beyond that.

For example, there is a café in one corner of the ground floor of the bookshop. You can have a refreshing glass of juice or coffee while reading a book. There is also a DVD/CD section over there.

Hence, it is not the dull place that many people imagine when they think of a bookshop or library. "We play all kinds of music here. We even play rock," Afzal informed.

Or, you may just take your laptop spend some time there. The whole store is Wi-Fi enriched.

A huge chunk of the people using this bookshop consists of children. To cater to them, a portion of the shop encompasses a circular space where kids can play and read. There are many toys for sale too.

There is a membership card for kids. "The general norm is that an adult in the family has a membership card of a shop, and kids use it to buy things. But at PBS, we have noticed a reversed trend. A lot of children are membership cardholders and sometimes parents use it," Afzal said with a chuckle.

There is a membership service for adults as well.

"Every Friday morning, we have a blast with the children. There is a meet-up, called Ek Jora Binodon Ghonta, where we hold magic shows, fun games, invite celebrities, watch educational movie shows and what not," he informed.

One of the latest offerings of PBS is their e-book reader, called eboi. If you are looking for an e-book reader, such as Amazon Kindle; eboi, sleek, effective, with video and audio options and a large storage space, may well be a great option. Prices range between Tk.5990 to Tk.9000.

For an e-book reader, this is a fair price. Pricing of books are also reasonable.

Many people might perceive the price to be high. But if you think of it, original books will cost more. And the quality of the paper and what not are superior. If you buy a second hand, pirated and half-torn book, you possibly won't want to showcase it in your collection.

"We are thinking of opening more stores. The opinion that there are not too many readers in our country is an illusion. Keep books, have a space that is friendly and fun, and in no time you will see the evidence to the contrary," Afzal says.

By M H Haider


Touch up as need be

A quick lunchtime touch up with a powder compact and disposable blotting papers can help to absorb the oils that your skin has created in the T-Zone (forehead, nose and chin), and give you a fresh clean look that will last for the rest of the day.

Lightly apply another layer of translucent powder by dabbing, not rubbing. Also, take a quick moment to reapply your lipstick, and you are ready to go!


Star Lifestyle has recently expanded to 20 pages. In keeping with our motto of continually reinventing ourselves and keeping things fresh, there will be some changes made to the format and content of the publication. And this time, we are hoping that our dearest readers will not only be part of the change, but lead us in new directions by expressing themselves and letting their views and preferences be known. Lifestyle readers can send story ideas, suggestions, articles and letters at lifestyleds@yahoo.com and raffat@thedailystar.net Selected input from you will be published. Here's looking forward to hearing from you and continuing to bring you the best in lifestyle journalism.

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