Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, March 11, 2004





Domestic Superstitions

By Ashna Huq

I'm pretty sure that you would all think that abnormality is the normal way of life among your domestic help. However, in my house, the word "abnormal" would be an improvement. They each have quirky stories to share from the "old country" and anecdotes about supernatural forces that could make your hair curl. Besides supplying my family with amazing service since the day I was born, they have been providing us with constant entertainment. Sometimes I'll even turn off the television just so that I can hear what they're saying.

Now, the most eccentric among all the domestic helpers has to be our maid, Romena. She has recently turned highly religious and is constantly spotting "the wonders of Allah" within our household. Just the other day, she found one of my mother's petticoats with some glitter on it. This she slowly took out of the drawer, placed in a zip-lock bag and started hopping and dancing around with it clutched in her hands. The rest of us stared on in wonder as she gleefully sang and danced around the black petticoat. When asked why she had gone stark-raving mad, she leapt on top of my mother and started congratulating her on her 'blessing' from God. She claimed that the glitter was sprinkled onto the petticoat by God while we were all sleeping to tell us that He was watching over us. She would not let my mother wear it, but kept it locked away in a cupboard.

That of course, was a one-time occurrence (I hope) but she's not exactly "sane" the rest of the time. Usually when I'm in the dining room studying, she comes in, and just to spite me, stands in front of a picture or painting for hours on end and I mean hours. She just stares at it, trying to find the "hidden meaning" which by the way, is usually related to God. She sometimes even takes the smaller paintings down and skips and dances around with them high above her head.

Apart from believing strongly in the bounties of the Almighty, she also believes strongly in the powers of ghosts, djinns, witches, witch-craft, witch-doctors, black cats, demons, devils (note that it's plural) and of course, men. Compared to men, the plague would actually be a piece of heaven. She has had a personal vendetta against every male-member of our household. She won't even serve my brother coffee without putting salt in it.

Our house is quite old and honestly quite creepy, and one of its outstanding features is an enormous jaam tree, whose branches tower over the house and fall flat on the side of our roof. According to superstition, djinns live in these trees as they are so big and leafy. When I was younger, I would ride my bike up on the roof and one Friday afternoon, I made quite a sharp turn on a puddle and fell and hurt my knee. Immediately, my maid ran upstairs, swept me up and hurried me into the house. She explained in details how a djinn had come up behind me and knocked me off because he wanted to ride my bike. Being young and vulnerable, I believed every word, and the next time I dared to venture up to the roof was two years later, and that too, because there was a party taking place there.

One day, I was studying in the dining room when I heard a strange noise coming from the living room. I soon figured out that it was termites working away on a drawer. So just for the sake of it, I asked Romena what that sound was. A very dreamy expression came over her face and she was shaking so violently with excitement, I thought she was going to have a seizure. She then started hopping and dancing around me yet again and told me that this is a sign from Allah telling me that the next time I hear this noise, it will be when I meet the person I am destined to be with till my dying day. Consequently, the next time I heard this noise, a mouse came into the room. Scary concept, isn't it?

Romena is the most eccentric but she isn't the only delusional one. The guard who works at our house is quite old and also quite deranged. One night, I was awake till about 3:00 in the morning when I went to the veranda to have a bit of fresh air. Right there, in the middle of the garden, under a tree with a few burning candles and a shawl was the guard staring straight at me. I would have passed out if the ground wasn't so cold. The next morning, my mother asked him what he was doing and he said he got a premonition that he was going to die and so he was waiting for God to take him. This was six months ago and I'm happy to report that he's still alive and kicking.

Apart from being some of the most hilarious characters I've managed to come across till date, they are the most loyal and hard-working people as well. In a sense, they provide us with dinner and a show and life simply would not be the same without them.

Hubble paints Van Gogh's painting 'Starry Night'

The Hubble space telescope captured an image of a distant star that bears resemblance to the famous Vincent van Gogh painting "Starry Night," NASA and the European Space Agency announced.

The spectacular image taken Feb. 8 showed the star, V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon), surrounded by an expanding halo of light "complete with never-before-seen spirals of dust swirling across trillions of kilometers of interstellar space," a statement from the agencies said.

"The illumination of interstellar dust comes from the red supergiant star at the middle of the image, which gave off a flashbulb-like pulse of light two years ago," the statement added, describing the image as "nature's own piece of performance art."

Van Gogh painted "Starry Night" while at the Saint-Remy-de-Provence asylum in southern France, some 13 months before he committed suicide at the age of 37 at Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris, in 1890.

What's with Hartals?

By Sanam Rahman

Kids disagree on a lot of things. They quarrel, they fight. Then grown ups come and take control over the situation. They explain things to the kids and in the end, the kids apologise and become friends again. If kids can understand that there is a peaceful way to resolve a problem, then why can't the leaders of our country do the same? Why can't they protest against misrule or disagreements in a violence free manner? The opposition calls a hartal to protest against the mismanagement by the government. There are processions in the streets, riots, cars are burnt, it's not safe for people to go out, etc. Apart from these, offices, factories, etc. cannot function properly due to the fear of arson. This means our country falls beck economically by on day. It's high time that the leaders realise their mistakes and put the nation before their own interests.

Well this is one way of looking at things. Some people may be least bothered about hartals. Take students for example. Mention of a hartal is like music to a student's ears. The unexpected holiday means they can take a break from the boring and tedious schoolwork. Now they can forget about the alarm clock that disturbs their sleep early in the morning. They do not have to worry about finishing their Math homework before the bell for assembly rings; nor do they have to concern themselves about the consequences of forgetting to bring their Bangla textbooks. Now is the time they can catch up to their favourite TV shows or read the book sitting on top of the shelf, bought days ago. The rest of the day passes blissfully without the slightest tension and students can't help wishing for the hartal to last for a few more days.

Adults can also take the advantage of the hartal and spend the day relaxing at home, listening to Rabindra Sangeet or Nazrul Geeti. For working mothers, it is possibly one of the best ways to spend a little time with their families. This relaxation however has to be made up later by extra work like attending school on weekends, etc. The disruption in the normal life cycle can not be escaped any way. The most important issue is our national interest. We must not do what is bad for our country. Let us demonstrate to the whole world that we are peace-loving people. The sooner we can establish the peaceful culture, the better for all of us.



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