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What's all the BIG DEAL about ?

By Ayesha Sanchita Mahmud

Oh God! It is that time of the year again, when people start staring at each other moony-eyed, couples walk around holding hands and, Hallmark and Archies suddenly experience a boom in their sales. Personally, I have never understood what all the fuss on Valentine's Day is about. Strong supporters of Valentine's Day have told me that it is about love. But then, if you love someone, why express it on only one particular day of the year? So, this year, I decided to snoop around a little to find out why people go crazy on February 14th. I asked a few random people the big question-What is all the big deal about?

Most people were not very willing to answer at first but nevertheless I received a lot of interesting responses. One person answered nonchalantly, "Oh, it's no big deal. People are just looking for an excuse to have fun." His friend immediately responded with, "Do people in this country need a reason to make a fool of themselves?" I guess I have to agree with the friend, in this case. "People in the western world are celebrating Valentine's Day, so people in Bangladesh want to do the same." This was a very popular response. Nowadays, teenagers are greatly influenced by television, the Internet, magazines etc and everyone wants to copy western society. As the 14th approaches, TV channels start advertising Valentine's Day and almost every channel features special programs. But the truth is, Valentine's Day isn't really a part of Bangladeshi life and it shouldn't be given such importance.

However, most of the people I talked to had a very different opinion. "It's such a festive atmosphere that you just feel like expressing love towards everybody", replied one very excited girl. Another "philosopher" answered, "There is so much hatred in the world nowadays, it is really nice that one day of the year is reserved just for love." One person said in a rather worried voice, "If I don't do something special my girlfriend will kill me." So I asked the blushing girlfriend the question. "Of course I won't kill him. It's just that if he doesn't do something nice, what are my friends going to think?" The sad thing was that almost all of the people I talked to, did not know the real history behind Valentine's Day-its origin, its true meaning and why it is celebrated. We are always so ready to copy the western world, yet we are so ignorant when it comes to learning about the real facts.

I have to admit I still do not know what the buzz in Dhaka on Valentine's Day is about. It seems like another pathetic attempt, by the Bangladeshi teenagers, to copy the western world. The truth is, Valentine's Day has never been a part of our culture and society until recent years. So this year, I have my fingers crossed and I'm hoping that people will come to their senses and not make a complete fool of themselves on the 14th.

Spirit of the Peoples' Theatre Association

By Samiha Esha

In today's world, theatres and dramas enjoy immense popularity. In our country, there are also a great number of drama lovers, who are always most eagerly waiting for good quality actors. We often talk about the renowned artistes of dramas in seminars or symposiums, but do we really care for those who put in efforts to popularise the performing arts in our country? It is a sad saga in the history of theatre that after thirty years, the makeshift venue remains. There is no proscenium theatre that adorns our children's cultural panorama. We don't have enough theatres for children to help develop their skills in acting. Nevertheless it's really promising that the " Peoples' Theatre Association (PTA)", is such a cultural organisation that works for children's theatre in Bangladesh. This feature covers their overall activities and curricula.

The foremost children's theatre association, the PTA, was established on 1st January'1990. It has since passed almost thirteen years with its exclusive theatre working for talented children. Mr. Liyakot Ali, the secretary general, is the man behind its success. He has put in a lot of effort, scheming to build up the alliance with proper merit and estimation. With a team of young, energetic, dedicated, determined students and co-workers they started their tedious journey towards achievement. Mr. Sajedul Alam is working as a co-ordinator of PTA. Moreover, many popular actors are always taking classes at this organisation. Within a very short time PTA was able to further their child drama practice all over the country and also in abroad.

Hitherto, the PTA has completed five national children's festival. The first children's festival was held from 16th-23rd March '1995 at the Shilpokola Academy Auditorium. Near about twenty-one nation-wide child theatre groups participated in that festival. The event was a great success and appreciated by the audiences. The second festival was held in 1997(27th April-5th May) jointly organised by PTA and Bangladesh Shilpokola Academy. The third was organised by PTA with forty-six theatre groups in 1999 (4th-19th March). That occasion was held in Public library auditorium. It was a memorable event for all. After that, in 2001 and 2002 they arranged their 4th and 5th festivals respectively, with even more participants.

