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Invasion fusion

Fusion is here, there and everywhere. It's always happening, and is the latest trend in any sphere of life. Especially for people who live in Bangladesh, fusion is dominating the scene and dictating our tastes. What is uncanny is that fusion is not only ruling our likes and dislikes, but also changing our day-to-day lives, and even, our culture. Below are a few examples of where and how fusion has become the hottest new mantra, starting from the normal to the bizarre.

Wardrobe: Obviously facing the most significant changes, our wardrobe is a true show of how fusion has invaded the country. Everywhere we look, there are people, especially teens, sporting clothes that look like a stroke of creative genius (no, I'm not talking about the fluorescent shirts and trousers). Fatuas and short kameezes are the result of fusion themselves. But the mixing does not end there. Saris, kurtas, Punjabis, fatuas, kameezes, jeans, trousers, t-shirts they all have elements of the west, and more often than not, of India, such as beads, embroidery, exposed parts, necklines, etc. In addition to this are the chic, classy, funky, and sometimes truly traditional, accessories galore. Of course, you may say that these are products of Bangladeshis too, but actually, the trend has grown from Indians. Even the designs and embroideries are copies of Indian ones. But is it fair to overshadow our own, Bengali sense of fashion, in favor for something that does not belong here?

Food: Being a self-proclaimed food critic, I myself can vouch for the recent crave for fusion food. Not only do people demand more of Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai and Indian food, but they also have started to think of ways in which these styles can be put into use into our very own Bangladeshi cuisine. Thus, there have evolved the Bengali, usually homemade, versions of pizzas (made with chapattis and minced meat), tacos (without the most important ingredient of avocados, substituted with ketchup), spaghetti (without meatballs or gravy), and of course, steak. You may think that this is just a mode of trying to make foreign food at home, but if you look into your kitchen, you can clearly see the increased use of foreign spices, ingredients and herbs, like asafetida, saffron, china grass, cheese, tofu, soya, etc. which have absolutely no place in our conventional food habits.

Music: Music can be a companion for the lonely, an ally for the rejoicing, a vent for all your pent-up emotions, or a soothing comfort for the desperate. Which is probably why Bangladesh is brimming with music fans, most of them, us teenagers. Ask everyone you meet, and more than most of them are bound to have personal favorites. Lately, singers in our country, both solo and band performers, have come up with loads of good music records, with great vocals and instrumentals. However, the sad part is that many of them try and copy western music bands, and even some Indian singers, especially of rap and pop.

This may be because there has been a sudden upsurge in the number of fans of Hindi pop, but personally, being an ardent Bengali music fan, I'd rather listen to tracks with original music. It's quite pitiful, and unfair really, that these talented people are using the works of others to make a name in the country. Even more appalling is the way that the videos seem to be replicas of Indian and western music videos, including some dance steps, and they end up looking perfectly ridiculous, especially the performers.

Festivals: You read it right. It may seem preposterous, but Bangladesh has recently been hit with the epidemic of what I call "imported festivals". Hard to believe? Well, I am quite sure that you yourself have, unawares, attended at least one of these celebrations. Starting with the most common, we all are familiar with the traditional four special events that go into a Bangali wedding: Gaye Holud, Panchini (engagement), the Biye (wedding), and Bou Bhat. However, recently, many families have started holding weeklong, ten-days-long, to month long wedding celebrations. The various events that take place during this time are ALL imported. The show held that can only be viewed by female members, the mehendi giving ceremony, the singing and dancing events and competitions, the event of choosing bangles, etc., are all Indian customs.

People nowadays also play 'holi' and 'diwali'. Purely religious festivals of India, these events have somehow sneaked into the streets of our country. On Eid day, many can be seen in Banani, Uttara, and Old Dhaka playing with colours, in powder form and in water guns. They call it "Rong Khela". Others can be seen to light up the entire house with candles; the Bengali version of Diwali.

Another festival that has invaded this country is the "baby shower". Although the name is English, it is actually an Indian event that celebrates the seventh month of a woman's pregnancy, in order to bless the child. Relatives come, from near and dear to far and wide, to present gifts and well wishes. In India it is called "godh bharai". Expecting mothers now celebrate this event in our country, although it is not at all a part of our tradition.

Probably due to the influence of movies and soap operas, fusion is all the rage nowadays. Some say that it is the era of globalization, and that fusion is an unavoidable consequence of this. But I disagree. I refuse to think that I have to be robbed of my country's uniqueness and its identity, in terms of its culture and tradition. I refuse to let such extreme forms of fusion eclipse our originality. I do not want to celebrate foreign, imported festivals, if they do not let our traditional ones take the lime light. The same goes for my clothes, food choices, and music tastes. It is my appeal to you to not let globalization, movies, or fashion trends take you away from what is yours…what is our country's pride.

By Ferzeen Anis

Book review

Deception Point

That's right; another Dan Brown novel. I can't help it. This guy is what our Zulquar would call the perfect 'popcorn' novelist. In other words, were these books turned into movies (and they will be…keep your eyes peeled for 'The Da Vinci code' coming soon), the flicks would be the kind you'd like to watch with a lot of friends and a bag of popcorn by your side.

Anyway, coming back to Deception Point, the story precedes the Robert Langdon series, and instead features the academic savvy of Rachel Sexton, who works for the NRO, where she summarises intelligence reports for the President. When the story opens, Sexton, who is also the estranged daughter of the overly ambitious presidency hopeful Senator Sedgewick Sexton (try saying that with your mouth full!), is summoned by the White House and packed off on a mysterious journey to the Arctic Circle. There she meets the Director of the NASA, and a whole swarm of scientists of varying backgrounds, including the charming, handsome (and conveniently single) science show host Michael Tolland. A shocking discovery awaits her (and us) over there, one that could turn the tables around at the election campaign, which has been favouring Rachel's father thus far, and one that proves to be deadly for Rachel and her new found friends. As one discovery leads to another and repercussions occur, and events snowball to give you one heck of an explosive read.

