Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, January 11, 2007

The indelible ink

By Tausif Salim

Like the 80 million 18 plus (I do not know the exact figure) people of this country, I have also grown up to have the right to vote for the first time this year. It is a 'privilege', bestowed upon me by the sole fact that my mother happened to be in Bangladesh at the time I was born. I did not earn my place on the voters' list through anything I have done, and neither do I think it will allow me to do anything significant with it; at least not now.

I realised the burden of being a voter long before I actually became one. I do not come from a political family, but a conscious one, which keeps two newspapers and never misses the evening news except during power cuts. I remember a bit about the last time the government was changed, I remember not going to school for a month or so and then going to school on Fridays to make up for it. I remember the pictures of processions in the newspapers, and that of armed men in them. People were not happy then, and I do not see many smiling people in the streets now.

The media is not the only way I came to know about the politicians, some of my experiences have been ... what you can say, first hand. And to put it simply, I know for a fact that they have done much more against the nation than they have done for it. There is no need to point out anybody as an example, and no need to say that there are exceptions. The intricate game of chess between the two major political parties over the last few months, where only the 'spectators' were sacrificed, is enough for any conscious citizen to decide never to cast a ballot in their favour.

I like to have at least a fair bit of control over my life. I do not wish to waste one year of my life because of a 24 hr hartal, and wait for the exam next year. I do not wish to stay home on a day because of a stupid blockade when I have so many things to do outside. During 'planned' transport strikes, I do not want to jump desperately onto running public buses and in the process shove a senior citizen off because there isn't enough space for both of us. I just want to be able to live my life, and see others live theirs with a little bit more respectability. In a land where 'abject' poverty (in the most extreme sense of the word) coexist with Hummers parked outside choppers' world, it is apparent that the majority of the citizens come into existence once every five years. The only 'right' they are perhaps not so blatantly denied is their voting right.

I never checked the definition of politics in a dictionary. But what I can make of it from my little experience is that it is a science that involves manipulating a lot of people in order to gain power for a little number of people. And inevitably, power corrupts. By voting this year, I will contribute to electing a person to power. And inevitably, that person will somehow manage to make his or her wallet large enough to hold state funds, and usurped lands from which thousands were evicted (including the ones who voted for that person). That person's children will go to Harvard or Yale or some other Ivy League school and he or she will make an annual visit to Mecca to delete whatever sins (read mistakes) that have been committed over the past year.

I will go to the polling centre and submit a blank ballot this year. I know that will not be the 'right' (forgive the pun) thing to do, but at least I will not have to take responsibility for somebody else's sins for another five years.


By Reggie

The Greatest Loser
The RS Award for the greatest loser of the year goes to none other than the People's Republic of Bangladesh! This year saw the country finally lose the prestigious top position of the “Most Corrupt Country In The World”, a position which was held faithfully for the last five years in a row. The government of Bangladesh was infuriated by the decision of Transparency International to award the honor to Zimbabwe instead, specially since no other government have worked harder to achieve this award. A top official who spoke to RS on condition of anonymity said fittingly: “ we have done everything we could last year to win the award, we elected a CEC who was strongly pro-government. We embezzled millions of Taka from shady natural gas deals! We shot random people in the streets, just because we could!” If the country couldn't win after all this, doesn't it rightly deserve the title, “The Greatest Loser” of the year?

The Greatest Sporting “Talent” of the Year
After a hotly contested debate\, the RS team decided to award the greatest sporting talent award to no…not Shahrier Nafees, not Mashrafee Bin Mortaza, not Abdul Razzaq…but to Mohammed Ashraful! Why? This is because no other player had shown more signs of talent than Ashraful. He has not only been labeled as the potential greatest young player in the world but he has also been compared with the likes of Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar! To top it off commentators everywhere repeatedly gushed about his immense pool of talent and what a destructive batsman he could be. Of course he couldn't deliver any runs in the last calendar year, averaging only 20… and honoring in no other than 10 ducks, but he is talented and that's all that matters for this particular award.

The Greatest Person of the Year
Without any sarcasm or debate we voted Dr. Yunus as the greatest Bengali of the year. He has done more for ordinary Bengalis than any leader in the last 36 years. He has bought honour and fame to the country by winning the Nobel Prize! Every Bengali should be proud of the fact that some one from their ranks is counted as among the best men that ever lived. Dr. Yunus's innovative approach to banking looks very likely to solve the world poverty problem, an epic monumental achievement, destined to go down in history as one of humankind's greatest acts.

The Greatest Fool of the Year
President Iajuddin was voted as the greatest fool of the year. However we have decided to dedicate this award to him not because we think he is mentally challenged or question his intellectual ability, but because we find it overwhelmingly humorous that he made such an open attempt at fooling the Bengali public. Mr. Iajuddin you may think that you are smart and that you have gotten away with being the head of the Caretaker Government but we know to whom your loyalties lie. For thinking that you can fool us…us, Bengalis, of all people, (sheesh…what were you thinking??) we think you deserve the award of the greatest fool ever in this year.

