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Romance in the public

By Tawsif

FLuttering around the sooty streets of Dhaka city, love birds sometimes suffer from the illusion that they are Adam and Eve, the only rational beings on earth. While everyone else around them are mere vegetables. Hence, they engage in not-so-decent activities which can cause serious embarrassment to the decent minds.

That day I was returning home by bus, and a rather flamboyant couple seated in the front row erupted into a series of dramatic arguments. It turned out that the puff-eyed femme-fatal had committed the eternal crime of not sitting beside her boy friend during their chemistry practicals. As a result, the freckled Romeo was hurt, anguished, and disintegrated. The poor girl was explaining again and again that she had to have some girly talk with one of her friends. And, every time the guy was coming up with a "I'm your boy friend. You can tell me everything." reply. The skirmish only ended with the girl apologizing for the umpteenth time, and the guy finally giving in after a lot of I-don't-give-a-damn’s. Then the girl rested her head on the guy's lap, and wept for about five minutes. The guy repeated the same ritual. Both of them hugged and kissed. Then they hugged and kissed again, formally drawing the curtains.

All this time, I had been sitting right behind the couple with my Dad, and we both were trying our best not to eavesdrop. Then again... when Lincoln delivered his famous speech at Illinois, none of the audience were eavesdropping.

Serials like Sex and the City are spoiling the otherwise innocent girls of our country. This fashionista, who was once an avid fan of the Power Puff Girls, calls me up and says, "Tawssssif.... I'm tekkkking a boyfriendddd!!" She does take a boyfriend, a big headed gargoyle with hair sticking out of his nostrils. (May be that's the new style after goatees.) Now, they're creating visual pollution at Dhanmondi Lake.

The Dhanmondi Lake couples, by the way, never fail to amaze me. I once went to this lover's paradise with a rather charming friend of mine. (DAD... Trust me... she's just a friend. Its just that I gave her my Pure Maths notes. So, she wanted to give me a treat....) We couldn't sit around for more than five minutes because the big, big vampire-sized mosquitoes kept attacking us with vengeance. Other than us, there were about half a dozen couples cuddling around the same bush. Surprisingly, none of them seemed to be bothered by those over-reputed deshi Draculas. I assumed the mosquitoes were too ashamed by the deeds of these lovebirds to bite them.

This other time, I had to walk across a rather narrow lane sandwiched between a certain portion of the Dhanmondi Lake and a rather posh apartment housing. The lane was saturated with so many couples that I actually tripped over some of them. However, none of the couples seemed to take heed. They were too busy making out, sometimes so shamelessly that little kids from the adjacent apartments gaped at them with bulging eyes.

Instead of wasting crores behind fly-overs which apparently will never fly, the government could have erected a "lover's booth" in every prominent neighbourhood of the city. That way a lot of kids could have been saved from being spoiled, while the feather-brained Romeo-Juliets could have had their share of fun without the fear of being caught.

So, here's the bottom line. Having a bit of a romance is always cool. Displaying it in public every now and then, is perhaps cooler. Fingers intertwined, eyes locked in eyes, a swift little kiss under the mock-neon bliss of the restaurant- that's almost sweet. But please, leave the rest of the drama for the game-rooms and the elevators. After all, we have a culture of our own. Although its cool to ignore it every now and then, its perhaps too early to grub it up altogether.

Feminism: Too big a scare

Maliha Bassam

UNlike the recent trend of strongly supporting feminism, that is much evident in the west and is slowly gathering momentum in the east, my belief in the equality of sexes have always differed. Yes, I do believe that males and females should be treated with equal respect and given equal opportunities but you wouldn't see me holding banners and walking in processions in the name of feminism. I am not a feminist, I never was and don't plan to be one either. For I know very well that to claim to be a feminist would itself contradict the kind of behaviour I prefer from the men around me. You can call me old-fashioned but you can certainly not call me narrow-minded. For I don't come from the school of people who believe that there are fixed roles for males and females in this society. Allow me to explain myself.

I do not find the idea of a woman driving through the impossible traffic jams at Maghbazar any more different than the idea of a man in apron, making Caesar salad in the kitchen. History teaches us that for years, the chief role of the woman has been that of the home-maker. Of course there have been incidents showing otherwise, but the basic picture is of the woman being a child-bearer and a housekeeper. Similarly, men are to bring home the bacon; whether it is by earning the silver, sweating in a farm or by the more direct action of hunting.

Nowadays, the lines separating the 'do-s' and 'don't-s' for both men and women, especially for the latter, are somewhat blurred. Women are not supposed to be confined within the boundaries of motherhood and housekeeping. I have no problem with that. In fact, being female myself, I have all the plans of getting a great job and earning a six-figure salary someday. I support this; I completely endorse today's woman's initiative to bring home the bacon herself instead of simply waiting for the man to do so. When women are violated or are subjected to any form of abuse, I would take a stand. But I wouldn't call it fighting for 'women's rights', because I do not distinguish between 'men's rights' and 'women's rights'.

The moment we begin a classification of rights by the sexes, we are in fact allowing for differentiation. For why should there be any classification if what we have in mind is the same, equal rights?

I believe in 'human rights' not in men's rights or women's rights. With all due respect to the feminists, I have to say that except for the hard-core militant ones, many of the self-proclaimed feminists have dual opinions, often conflicting, regarding certain matters. I know feminists who expect men to give away their seats in buses for the female passengers, who have no problem with the idea of the woman living with her in-laws after marriage but have issues about the man living with his in-laws after marriage.

Firstly, the idea of a man giving away his seat for me in a bus or of a male colleague getting up to offer me his chair at a meeting doesn't come off to me as a degrading gesture. And I find the idea of myself living with my in-laws after marriage or of my future husband living with my parents after marriage equally distasteful. I have no complaints about either males or females being the chef of the household after all, some of the best cooks I know are guys. Similarly, it doesn't matter to me who's in the driving seat when I go to school as long as he or she gets me there in one piece, without attracting the attention of the law enforcers.

In my opinion, becoming a feminist would be too big a sacrifice of some of the pleasures I am rather fond of. To my disheartened female readers, I have to report that chivalry's not dead… yet. Sure, sometimes chivalry gets beaten to a pulp, but that doesn't mean it's dead. And to the guys, I thank you, on behalf of us non-feminists, for not letting chivalry die.

Disagreeing with the feminists, I would have to say that please don't bring the issue of equality into something as simple as a guy helping a girl with some heavy grocery bags. In fact, within all girls, exist an appreciation for what is unfairly termed as 'refinement' in men. It's in our nature and to deny it completely is rather pointless.

Most girls, if not all, don't mind, (unless they like it) when a guy is being chivalrous opening car doors, driving away eve-teasers with a murderous glare, letting a pregnant woman go before him in line at the cash counter at Agora. Chivalry is not an essential characteristic that must be present in every man, but unlike my feminist friends out there, I have to agree that it's always a nice bonus in a guy. Feminists might have alternatives to every act of courtesy performed by a male, but I am not the one to complain.

Now, my dear readers, before all the feminists I know launch on a 'Lynch Maliha Bassam' campaign after reading my rather controversial article, I think I should better go and ask around a few countries to offer me refuge.

(Note: The opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the writer herself, who is a self-proclaimed non-feminist. She expects all the hardcore feminists to send their hate-mail at the following address: maiden_of_irony@yahoo.com).


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