As far as the writing goes, it's pretty formulaic - you have this one pair of academics who are drawn to each other, and they face insurmountable odds together, with nothing to fight back with, save sheer brainpower. You have your truckload of zany facts and mind boggling twists, and yet, if you're a Brown connoisseur, you're bound to predict the ultimate twist long before you reach it. While this guy's plots are watertight and the narration is fast paced and keeps you flipping pages, he could definitely work on his character interaction a bit.
In any case, if it's an entertaining read you're looking forward to, Brown's your man, and Deception Point should definitely be part of your must-read list.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
Questions, comments, reviews should be sent to rs.readers@gmail.com

Bura Miah's weekly visit

Bura Miah's coming to our house, to collect his weekly alms, is somewhat a Friday morning ritual for us. My mum gets up early, even on Fridays, so that, she never misses his 'knocks' that he 'blesses' us with at very early hours in the morning, and which, I am sure, my mum will agree, are, at times, capable of waking up the entire household.

Bura Miah---never having inquired what his real name is, my mum had 'renamed' him so, some 12 to 15 years back, when he had first knocked on our door to beg. In these 12 to 15 years, my mum verifies, she had seen top Bollywood actresses growing old, but not Bura Miah. He still has the same number of creases and wrinkles on his face, that he had had, the first time mum had seen him, with the exemption of the now, toothless smile.

His strident 'mutterings', sometimes in the form of recital of 'surahs', or scolding the beggars in line, after him, informs us of his arrival, even before he knocks. As my mum rummages through her purse, to assemble Bura Miah's fixed 'allowance' or tries getting the amount out of my father's wallet, it gives me time to clear out of the way. As soon as our maid would open the door for him, he would start calling out 'Dadu-moni koi?' My maid would answer in the negative, saying that I was either sleeping or was at my coaching classes, whereas, in reality, I was hiding somewhere, away from Bura Miah's reach. On the rare occasions, that I am compelled to tackle him (either, been caught in the act of stealing away to my room, or in mum's absence, when it rests on me to pay him), he would make me rehearse all the 'surahs' that my hujur had taught me, calling my 'hujur' a lot of names and adding to it the fact that, my 'hujur' had no goddamned sense of pronunciation; inquiring, in the meantime, whether I knew the 'niyat' for 'betre'. See, you can't blame for hating his weekly visits; who wants to experience a brainstorm on a Friday morning? It may be a working-day for him, but, we, unlike him, consider it a holiday.

Then again, the 'ritual' doesn't end there. After mum pays him, she, along with the entire household, must listen to his loooooooonnnngggggg prayer, which takes about an hour to cease, in which, he says exactly the same things we have been hearing him say, for the past decade.

I feel like advising him, to at least change some of the wordings of his Bengali 'munazat', or else, someday, he'd lose all his very bored 'donors', but seeing the patience with which, mum treats him, I stay quiet. The prayer being over, he tells mum of his grievances, which had, at first, when he had started coming to us, began with his youngest son's educational expenses (his son had passed in SSC, much to Bura Miah's pleasure, courtesy our 'donations') gradually promoting to his marriage.

Bura Miah tells mum that, he had found two beautiful girls for his son; one, whose father was eager to give the bride-groom a cycle and a gold-watch as dowry, and the other's father, was gifting as dowry, a job for his presently jobless son. So what, if they were poor, Bura Miah asserts, they could never let go of their 'self-respect'. His sense of worth had enabled him to turn down the suitor offering the job, and had fixed his son's marriage in return for a gold-watch and cycle.

My mum laughs, pointing out that, if he were so resolute on taking dowry, then, would it not have had been better, had he traded off his son's marriage for a job, relieving him off the burden of running the family.As has been the custom for years, Bura Miah confirms, whether he would be visiting us on the Eid Days or not, supplying us with a Tiffin-carrier beforehand, to store his share of the Eid food, in case he was unable to come on the Eid day; if in case, he foresees himself not-too-busy on that day, he fixes n 'scheduled time' with us, considering the timings of invitations from his other 'donors'. Then again, especially for the Qurbani Eids, he would, reserve his share of the meat, to be separately 'refrigerated', as his yearly visits to his village on this particular Eid, may be long; also, taking money from my mum to buy a small goat for sacrifice, on his way to his village. Being a 'resident' beggar of Dhaka, he has a status to uphold in his village, you know.

We paid, fed and even clothed him and his family at times, but it was all in the name of God, ('zakat', as mum terms it), but what we got in return, was priceless. Invaluable in the sense that, I could never derive any advantage from the nightly prayers that he claims to have had made, for me. My grades, by no means, budged an inch and my health remained the same for years with the addition of new diseases over the years. Then where did all his 'blessings' go? I know mum would kill me for saying this, but had his prayers been really of some value, would it not have first benefited him?

Bura Miah, having been treated like a VIP, all these years, recently came to mum, with a 'demand'. His 'HSC-failed' son had come to know of a job-opening of a security-guard, at a reputed shopping mall, but to acquire the work; a certain amount of bribe must be paid to an office-clerk. His insisted that, my mum must help him get the job, by paying a part of the bribe. My mum was taken aback, at how low an act, her favorite Bura Miah wanted her to take part in and bluntly refused to have anything to do with it, wondering how Bura Miah had even considered it possible.

By Reesana Sifat Siraj


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