The PTA didn't confine their activities to festivals alone. They organised many national workshops for children all over our country. Large numbers of children took part there. Mr. Liyakot Ali was the main mentor of these workshops. Those were highly praised and recommend by the drama industry. Now, their festivals don't only focus on Dhaka. Last January'2003 there was a 7-day inter-district drama festival in Shirajganj. Shortly afterwards, another children's drama festival was arranged by Sunorom, Hobiganj. PTA doesn't plan to stop here…..Very soon they will arrange more festivals and workshops in Feni, Dinajpur, Meherpur etc.

The PTA has done a great job abroad. In 1998 they participated in the 5th international children drama festival with their play "Bobby". Then they went to take part in the 6th international children's drama festival '2000 which was held in Toyama, Japan. They played "Roop-bodoler Roopkotha" over there. "I am highly impressed with their quality of work. Despite so many limitations this group of talented young talented people have done a great job", praised the President of the festival. The PTA has also performed many good quality dramas in Germany, India and a few other countries. These performances have been very popular, helping to polish the image of our country's dramatic arts in the international arena. Peoples' theatre association is now a member of International Amateur Theatre Association (IATA) and ASSITEJ.

Every student of the theatre groups is really aware of their group and individual performances. Drama activities are going on for searching talented school students in the country. " We have put a lot of stress on quality", commented Mr. Liyakot Ali. " We made no compromises in this regard. We have tried to reach the international standard, though it is true that we could not always manage it. We truly hope that someday we will achieve our goals. However, it has been a huge challenge just to attain the level of quality that we have." Mr. Ali also talked about the steps taken to achieve this high quality acting.

Nowadays the PTA is working on ideas to help improve their association. Their future plans include at least ten inter-district theatre workshops, one national seminar, festival, and the International Children Drama Festival etc. in a year. They will also try to spread awareness amongst the general people to help save the children's drama act. Besides, every year PTA will publish a journal with their annual activities. After achieving great success with the children theatre, PTA is currently trying to open an association for young people.

The children's theatre has been deprived of the spotlight for too long. Here's hoping that the activities of PTA will encourage other children theatre associations.

(The writer wishes to thank MR. Liyakot Ali for his helpful support)

Cross Britain, Naked!

‘My body ... is who I am,' former Royal Marine says after a trek to express himself. Stephen Gough makes his way to John O' Groats, Scotland, Thursday, after completing his nearly 900-mile walk.

Updated: 10:07 a.m. ET Jan. 23, 2004 JOHN O'GROATS, Scotland - After spending most of his seven-month odyssey behind bars, a man walking the length of Britain naked to promote public nudity finally reached his destination.

Stephen Gough, 44, was arrested 16 times following complaints from the public.

The former Royal Marine made several court appearances and served two jail sentences spending about 5 months behind bars during the 847-mile trek from Land's End in southwest England.

Dubbed "the naked rambler," Gough reached John O' Groats in northern Scotland late Thursday afternoon, cheered on by a group of local residents.

Gough began the walk in the British summer of June 2003, wearing just his socks, boots, hat and rucksack. He persisted despite the delays caused by his repeated arrests and refused to don warmer clothes as he reached northern England and the highlands of Scotland in freezing winter temperatures. He also declined to dress for the occasion when appearing before judges across the breadth of the country, usually sitting in the dock wrapped in a prison blanket.

After a brief stay in John O' Groats, Gough said he'd put his clothes back on and head back south to his home in Eastleigh, southern England.

There is no law in Britain against public nudity. However, there are laws against indecent exposure which requires proof of intent to insult a woman or any behavior likely to cause "harassment, alarm or distress." Gough said it would take time to reverse public "paranoia" about the human body but he hoped his campaign had been successful. "My body is part of me and it's not shameful, it's who I am," he said after taking a celebratory sip of champagne.



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