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Stealing Beauty?

It's not safe to be 'you' anymore.
Billboards, ads, commercialsevery where you look, immaculately made out people stare back at you, flashing their pearly whites, smiling their plastic smiles. You turn on the TV, open a magazine. There's a full page ad for designer jeans, and the model flaunts her bony hips and her Botox-pumped mouth at you. She's telling you what 'beauty' ought to be.

We look at these beautiful people and think, 'Wow. I wish I were like them.'

We don't see them throwing up, fainting during shoots, getting arrested for drunk driving, passing out from drug overdoses. We don't see the emaciated faces beneath the layers of makeup. We think these people have the life, they're thin and beautiful, but really, they're not.

We tend to forget that people like Karen Carpenter died of cardiac arrest caused by anorexia. We tend to forget that celebrities like Justin Bateman and Ashlee Simpson went public about their battle against bulimia and anorexia. We tend to forget that many stars have, at one point (read Teri Hatcher and Oprah Winfrey) suffered from eating disorders. And we don't see are the fake tans, the fake nails, the airbrushing, the full time stylist and personal trainer.

All we see are dolled up women strutting the red carpet in their corseted designer gowns, and then we feel bad because we can't be like them.

36% of women seriously consider plastic surgery because they're unhappy about the way they look. 90% feel they're too fat. And an alarming 50% of high-school girls are trying to 'get slim'. Studies show that we are significantly more dissatisfied with our own appearance after being shown TV ads featuring exceptionally slim and beautiful people. The same applies to reading fashion magazines. Experiments show that magazine photographs of super-thin models produce depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity and body-dissatisfaction.

We have such impossible standards of beauty to meet because by setting impossibly high standards the diet and cosmetics industries are assured of growth and profit. Cosmetics are a $100 billion industry. That's why we can't afford to get lines or wrinkles or have bags under our eyes. And even if we don't need to get any thinner, we have to stay young. Youth and beauty sells. We're made to feel dissatisfied about the way we look so that we buy more diet pills and new clothes and Ponds Age Miracle cream to hide unsightly wrinkles.

Researchers report that women's magazines have ten and one-half times more ads and articles promoting weight loss than men's magazines do, and over three-quarters of the covers of women's magazines include at least one message about how to change a woman's bodily appearanceby diet, exercise or cosmetic surgery.

Television and movies hammer into our heads the notion that a thin body is a measure of a woman's worth. In television over three-quarters of the women in situation comedies are underweight, with only one in twenty being average size. Heavier actresses are usually laughed at for being fat. In fact, you won't find any normal-sized women anywhere anymore, be it movies, television, or advertisements. Twenty years ago, the average model weighed 8 per cent less than the average womanbut today's models weigh 23 per cent less. That's because thin women are more marketable. Get it? Thin women are commodities.

The female body is something that is always to be adjusted. It is a tool in the hands of businessmen. But let's stop feeling bad about ourselves. We can't be Teri Hatcher, and there's nothing wrong with that. Just let us be.

By Shehtaz Huq

The Chakma Weddings

Weddings, though an intricate process, I had always interpreted those as an occasion where the guests show up with a present, have dinner, socialize and then be on their way. Until of-course I realized that the 'weddings' I thought I had gone to were actually 'wedding receptions'. So when I was presented with the opportunity to attend a real wedding and that too a Chakma one I could not let go!

It was a gloomy evening when I found myself in Rangamati just a day before the wedding in front of a miniscule kitchen market which supplied the green environment with all the other colours it needed, to look very lively. It was a short walk then to my destination as I entered the residential area and started to walk along the smooth and clean asphalt road flanked by very old mango trees. Upon reaching my destination where I had come before I found the place totally changed. As it was the rainy season the owner of the place had done everything to shield the whole place from rain and the newly built one storied house looked stunning under a veil of waterproof canvas. The evening got spent with me checking out the neighbourhood which gets surprisingly silent within 8 in the evening. And then after dinner I started helping out the groom's sister Dipanwita the eldest of the siblings in painting murals on the floor of the house while the others did their part to help. Sleep was something everyone had forgotten about.

The intriguing process kicked off the next morning with a procession starting off for the bride's house. I was told that the procession includes odd number of people. The significance of it lies in the fact that when they return the number will be even as they will have the bride with them. Just after 10 am the procession started when the groom's uncle formally handed the groom's younger brother a luggage full of the stuff that the bride was going to be presented with. It is usually the job of one of the young ones in the family especially the younger sister of the groom to carry this luggage to the bride's house who even has an official title, 'Phul-baareng'! But since the groom did not have a younger sister the brother got the job instead.

At the bride's house, Dipanwita again went busy helping the bride wear the Chakma traditional wear, 'pinon khadi' and the jewellery. The room where the bride was instantly got packed with women of all ages while I clicked away on my camera. Then just before 12 noon the elders escorted the bride out of her room into the front yard for everyone to see, a tradition that is followed in every Chakma wedding. After sitting outside for a while and another photoshoot the bride got sent into her room again to wait and prepare further for the journey to the groom's house. After lunch and rest the procession started for the groom's house just after 6 pm this time with the bride among them. At the groom's house the 'phulbaareng' again came into attention as he was the one who had to formally sprinkle water on the bride's feet and welcome her into the house. Then after a quick prayer the bride changed into a saree. When asked about the saree, Dipanwita who has been explaining to me the process all this time said that they could have used a 'pinon khadi' again but used a saree instead to bring along a change.