The Greatest Game of Hide and Seek
The greatest game of Hide and Seek was played by none other than H.M Ershad himself when he suddenly decided that it would be cool to vanish without a trace for a day and then reappear magically. No one knows where he went, or why he decided to play this silly game with the Bengali public, but speculations were rife on the days that followed his re-appearance. Political Analysts had suggested various possible reasons, ranging from the fact that he was threatened by something worse than death to the fact that he could just be a hide and seek addict. RS however thinks he was abducted by aliens so that they can better understand the extremely complicated and unpredictable political dramas of the little nation of Bangladesh.

The Greatest Event of The Year (other than the Nobel Prize)
It was tough to decide what the greatest event of the year was specially since the calender was ripe with 'great' events. However in the end we decided to award this prestige to the opening of the new KFC in Gulshan Avenue. The opening of KFC finally realized the Bengali dream to eat real and original fried chicken, not like the ones found in all those FC's. Finally after years of effort to create that perfect copy of the original American fried chicken we have finally found success…only to realize that it wasn't that great in the first place.

The Most Dangerous Website of the Year
The Greatest Bengali website of the year was none other than PolaPain.com This very website could single handedly destroy the entire music industry of Bangladesh! While mainstream sites such as Amadergaan.com had moved away from letting surfers download free music, PolaPain.com re-invented it and allows users to download every major album, which is released. Very soon we would have the entire fleet of Bengali musicians begging in the streets because no one would buy their album and just download them instead. We would loose our entire cultural heritage because of this stupid site. Ban it! Ban it! Ban it!

The Most Useless Talent of The Year
The most useless talent of the year goes to Asif, the gold medallist shooter of Bangladesh. The RS team hardly understood the use of such a skill in Bangladesh, specially since almost anyone can acquire it nowadays, just by paying a few hundred takas. The team also found the recent news of Asif getting beaten up by the police as a final proof of the uselessness of his 'talent'. After all what kind of pro-shooter would allow a bunch on rowdy and idiotic policeman beat him up, just because they wanted to?


The Most Real News of The Year
With the alarming rise of journalist murders, it is hardly surprising that newspapers are becoming more and more biased day by day. Thus it should have been extremely difficult to come up with news articles that actually gave news without 'fear or favor'. Fortunately we didn't have to look far. The Most Real News (column) of the year goes to Gokhra and Mood-Dude's “The Week in Rear-view!” No other column commented more truly about the hapless oddities of present day politics with more conviction, humor and critique. We also think that because of “The Week in Rear-view” kids all over Bangladesh are actually learning the truth about Bengali politics. They are thus educating and opening young minds…and for that alone the prestige should go to that column.

The Greatest Love Story of the Year
The Greatest Love Story of the Year was the hook up of Angelina Jolie with Brad Pitt! We know that RS has a policy of not immersing into celebrity gossip, but several members had dire opinions regarding this particular hookup that we felt we must convey it to the world. The male members of RS would like to lynch Brad Pitt who was able to choose between Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston. ( how lucky is that guy??) and the female members of the RS would like to lynch Angelina Jolie for taking away Brad Pitt from Jen Anniston (who according to them was so much more sweeter). This particular correspondent would however like to ask one simple question, why are we so bothered about what they decide to do?? No one should care whom she marries as long as she takes care of more poor African or Asian kids.

The Greatest Humanitarian of the Year
The Humanitarian Award goes to Mrs. Sheikh Hasina for her amazing work of soothing the pains of the hard working Bengali ordinary man. Her innovative approach of calling hartals once or twice every week, gave the Bengali workers a much needed breathing space to recharge and refresh. As a result contrary to what many people thought, this actually stimulated labour productivity and lead to the country experiencing outstanding economic growth rates in the last fiscal year. Who says that Bengali politics is destructive?

The Greatest Discovery of the Year
After decades of research the garments workers of Bangladesh, for suddenly making the awesome discovery of discovering that they were actually being exploited for all these years! The Scientific community was buzzing with excitement when this news made headlines “the discovery means a lot for science. Now we know for sure that we are actually exploiting those poor garment workers” But the factory owners of Bangladesh weren't happy with that news. “This can't be true! I demand a re-check!” commented a visibly angry Chief of the Bangladesh Garments Industry Board. RS agrees with the garment factory owners. While the discovery may be scientifically huge, it can actually cause a lot of problems. Garment workers would now call on this research and claim more wages. When they do, the country would loose their competitive advantage and all the garments would shut down, making those very workers unemployed. One RS member commented almost exasperatedly, “Dude, we seriously need to think before we research anything.”



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