Meanwhile I went up to the roof top to check around and found many guests being entertained with 'Chakma rice wine' that is locally called 'du-chuani'. It is a usual feature on an occasion like this where the adults have a place for themselves to indulge with alcohol though everyone there stays very careful to not to get drunk. Downstairs in the mean time the wedding was on progress. A Chakma wedding can be conducted by a Buddhist monk or a 'boidya'. These days Chakma weddings everywhere are usually conducted by a boidya and this one was no exception. As I tussled with two teams of camera crews to get a view of the action the boidya had already started the due process. In front of the boidya the bride and the groom had to sit and feed each other a piece of sweet and then betel leaf. Then they had to exchange rings. After that the boidya tied a white cloth around the couple. This is called 'shubholong'. Then after citing some incantations when the boidya untied the knot the process got finally finished and the groom and bride were officially man and wife. As soon as the knot got untied the bride sprung to her feet while everybody cheered. This took me off guard! It was explained that just after 'shubholong' a contest is held between the bride and the groom on who can stand up first just for the fun of it.

After my complete wedding experience and a heavy tummy I found the groom out on the patio with his family discussing the just finished event since the groom does not usually stay with his bride on the wedding night. The guests were long gone and the energy that was there all along the evening got replaced by a serene atmosphere as a cool breeze blew by. As the family whiled away discussing anything and everything, I listened. That was when I found out that it was nearly 2.30 in the morning and I was weary. Letting them be, I went inside for a sleep well deserved.

* Names have been changed.

By Hitoishi Chakma

The fine line

You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough

- Frank Crane

Call me a killjoy if you must but when I'm trying to enjoy a good cuppa joe with my buds, the last thing I want to hear is the Himi (Himi equals Himesh equals nasally) voice of the girl sitting behind me making her boyfriend swear on his dead hamster's grave that he hasn't spoken to the girl next door since they started dating.

Within the first two seconds of asking people to define relationship, describe what love is or explain marriage, the word trust comes flying out. Yet more often than not it seems to be the biggest grey area in most relationships. And by most relationships I mean romantic ones. Yes, I do know there are many of other kinds. But it seems as if the average human mind is set to default that makes it think of “romance” as soon as it hears “relationship”.

That's beside the point. What isn't beside the point is that while most people are ready to commit instantly to a relationship (undying love and all), trust is a whole other issue. Or should I say issues, because it seems like different people have different dilemmas when it comes to trust.

Kiss and tell
One of the things I've noticed about younger couples, especially teenage ones is their eagerness- eagerness to date, eagerness to chat, eagerness to tell all and eagerness to know all. That generally means long sessions on the phone and up front where, sometimes both parties, but more often one party is eager to get past history out of the way. Why the rush? Why this fanatic urge to know all, all at a go? Do people not trust their partners to open up at their own convenience and ease? While past history is crucial in the sense that it gives people a better glimpse into their partner's personality, we all fall for a person in the present. The past should definitely matter, but as long as it is seen for what it is- the past. Trusting enough to take things slow and easy and finding things along the way is often the reason why some couples survive. It certainly keeps the excitement alive.

Mum's the word
I can never decide which is worst: tell-all-at-a-go or tell-not-at-all. Some people seem to be very secretive about sharing anything, be it their past or simply what they had for lunch. Why all the secrecy? After all a relationship is about trusting the person you love. If you don't open up to them, one day they'll get too tired of dating a wall and simply move to more open pastures.

Under a watchful eye
Imagine if you had to write down an account of how you spend every second of your life. Tedious isn't it? No, not the writing; I mean just the part about imagining. The writing would drive anyone over the edge! So why is it that some people find it imperative that their partner report back to them, like every five seconds? Why the incessant calls or constant knocks on MSN? Enough is enough, I say. If you happen to be one of those people who find it absolutely necessary to keep tabs, put yourself in your partner's shoes. Doesn't seem pleasant even thinking about it, does it?

Crossing the line
To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved. I didn't say it, George MacDonald did. And for the most part I agree with him. When we commit ourselves to a relationship we commit to trusting as well. And it's not simply about trusting them, it's also about trusting them to respect our personal space. Just because we've told each other everything, and we know everything there is to know about someone, doesn't mean it's ok to invade someone's privacy. It's not ok for her to go through your SMS's and it's not ok for him to hack into your Gmail account. As close as two people might be, there's always a boundary, no matter how slim it looks. If you don't know where the boundary is, just ask. But once you cross that boundary, there's no going back.

I've seen people who've never trusted and let anyone in. And I've seen people wearing their hearts on their sleeve. And both groups have suffered equally. All I can say is that there is no equation that'll tell you how much you should trust someone, how soon and to what degree. All you can do is trust someone, keep their trust and hope that they trust you and keep your trust in return. And if it doesn't work out in that order, don't blame yourself or worse put up a wall. Move on. Just proceed with more caution the next time.

By Tahiat-e-Mahboob




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